Writing Across the Curriculum at the University of New Haven



A W course is a class taught by a faculty member in his or her own discipline in which writing is considered a central mode of learning and evaluating student performance. The types of writing assigned in these courses can vary significantly—from lab reports to journals to blogs to formal research essays. The goal for these courses is that instructors will spend time helping students learn about the discourse conventions that are valued in the faculty member’s discipline—through explicit instruction about writing and feedback on students’ writing assignments. While faculty are asked to talk to students about how writers write in the faculty member’s field, W courses are also about using writing as a tool for learning, and much of the certification process for faculty focuses on strategies and resources they can use to help students become better writers—without taking much time away from valuable course content.

Certification Requirements

W instructors are certified by the Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) Director in consultation with a WAC Committee that has representation from each college on campus.

The model adopted by the University of New Haven, which is in line with best practices in most WAC/WID programs, is to certify an individual instructor to teach an individual course. In other words, a single course cannot be approved as writing-intensive for a whole department because the WAC program will be unable to determine if each instructor is following the writing-intensive guidelines discussed in the WAC Certification Workshop (see below for details about the workshop). Participation in the workshop and completion of a course proposal form will certify you to teach an identified course as writing-intensive.

Notes: Instructors only participate in the Orientation Workshop once. If the same instructor wishes to teach the same course as writing-intensive again, the instructor simply needs to indicate to the WAC Director (an intent form will be sent) that he or she intends to teach the course again and to provide information about any significant changes to the course, if applicable. If the same instructor wishes to teach a different course as writing-intensive, he or she will only need to fill out a new, full proposal form.

Course Requirements

All W courses at the University of New Haven carry a few key requirements that the instructor must adhere to. These requirements are based on best practices at other successful institutions and exist to allow for consistency among classes. Students are strongly advised to take Academic Inquiry & Writing (ENGL 1112/1113/1114) before taking their writing-intensive course. While the first-year writing course is not currently an explicit prerequisite, it will prepare students for the writing they will do in your course. We recommend that you reach out to students before the semester even begins and advise them accordingly.

A course designated with a W must meet the following requirements:

  • Maximum student enrollment is 20.
  • The instructor must provide instruction on writing, including strategies for developing ideas, organization, style, and mastering discipline-specific formats.
  • The instructor must provide feedback on writing assignments, including comments related to thesis development, essay structure, organization, and mechanics.
  • The instructor must emphasize revision as part of the writing process.
  • The instructor must use writing to enable and extend learning of the subject matter (i.e., writing is not done solely for the purposes of evaluation. Students learn through writing.)
  • Writing should be a significant part (at least 25%) of the student’s grade in the course. To receive W credit for the course, the student must receive the grade of a C or higher on the written components of the course. (The student may receive less than a C on an individual writing assignment, but when all written assignments have been averaged together, they should average at a C).
    • Note that for multi-section courses in programs that have accreditation, departments should discuss consistent requirements across W sections.
  • “W” courses do not have to be in Tier II, nor do they need to be core curriculum courses.
  • Each student must submit a minimum of 4500 words of revised written work (total count for the semester).* (This is around 18 pages of text, double-spaced in Times New Roman, 12-point font). Please do not count a draft and a final version of the same paper twice when considering word count.

*What counts as revised written work may vary from discipline to discipline, and these issues can be fleshed out during the workshop and proposal process so that they work for your course.

Example: An instructor assigns 12 lab reports throughout the semester and does not see a purpose in asking the student to revise an old lab report, nor does the instructor have time to provide feedback on a draft before a lab report is turned in. He or she may instead choose to provide feedback on lab report 1 once it is submitted and hold students accountable for improving their writing based on this feedback by the time lab report 3 comes in.

Some of the writing can also constitute more informal writing assignments, such as in-class reflections and journals, as long as revision is an important part of the writing process in the course overall. Please try to keep most of the 4500-word requirement aimed towards formal written work.

Please note that at many institutions, students are required to take a W course in their major.  At the University of New Haven, because we have a small number of faculty and we are just beginning this process, students can take any W course offered at the university. However, departments and advisors can make decisions in terms of advising students to take a W course in the major.

W Course Syllabus Language

Once you have received the certification, you will be asked to provide language on your syllabus to help students understand the purpose of Writing Intensive Courses. Please integrate this language in an appropriate place on your syllabus. Please adapt the language to your individual course where you see bold text and also feel free to revise this language as necessary. You do not have to use this language, but all instructors should clearly indicate on the syllabus that the course is writing intensive; how students receive credit; that they need to get a C or better on the written components to get the credit, etc.

We am also happy to come to your class and talk about the goals of W courses if you have any interest in this.

What is a Writing-Intensive (W) course?

All students who entered the university in fall 2017 or later are required to pass a Writing-Intensive (W) course prior to graduating.  A W course is a class in which much of the student’s learning and thinking is accomplished through writing. A W class does not necessarily require any more work than a non-W section of the same course. Instead, you will simply be asked to demonstrate your learning and think critically through writing. The W designation indicates that your instructor has participated in professional development workshops to enhance his or her strategies for teaching writing and that the course is capped at 19 students so you have opportunities for individualized feedback.

What are the Expectations for W Courses?

You can expect to write approximately X PAGES of writing in this class—a majority of which will be revised, polished work. I will offer feedback on your writing by doing X [fill in information about peer review, conferences, drafts, etc., as needed].

Written assignments will count as X% of your final grade in the class [offer any details about what the written components of the class will consist of. Percentage should be at least 25%] To receive W credit for the class, you must receive the grade of C or higher on the written components of the course.

Note that to receive the W designation, you will also need to complete an end-of-semester survey, which includes attaching a writing sample. The sample will be a paper you have already written for this course. I will email the survey to you towards the end of the semester. The survey and writing sample are used for assessment purposes and are not re-evaluated by the writing program.

*Important* – You are strongly advised to take first-year writing (ENGL 1112 or 1113 for international students) before taking a W course because W courses assume you have some of the basic writing skills necessary to compose within an academic discipline. W classes are a valuable opportunity to learn more about writing well, and you can take more than one.

While you will receive explicit instruction on writing in this class, you should also seek help outside of class if you feel writing is a weakness for you. You are expected to produce writing that is clear and relatively free of grammatical errors; therefore, you may need to seek additional resources, some of which I have provided below:

Resources for Writing Help

  1. The Writing Center staffs peer writing tutors from all majors. They can help you at any stage in the writing process. To make an appointment, you can register for an account with their scheduling site at https://newhaven.mywconline.comor visit them in person at their desk on the first floor of the Peterson library.
  2. The Purdue OWL is an excellent online resource you can use to learn about citation practices, research, grammar, and more.

W Course Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)

The following outcomes show what you should be able to do after taking a W course:

  • Employ the discourse conventions (style, format, organization, use of evidence, and citation expectations) of the discipline in all formal written work
  • Compose writing that reflects awareness of the rhetorical situation (audience, context, and purpose) of the document
  • Compose writing that is free from mechanical errors and clarity problems