ERIC Identifier: ED354549
Publication Date: 1993-00-00
Author: Sensenbaugh, Roger
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Reading and Communication Skills Bloomington IN.
Writing across the Curriculum: Toward the Year 2000. ERIC
This "digest" summarizes the more than 300 items in the ERIC database
concerning writing across the curriculum (WAC) published between 1990 and 1992.
The "digest" offers six broad categories of material about WAC, and discusses
one or two pertinent sources for each category. The "digest" is a companion
piece to an earlier ERIC/RCS "Digest," "Encouraging Writing Achievement: Writing
across the Curriculum" (Sorenson, 1991).
The number of recent additions to the ERIC
database that primarily advocate WAC is small, as might be expected of a
maturing and evolving educational movement. Many of the materials in the other
categories devote some space to explaining why WAC is worthy of attention, and
then move on to issues such as training, implementation, and effectiveness.
Maimon (1991) suggests that the undeniable virtue of WAC is that it is a wedge
into a reform pedagogy and provides a way for students and instructors to
connect. WAC provides, she suggests, a way to engage students' diverse responses
within an academic community. Ammon (1990) advocates using WAC in a content
area, arguing that writing can be a rich source of information for science
teachers who wish to take their students' present understandings into account as
they plan and carry out instruction.
While writing activities have been developed for
many subjects in the curriculum, activities associated with mathematics
instruction at all educational levels are the most numerous in the ERIC
database. This reflects the publication of numerous articles in such journals as "Mathematics Teacher," "Arithmetic Teacher," and "College Mathematics Journal"
that discuss many WAC activities that can be used in the mathematics classroom.
Matz and Leier (1992) present a method of employing student-written playlets and
a technique called "stage freeze" to help students identify appropriate
operations during problem solving. Gopen (1990) describes an experimental
college mathematics course that requires writing assignments as a regular part
of the course. Procedures found to be effective in the course include peer
response, double submission, and efficacious instructor responses.
Johannessen (1991) describes some methods and content-area-classroom-tested
activities found to be successful in teaching students the complex thinking
skills involved in making and supporting generalizations, producing arguments in
a composition, and creating extended definitions. He includes sample materials
involving a variety of different subject areas. Journal writing, reading logs,
and other such student-generated frequent writing assignments are also often
mentioned in the literature on WAC (Wauchope 1990). In addition, numerous
journal articles, conference papers, and other material in the database discuss
journal writing in its own right.
Research on the effectiveness of particular
WAC programs or activities has been conducted in a variety of instructional
settings. Winograd (1990) examined fifth-grade children's cognitive behavior as
they wrote, solved, and then, in small groups, shared original math story
problems. Findings suggested that the children's original math story problems
provided an important alternative to the textbook and teacher-generated story
problems. Walvoord (1990) presents a naturalistic study of college students in
business, history, psychology, and biology. The seven-year study examined
teachers' expectations about "good" writing in each discipline, the kinds of
difficulties students encountered in trying to meet those expectations, and how
teachers' methods and students' strategies helped or hindered progress.
IMPLEMENTING NEW WAC PROGRAMS, DESCRIBING EXISTING
This category complements the "advocacy" category, since many of
the items that describe successful programs or discuss implementing programs
also implicitly advocate WAC as a useful and effective means of educational
reform. Carson (1992) notes that although the WAC movement has grown to be one
of the most successful educational reform movements in the United States,
long-term strategies for sustaining WAC programs are needed. Carson goes on to
describe the writing-across-the-business-disciplines program at Robert Morris
College, noting that where communication was clear and open the program
flourished, but where institutional communication was weak and closed, the
program had trouble.
Dealing more directly with implementing WAC programs is Weiser (1992). He
argues that WAC program administrators who wish to work amicably and effectively
with faculty would do well to remember two principles: work first with the type
of writing that already exists in the curriculum; and try to speak a language to
the faculty outside the field of composition in which all participants are on an
Materials whose main focus is the training
of faculty in WAC principles and activities also often provide program
descriptions and research results. Whitworth College (Washington) attempted to
provide all faculty with updated skills on how to help student writers through a
two-year faculty development program ("Writing across the Curriculum," 1992).
The college's report also discusses the theory and practice of WAC as presented
in faculty workshops, the climate of trust that developed, sample assignments,
and assessment procedures.
Shapiro (1991) describes the effects of a one-day marathon session and
biweekly seminars designed to bridge the gap between WAC truths and the
assumptions of the engineering faculty concerning writing processes and writing
to learn. She notes that the engineering faculty and the physics and chemistry
faculty (who joined the seminar the second semester) realized that the English
department had not failed, but that they could not even agree among themselves
about the objectives of a written laboratory report. What has sustained the
seminars is that faculty began to see improvement in student learning.
THE YEAR 2000
Interest in writing across the curriculum shows no signs of abating. Mounting
evidence and reports of successful implementation of WAC programs suggest that
the movement will continue to be important in the year 2000.
Ammon, Paul, and Mary Sue Ammon (1990). "Using
Student Writing To Assess and Promote Understanding in Science. Occasional Paper
No. 16." Center for the Study of Writing, Berkeley, California; Center for the
Study of Writing, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. [ED 316 864]
Carson, Jay (1992). "Recognizing and Using Context as a Survival Tool for
WAC." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College
Composition and Communication, Cincinnati, Ohio. [ED 346 497]
Gopen, George D, and David A. Smith (1990). "What's an Assignment Like You
Doing in a Course Like This?: Writing to Learn Mathematics." "College
Mathematics Journal", 21 (1), 2-19. [EJ 407 673]
Johannessen, Larry R., and Elizabeth A. Kahn (1991). "Writing across the
Curriculum." Paper presented at a Teachers' Institute, Summit, Illinois. [ED 336
Maimon, Elaine P. (1991) "Errors and Expectations in Writing across the
Curriculum. Diversity, Equity, and the Ideology of Writing across the
Curriculum." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College
Composition and Communication, Boston, Massachusetts. [ED 331 092]
Matz, Karl A., and Cynthia Leier (1992). "Word Problems and the Language
Connection." "Arithmetic Teacher", 39 (8), 14-17. [EJ 445 058]
Shapiro, Ann (1991). "WAC and Engineering, or Why Engineers Can't Write."
Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition
and Communication, Boston, Massachusetts. [ED 332 199]
Walvoord, Barbara E., and Lucille P. McCarthy (1990). "Thinking and Writing
in College: A Naturalistic Study of Students in Four Disciplines." National
Council of Teachers of English, Urbana, Illinois. [ED 334 591]
Wauchope, Barbara (1990). "Using Personal Journals in the Classroom." Paper
presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Council on Family Relations,
Seattle, Washington. [ED 324 698]
Weiser, Michael S. (1992). "Building on Common Ground: Overcoming Resistance
to WAC in the Technical College." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the
Conference on College Composition and Communication, Cincinnati, Ohio. [ED 346
Winograd, Ken (1991). "Writing, Solving, and Sharing Original Math Story
Problems: Case Studies of Fifth Grade Children's Cognitive Behavior." Paper
presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research
Association, Chicago, Illinois. [ED 345 936]
"Writing across the Curriculum," (1992). Whitworth College, Spokane,
Washington. [ED 342 015]