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Pragmatics: Scalability in Going Writing-Integrated

Working out how to design and implement fully writing-integrated classes can take time. The concept itself isn't that complex, nor are the various tools and strategies it requires. But, as in anything to do with teaching, one change often leads to another, and it may take a course or two before you have figured out how best to proceed.

That doesn't mean you can't get good results from the very beginning. Assigning as few as two or three ungraded papers can make an enormous difference. Similarly, developing clear criteria for assignments and finding ways to make these criteria public can make a huge difference in the quality of work students produce.

While all of us generally know our material backwards and forwards, we still may need two or three goes before we can articulate exactly what we want from students in ways that they themselves will understand. Fortunately, writing-integrated course design is scalable. you can begin by implementing one set of elements, and then extend that set in subsequent courses.

One such implementation sequence might look like this:

  1. Introduction of a few low stakes writing assignments and new paper management techniques (like a portfolio system).
  2. Development of assignment criteria and grading rubrics, along with experiments with peer review.
  3. Re-design of the course with high stakes writing assignments based on concepts central to the learning goals of the course and supported by both a clear set of criteria and an effective sequence of 2-3 low stakes papers that help students develop the sub-skills needed to succeed with the high stakes writing.

That is one path. As in much else, it's less the route you take that counts than the place you arrive.