Checklist of W Course Requirements

Words of Wisdom

American written English is no one's true language.

— Peter Elbow

This checklist is meant to guide in the preparation of the proposal for a W course. The W and C  Course Advisory Committee prepared this checklist using Faculty Senate Resolution 20.108 as a guideline. A W course must meet the following criteria:

  • Is not included in the Core Curriculum Communications requirements.
  • Requires writing significant to and essential for the major. (As a guideline, the name of the major appears in the course title, the course figures into the GPR for the major, or the course is part of a College Core Curriculum.) The W course is integral to and prepared specifically for the major. Writing assignments are of the type students will encounter in their academic careers or in the workplace.
  • Has a reasonable instructor-to-student ratio (1:25) to ensure course quality. The ratio is determined by including the instructor/s plus any aides, graduate or undergraduate, on the instructor side. In cases where a higher ratio may be proposed, the committee will ask for compelling evidence that it will not adversely affect the quality of formative feedback.
  • Ensures all aides, graduate and undergraduate, are appropriately monitored and supervised.
  • Requires that students must pass the writing components and specifies so on the syllabus. (The W & C Course Advisory Committee wants to prevent the case where a student might receive an A in 67% of the course but neglect the 33% that requires writing. This student, if she passed, would get credit for a graduation requirement in writing without actually writing.)​ 
  • Assigns at least 2000 words (eight pages, double-spaced) of graded, finished writing. Drafts, oulines, and pre-writing exercises cannot be counted.
  • Bases a significant percentage of the final course grade on written products. "Writing" does not include presentation slides or essay examinations taken in class. Essay examinations may count if they are take-home and students have the opportunity to draft and revise. The percentages listed below should be based on finished, written products and represent the percentage of the final course grade. While drafts, outlines, and practice presentations are encouraged, they will not count as finished, graded products even if they are graded.These are minimum requirements.
    • 1-credit course: 70%
    • 2-credit course: 50%
    • 3-credit course: 33%
    • 4-credit course: 25%
    • 5-credit course: 20%
  • Requires that collaborative writing projects constitute no more than 30% of the graded writing; in other words, 70% must be written and graded individually. Alternatively, if at least 33% of a 3-credit course is based on individual work and there are 2000+ words individually written, the requirement is also met.
    • EXAMPLES:A 3-credit course has 60% of the grade based on writing (not counting drafts, outlines, etc.). Student write a collaborative report of 3000 words worth 20% of the final grade and an individually graded paper of 2000 words worth 40%. This course meets  the criteria because at least 2000 words are written individually, and 40% of the final grade (more than the required 33%) is based on work done by individual students.
    • A 3-credit course has 40% of the grade based on writing. Students write a 3000-word collaborative report worth 30% of the final grade and 4 individual reports of 1000 words each (total of 4000) and 5% of the final grade each (total of 20%). This course does not meet the requirement of 70% of the final grade (not more than 30%) being individual writing, because 70% of 40% is 28%. It also does not meet the alternative requirement that at least 33% of the grade be based on individual writing, even though it surpasses the minimum word requirement of 2000 words.
  • Includes some instruction in writing, not just the assignment of writing with comments on finished products. Instruction is defined as, but is not limited to, providing opportunities for practice, providing and discussing models, conducting peer response or workshop classes, and lecturing on rhetorical forms or principles. Some instruction may occur outside of class as homework, but in-class is instruction recommended.
  • