Writing Across the Curriculum programs have become common in the last thirty years or so. My own undergraduate institution had one when I was a student, and it still does. As a student, I found it really beneficial. I got good guidance early on in developing my writing skills, and I knew that I’d be expected to pay attention to my writing in all my courses, not just in my English classes.
What I’d like to note here, though, are some of the potential benefits of such programs to faculty.
I currently teach at an institution that has a similar program, and I’m one of many faculty from outside the English department who teach in it. (A brief description of the basic writing proficiency program can be found here; students fulfill our advanced writing proficiency requirement in their major department.)
I’ve gained a great deal from my participation in the program. In particular:
In helping students with their writing processes, I’ve been forced to think a lot about my own. For example, I tell students to start drafting early, and not to wait until shortly before the deadline–do I follow my own advice? Well, not always (especially if I’ve been having trouble coming up with a good topic for, say, a ProfHacker post!). But I start early far more often than I used to.
I’ve been reminded how useful it can be to share drafts with others, even if they’re very early in their development. Sharing and talking over drafts can help both in the generation of ideas and in their expression, for faculty as well as for students.
My participation in our portfolio reading process at the end of each semester has helped me think about the kinds of assignments I use in my writing course, and gives me a better sense than reading only my own students’ work can of what it’s reasonable to expect from students just beginning their college writing careers. It’s also just plain fun to read portfolios from other disciplines.
Finally, having colleagues read and comment on my students’ portfolios provides me with a way to check my evaluation of students’ work over the course of the semester. If both of my readers’ judgments about a portfolio match my own, I take that as a good sign.
Readers, let’s hear from you. Does your institution have a Writing Across the Curriculum program, or something similar? If so, and if you participate in it, what’s your experience been?
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