Writing-across-the-Curriculum within Mass Communication

By Panici, Daniel A.; McKee, Kathy B. | Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, Winter 1997 | Go to article overview

Writing-across-the-Curriculum within Mass Communication


Panici, Daniel A., McKee, Kathy B., Journalism & Mass Communication Educator


During the past 15 years, WritingAcross-the-Curriculum programs have been offered on many college and university campuses. Data indicates that 46 percent of all Ph.D. granting institutions and 48 percent of all BA/MA granting institutions have a WAC program (Kinneavy, 1987). By the early 1980s, one historical description of the movement concludes: "scattered theories and experiments had become a national movement, with publications, conferences, and a growing number of programs" (Russell, 1992, p. 38).

Based on the premise that learning is supported and strengthened through deliberately integrating writing in all areas of the curriculum, these WAC programs train faculty to use writing assignments effectively as part of the thinking process across disciplines. In the last few years, research has suggested that a number of disciplines have begun to incorporate WAC theory and practice with a degree of success. For instance, Ault and Michlitsch (1994) report that the use of WAC approaches in their business school has improved the quality of student writing, application of course concepts, and student performance even in classes not participating in the writing program (see Cohen & Spencer, 1993; Davidson Rz Guminor, 1993). Research has also explored the use of WAC in mathematics and science courses. Barr (1995) suggests that the use of summary writing in a senior seminar in mathematics and computer science was beneficial for students in pulling together important ideas from their previous course work and in expanding their understanding of mathematics. Agatucci (1994) reports that VAC improves writing and problem solving in college mathematics and science courses (see Brown, N. M., 1993; Day, 1994; Drake, B. R. & Amspaugh, L. B.,1994; Moore, 1994; and Watkins & Dunston, 1994). Investigating the use of WAC principles in history courses, Marcia (1995) and Whitlock (1994) report that the use of creative writing assignments and formats improves the learning capacity of history students.

There seems to be an obvious connection between WAC programs and the journalism/mass communication discipline. Research in the journalism/mass communication discipline is beginning to examine this union. Panici and McKee [1995) focused on the application of transactional and expressive writing assignments in journalism/mass communication courses and the challenges associated with the implementation of WAC principles in these courses. Olson and Dickson (1995) examined the effectiveness of typical introductory English composition courses and basic news writing courses in developing strong writing and concluded that "journalism educators should also examine their options for strengthening the foundation for their students to increase the chances that their graduates will be adequately prepared to pursue careers that require strong writing skills" (p. 54).

A 1987 survey of 2,735 four-year and two-year American and Canadian colleges and universities found that 42 7 of the 1,112 institutions responding had formal WAC programs in place (McLeod, 1988, p. 103). This annotated listing included many institutions with journalism/mass communication departments and schools, yet the survey itself did not address how or if the program was being incorporated into individual curricula. This research attempts to fill that void by providing information that will assist faculty members who are contemplating the integration of WAC principles in their journalism/mass communication courses.

This study was guided by the following research questions: 1. How many journalism/mass communication departments are involved in WAC programs and how are these programs structured?

2. Which journalism/mass communication courses are designated WAC courses and what are the assignments used in these courses?

3. How are journalism/mass communication faculty trained to teach WAC courses?

4. What is the perceived influence of WAC courses on student learning and writing abilities, pedagogy, and the journalism/mass communication discipline? …

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