Introduction and Criteria for Writing Intensive Courses
Defining a Writing Intensive Course
Writing Intensive (WI) courses encourage student engagement with the writing process via scaffolding–including low-, mid-, and high-stakes writing assignments. WI courses also involve recursive writing by requiring a minimum of ten pages of formal written work which undergo a feedback loop through drafting and revision. Instructors communicate the writing goals of WI courses on the syllabus by including at least one writing-specific student learning objective and a tailored statement about the course’s relationship to writing. Students’ written work constitutes a significant portion of the final grade in all WI courses.
All instructors of courses that can be offered in fulfillment of the York College General Education requirement have a responsibility to incorporate informal writing-to-learn exercises and writing assignments–not only to promote the learning of the material, but to develop students’ competencies in analytical reading, critical thinking, and writing.
An important aim of the WI requirement is to familiarize students with the discourse practices of a particular discipline: the language and style preferred in that field. WI courses extend the learning of the foundational writing courses to new contexts in the disciplines. Faculty members and students must understand that there is a distinction between a WI course and a course that is intense because it includes a lot of writing.
- A WI course includes carefully crafted formal writing assignments that are linked to the unfolding of course material. Assignments are not “add-ons.”
- Formal writing assignments are guided; that is, assignment sheets are detailed, and students receive ongoing feedback and advice on work in progress.
- The assignments and guidance build on the work of the foundational writing courses to promote a common vocabulary and approach to the writing process; there is an emphasis on critical reading and thinking as well as an insistence on professional preparation of written work.
- The designated WI courses must meet defined criteria because they are part of a graduation requirement; completion of WI courses is noted formally on each student’s transcript.
- CUNY-wide Recommendations for Writing Across the Curriculum and Writing in the Disciplines specify that “class size should be limited to 20 in Writing Intensive courses,” and that “class sizes larger than 20 should have tutorial add-ons of various kinds.” Writing Intensive courses at York are capped at 25 students, per the approved Senate proposal for the WAC program at York from May 2001.
Rationale and Criteria for Writing Intensive Courses
On the Writing Intensive Course Proposal, the following items define the characteristics of a Writing Intensive-designated course. They do not exhaust the possibilities for writing in a course, nor are they a mere checklist against which a proposal will be measured. They are intended to assist you with incorporating writing into the course.
Lower-division (100- and 200-level) WI courses reinforce the foundational writing habits students learn in introductory composition courses and give students opportunities to practice discipline-specific writing conventions across the curriculum. Upper-division (300- and 400-level) WI courses, which are taken in the students’ major program, give students opportunities to practice advanced formal writing in their own discipline.
The syllabus should include at least one writing-focused learning objective, course objective, or course goal. We encourage faculty teaching WI courses to review the sample SLOs below and create their own, or to tailor the sample objectives with language that is discipline-specific. These SLOs were reviewed and approved by the Writing Intensive Advisory Committee (WIAC) in Oct. 2021.
- To analyze and articulate central course concepts through in-class writing exercises, reflection papers, and a formal 10-page research paper.
- Use argument and evidence in an original and effective way to communicate understanding of [core course concept] in a theoretically informed, clear, and concise analysis which employs research tools appropriate to the discipline.
- Advance critical thinking in written work by synthesizing key [course] concepts, developing an argument supported by evidence, drawing conclusions from the research, and using the citation style appropriate to [discipline]
2. Writing Intensive statement:
Students need to know why a particular course is designated WI and how this affects the coursework. This should be explained in class and on the course syllabus. This explanation should include a clear description of the process that an instructor will use to move students toward formal writing and the role drafting will have in improving the final grade.
The syllabus should include an explanation to students of:
- The significance of WAC pedagogy as it relates to this course’s objectives, and
- How students will engage with different levels of writing throughout this course
Examples of 2) include: low-stakes / in-class “writing-to-learn” assignments, mid-stakes writing assignments as part of an in-class exam, high-stakes formal writing assignments with a revision process, etc.
This statement should appear early in the syllabus and should be 100-250 words in length.
3. Page minimum:
The syllabus should clearly specify that the course includes a minimum of ten pages of formal written work involving a feedback loop.
Ten pages indicates standard 8.5 x 11” double-spaced pages with one-inch margins in 12-point standard font. For assignments that use word count rather than page count, this is about 2500 words total.
For WI courses, formal written work is defined as assignments which include a drafting/revision process or smaller assignments that build towards a final draft.
This recursive process should include a feedback loop, meaning that students have an opportunity to gather and apply instructor and/or peer comments before submitting the final draft. Essay examinations are not considered formal papers because they do not involve drafting, feedback, and revision.
There are a number of ways to include ten or more pages of formal written work in a WI course; in some courses, this takes the form of a single term paper, which the course builds up to through low- and mid-stakes assignments. In others, this involves two five-page papers, or three or more shorter formal essays.
In some cases, the formal writing is not a standard academic paper, but instead takes the form of a series of case reports, lab reports, or other kinds of professional writing. In these contexts, the feedback loop might be conceived of as practice or iteration rather than the more standard drafting and revision.
4. Writing-based grading:
In a Writing Intensive course, a significant portion of the final grade should be based on students’ formal written work (10 or more pages).
This means that for a student to pass the course, they will need to engage with the written component of the coursework. A survey of faculty practices indicates that written work, including the process that leads to the final submission, accounts for at least 40% of the final grade in WI courses.
5. Prerequisite (for permanent WI courses):
Please note that unlike temporary or ad-hoc WI courses, which are approved on a semester-to-semester basis solely by the WAC Program, permanent WI courses are governed by the York College Curriculum Committee in consultation with the WIAC.
For permanent WI courses,
- The syllabus should have ENG 125 or ENG 126 as a co- or prerequisite. WI courses are intended to build upon writing practices that students develop in these foundational courses.
- The course description in the syllabus should reflect the Bulletin in stating “This is a Writing Intensive course.” The Bulletin will not reflect the WI status of a course until it has completed the Curriculum approval process.
The sample syllabus below has been annotated to show how it meets the criteria for a Writing Intensive course at York College.
Unit 1 Quiz and Deliverables
Now that you’ve finished reviewing the materials for Unit 1, complete the unit by submitting the form below, which contains a quiz and asks you to create some deliverables for the unit. The form will require you to sign in using your CUNY account. In order to allow you to refer to this page while completing the form, we recommend that you open this link in a new tab.