WOU: Writing-Intensive Courses

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Writing-Intensive Course Guidelines

What is a Writing-Intensive Course?

A writing-intensive course is one where writing (formal and informal) is an integral part of learning: that is, students in WIC write not only to demonstrate their knowledge of the subject matter (tests and research/term papers) but are engaged in informal, exploratory writing, writing that they use to push their thinking, to deepen their understanding of the subject matter, to explore questions they have about the subject matter.

In a WI course, the goal is to give students as many opportunities as possible to write (exploratory writing-to-learn using informal formats and writing-to-show-knowledge in formal assignments), to receive feedback from their peers and their instructors during the writing process, and to demonstrate how to write in a particular discipline, understanding the requirements regarding writing styles inherent in that discipline.

WOU students are required to complete a minimum of two WI courses for graduation. Ideally, they should have WIC in the major and the minor - courses where class size is kept to 25 at most. Additionally, at least one of these WI courses should be concentrated in the upper-division (300-400 level) offerings where the subject matter of each discipline is explored in more depth than in the LACC courses and where we can show students how to write in that discipline's style. WR 135 is designated as a pre-requisite for UD WI courses. Departments, then, need to develop and maintain upper-division WIC in the majors/minors they offer. The Director of the Writing Center (Katherine Schmidt) can provide assistance for departments and instructors who are developing WI courses. The Faculty Senate's Writing-Intensive Committee recommends the WIC label for courses, based on statements and syllabi submitted by individuals or departments, going through their curriculum committees.

Objectives of Writing Assignments

Objectives of WI discipline-specific writing assignments over the course of a term should include the following:

  • Students will show they can use writing to extend and deepen their learning about their discipline.
  • Students will show they can use sources for formal writing to critically analyze, summarize, paraphrase, and incorporate ideas and quotations from their reading into their writing as required in the particular discipline.
  • Students will show they can generate ideas for, draft, revise and edit their written work.
  • Students will demonstrate skills in communicating the subject matter of their discipline through accurate word choice, varied and coherent sentence structure, and appropriate use of the conventions of standard written English.
  • Students will organize information in their formal papers appropriately.
  • Students will use the conventions of documentation within their discipline.

Guidelines for WIC Approval

The following guidelines have been designated as the basis for WIC approval:

  1. Students must have regular, frequent opportunities to write.
  2. Students will use informal and formal writing to extend and deepen their learning of the subject and to make connections between subjects in the particular discipline. Specifically, the writing done should be not only formal writing to show/transmit knowledge (papers and tests), but also informal writing to explore, to think, and to learn. Informal writing could include journal writing, reading logs where students record their questions and answers, project logs where students record progress on a particular project, laboratory notes, field notes, preliminary drafts (given peer or instructor feedback but not graded), etc.
  3. Student formal and informal writing for the term should total approximately 5000 words (equivalent to about 20 typed, double-spaced pages). Approximately 60% of the total writing should be formal, polished writing.
  4. Students should have opportunities to have peer feedback for polished writing assignments, and/or instructors should intervene in the early stages of writing a paper through conferences or comments on drafts.
  5. Discipline-specific writing instruction and course content instruction should be interdependent.
  6. Instructors should teach writing issues that pertain to their specific discipline. The Campus Writing Center can provide support for students' general writing skills development.
  7. At least 25% of the course grade should be based on the combined writing components.
  8. Each course should have a maximum enrollment of 25 students.

Process for Writing Intensive Course Designation Approval

For a PERMANENT course change, follow the listed procedure:

  1. Complete a Writing Intensive Designation Form (MS Word formatted application) for the course that you wish to change to WI course.
  2. Complete a permanent course change routing form and attach to your proposal.
  3. Obtain departmental and division approval signatures.
  4. Give the form/application packet to the chair of your division Curriculum Committee.

For a TEMPORARY course change, follow the listed procedure:

  1. Complete a Writing Intensive Designation Form (MS Word formatted application) for the course that you wish to change to WI course.
  2. Complete a temporary course change approval form and attach to your proposal.
  3. Obtain departmental and division approval signatures.
  4. Send the form/application packet to the chair of the Writing Intensive Committee, care of the current director of the Writing Center.

revised 3/03

WIC Forms

WIC Designation Form (MS Word format)

WIC Transfer Checklist (MS Word format)


Writing Center 503-838-8286 | or e-mail: writingcenter@wou.edu

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