Writing Resources for
Departments, Teachers, & Students

Three Courses Re-designed to Integrate Writing

Scandinavian 312: Scandinavian Literature in Translation

Traditional Writing Assignment: An 8-10 page term paper due at the end of the quarter.

Results: Functional writing without much investment, enthusiasm, or imagination.

Writing-Integrated Assignment: A course-long sequence of writings beginning with weekly short papers, each written as a letter form the student to a mentor or peer, real or imagined, about the work of literature read for the week, and eventuating in an 8-10 page interpretive essay. As a final project students submitted a portfolio of all their writing along with a final self-reflective essay about their learning in the course.

Results: Significantly higher student interest in writing assignments, along with high ratings for the course as a whole. The interpretive papers were stronger both because (students explained) the letters engaged them more fully in their course learning, and because the instructor built into the new course design occasion for students to revise their first drafts.

Instructor comment: "The consistently positive feedback from students in their end-of-quarter 'self-reflective essays'--not to mention the enthusiastic emails thanking me for the course--made this one of my most (if not, the most) rewarding teaching experiences at the UW." --Professor Marianne Stecher-Hansen

Mathematics 441: Topology

Traditional Writing Assignment: None beyond weekly problem sets.

Results: Writing made no contribution to student learning, and the course did not contribute to the Department's larger goal of enabling students to graduate as effective writers of mathematical argument.

Writing-Integrated Assignment: A three-paper sequence of written proofs in addition to weekly problem sets, each including peer review and revision of first drafts.

Results: Students' proof-writing skills improved significantly, even on the weekly problem sets not evaluated for writing style. Students also seemed to acquire a deeper understanding of what constitutes a valid proof than had earlier students.

Instructor comment: "[i feel] adding writing-integrated assignments in virtually any upper-level math course will dramatically enhance the quality of our students' education." --Professor John Lee

English 330: Literature of the Romantic Age (1796-1835)

Traditional Writing Assignment: A 6-10 page paper in which students read criticism and made their own argument about a work studied in the class.

Results: An uneven level of performance and student engagement. Many students saw reading older literature only as "school learning," not as learning for real life purposes.

Writing-Integrated Assignment: A series of ungraded short papers that related older literature to modern culture and culminated in "The Romantic Age Survival Project"--a 5-7 page graded paper in which students connected their learning about 19th Century poetry within the course to examples of contemporary culture outside the course.

Results: Student-initiated papers that demonstrated how much they had learned about the Romantic Age by articulating connections of course readings to recent movies. The course's best paper: a comparison of Wordsworth's 1802 poem "Resolution and Independence" with the Coen brothers' 1991 movie Barton Fink.

Instructor comment: "Students learned more in this course than any class I've ever taught." --Professor John Webster

More on the "Romantic Age Survival Project."