Guidelines for Teaching Writing Intensive Courses

These guidelines reflect current practice in writing courses.

Writing is not simply "assigned" in writing intensive courses. Instead, the writing done in these courses helps students develop their analytical and persuasive powers. Additionally, in many courses, students are encouraged to use writing to learn. Because learning, like writing, is a constant process of collecting, connecting, discarding and reorganizing, instructors may encourage students to think through new or difficult ideas and terminology in writing.

Instructors of writing intensive courses frequently employ both informal and formal writing assignments. Informal writing might be graded or ungraded and might include journals, diaries, field notes, responses to discussion questions, and/or free writing. Informal writing might be used as a way to begin a formal paper, as a means to generate good class discussion, or as an end in itself. Formal writing assignments are usually graded, and might include critical, creative or researched papers, or might combine formal writing strategies, like outlining, with an oral presentation. The formal writing done in these courses averages 20-25 pages, although the number of papers and the number of pages per paper vary. In some courses, formal writing is submitted for assessment in a portfolio once or twice during the semester.

Instructors of writing intensive courses are generally concerned with developing students' ability to examine and present ideas critically and to construct and present coherent arguments. To this end, an instructor might comment extensively on written work submitted for a grade and provide frequent opportunities for students to discuss their writing, both with him/her and with other class members, thereby encouraging students to rethink and revise their work. Discussions of writing may occur during class time or outside of class.

Instructors of writing intensive courses may use class time to teach features of style or the conventions of Standard Written English. Some instructors prefer to identify stylistic features and grammatical conventions when they occur in individual students' work. Some instructors order and require copies of a handbook (samples are available from the Director of Writing); others refer students to the Simon and Schuster Handbook for Writers available at the Reserve desks in Starr Library and the Science Library.

Students for whom English is a second language, or who have serious problems in the conventions of writing, are usually referred to one of the Professional Writing Tutors at the Writing Center. All students are encouraged to profit from the extra feedback on their writing provided by the Writing Center Peer Tutors and Professional Tutors.