CRITERIA FOR WAC DESIGNATION
College Writing I & II and Courses that
Substitute for College Writing II (ENC 1102)
Since April 2004, when FAU's administration mandated a Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) initiative, a set of criteria have been carefully developed as a way of simplifying (and making transparent) the WAC certification process, and assuring that values central to WAC pedagogy are represented in syllabi that receive the WAC designation. The following material for the University-mandated Writing Across the Curriculum program explains the criteria for College Writing I & II and courses that substitute for College Writing II (ENC 1102) WAC/Gordon Rule courses. The Ad Hoc Core Curriculum Taskforce initially proposed the WAC program to ensure consistent and extensive support for student writing across the University. Writing Across the Curriculum is first and foremost the use of writing to learn.
This document explains the policies and criteria for courses to receive the WAC designation for a 1000-level course and/or courses to serve as substitutes for ENC 1102.
*Syllabi for courses intended to serve as substitutes for College Writing II / ENC 1102 will also need to be approved by the English Department's Writing Committee. Approval from both the WAC Committee and English Department's Writing Committee are needed before the syllabus may be sent to the UUPC.
A separate document offers criteria for 2000-4000 level WAC courses.
For an explanation of the writing support available through FAU's University Center for Excellence in Writing,
please visit the UCEW website.
All faculty who teach WAC courses will attend a WAC Curriculum Development faculty training seminar or a training program that is collaboratively determined by the Director of WAC and representatives within departments that are sponsoring the courses.
The Ad Hoc Core Curriculum Taskforce initially proposed the WAC program to ensure consistent and extensive support for student writing across the University. Faculty training and support was deemed essential to ensure that writing was understood not merely as a means of communicating disciplinary concepts, but as a means for critical engagement of course content. Writing Across the Curriculum is first and foremost the use of writing to learn. To this end, Florida Atlantic University’s Writing Across the Curriculum Committee, University Undergraduate Programs Committee, and Faculty Senate have determined that specialized WAC training is important if the WAC program is to be consistent, sustained, and successful.
Every semester, the WAC Director hosts training seminars for faculty who are developing new courses or helping their departments re-examine the use of writing in their curricula. At other times during the year, other seminars may be offered at the departmental level with support and assistance from the Director and Assistant Director of the Writing Across the Curriculum program. The benefits of such training include the following:
- Special seminars and training workshops can establish a consistent set of pedagogical values that are transferable across the disciplines.
- WAC training creates opportunities for increased collaboration among faculty—building coalitions among individuals and disciplines.
- The training requirement assists in distributing the responsibility for supporting student writing.
Beginning Spring 2008, all faculty members teaching WAC courses for the first time may do so without training, but only for a single semester. Those faculty members must participate in a WAC seminar before teaching another WAC course. The WAC Director is working with departments across the university to ensure that a realistic support schedule is available.
The WAC Committee realizes that exceptions will arise occasionally. In these cases, department heads are asked to request in writing an exception from the WAC Committee by submitting a request to the WAC Committee chair or the Director of WAC. Once an exception is granted, the WAC Director will work with the department to provide the necessary support in a timely manner. Complete details of the syllabus approval process can be found on our website under the heading Course Approval Process .
- All courses that substitute for College Writing II will be taught by full-time faculty .
Courses that substitute for College Writing II, which are to be taught outside the context of the first year writing program, must offer a sustained focus on teaching writing in a disciplinary context. Substitutes for College Writing II must provide students instruction and writing opportunities that are equivalent to those offered in College Writing II. The WAC Committee has determined that full-time faculty members have the most experience and training for delivering these courses. (Exceptions may be made to this rule if a department can demonstrate that tenure track faculty have designed the syllabus and that TAs receive the same degree of supervision that occurs in English.)
- All Teaching Assistants who will take primary responsibility for a College Writing I or II course and who do not have at least eighteen hours of credit in the discipline in which the course is taught must take a teaching seminar before or during their first term of teaching, attend supervised, semester-long colloquia in subsequent semesters until they have earned the eighteen credits, and be mentored by designated tenure-line instructors.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) policy requires:
Graduate teaching assistants who have primary responsibility for teaching a course for credit and/or assigning final grades for such a course, and whose professional and scholarly preparation does not satisfy the provisions of Section 4.8.2 must have earned at least 18 graduate semester hours in their discipline, be under the direct supervision of a faculty member experienced in the teaching discipline, receive regular in-service training and be evaluated regularly.
