Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning (CATL)

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Learn about the certification process and see who is certified

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.

Writing emphasis courses are characterized by the following:

The kind and amount of writing assigned

A writing emphasis course includes two types of writing, formal and informal.

Formal Writing  follows conventions of organization, style and format appropriate to the field of study, including traditional academic as well as discipline-specific and professional forms of writing.  
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Informal writing  or "writing to learn" refers to brief assignments or activities, in or out of class, in which students use writing to improve their understanding of course materials, concepts or topics.  
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A writing emphasis course requires at least 50 pages  of writing during a semester. Of this, at least 10 pages is formal, polished prose. The remaining 40 or more pages should be composed of writing-to-learn assignments.

The frequency and sequencing of assignments

To the extent possible, a writing emphasis teacher integrates writing tasks into his or her overall course design, explicitly linking writing to course objectives. Writing assignments are often arranged in sequences which begin with more basic or familiar writing and thinking tasks and then progress to more complex and challenging ones, thus helping students develop mastery over course content, concepts, skills, goals, etc.

Formal writing  is best spaced throughout the semester to give students ample time to re-think their work and incorporate what they have learned from previous assignments. By working through a composing process, including drafting, feedback and revising, students have maximum opportunity to learn.  
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Informal writing  may be completed in the moment, with little or no revision. When linked to course content and goals, student benefit from practicing writing to learn frequently-ideally before, during, and after each class session or unit.  
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The importance of guidance and feedback

Expectations for writing vary across disciplines, fields, levels, etc. (See  Why Learning to Write Well in College is Difficult. ) For this reason, students need guidance and feedback in order to maximize their learning. They benefit from examples and discussion of actual written work, examining how specific kinds of writing are tailored for particular audiences, purposes, conventions, etc. Writing emphasis instructors make explicit what kind of writing is expected from students and how it will be evaluated. While formal writing is evaluated based on explicit criteria and standards, informal writing may be evaluated on a pass/fail basis, depending on whether or not students have made a "good faith" effort to respond to the given assignment.

Instructors adapt their procedures for giving feedback to their particular course sizes, populations, formats, technologies, etc. As a general rule, though, student writers should receive constructive feedback on their formal writing, helping them identify areas and strategies for revision. Instructors are rarely able to provide extensive commentary on every piece of writing, but they can ensure that students receive guidance and feedback on all formal writing assignments.

If you are an instructor seeking certification, please visit the  certification process  page.