Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) at UPEI
Writing Across the Curriculum, or WAC, refers to a curricular and professional development movement that began at the university level in the early 1970s, primarily in the United States. WAC emphasizes the use of writing to promote critical thinking and learning across the curriculum. In fact, it might more aptly be called writing-to-learn across the curriculum.
WAC promotes strong writing skills but not by focusing exclusively on writing proficiency, as many traditional approaches to teaching writing do. Instead, WAC concentrates on thinking and learning, deepening both through writing exercises that intervene at any stage of the learning process. Improvement in writing occurs as a consequence of writing-to-learn. By enhancing learning, WAC also can enhance teaching. WAC authority Elaine P. Maimon of Queens College, CUNY, explains:
Learning occurs at the intersection of what students already know and what they are ready to learn. Writing to learn then becomes more than a way for students to learn new subject matter. Journals, letters, and other cognitive writing tasks also reveal to instructors and peers something of the writers’ thought processes. Writing to learn becomes a ways for instructors to learn about the individuals seated in that classroom. Who are they? What do they already know? What will connect them vitally to the abstractions in our lesson plans? Writing across the curriculum means involving students in their own learning, enabling students to establish dialogue with each other, with their textbooks, with documents of their culture, and with the world.
WAC also has the potential to build strong communities of learning--among students and faculty across the disciplines. By encouraging connections among people, different perspectives, different bodies of knowledge, and different contexts, WAC can serve as an effective agent of educational, social, and cultural transformation.
Welcome to WAC--a way of knowing.
How Does WAC Influence Learning Today at UPEI?
WAC has a strong base from which to develop at UPEI. First, there is the University’s long-standing commitment to critical literacy, as demonstrated by the mandatory requirement of two designated writing courses for all students (English 101 and a second English course). Second, UPEI has a history of excellence in professional development, with multiple prestigious regional and national award-winner among faculty for teaching. Third, the University is situated in a province devoted to writing, so the campus writing culture on which WAC depends will be encouraged and supported from the outside as well.
WAC at UPEI is developed through the University Writing Council, which seeks to promote a continuity of attention to student writing-to-learn beyond the two mandatory writing courses. WAC recognizes that each discipline has its own ways of knowing and communicating (its own discourse conventions and constraints), and so it addresses writing and learning in all subject area. It provides a powerful way to gain insight into student learning processes while improving learning outcomes at every level.
WAC currently enters the classroom at UPEI in three ways:
- through voluntary faculty WAC-Shops held throughout the year
- through the WAC-based Centre for Writing
- through the new University Writing Minor, which designates specific courses as writing-intensive (WI).
The University Writing Council continually seeks ways to encourage and develop WAC in the interests of enhancing critical literacy at UPEI.