Transforming Non-WI Courses to WI Courses

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, etc.

Overview of Writing Intensive Guidelines

  1. Instructor-to-student ratio of 1:25. Instructor should be prepared and supported to teach WI (department support, CWP support, WI Workshop attendance).
  2. Multiple writing assignments that total at least 20 pages/6600 words over the semester.
  3. At least one assignment should address a topic or question for which there is more than one acceptable interpretation, explanation, analysis, or evaluation.
  4. Substantive revision of at least 8 pages.
  5. Feedback from instructor, TA, and/or peers.
  6. Writing distributed throughout the semester and not concentrated at the end.
  7. Writing assignments become a major component of the course grade (at least 50%).
  8. In larger courses, teaching assistants may provide a more manageable student/instructor ratio. Instructors remain in control of the writing and grading, mentoring any teaching assistants. CWP provides supplemental support: $110 per student beyond the first 25 students up to 300 students enrolled as of census day. Final amount of support based on timely submission or course proposal, departmental needs, and available CWP allocation.

For more information and to access the WI proposal system, please go to

Example #1: If the course includes-

  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
  4. Allows students time to work out content, organization, and conventions/mechanics before assignment turned in for final grade.
  5. Reduces prep time for two parts of semester.
  6. Students still present knowledge of course material, but they do so in writing. The change is from memory to synthesis.

Example #2: If the course includes–

  1. 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 based on 2-3 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 2-3 essays/discipline-based genre out of class.
    • Each writing assignment is on a specific part of the course material (the writing assignment replaces one or more of the exams).
    • Or each writing assignment treats a specific part of a larger class problem in stages. The first identifies a topic to write about and justifies the choice. The second presents the research done to date. The third synthesizes the first two into a major project.

Either approach allows for the same type of coverage and assessment, but shifts the assessment from in class to writing that is done over a period of time.

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.

Example #3: If the course includes a lot of writing already….

  1. Your course can become WI by including revision opportunities.
    • Revision can include directed peer review sessions that allow students the opportunity to give each other constructive feedback on content, organization, style, conventions, citation, quality of research, etc.
    • 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.
    • Revision can include (if class size and time allow) presentations on work in-progress. Students serve as audience to presentations and provide feedback and commentary.
    • Revision can include collecting students’ versions/drafts, making comments and suggestions, and returning drafts for further work or for a higher grade.
  2. You can devote time for students to write the paper by also asking students to work in sequenced steps.
    • Small tasks/assignments that build off one another for a larger assignment. These tasks can be graded or be “all or nothing” credit.
    • In-class work (if class size allows) that requires students to begin the process of preliminary research.
    • 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:
    • Assign collaborative projects: proposals, presentations, publications, etc.
    • 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.
    • Use new media: writing in a wiki, producing web sites, working with video and paper together, writing to blogs, 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.
    • 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, use specific styles, conduct research, etc.