In order to comply with this policy, a TA with fewer than 18 graduate hours is NOT the course instructor. Instead, such TAs are course facilitators that:
- conduct class discussions in accord with syllabi written by full-time faculty
- grade papers under faculty supervision according to departmental and/or programmatic criteria
- maintain class records
- provide tutorial assistance in class and during office hours
- may deliver lectures as a teacher-in-training, under the supervision of the course Instructor of Record (IOR)
The IOR will observe and evaluate TAs at regular intervals throughout the semester and, therefore, maintain responsibility for the course and student outcomes. The TAs will not normally have direct responsibility for designing and coordinating a course; syllabi, assignments, exams, etc. will be prepared by the IOR.
The following criteria are not intended to and should not be used to evaluate faculty performance. Each criterion serves to assist faculty and students in identifying and achieving course objectives. To receive a WAC designation, the 3-credit course will be capped at 22 students and satisfy the syllabus criteria below. The course cap has been approved at all levels of the university through the Faculty Senate. While the WAC Committee understands the current budget situations and that such caps may create a burden for departments, it is extremely important to maintain the integrity of the WAC program and the quality of writing on the FAU campus.
- inform students of the writing-intensive nature of the course and explain that WAC courses at FAU fulfill the state mandated Gordon Rule requirements if the course is passed with a C or better;
- include writing assignments that promote critical thinking, reading of sustained and challenging texts, and analytical writing;
- offer writing assignments that encourage students to recognize and examine intellectual and/or cultural assumptions that emerge in the readings and in the student's own writing;
- include three or more substantial, out-of-class, thesis-driven writing assignments, each of which must be revised at least once (a revision is a substantial reworking of a draft as distinct from editing and correction of surface errors);
- include both finished writing and preparatory writing such as drafts, revisions, journal writing, written responses to texts, etc;
- provide a short, clear, written description of each writing assignment and its evaluation criteria;
- provide a schedule for writing assignments that allocates class time for discussion of assignments, revision, and peer review;
- devote class time to discussions about how to complete, revise, and improve students' writing;
- indicate that faculty will help students learn to read and comment on one another's papers, focusing primarily on substance, i.e., issues that would be addressed by global revision;
- provide an explanation of how students will receive substantive feedback on graded assignments and drafts that students are required to revise;
- count writing assignments for at least 80% of the course grade;
- include a description of the error tracking mechanisms that will be used in the course;
- require students to write a target of 5,000 words (+/- 1,000);
- provide a list of class policies including but not limited to attendance, late papers, grading, participation, format for written assignments, and plagiarism;
- include the following language informing students about the University wide WAC Assessment project:
If this class is selected to participate in the university-wide WAC assessment program, you will be required to access the online assessment server, complete the consent form and survey, and submit electronically a first and final draft of a near-end-of-term-paper.
1: For sample syllabi and more information and support for teaching WAC courses, please refer to the Approved Courses, Outcome Goals, and Web Resource Links sections of the WAC website.
2: Deviations from any of the above criteria will need to be justified in writing for review and certification purposes.
1. All WAC syllabi must inform students of the writing-intensive nature of the course and explain that WAC courses at FAU fulfill the state-mandated Gordon Rule requirements if the course is passed with a C or better.
This statement should appear early in the syllabus for the benefit of students who are working toward the completion of their Gordon Rule and WAC course requirements.
To fulfill the State's Gordon Rule requirement, students must complete:
- Six (6) semester hours of English coursework.
- Six (6) semester hours of additional coursework in which the student is required to demonstrate college-level writing skills through multiple assignments.
To satisfy FAU's WAC requirement, students must:
- Complete successfully ENC 1101 with a grade of "C" or better.
- Complete ENC 1102 (or a WAC course that has been approved as a substitute for ENC 1102) with a grade or "C" or better.
- Complete successfully two additional 2000-4000 level WAC certified courses with a grade of "C" or better.
The syllabus should make clear that WAC courses are designed explicitly to utilize writing for engaging course content—writing to learn.
Writing to learn involves:
- Developing increased understanding and proficiency.
- Acquiring course content.
- Understanding accepted disciplinary forms, discourses, and values.
- Revising to explore, reconsider, and strengthen the written presentation of concepts and ideas.
