Writing-Intensive Courses

Writing-Intensive (WI) courses emphasize writing-to-learn as well as learning-to-write in a science, engineering, management, and social science discipline. WI courses currently exist in 10 departments across campus. New and certified WI courses are noted in the online and on-campus course catalogue each year, and help students identify where they might get more experience with writing in their major. The WI label also appears on student transcripts, documenting a student’s full range of writing experience to future employers or admissions committees.


How do Writing-Intensive Courses Work?

WI courses use writing as a tool for teaching course content and for learning communication practices. Whether studying new lab procedures, principles of professional ethics, technical concepts, or cutting edge theory, students understand and retain more when they are asked to verbalize and explain the material in writing.

Students who take WI courses not only gain experience drafting lab reports, proposals, contracts, position papers, and other professional genres, but they also receive feedback and instruction in writing to better prepare them for post-graduate studies or work in the field. As they write and revise in specialized genres, they learn to talk and think like professionals in the field.

Classroom writing also gives instructors a window into students’ evolving understandings of course material, highlighting where additional instruction may be needed and providing a deeper assessment of student learning. WI courses incorporate formal writing as a means of teaching specialized forms of communication in a student’s area of study.

What do Writing-Intensive Courses Look Like?

In order for a course to be certified as writing-intensive, it must:

  • emphasize writing and at least one other mode of communication (oral or visual)
  • base at least 30% of the course grade on written work
  • include assignments in which students use writing to learn course content and/or learn disciplinary ways of thinking and communicating
  • offer direct instruction in forms and strategies of written communication
  • incorporate feedback on student work, offering opportunities for practice, revision or application of feedback to follow-up assignments
  • maintain a student-faculty ratio of no greater than 35:1 unless additional writing assistance is provided through trained Teachers Assistants (TA’s) or Prior Learning Assessments (PLA’s)
  • communicate and require standards for ethical communication in the field