WAC Best Practices
Writing can facilitate learning by staging or scaffolding assignments: begin with small, informal pieces that gradually build to the bigger issue raised by the assignment.
- Instructors need not feel the need to read and comment on everything students write: informal writing exercises can be read by peers or used to start class discussion; occasional or random collection can keep instructors in contact with students’ writing without feeling overburdened.
- The level of commenting offered should correspond to the level of importance of the writing activity: an informal piece need not have any response, a response paper might warrant questions for further thought, and a formal essay might elicit comments toward revision.
- Feedback need not only come at the end of an assignment: collect or workshop thesis statements, introductions, or other important discrete portions of writing assignments.
- High-order concerns need attention before low-order concerns: suggestions should facilitate organization, focus, or argument revision before grammar, spelling, and vocabulary edits.
- Writing activities should link with course goals: writing should not be done merely for the sake of writing, but should enforce and promote course-specific learning.
- Students—any learners, really—need orientation into writing in the discipline: writing practices change from discipline to discipline, course to course, or even professor to professor, so be sure to discuss guidelines and expectations.
- Course assignments and other materials are important examples of effective writing: these are high-stakes pieces of writing that inform students about important elements of the course, so thoroughly read, revise, edit, proofread, share with peers, etc, any writing that given to students.
- Technology offers important lessons: take advantage of technologies such as blogs, wikis, social networking, and e-mail to encourage clear, effective writing with very real audiences.
- Reflection is an important element in any discipline: writing offers students an opportunity to reflect on elements of their coursework from what worked well in exam preparation to how they would proceed differently with lab work in the future to how they moved from one draft to the next when writing an essay.
For more in-depth descriptions, review our workshop materials or refer to the faculty handbook. Contact our coordinators if you would like to work personally with a WAC fellow on integrating WAC practices into your classes.