The following language can be used or adapted as a means of satisfying this criterion:
This course serves as one of two "Gordon Rule" classes that must be taken before you may take two additional required 2000-4000 level writing intensive courses. You must achieve a grade of "C" (not C-minus) or better to receive credit. Furthermore, this class meets the University-wide Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) criteria, which expect you to improve your writing over the course of the term. The University’s WAC program promotes the teaching of writing across all levels and all disciplines. Writing-to-learn activities have proven effective in developing critical thinking skills, learning discipline-specific content, and understanding and building competence in the modes of inquiry and writing for various disciplines and professions.
Syllabi in a variety of fields can be found in the Approved Courses section of the WAC website.
2. All WAC Syllabi must include assignments that promote critical thinking, reading of sustained and challenging texts, and analytical writing.
The purpose of writing across the curriculum is to help students better engage the content of the course in thoughtful and reflective ways. WAC pedagogy assumes that:
- Engaged reading, writing, and learning are closely tied.
- Courses should incorporate frequent writing assignments that help students learn the subject matter of the course as well as discipline-specific ways of thinking and writing.
- Short, often ungraded, writing assignments can help students reflect on and engage course content that lectures and exams cannot (writing to learn activities).
- Writing assignments should be sequenced so that the readings inform each other and provide opportunities for reinterpretation and revisions across the term.
- Knowledge acquired in the disciplines within the context of analytical writing is more likely to transfer to other courses than memorized facts.
John Bean argues that "mastering a field means joining its discourse [...] demonstrating one's ability to mount arguments in response to disciplinary problems" (187). He suggests that even exam writing and timed writings can guide this process if we "[teach] students how to write essay exams," [...] build more opportunities for process [writing] into the exam setting, [...improve] the focus and clarity of our exam questions, and [...establish] more consistent grading criteria and [improve] grading methods to improve reliability" (187).
3. All WAC courses should offer writing assignments that encourage students to recognize and examine intellectual and/or cultural assumptions that emerge in the readings and in the student's own writing.
When writing assignments require thoughtful reflection, students can learn to gauge how their writing is perceived by others. They can rethink problematic assumptions and/or claims. Typically, then, writing assignments should promote:
- Critical thinking that engages students in discipline-specific problems
- Analytical writing that enables students to recognize the limitations of their arguments
- Revision that includes justification of claims
- Analysis of academic discourse rather than uncritically rehearsing of gathered information.
4. All WAC courses should require students to prepare three or more substantial, out-of-class, thesis-driven writing assignments, each of which must be revised at least once (a revision is a substantial reworking of a draft as distinct from editing and correction of surface errors).
Because disciplinary-based 1000-level WAC courses serve as substitutes for College Writing II, they must offer an equivalent number of assignments, and writing instruction must be the primary focus. Revision is a central tenet of WAC pedagogy that allows students to:
- Work through logic
- Generate, reflect on, and clarify ideas
- Recognize when further justification/support/evidence is needed
- Learn from their experiences
- Focus on organization and structure
- Write initial drafts without the pressure of conforming to conventions or managing rigid time constraints
Unfortunately, no matter how much we exhort students to write several drafts and to collaborate with peers, most of them will continue to write their papers on the night before they are due unless we structure our courses to promote writing through multiple drafts.
5. All WAC courses should include both finished writing and preparatory writing such as drafts, revisions, journal writing, written responses to texts, etc.
The WAC Committee recommends using a variety of assignments to help students develop their "writing to learn," abilities, i.e., writing to examine, critique, and master material in the discipline. However, not all writing needs to be graded, and not all writing or grading must take the same amount of effort and time. Ideally, students in WAC courses will write both formal papers that require polished prose and informal (often un-graded) papers that allow students to explore ideas and to experiment with writing strategies. Informal writing can help students reflect on and synthesize course material and provide opportunities for them to discover promising ideas for formal papers. Examples of informal and/or non-graded writing include:
- Journal entries
- Reading logs
- Free writing
- Written responses to assigned readings, lectures and activities
- Group writing or oral presentations
6. All WAC syllabi should provide a short, clear written description of each writing assignment and its evaluation criteria.
