One of the goals of a true writing across the curriculum program is to incorporate meaningful writing into all courses. Meaningful writing means that students use writing to learn as well as improve their overall writing skills.
It seems that when we look at writing in our classes, most of us concentrate on high stakes writing, the formal writing assignments in our courses. These assignnments are critical for students to improve their overall writing skills and learn how to communicate with other professionals; however, they should not be the only writing assignments we have in our courses.
One of the first things is that we want to understand the difference between writing to learn and learning to write, both of which are needed in all courses. How much time and space do you give students to wrestle with ideas in writing about the subject you are teaching? Do you allow them to post brainstorm lists, freewrites, outlines, or drafts where they can get feedback from you and other students without the fear of having all writing attached to a grade? This is what low stakes writing is about, and when we incorporate low stakes writing into coursework then formal, high stakes writing assignments, are usually of a higher quality in terms of demonstrated critical thinking and even writing skills – simply because students have had the opportunity to think through an idea in writing before they put together the formal paper.
Another important consideration is the way that formal assignments are written. Research shows that one reason students often fail at producing quality writing in school is because writing assignments are often vague, confusing, or missing vital information.
In early September, the CTL will be offering a professional development course titled Creating Writing Assignments in Non-Composition Courses, which is intended for course leaders, curriculum managers, and faculty across KU. This course is designed to strengthen the KU writing across the curriculum initiative by providing information about the characteristics of successful writing across the curriculum programs, how to develop and execute effective writing assignments, especially in non-composition courses, how to incorporate meaningful writing in all courses, and how to offer constructive holistic feedback to students.
I will be announcing on this blog exactly when this course will be available for enrollment, but it will be sometime in early September. I hope you all will use this course as one way to reach your professional development goals for the year, as writing is shared responsibility by all faculty, and the better we are at using writing in our classes, the better writers our students will be.