Mason’s Writing Curriculum

Mason’s core writing curriculum draws on the concept of a “vertical” curriculum: a carefully sequenced series of courses intended to facilitate the longterm growth of learners as they develop increasing expertise within a particular domain. At Mason, this vertical writing curriculum is realized through specially designated composition (English 100/101/121-122 and English 302) and writing-intensive courses. This curriculum grows out of our belief that we continue to develop as writers throughout our lives and, therefore, that writing instruction should be continuous throughout students’ education.

The Core Writing Curriculum

From Beaufort (2007) College Writing and Beyond

Beaufort’s (2007) model of writing expertise (pictured right) helps to explain this curriculum. In English 100/101/121-122, students learn the basic foundations of rhetorical, genre, and writing process knowledge as they develop research-based projects for academic and non-academic contexts. English 302 extends these lessons and begins to introduce students to discourse community knowledge through inquiry-based disciplinary research projects. Writing-intensive courses, which are situated in the majors, most fully integrate these knowledges as students develop their subject matter knowledge and more deeply engage the specific writing, critical thinking, and problem-solving methods in their chosen fields.

Writing-enriched Experiences

It is important to recognize, however, that students frequently write in courses outside of this core curriculum. In fact, a recent review of Mason Core syllabi revealed that 77% of them indicated some type of writing assignment. These writing-enriched courses provide opportunities to reinforce and extend the learning explicitly targeted in composition and writing-intensive courses. To do so, faculty should recognize the writing present in their courses, talk explicitly about the purposes of and expectations for these assignments, and offer students opportunities to reflect on their writing experiences, particularly noting similarities and differences between assignments, courses, and disciplines. Furthermore, departments should consider threading sequences of writing experiences that foster the gradual development of disciplinary writing competencies.

The Mason Graduate

Taken as a whole, this curriculum contributes to the development of the Mason graduate as articulated in the university’s vision statement: an engaged citizen and well-rounded scholar who is prepared to act. As students gradually develop their knowledges in these domains, they work toward ever increasing capacities to participate in their disciplinary and civic communities.

Further Reading

Hall, J. (2006). Toward a unified writing curriculum. Integrating WAC/WID with freshman composition

Melzer, D. (2014). The connected curriculum: Designing a vertical transfer writing curriculum

Williams, A. & Balzotti, J. (2019). Threading competencies in writing courses for more effective transfer