While most faculty provide written descriptions of assignments at the time they are assigned, an early explanation of writing assignments in the syllabus, along with general grading criteria, provides students and the WAC Committee with:
- A clear representation of the assignment expectations and objectives
- Insight into the relationship between reading and writing in the course
- An idea of how writing assignments are distributed across the term
- An advance understanding of how each assignment will be evaluated
Typically, these descriptions are a few sentences long, describing the central features of the project and the general criteria for grading. There is no need to incorporate full writing assignment descriptions in the syllabus.
7. All WAC syllabi should provide a schedule for writing assignments that allocates class time for discussion of assignments, revision, and peer review.
The schedule of writing assignments shows how writing is integrated into the fabric of the course and helps students to:
- Plan their time for the semester
- Have sufficient time to draft their assignments
- Receive substantive feedback
- Revise more effectively
8. All WAC syllabi should devote class time to discussions about how to complete, revise, and improve students' writing.
Schedules may be full, daily calendars of writing assignments or weekly summaries. Faculty are encouraged to review a few examples of schedules found in the Approved Courses section of the WAC website. (http://www.fau.edu/wac)
Typically, when faculty allocate relatively small blocks of time to discussions of student writing, substantial amounts of evaluation and grading time can be saved.
Some class time scheduling options include:
- Discussion of assignments and of evaluation criteria
- Analysis and discussion of sample student papers, including writing-in-progress and formal drafts
- Peer group activities that prepare students to write a particular paper, such as sharing and discussion of plans, outlines, strategies, theses and drafts
- Discussion or presentations of students' research in progress
- Instruction about how to write a particular type of paper or solve a common writing problem
- Discussion of particular elements of a paper such as thesis statements, introductions, topic sentences, conclusions, etc.
More often than not, WAC courses include peer review of student papers and in-class discussions of promising student work in need of revision.
Devoting class time to focus on understanding assignments and developing writing strategies helps students to:
- Submit essays that respond more effectively to assignments
- Develop writing and revision strategies
- Have sufficient time to draft their assignments
- Develop increased facility in managing discipline-specific writing and the conventions of academic writing
- Plan their time for the semester
- Receive substantive feedback
- Revise more effectively
9. All WAC syllabi should indicate that faculty will help students learn to read and comment on one another’s papers, focusing primarily on substance, i.e., issues that would be addressed by global revision.
All first year writing courses use peer review to help students improve their writing and thinking:
- Students learn to identify conceptual and organizational concerns in disciplinary writing rather than primarily editing.
- Important questions arise in peer review sessions that would not otherwise emerge.
- Students are exposed to perspectives and interpretations other than their own.
- Students are more likely to understand the function and benefits of faculty critique/commentary when they develop these skills themselves.
- Faculty can gain insight for providing efficient and effective commentary.
- Collaborative work such as commenting helps cultivate a collaborative classroom environment.
10. All WAC syllabi should include an explanation of how students will receive substantive feedback on graded assignments and drafts that students are required to revise.
Formative assessment typically provides comments that elicit:
- Re-examination of problems
- Restructuring of logic and/or ideas
- More appropriate or careful responses to the assignment
Comments often address the argument, intellectual content, organization, formatting of drafts, and identification of error patterns (without marking all errors for students). They also set specific goals for revision. Typically, a brief statement is included in the syllabus that explains when formal commentary will be provided.
11. All WAC syllabi must make it clear that writing assignments will count for at least 80% of the course grade.
This criterion identifies writing as a tool for learning. When writing counts for the majority of the overall course grade, a student cannot successfully pass without demonstrating writing proficiency. "Graded writing" typically means formal writing assignments submitted for a grade. However, not all writing needs to be graded, and not all writing or grading has to take the same amount of effort and time. Informal writing may also contribute to the course grade. As a rule of thumb, students should not be allowed to pass an ENC 1102 substitute course unless their writing meets the standards for average college-level work. Most syllabi assign at least 80% of the course grade as formally graded writing assignments.
12. All WAC syllabi should include a description of the error tracking mechanisms that will be used in the course.
Faculty must help students to employ correct and conventional English within the context of their own writing rather than by isolating patterns of error in surface conventions via drills/exercises/quizzes. Students need help developing systems for:
- Identifying and understanding the patterns of error recurrent in their own writing
- Taking responsibility for proofreading and correcting their patterns of error
Faculty should not correct all style/mechanical/grammatical errors because students need to learn to take responsibility for proofreading their own work. As long as faculty help students identify error patterns and track those patterns in their work, students will be able to proofread their own papers by the end of the semester. Short reviews of error logs by faculty during the term ensure that students have identified effective rules to follow.
