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What Makes a Course "Writing Enhanced"?

A writing intensive course, such as a junior seminar or first year seminar, uses writing to help students master the material and the conventions. Faculty proposing a course using a writing intensive pedagogy should consult the General Education Course Rubrics in order to make sure all learning outcomes are met. Faculty may also find a description of the learning goals helpful when they propose a course.

The features or hallmarks of a writing intensive course are listed below.

Class Size or Instructor-Student Ratio

Most guidelines insist that writing intensive classes include no more than 25 students. At Stetson University, the writing intensive first-year seminars (FSEMs) and junior seminars are capped at 16 students.

Required Number of Papers or Words

An important element of writing intensive courses is 15 to 25 pages of writing, spread throughout the semester in a sequence of related, shorter and longer assignments and revisions. The page count is not as important as the variety of ways in which that page count is created.

Revision

In a writing intensive course, at least some student writing is revised as a result of peer and instructor feedback. Instructors and students should understand that feedback and revision must involve more than pointing out and correcting surface errors.

The Weight of Writing in the Final Grade

In a writing intensive course, faculty stipulate that grades on written work make up a certain percentage of the course grade. At least 50 percent of the course grade should be based on the writing assignments. In writing intensive courses, the writing reveals the learning; therefore, the final grade should be calculated accordingly.

Types of Assignments

Writing should be spread throughout the course in a sequence of related assignments rather than concentrated in a large term paper. A lengthy term paper, no matter how demanding, is counterproductive to the writing-to-learn and writing-to-communicate pedagogy employed in writing intensive courses. Assignments are generally a combination of low-stakes, medium-stakes and high-stakes writing.

Assignment-related Instruction and Evaluation of Papers

Faculty in writing intensive courses can help students write to learn by means of a combination of the following:

  • In-class draft workshops
  • Collaborative projects
  • Hands-on, directed lessons on research techniques
  • Checklists for feedback on drafts
  • Minimal marking of errors
  • Targeted summaries of readings

Support Services

Faculty in writing intensive courses are not necessarily writing teachers; in most cases, however, faculty are employing writing-to-learn pedagogy. To assign any writing task means that, as teachers, we are helping our students to do well at their assignments. A writing assignment is an opportunity for a teacher to help the student write better. Faculty in writing intensive courses should encourage students who need a lot of writing help to visit the Writing Center.