Writing as a High-Impact Practice

Effective written communication skills can help students succeed in college and beyond. According to the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U), writing-intensive courses are a proven "high-impact educational practice." These courses encourage students "to produce and revise various forms of writing for different audiences in different disciplines," and can be offered "at all levels of instruction and across the curriculum, including final-year projects."

Writing as a Career Competency

Students graduating from the UW-La Crosse General Education Program "demonstrate knowledge and abilities related to (4) effective communication." Since writing, like other complex skills, develops over a long period of time, UWL acknowledges that General Education experiences in writing must extend from the first-year to the senior-level to ensure students are adequately prepared for post-graduate success. UWL's Eagle Advantage links writing to the following career competency: "effectively articulate thoughts and ideas to others in written and oral forms."

Writing Programs at UWL

As part of their General Education Program, all students at the university must complete two Writing Emphasis (WE) courses at the 200 level or above, one of which must be at the 300-level or above. One course must be in the major (not core). Students in enrolled Writing-in-the-Major (WM) programs may elect but are not required to take WE courses.

Why Learning to Write Well in College is Difficult

Download this handout for more information about the difficulties students face when trying to improve as writers at the college level. As instructors we can design learning experiences, courses, and programs to address these challenges.

  • Variations from discipline to discipline
  • Lack of uniform criteria and standards
  • Unclear or unstated expectations
  • Undeveloped writing processes
  • Incomplete writing instruction
  • Partial understanding of the subject
  • Lack of experience with real genres
  • Lack of examples and models
  • Lack of cumulative learning
  • Lack of self-assessment and peer review
  • Lack of motivation

"Why Learning to Write Well in College is Difficult"  (Kopp, Cerbin, and Beck)

Writing Assessment

Writing Assessment

Results from NSSE 2011 indicated that UW-L seniors report that their experience at UW-L contributed to their ability to write clearly and effectively to a greater degree than students in all other comparison groups (UW Comprehensives, Carnegie Peers, and NSSE Participating Institutions). Although these results are encouraging, more information is needed about how students perceive the impact of their writing experiences at UW-L, what kinds of writing experiences they have most frequently in a given year, how they feel they have improved during their time at UW-L, and how they typically approach writing tasks. To provide a richer picture of students' writing experiences, we developed and administered the 2012 UW-La Crosse Student Writing Survey. On average 74% of students reported some or a lot of improvement across all skill areas. Read more about this survey.

Campus Writing Resources