Writing Resources for
Departments, Teachers, & Students

Strategies for Integrating Writing into your Course

Provide opportunities for low-stakes writing. Because students write best when they have had frequent trial runs, asking them to write informally throughout the quarter builds skills they need for more formal writing at the same time that it encourages active learning of course materials.

Link assignments to course learning goals. Begin by thinking of how your assignments can be integrated so as to be central—not an add-on—to the course. Students will write best if they can both see how assignments help learn course material and how the day-to-day work they do in class help them develop the conceptual and technical skills the assignment requires. Students engage most effectively with writing when they understand clearly how such writing can increase their understanding of key course concepts. Even better, integrating writing assignments can also defeat plagiarism both by creating a topic to which generic online or otherwise obtainable papers cannot possibly be relevant, and by enabling students to complete the assignment without recourse to this type of outside help in the first place. For more on how to design assignments that prevent plagiarism, see John Webster's "Dealing with Plagiarism: Knowing it, Teaching it, Out-smarting it."

Sequence writing exercises. Because complicated skills are often best developed in steps, writing-integrated courses offer students a sequence of exercises as a “scaffold” with which to build complex understanding. As you develop your idea of the major assignments you would like your students to write, perform a “task analysis” in which you break down the project in terms of its component sub-skills. Then, “scaffold” students into their high-stakes paper through a short series of low-stakes assignments or in-class assignments to introduce them to these necessary sub-skills.