Dispelling Myths

Myth: Using WAC means that I will have to re-organize entire courses.

You do not have to re-tool an existing course in order to begin taking advantage of WAC. Many of the basic WAC tools and techniques can be tried out in practically any class without affecting the organization of a course. Certainly, to realize the full benefits of WAC, you may find it advantageous to consider ways in which you might re-orient elements of a given course in order to maximize the learning potential of WAC elements. This does not mean, however, that you have to make the course entirely WAC-oriented from the very beginning. Take your time. Take a graduated approach to integrating WAC.

Myth: I have to become an "accredited WAC" instructor to use WAC properly.

You can start using WAC techniques immediately, without authorization from some anonymous governing body in another province. Test the waters with simple WAC activities are within your initial comfort level. Then, as you gain confidence, move on to more involved techniques. Of course, you're not alone as you learn WAC. The UWC provides consultation services for faculty members interested in learning how to use WAC effectively. A variety of WAC workshops on campus provide hands-on assistance with specific issues and strategies in a multi-disciplinary context. Also, most departments on campus have at least one resident WAC-friendly faculty member who has travelled the road of WAC discovery before you and would be happy to share discipline-specific strategies with you.

Myth: Using WAC will result in an unmanageable load of marking.

You don't need to become a marking masochist to use WAC; likewise, you don't need WAC to become a marking masochist! Not all student writing needs to be graded in detail. In fact, some writing needn't be graded at all (in fact, it can interfere with learning goals of the assignment). Sometimes witnessing the writing, validating and responding to main ideas is more important than marking it. Through careful planning of assignments and using appropriate response strategies, you can avoid being swamped by an unmanageable marking load.

Myth: Using WAC will take away from time spent teaching valuable course content.

WAC can actually help students to learn existing course content in greater depth and with greater confidence. Writing tasks that focus on critical thinking encourage students to apply their knowledge of the subject they are studying to problems in the discipline. WAC assignments that focus on critical reading skills helps students to interact in a thoughtful manner with course readings, to inquire more deeply, and to understand material better. Students are then able to cover content from reading assignments more realiably and more confidently, thus freeing you from having to "explain" basic aspects of readings in class. You can then use that class time for critical thinking activities that will help deepen your students' learning experiences.

Myth: WAC is only relevant in the Arts and Humanities.

WAC can be used effectively in any discipline. Even if your field is one that doesn't normally rely on writing assignments, you can construct write-to-learn activities and assignments that will strengthen your students' learning by asking them to reflect on their thinking and learning and to practise communicating ideas in written form.

Myth: WAC will result in a disorganized and uncontrolled classroom.

While WAC (like any active learning approach) does encourage a shift in the professor-student relationship, it does not necessarily take away any of your ability to manage the classroom evironment. You decide what activities to conduct in your class. You choose how WAC is integrated into your classroom routine.