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University of Pittsburgh

writing-intensive courses

Teaching an Existing Writing-intensive Course

The particular shape and trajectory of any writing-intensive course will be partly determined by its relation to the discipline, its position in the major, and its instructor’s pedagogical convictions. Across the Arts and Sciences, however, writing-intensive courses should enact these common practices:

1. Students in W courses should write regularly, from the beginning of the term onward. Students writing in the last month of class should be able to work from what they have learned by writing in the first month. By the end of the term, students should have written a minimum of 20-25 pages, and this writing should determine a significant portion of the final grade.

2. This semester-long sequence of writing assignments—both formal and informal—should engage students actively in the intellectual work of the course. Instructors should help students understand the purpose of each assignment and its relation to the rest of their course work. Students should also be made aware of how each assignment will be evaluated.

3. During the semester, students should revise at least one piece of writing substantially. Course schedules should allow enough time between drafts and revisions for teachers to provide instructive (rather than merely corrective) responses, and for students to revise their thinking as well as their prose.

4. Although students typically do most of their formal writing outside the classroom, in a W-course they should also spend time in class learning to write. Instructors should direct the students’ attention to relevant issues of thinking and writing (whether specific to the discipline or more general), and use class time helping students address those issues.

To accommodate these pedagogical practices, the College Writing Board recommends that enrollment in W-courses be limited to 22 students.

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526 Cathedral of Learning
Department of English
4200 Fifth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15260

Contact Person:

Dr. Beth Matway,
Chair College Writing Board