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Wilfrid Laurier University Centre for Student Success
December 5, 2016
Canadian Excellence

Writing-Intensive Courses

Characteristics of writing-intensive courses:

  • use writing as a learning strategy (see Lankford & vom Saal, 2012)
  • multiple, extensive writing tasks (e.g., 5000+ words or 16-20 written pages in a term; see Kolb, Longest, & Jensen, 2013)
  • writing marks make up at least 50% of final grade
  • instructor feedback is provided on drafts
  • opportunities for revision or resubmission of assignments are provided
  • scaffolding of assignments provides increasing complexity
  • a variety of writing tasks are assigned (e.g., short vs. long; brief vs. extended; group/peer-review vs. instructor; collaborative vs. independent; in-class vs. out of class)
  • aim for authentic experience and audience
  • although writing-intensive courses are typically for small classes, research by Boyd (2010) suggests how a writing-intensive course can be implemented in a large lecture format
  • writing-intensive courses are often taught by faculty rather than teaching assistants

Making your course writing intensive:

The following examples of in-class or out-of-class assignments are taken from Lankford & vom Saal, 2012):

1. Lecture summaries:

  • each accounts for 1% of final course grade
  • randomly assigned throughout the course
  • based only on course notes
  • these are initially marked for conceptual accuracy and later are marked for clarity and style

2. Case studies:

  • groups of students work collaboratively to analyze a problem
  • consider course content
  • students assess and synthesize an evidence-based solution

3. Research article critique:

  • students identify the hypothesis
  • students explain the relevance of the tables and figures
  • students assess references
  • students consider significance to a particular field or audience

4. Research paper:

  • scaffolded instruction is provided (e.g., brainstorm, outline, annotated bibliography, drafts, etc.)
  • students append a writing portfolio and/or checklist on actions taken during the revision process

See the University of Toronto's excellent summary and links to writing program development and policies.