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Teaching a “WC” Course

Writing promotes learning, and students are more likely to understand and retain important concepts when they write about them.  “Communicating Through Writing” (WC) courses at UTK are writing intensive and integrate writing as a vital component, treating writing as both a tool for learning and for communication.  WC courses are offered in many different departments across campus.

“Communicating Through Writing” (WC) courses

  • Provide students with multiple opportunities to practice and improve their writing;
  • Help students learn course materials more thoroughly by writing about them in informal and formal ways;
  • Give students opportunities for feedback and revision of their writing; and
  • Help students understand the criteria for writing successfully within a given discipline or field.

Courses that satisfy the “Communicating through Writing” General Education requirement are designated “WC” in the Undergraduate Catalog.  Click here for the current (2020-21) list.

“WC” Course Guidelines

While faculty should feel free to incorporate writing in ways that they deem most effective and according to the requirements of their subject, the Communicating through Writing General Education Subcommittee offers the following guidelines for the required features of a WC course:

Writing for the entire course should total at least 5,000 words.

  • The writing may take many forms and may include drafts and/or preliminary writing and revisions.
  • Informal, often ungraded, writing activities promote learning by helping students comprehend and retain information as well as synthesize, analyze and apply course content.  Informal activities may include short in-class responses (analytical or affective), discussion starters (questions or prompts at the beginning of class to focus discussion), syntheses of readings, summaries (of readings or of class lessons), logs or journals.
  • Formal, graded assignments may include research papers, essay exams, reports or discipline-specific genres that teach students the particular conventions and requirements of writing in a particular discipline (such as reviews, lab reports, proposals, and research papers).

Writing for the course should be distributed throughout the semester

  • Rather than being concentrated at the end of the semester, both formal and informal writing assignments should be distributed throughout the semester.
  • For example, a course that assigns a 5,000-word research paper due on the last day of class is not acceptable.  However, if the research project is divided into stages—a proposal, working draft, final draft—and students receive feedback along the way, it would meet the WC guidelines.

Students should be provided with the opportunity to revise a formal written assignment based upon the instructor’s feedback.

  • Usually this means assigning a rough draft (for one of the major formal assignments) that the instructor reads and gives feedback upon, and then the student turns in the revised final draft.  Remember that drafts count toward the total word count!
  • An emphasis on the importance of the writing process and revision must be built into the course design; feedback should come from the instructor’s comments in conference or on drafts-in-progress; some feedback may come from in-class writing workshops/peer response groups.

Instructors should provide some in-class instruction in writing during the semester.

  • The criteria for successful performance on formal, graded writing requirements should be made clear via some type of in-class instruction and should be noted on the written assignment sheet.
  • Instructors have flexibility in determining what needs to be covered in class. The in-class instruction should focus on teaching students how to write according to the criteria for successful performance on the formal, graded writing assignments.

Successful performance on formal written assignments should be a major component of the overall course grade.

  • Students who do passing work in the class should be able to demonstrate writing proficiency appropriate to the level of the course.

Click here for information on creating formal writing assignments.
Click here for information on creating informal writing assignments.