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Writing Across the Curriculum

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Lee Schulman, President of the Carnegie Foundation, recently wrote that until students take new knowledge, incorporate it with the old, and then "make it public" by articulating to others, either in written or oral form, do they really learn. That is a pivotal statement reflecting what we have learned about learning. What is important here is that it is not possible to have time for all our students to articulate orally and receive feedback from us, so writing becomes the viable alternative. This is in addition to the many other advantages of having students Write for Learning.

Employers in practically every field want their employees to be able to write. This includes engineers, criminal justice employees, health care workers, politicians, teachers, blue collar workers, government employees, contractors, etc. Employees need to write to accurately document events that have transpired. We use communication to influence others, so college students need to learn to write persuasively. We use written communication to reach out with compassion in critical times, so college students need to learn to write from the heart. We use communication to clarify and explain, so college students need to be able to express themselves clearly. Learning to think and write creatively is also an added skill in the job market.

A movement called Writing Across the Curriculum began at the college level in the 1970's --1980's. Educators were concerned with the lack of writing ability of their students, so the movement was begun to convince instructors in all courses -- not just English courses -- to include writing assignments in their curriculum. It's been said that students don't know what they think until they have to write it down. Obstacles for such a program revolve mainly around the fact that reading and giving feedback on writing assignments can be very time-consuming for the instructor. Students in some classes -- for example science classes -- may baulk and say that they've already taken an English course -- that they don't see the need to write in their other classes. But if thinking is writing, and if we all engage our students in some kind of writing activity, the quality of college students' writing will dramatically improve and we will produce better thinkers and writers for the community.

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