Student writing in the Library.

Because Middlebury College values writing, all students are required to take two writing intensive courses.

The first writing intensive course is the first-year seminar, taught by faculty across the disciplines.

The second writing intensive course is generally taken by the end of a student’s sophomore year or as determined by their major area of study. This course is designated by a “CW.”  


The second-level CW course features in-class discussion of writing and attention to revision. College writing courses are limited in size, and faculty are asked to provide written responses to drafts and to meet individually with students to discuss their work. Peer review, or a writing workshop, is also recommended for college writing courses.


Expectations for writing in the second-level CW course vary from department to department and class to class. Some classes require 20 pages of polished prose. Other courses might not think in terms of page numbers. Such courses include, but are not limited to, those that teach digital writing or writing with charts and graphs, or those that highlight short writing forms.

Information for Class Instructors

Instructors are encouraged to assign informal writing as well as formal writing. Informal writing, often known as “writing to learn,” might be graded or ungraded and might include journals, field notes, informal responses to readings, online discussions, and in-class writing. Informal writing can build student confidence and generate class discussion as well as be developed into formal writing projects. 

Formal writing assignments are often graded, but other faculty prefer the effects of “ungrading” until the end of the semester. Either way, faculty are encouraged to provide ample qualitative feedback on formal work. Formal writing projects can include critical and/or creative writing. Genres for formal projects include argumentative essays, research papers, critical narratives, literature reviews, case studies, op-eds, blogs, digital stories, videos, podcasts, short fiction or poems based on theory or research, etc.

In some departments, College writing classes are highly disciplinary and are only open to students majoring in the department or program. In other departments, the CW class is open to students across the College, and course content may vary widely.

Faculty seeking approval of their CW class should contact Catharine Wright, director of the Writing and Rhetoric Program. In addition, faculty may contact any member of the Writing and Rhetoric Program to discuss their goals for their CW class and to obtain feedback on writing assignments, syllabus design, the peer review process, responding to student writing, and evaluating work. Members of the Writing and Rhetoric Program are also available to visit classes to talk about writing.