A strategy that we have found useful is the error log. All students are invited to use University Center for Excellence in Writing (UCEW) error tracking system, which is available on the Main Menu index on the UCEW website. (www.fau.edu/ucew). With this system, students will have access to an error log that they can continually update and copy into MS Word documents.
13. All WAC syllabi should indicate that each student is required to write a target of 5,000 words (+/- 1,000).
This target is intended to help professors gauge the minimum amount of writing that is typically considered appropriate for College Writing II substitute syllabi. The state no longer maintains a word count target that students must achieve to fulfill Gordon Rule credit. WAC syllabi need not make specific note of the word count. However, reviewers examine the page requirements listed in the assignment details to determine whether a syllabus satisfies the minimum University expectation of about 5,000 words.
14. All WAC syllabi should provide a list of policies including, but not limited to attendance, late papers, grading, participation, format for written documents, and plagiarism.
a. Expectations for participation:
Students must be made aware of their responsibility to be present and prepared for and engaged in class activities. Typically, students are much more successful when they see themselves as stakeholders in the intellectual activities of the class. Participation is a key element of that success because:
- Articulating responses and other communicative actions expose the strengths and limitations of various perspectives and practices;
- Students have the opportunity to see course concepts and values in action;
- Students are held accountable for their contributions to the knowledge generated in the classroom.
b. An explanation of grading policies and typical class routines:
This explanation should include a breakdown of grades by scores and/or percentages. Class routines (such as peer review sessions, class discussions, and use of course texts and materials) should be detailed so that students can be prepared and accountable.
c. Policy on plagiarism:
Departments are encouraged to have a departmental policy on plagiarism. We recommend that you follow the same procedure as the Department of English and have students sign a statement stating that they have read (and consequently understand) your plagiarism policy. To help them avoid plagiarism, students will need guidance on how to document the sources they cite. Citing on-line sources can be a challenge.
d. Writing Style:
One place where you can find MLA, APA, Chicago, CBE and other styles for citing on-line sources is located at Bedford St. Martins Research and Documentation Online website (www.bedfordstmartins.com/online). Tell students about Turn It In and SafeAssign and how easy it is to detect plagiarism in general.
15. All WAC Approved Syllabi must contain the following language informing students about the University-wide WAC Assessment project:
If this class is selected to participate in the university-wide WAC assessment program, you will be
required to access the online assessment server, complete the consent form and survey, and submit electronically a first and final draft of a near-end-of-term paper.
The Writing Across the Curriculum program has developed an assessment program to determine the impact that the WAC program is having on student writing. Approximately 15-20 classes each fall and spring and 5-10 over the summer will be randomly selected to participate in the assessment project, a total of about 500 students a year. To participate, students must log onto a specially designed web interface with their FAU ID, submit a first and revised draft of a thesis-driven, near-end-of-term paper and take a 21-question survey. All course and student information will be removed from the files. The assessment will not affect course grades in any way. No faculty members will be identifiable once the data is collected. Raters are normed with a campus-wide rubric. They rate the sets of papers, and then the data is downloaded into statistical software for examination. If students consent to have their data included in an IRB-approved study, the results from their surveys and rated papers will be pooled with additional data from the office of Institutional Effectiveness. Once gathered, all identifying information from the surveys will be removed, and the data will be analyzed. We plan to publish the results of the assessment, the web interface we have designed, and our procedures. We will use the data to improve the WAC program on campus.
On December 7th, 2007, the Faculty Senate approved a mandate that all students in selected classes must participate in the assessment process. Faculty whose classes are selected play an essential role in this process. They must introduce and enforce the mandate. Near the beginning of each term, the randomly selected faculty members will be notified of the assessment procedures in an emailed memo explaining the process. Further information with directions to help their students participate will be sent over email near midterm. Students will also be notified individually via email with the necessary information (faculty will be included on all communication with their students). Upon completion of the consent form, survey, and paper uploads, students will receive an automated receipt of participation. A week before classes are over, faculty will receive an automated list of all students from their class who have submitted their materials. Faculty will need to remind students who have not yet participated to do so. Faculty receive another update on the last day of classes, when all papers are required to be submitted. Students will have one additional chance to submit their work by the date of the final exam for the class. Faculty are discouraged from offering incentives to students for participation.