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What do I need to do to teach a Writing Across the Curriculum course?

Teaching a Writing Across the Curriculum course may be less complicated than you think.  Generally speaking, in a nutshell: 

  1. Students should write frequently.
  2. They should write thoughtfully, in response to meaningful assignments.
  3. You should read your students' work closely, as a mentor, offering regular, formative feedback and evaluating their written work as a significant part of their final grade. 

Of course, there are other things you can do if you're so inclined, too – encouraging a healthy writing and revision process, introducing examples of what you take to be good writing, perhaps even sharing some work of your own with your class. But what really counts most is that students write something that matters at least two or three times during the semester and that you read it closely and have some thoughtful exchange with them about it, encouraging them to revise wherever appropriate.

WAC seminars

If you're teaching one of your department's writing-intensive seminars, offered at introductory and advanced levels, these basic expectations  expand slightly.  Because the seminars are imagined both introductions to and reflections on writing in the major, they should also give some explicit attention to the discipline's expectations about texts.  That is, what are the specific genres, habits of mind, and objectives that characterize writing in your field?  Still, the three goals above -- establishing a course in which students write frequently, thoughtfully, and in the context of meaningfully formative response from reader-mentors -- remain the fundamental touchstones of good practice in Writing Across the Curriculum.  (NOTE:  Not all departments' Writing Plans currently distingush courses as seminars in this way, as the WAC Guidelines recommend.  Consult your plan here if you are unsure about whether your course is listed as a seminar.)

What you don't need to do

No matter what WAC course you're teaching, though, you don’t need to feel responsible for eradicating your students’ mechanical errors, curing their writer’s block, or giving them a lecture on ethos or active verbs.   Of course, if you’re inclined to do it, there’s no reason you shouldn’t work on grammar and other line-level issues with students, counsel them on the writing process,  or make them aware of rhetorical issues.  That’s wonderful.  But teaching a WAC course doesn’t mean you’re expected to be a teacher of writing in a generic sense:  it means you use writing to teach the material in your field and that you call students’ attention to the particular forms of writing important to practice in that field. 

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