Transforming Non-WI Courses to WI Courses

Ways To Move From Current Offered Course To A WI Course

These Are general guidelines meant to apply to a number of courses offered in a variety of departments.

Note: Campus Writing Program will assist in any/all parts of designing WI courses: peer review criteria and strategies, assessment rubrics, assignment design, responding to student writing effectively, etc.

I. One type of offered course:

  1. Coverage of specific content throughout the semester organized according to moments, time periods, etc.
  2. Minor assessment of student reading – quizzes to check for comprehension and work done.
  3. Midterm assessment.
  4. Final assessment.

As a WI course:

  1. Same coverage of material.
  2. 1 page response papers in place of quizzes.
  3. Mid-semester project that asks students to synthesize ideas from response papers into a 5 – 7 page paper on a key concept or idea. Time given for peer review/revisions.
  4. Final project that asks students to synthesize all the ideas encountered from the semester in order to produce a position paper on the semester’s work. Time given for peer review/revisions.

The key to the change:

  1. Assessment shifts from exam to writing (writing to learn).
  2. Revision included. Students given opportunities to write as professionals do: with feedback and with revision. Emphasis shifts from memorization to process learning (over period of time).
  3. Instructor workload can be reduced by allotting time for peer review/revision
    1. Allows students time to work out content, organization, grammar issues before assignment turned in for final grade.
    2. Reduces prep time for two parts of semester.
  4. Students still present knowledge of course material, but they do so in writing rather than by matching answers to questions. The change is from memory to synthesis.

II. Another type of course:

  1. Course that covers major theories/ideas relevant to discipline (i.e., principles of management, major political ideas, specific types of geographical movements, history of a certain time period, taxonomies of animals or geological formations, etc.).
  2. Assessment is based on two-three in class, written exams covering the material. Usually, a prompt is given and students use readings (by memory or use texts in class) to answer the prompt.

As a WI course:

  1. Same time devoted throughout course to cover relevant areas.
  2. Instead of in class tests that ask students to write, students complete two-three essays out of class.
  3. Each essay is on a specific part of the course material (the essay replaces the in class exam). Or each essay treats a specific part of a larger class problem in stages. 
    1. The first identifies a topic to write about and justifies the choice.
    2. The second presents the research done to date. The third synthesizes the first two into a major project.
  4. Either approach allows for the same type of coverage and assessment, but shifts the assessment from in class to writing to writing that is done over a period of time.
  5. These approaches also emphasize steps in the writing process (identification of topic, research, synthesis) whereas the in class writing exam may only identify the final part of this process.

III. If you already assign writing:

  1. Your course can become WI by including revision opportunities.
    1. Revision can include peer review sessions that allow students the opportunity to give each other constructive feedback on content, organization, grammar, citation, quality of research, etc.
    2. Revision can include in class activities that ask students to provide feedback on specified parts of a paper such as research to date, introductions, overall aims, etc.
    3. Revision can include (if class size and time allow) presentations on work in progress. Students as audience to presentations provide feedback and commentary on what they have heard to date. The feedback is used by the writer to made adjustments to his/her work.
    4. Revision can include collecting drafts, making comments and suggestions, and returning drafts for further work or for a higher grade than the one received on the draft.
  2. You can devote time for students to write the paper by also asking students to work in sequenced steps.
    1. Small tasks/assignments that build off one another for a larger assignment. These tasks can be graded or be “all or nothing” credit.
    2. In class work (if class size allows) that requires students to begin the process of preliminary research
    3. In class work that allows for collaborative brainstorming/discussion of potential ideas.
    4. Major writing projects done in steps that build off one another (for example, three papers: 1. recognizing a problem 2. researching a problem 3. addressing the problem).
  3. You can work with alternative writing models:
    1. Assign collaborative projects: writing handbooks, writing manuals, writing group proposals and papers
    2. Ask students to write other types of papers: ethnographies, case studies, reports, etc. A statistics course, for instance, that already requires a paper might ask students to do a semester long study of a local issue, chart its activities statistically, collaborate with other groups’ findings, and then present a final analysis as a paper.
    3. Use new media: writing in a wiki, producing web sites, working with video and paper together, writing to weblogs, etc. Each new media space can allow for various types of writing that mirror professional writing (i.e., online newspapers that use video or weblog styled comments or scientific communities that use wikis to collaborate and share research). Each new media space can offer new types of challenges regarding how to understand and work with course material.
    4. Ask students to use course reading(s) as a model for their own work (i.e., a text that analyzes law in a specific way is the model for the students’ own project; a specific scientific study is a model for the students’ own semester long study). Models can be used to show how the writers approach content, frame their ideas, have specific styles, conduct research, etc.