WAC Principles

Learning to write within a discipline is intimately connected with learning to think like a professional in that discipline.

Learning to write within a discipline is intimately connected with learning to think like a professional in that discipline.

Since its emergence in the 1970s, the Writing Across the Curriculum movement (WAC) has been motivated by the ideal that the more students write, the better writers they become. Language, learning, and writing pedagogy are inextricably linked—students most effectively learn to write when writing is both integrated into their course work (that is, writing tasks are very closely related to the course learning objectives) and when the disciplinary nature of writing tasks and faculty expectations around writing are explicit. Students benefit from writing in multiple contexts/courses, over the course of their studies in a major, toward a variety of authentic purposes, and while working closely with professionals in their chosen fields. Above all, WAC professionals argue that learning to write within a discipline is intimately connected to learning to think like a professional in that discipline.

The INWAC Statement of WAC Principles

The WAC program at Mason is guided by the Statement of WAC Principles released in spring 2014 by the International Network of Writing Across the Curriculum Programs (INWAC). This statement asserts a number of programmatic and pedagogical philosophies that support student writers across the curriculum and in the disciplines.

Highlights from the statement include three principles that the committee believes shape all efforts to build, evaluate, and sustain Writing Across the Curriculum programs on US campuses.

The Statement reads (reproduced here verbatim):

  • Writing is a highly complex and situated activity that cannot be mastered in a single course, but is learned over a lifetime.
  • WAC is not a “quick fix,” but an initiative that requires sustained conversations among faculty that extend beyond a single workshop or consultation.
  • Though often a faculty-led initiative, WAC programs require administrative support, such as course releases for program leadership, a standing budget, and support for professional development. (1)

The INWAC Statement of WAC Goals

The Statement also includes a cogent summary of the shared goals of Writing Across the Curriculum programs (again reproduced verbatim):

  • To sustain the writing of students across their academic careers. While likely not the only objective, the desire to increase the amount and frequency of student writing, as well as offer students more sustained instruction in writing, in more courses, spread out over their academic careers, is foundational to WAC programs.
  • To increase student engagement with learning. Results from the National Survey of Student Engagement show significant correlation between extensive writing and both higher order thinking and integrative learning (NSSE 2008 Results), affirming a long-held tenet of WAC that increased attention and support for student writing lead to further engagement with course content and increased retention.
  • To increase student writing proficiency. Writers become more proficient as they write across a wide range of rhetorical situations, genres, purposes, and discourse communities, and compose using a range of media. WAC programs strive to create opportunities for this range of writing experiences across a student’s academic career.
  • To create a campus culture that supports writing. WAC programs often seek to promote a cultural shift on campus in how writing is perceived and valued, and thus may sponsor speaker series, faculty writing retreats, and platforms that highlight student writing such as writing awards, student conferences, or venues for publishing student work.
  • To create a community of faculty around teaching and student writing. WAC seeks to break down the silos that can divide disciplines by creating common ground through its focus on teaching and learning, often accomplished through cross-disciplinary faculty development programming. (2)

The full statement can be read here: wac.colostate.edu/principles.

We join the international community of Writing Across the Curriculum programs and scholars in congratulating the authors of this important statement for lending focus and institutional credibility to vital campus conversations about writing.

More WAC Resources: