Advanced Writing Best Practices Recommendations for Administrators

Recommendations

Staffing

Chairs and schedulers should ensure that faculty who are assigned to teach AW courses know they are AW courses and are given materials that were approved to meet the requirement (some of these materials are in the CIM system, but most AW courses were approved prior to the use of this system. Chairs and faculty can contact the GMP Writing Committee for materials if they cannot locate them).

It is generally best to assign these courses to continuing faculty, who can participate in the department’s ongoing conversations about scaffolding of writing instruction, and participate in the support for writing instruction offered by the Howe Center for Writing Excellence.

Scaffolding Between Courses in Departments

One course cannot teach students to write effectively. There is no single writing inoculation, no one course that prepares students to write for all contexts and purposes. Thus, departments should expect that their AW course will help prepare students with some but not all of the skills and knowledge about writing that they need. Learning to write in particular disciplines requires continual practice and feedback. Thus it is important that department members engage in internal conversations about scaffolding, connection between and across courses. If AW courses are part of a sequence or intended to prepare students to write in departmental capstone courses, there should be departmental conversation about how to ensure this scaffolding occurs. All GMP classes, not just AW courses, are charged with teaching both writing and critical thinking.

Class Size

The senate language strongly recommends no more than 20 students. There is a concern regarding labor for faculty as well as concern about quality for students. These courses are an opportunity for students to get individualized instruction and feedback to develop their writing abilities. If the course sizes are going to be larger, there should be discussion with faculty, planning for needed additional resources, and ways to ensure that students are getting the instructional experience that our GMP promises. Potential resources for larger sections include Graduate Teaching Assistants, Rinella Undergraduate Associates, Howe Writing Associates; training from HCWE workshops; and graduate students who can assist with responding to writing while getting their own professional development/training from the HCWE.

Winter Term Advanced Writing Courses

The three senate-approved criteria for an Advanced Writing course (student writing as the central focus, frequent opportunities to write with ongoing instructor feedback on multiple drafts of major projects, and multiple, substantial writing projects) can only be met given sufficient time:

  1. Time for reading, research, drafting of multiple writing projects;
  2. Time for instruction on writing;
  3. Time for feedback from the instructor;
  4. Time for the student to revise.
These issues of time make Winter term AW courses difficult. Any courses offered in that time period should only be offered after discussion and planning with faculty to ensure that all aspects of the course can sufficiently be accomplished during this condensed time period.

Online Advanced Writing Courses

Online writing courses can be extremely effective; however, they require time to develop, support from eLearning’s semester-long training course, a dedicated instructional designer, small group instructional diagnosis (SGID), and consideration for how writing instruction and feedback will be effectively implemented. Thus, AW courses that were approved as face-to-face courses need to be submitted to the GMP Writing Committee for re-approval if they are to be delivered in a fully online format.

When faculty are assigned to teach online sections of AW courses, they should be afforded time to prepare an effective writing course.

Basic Requirements for Advanced Writing Courses

(from the “Proposal for a Revised Plan for Liberal Education,” April 2014, approved by Senate):

Advanced Writing Course (3 credits)

Advanced writing courses (200 or 300 level) are offered by instructors in disciplines, departments, and programs across the university. These courses focus on writing instruction. Some possible courses include but are not limited to: Writing and Diversity; Technical Communication; Advanced Writing and Critical Reading; Professional Communication for Business; Scientific Communication; Writing for Teachers and Administrators; Writing in Social Sciences; and Writing and the Arts. At least one of the Advanced Writing courses offered to students university-wide should focus on intercultural communication.

Advanced Writing Course Criteria

Advanced writing courses feature:

  • Student writing as the central focus (with the majority of class time dedicated to instruction on and activities about writing)
  • Frequent opportunities to write with ongoing instructor feedback on multiple drafts of major projects
  • Multiple, substantial writing projects (at least 7500 words over the course of the term).

These courses are ideally capped at 20 students to facilitate instructor feedback.

Courses that meet divisional writing requirements may also count for this requirement if they adhere to the advanced writing course criteria (listed above). Scaffolded courses developed to meet divisional writing requirements might also count if they collectively amount to 3-credits worth of curricula adhering to the criteria listed above.