WI Class Challenges Students to Collaborate

Published on June 5, 2015

Joan HermsenBy Angela Pearson

For Joan Hermsen, teaching a Writing Intensive (WI) class is a collaborative learning process that enhances course content and cultivates an invaluable skill set.

Hermsen, department chair for Women and Gender Studies, changed her class Social Research 2950 to a Writing Intensive course last year because she wanted writing products to be the primary assessment.

In WI courses, students are challenged to think critically and express their ideas precisely. Students in Hermsen’s class learn concepts such as data analysis and research design–both useful skills for students interested in pursuing graduate and doctoral programs.

“For the graduate school bound, I think it will better position them,” Hermsen says. “They’ll have a much stronger sense of how to write a literature review; they’ll have a much clearer sense of how you write up the actual methods.”

In Hermsen’s class, students work on a collaborative group paper that requires participation, compromise and accountability. During the project, students can consult undergraduate teaching assistants (TA) who have taken the course before. This adds a unique dimension to the class as TAs can share their past writing samples to assist current students.

Along with preparing students for professional programs, WI courses help students in the workplace. According to Hermsen, sociologists are often asked to write reviews on reports or generate original written content.

“They will be better employees down the line if they have this set of skills,” Hermsen explains.