What Is a Writing Intensive Course?

     The following is excerpted from the official University Core Curriculum's "Guidelines for Writing Intensive Courses." 

      For the full document, go to: http://wpunj.edu/dotAsset/228271.pdf .


Description of Writing Intensive Courses

      The new UCC program requires that students complete four (4) writing intensive courses, with at least one at the 3000 level or above.  The recommendation for implementing that requirement in a meaningful and practical way is:

  • For almost all students, the required foundational course in “Area 2 Expression: Writing” will   be their first writing intensive course.
  • Following the foundational course, at least one Writing Intensive course must be taken in the UCC program.
  • At least one Writing Intensive course must be in the student’s major, or in a directed corequirement, where focused attention is given to writing for the discipline.
  • A fourth Writing Intensive course may be taken either in the UCC program, the Major, or from electives chosen for degree completion.

     Writing-Intensive Courses are those in which writing is used as a central mode of learning as well as of evaluating student performance.     Students in these courses are expected to write regularly, and their grades in these courses are linked to the quality and content of their written work. These courses combine "writing-to-learn" and "writing-in-the-disciplines" (described in the two paragraphs below) as a central component of how the subject matter is presented and how it is learned, thereby offering students a chance to learn about the process of writing by writing often and in different ways and for different audiences, as well as a chance to become competent communicators in a specific field of study.

     The writing in the "writing-to-learn" category is designed, primarily, to have students experience the ways in which writing can help them learn something — about what they think, about what they have experienced, about the subject matter of the course, and about critical thinking in the discipline being studied. When instructors use writing-to-learn teaching strategies, they are concerned not primarily with final written products as much as with developing students’ abilities to use writing as a primary method of learning.

     The writing in the "writing-for-the-disciplines" category is designed to help students write professionally acceptable prose in the field of study. The emphasis is placed on effective communication, and students are required to demonstrate a mastery of the conventions of writing in a specific discipline. For these kinds of large-scale assignments—like term papers and research essays—to be most successful, instructors have to devote a substantial amount of class time to the development of the specific component skills required in this kind of project.  In addition, faculty feedback throughout the developing stages of the project is essential, and peer-feedback should be encouraged


     Student Learning Outcomes for Writing Intensive Courses in the UCC

     In order to receive a Writing Intensive designation (WI), a course must satisfy the following student learning outcomes and explanation below:

     Students will be able to

  1. Use writing-to-learn strategies (such as brainstorming, free-writing, reading logs, etc.)to develop their understanding of course content and to think critically about that content
  2. Use drafting, revising, editing and other writing processes to develop final writing products appropriate to the discipline, such as thesis-driven essays, formal reports, or professionally formatted manuscripts.
  3. Use research and documentation skills where they may be necessary and integrate them through paraphrase, quotation and citation, in accordance with the conventions of the discipline.

     Guidelines and Characteristics for Writing-Intensive Courses

     For a course to be identified by the UCC Council as Writing Intensive, it should have the following characteristics and meet the following guidelines:

  1. Students should write throughout the semester, not just at the end and not just for end-ofsemester term papers. Writing should be used as means to learn both the content of the course and critical thinking in the discipline. 
  2. Some amount of class time must be devoted to preparing students to complete writing assignments successfully.  This time could include activities like:  discussion of assignments and of evaluation criteria, analysis and discussion of sample student writing, peer sharing and discussing of research- and writing-in-progress.
  3. In upper-level classes particularly, students should receive instruction in how to write for the specific discipline. They must practice the conventions involved in doing a science report or a business case study, for example. In such courses, a discipline-appropriate paper or report of substantial length should be required. 
  4. In teaching students to produce end-of-semester papers, major research projects, etc, attention should be paid to the process of writing. Journals, note cards, summaries, reports, reviews, and exploratory prewriting could be used in order to help students move toward producing final projects.  Major papers should be assigned in such a way that students have the opportunity to receive timely feedback on drafts of their work. 
  5. Writing Intensive courses should show evidence in their syllabi to using writing both as a learning and an evaluation tool.
  6. A minimum of 12 pages or 3000 words of finished prose is required, as well as extensive use of writing-to-learn activities. A significant percentage of the student’s final grade should be based on evaluation of the student’s written work, both formal and informal, in the course. 
  7. Writing intensive courses may be in languages other than English.
  8. A writing intensive course may be a 3 credit course. In some programs, a 2 credit course may be writing intensive if it meets the writing intensive outcomes and follows the guidelines.


     Implementation of Writing-Intensive Courses at WPU

  1. To be considered Writing Intensive, courses must be submitted for review in this category by the UCC Committee’s Writing Intensive Review Panel.
  2. Enrollment in WI classes is to be limited to 25 (22 in Foundational writing course like Writing Effective Prose)
  3. A course may be designated WI, and therefore all sections of it would be WI.  For example, all ENG 110 sections would always be WI.
  4. A course may have only specific sections designated WI.  For example, PBHL 120 may have certain sections designated as WI and therefore only those sections will receive the WI cap on their enrollments.
  5. Courses offered within the major that also meet the outcomes for Areas 4, 5 or 6 may also be submitted as WI courses and/or have WI sections. (In this scenario, students would be meeting three requirements in one course: completing a course for Area 4, having that class also meet a major requirement, and completing one of the WI requirements.) 
  6. Major courses that are not offered through the UCC program may be designated WI.Any course requesting a writing intensive designation must be submitted to the Writing Intensive Review Panel.
  7. Deans and department chairs will need to work collaboratively on scheduling in order to insure that adequate seats are available each semester for Writing Intensive courses. In order to provide adequate numbers of WI sections each semester, courses must be offered by many departments across the scheduling grid.
  8. Every student is required to complete four (4) Writing Intensive Courses.  The completed program may look like this:
    • Foundational Writing (1)
    • WI options within the UCC (1-2)
    • WI course in the major to learn appropriate disciplinary methods (1-2)
    • At least one WI course must be at the 3000 or above level.

     9. Faculty Development efforts will be critical to encourage the development of WI courses and to train faculty to          teach them successfully.