CTL Guide to Writing Intensive Hub Courses

Guidance designing or teaching a Writing-Intensive Course (including assignment resources and examples) in the BU Hub, the university’s general education program.

From the BU Hub Curriculum Guide

“Writing is fundamental, the most important form of expression that BU undergraduates must develop. In the academy and in almost every professional setting, BU graduates must be able to express their ideas in clear, coherent prose. Effective writing demands the honing of skills, but it also cultivates ways of thinking, evaluating evidence, constructing responsible and convincing arguments, and generating creative ideas. As effective writers, BU graduates will pay close attention to the potential readers of their writings; as responsible writers, they will take ownership of their message and the means of communicating it, and hold their writing to high standards of truth, accuracy, validity, and humaneness” (for more context around this Hub area, see the Hub Curriculum Guide).

Learning Outcomes for WIN

Writing-intensive courses enable students to build on and practice skills learned in the First-Year Writing Seminar and, in some instances, those learned in Writing, Research, and Inquiry courses. Writing-intensive courses must, therefore, have at least outcomes 1 and 2 below, and must have “First-Year Writing Seminar” (e.g., CAS WR 120) as a pre-requisite. For more context around this area, see the full Hub description here.

WIN courses must have at least outcomes 1 and 2 below.

  1. Students will be able to craft responsible, considered, and well-structured writing that is appropriate to genre, intended audience, or rhetorical situation.
  2. Students will be able to read and interpret texts, data, media, etc. with understanding, engagement, appreciation, and critical judgment.
  3. Students will be able to write clearly and coherently in a range of modes and styles, integrating graphic, multimedia, and other elements as appropriate to the genre.

    A note from the Hub Curriculum Guide: “While learning to craft written arguments is essential in the First-Year Writing Seminar and Writing, Research, and Inquiry courses, and most courses designated as Writing-Intensive, the latter also accommodate students’ learning to write to the standards of majors and professions, such as journalism, that place a premium on the difference between “arguments” and expository accounts.”

    Hallmarks of a WIN Course

    BU’s General Education Committee sets out the following criteria for WIN courses in its Interpretive Document:

    • Students learn to read genres in a disciplinary context, noting the “features of a text’s genre, structure, style, intended audience, and/or purpose(s)” (GEC Interpretive Document: WIN).
    • Students learn to be aware of “the genres appropriate to the discipline, enabling students to draw on these in their own written work” (GEC Interpretive Document: WIN). 
    • Students compose 12-15 pages (circa 3600-4500 words) of finished writing during the semester. 
    • The required assignments include both finished products (e.g., major graded papers) and purposeful writing tasks (aka the “scaffolding” of assignments) that contribute to those final products. 
    • There are ample opportunities for feedback on student drafts (i.e., formative feedback) to serve revision, as well as feedback on submitted work (i.e., summative feedback).

    Understanding the WIN Learning Outcomes

    A key difference between WIN’s prerequisite course, First-Year Writing Seminar, together with courses that count for the Hub area of Writing, Research, and Inquiry, is that WIN’s learning outcomes encourage an explicit attention to “the [writing] standards of majors and professions” (Hub Council). That is, WIN courses can further develop a student’s understanding of how disciplinary expectations shape the kinds of writing done in a field.

    The WIN learning outcomes use the terms genre and rhetorical situation. Both terms are related to the idea of disciplinary expectations. Research and common sense tell us that each academic discipline has its own kinds of writing (i.e., genres) and array of contexts and purposes in which members of a discipline communicate with one another (i.e., rhetorical situations). Learn more about genres (one-pager and extended resource) and rhetorical situations (one-pager and extended resource).

    Scientists write “lab reports,” but the conventions of a lab report may vary across scientific specializations, and perhaps across teaching and professional contexts. Historians write books and articles for academic audiences, and books for non-academic audiences. In the Journal of the American Medical Association, cardiologists choose from 14 different “article types” (i.e., genres) to compose and submit, including one called “From the Heart,” which are “personal vignettes taken from wide-ranging experiences in medicine.” Each is a different genre, each has a slightly different rhetorical situation, and each requires disciplinary knowledge to compose. Full-fledged members of a community have developed this disciplinary know-how. In order to gain authority, students must develop theirs as well. 

    Teaching students “to write to the standards of majors and professions,” and to understand the expectations that inform genres, requires disciplinary knowledge. The writing program at Duke University has a snappy way of putting this: “Because academic writing is not one thing, it cannot be taught generically. So if our students are to become better writers, and if they are to learn how to better employ writing as a learning tool, they will need to be instructed from within particular disciplines” (Thompson Writing Program at Duke University).

    There is no set of universal rules for academic writing, but there are some themes, or conventions, that may apply across disciplinary contexts (Swales & Feak, 2012; Thonney, 2011). And there are ways of thinking about disciplinary conventions and genres that can be applied across contexts (Bawarshi and Reiff, 2010). These ways of thinking about discipline form the basis of a subfield called Writing in the Disciplines (see a one-pager and/or an extended resource). The resources below are based in this subfield. 

    Designing WIN Assignments

    If WIN assignments are to explore the form and function of particular genres in disciplinary contexts, those assignments will reflect the conventions of a discipline. It is therefore difficult to provide an assignment template that will make sense for all or most WIN courses. However, as mentioned above, there are ways of thinking about disciplinary conventions and genres that can be applied across contexts (Bawarshi and Reiff, 2010). These ways of thinking form the basis of the resources below. From UMASS Amherst, Designing Discipline-Specific Writing Assignments is a good resource for developing discipline-specific writing assignments.

    BU Writing Program Resources

    Faculty teaching WIN courses can take advantage of the following resources from the BU Writing Program.

    Assignment Templates for WIN

    Artificial Intelligence in the WIN Classroom

    Works Cited

    Further Resources

    Poster Pages, from College Composition and Communication, a collection of one-page handouts on writing topics, e.g., revision, audiencegenre.

    Helping Students Write Across the Disciplines, from the Teaching & Learning Center at Ohio State University, contains research-based practices and short examples of assignments from multiple disciplines.

    TextGenEd: An Introduction to Teaching with Text Generation Technologies, from Vee, Laquintano, and Schnitzler, is a comprehensive guide that includes a substantial section on the history of text generating tools, as well as sections on ethics and assignments models, such as AI for editing,” which “asks students to experiment with generating and editing text with AI tools.” 

    Tinkle, T., Atias, D., McAdams, R. M., & Zukerman, C. (2013). “Teaching close reading skills in a large lecture course.” Pedagogy, 13(3). Retrieved October 4, 2017, from http://pedagogy.dukejournals.org/content/13/3/505.abstract. Explains how to make large classes writing intensive without also being grading intensive.