Writing across the Curriculum (WAC)

Writing Across the Curriculum, or WAC, is a teaching movement which developed in the 1970s and 1980s. It generally states that writing instruction should take place in all aspects of education and in all disciplines. The basic idea is that pupils can learn through writing, and that by developing professional writing skills they can also develop critical thinking about key concepts and principles in various fields of study.

Usually, WAC takes two main approaches. The first, Writing to Learn (WTL), stresses the importance of writing in the process of learning: students receive information on a topic in class and are asked to write their reaction to this information at home. When students write about various concepts, they often understand and retain them better because while writing they can reconsider and reformulate ideas and they can explore the matter in more detail. It can also help them comprehend complex concepts or ideas and apply them to their own experience or interest. WTL tasks are usually short and informal pieces, and editing and correction is not recommended as grammatical precision is not the focus of the assignment. In WLT, ideas are more important than form.

In time, students not only get used to express themselves in writing but also improve the quality of their writing skills — they expand on their vocabulary range, learn to construct paragraphs, develop better coherence and learn to present arguments.

The second approach is Writing in the Disciplines (WID). It acknowledges that each field of study has its own terminology, format and structure, and the style which is appropriate for one discipline is not suitable for another. WID supporters believe that in order to be competent in a given discipline, students need to be aware of its specific features and get used to practicing them. WID assignments are usually more complex and include reports, reviews and proposals. WID may be combined with WTL to produce maximum effect.

WAC started as a response to serious concern in the 1970s that university students in the United States had poor levels of literacy. At that time there was a boom in the number of higher education institutions and many of them had free admission. There were a number of college and university students whose high school marks would not let them continue to higher education in previous years. These students were less prepared academically to cope with the assignments and the subject matter. The work of Jerome Bruner (b. 1915), who had first used the word "scaffolding," in an educational sense, found favor at this time, because he was the first to direct the attention of educators and experts to the specifics of the structure of various disciplines. Others to advocate WAC included Mina Shaughnessy (1924-1978), a teacher at City University of New York, and Kenneth Bruffee, the emeritus professor of English at Brooklyn College, who also called for a revival of writing instruction.

A significant influence on the development of WAC was British education expert James Britton, who laid the foundations of what was called in Britain Language Across the Curriculum. At a seminar in Dartmouth in 1966, Britton had criticized the U.S. educational system for lacking flexibility and for sticking to rigid models of instruction and assessment. He suggested another model, based on a more informal classroom talk and discussions and concentrated on the importance of students' individual point of view and perception of the subject matter. Britton was among the authors of the UK Government-commissioned Bullock Report on literacy standards in schools (1975), and he also wrote Development of Writing Abilities (1975). Since reforms had already been considered in the United States, the British model was experimentally applied. WAC, funded by the government, was introduced in various educational institutions. In the 1980s, WAC was already effectively working in most higher education institutions and secondary schools in the country.

By the 21st century, WAC was the predominant method of teaching in schools, colleges and universities. However, it does not exist in isolation from all other pedagogical approaches but rather draws upon positive practices that can be useful. Probably the strongest argument in favor of this approach is the fact that it allows students to be familiar with the subject matter and its distinctive features, while at the same time preserving the students' individuality and enhancing their strengths.

Writing across the Curriculum (WAC) : Selected full-text books and articles

Demythologizing Language Difference in the Academy: Establishing Discipline-Based Writing Programs
Mark L. Waldo.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004
Writing in the Academic Disciplines: A Curricular History
David R. Russell.
Southern Illinois University Press, 2002 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Especially Chap. 9 "The Writing-across-the-Curriculum Movement, 1970-1990" and Chap. 10 "The Writing-across-the-Curriculum Movement, 1990-2000"
Writing Centers and Writing across the Curriculum Programs: Building Interdisciplinary Partnerships
Robert W. Barnett; Jacob S. Blumner.
Greenwood Press, 1999
Preparing to Teach Writing: Research, Theory, and Practice
James D. Williams.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003 (3rd edition)
Librarian’s tip: "Writing across the Curriculum" begins on p. 67
Teaching in the 21st Century: Adapting Writing Pedagogies to the College Curriculum
Alice Robertson; Barbara Smith.
Falmer Press, 1999
Teaching Writing in the Content Areas
Vicki Urquhart; Monette McLver.
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005
On Location: Theory and Practice in Classroom-Based Writing Tutoring
Candace Spigelman; Laurie Grobman.
Utah State University Press, 2005
Librarian’s tip: Especially Chap. 10 "Contextualizing Issues of Power and Promise: Classroom-Based Tutoring in Writing across the Curriculum"
Whacking WAC
Munter, Mary.
Business Communication Quarterly, Vol. 62, No. 1, March 1999
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Writing across the K12 Curriculum: Common Core Mandates for Success
Daddona, Patricia.
District Administration, Vol. 49, No. 2, February 2013
Creating a Culture for Writers
Lent, Releah Cossett.
Journal of Staff Development, Vol. 27, No. 3, Summer 2006
A Writing Center Facilitates Student Writing across the Curriculum
Faulkner, Kelly; Rohrbacher, Francien.
Academic Exchange Quarterly, Vol. 7, No. 1, Spring 2003
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Hands-On Writing: An Alternative Approach to Understanding Art
Barnes, Natalie Selden.
Art Education, Vol. 62, No. 3, May 2009
Writing across the Curriculum in a College of Business and Economics
Plutsky, Susan; Wilson, Barbara A.
Business Communication Quarterly, Vol. 64, No. 4, December 2001
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Mens Sana in Corpore Sano (a Sound Mind in a Sound Body): Implementing and Evaluating Writing across the Curriculum Strategies in Physical Education
Hellman, Caroline; Rowland, Amy.
Physical Educator, Vol. 65, No. 4, Winter 2008
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Optimizing Faculty Use of Writing as a Learning Tool in Geoscience Education
Leydens, Jon A.; Santi, Paul.
Journal of Geoscience Education, Vol. 54, No. 4, September 2006
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
How Writing across the Curriculum Can Be Incorporated into Accounting Programs
Rothenburg, Eric.
The CPA Journal, Vol. 72, No. 4, April 2002
Keeping a Mathematics Journal in the College Classroom
Mouser, Christina.
Mathematics and Computer Education, Vol. 47, No. 2, Spring 2013
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Combining Chemistry and College Writing: A New Model for an Honors Undergraduate Chemistry Course
Chamely-Wiik, Donna; Galin, Jeffrey R.; Kasdorf, Krista; Haky, Jerome E.
Honors in Practice, Vol. 5, Annual 2009
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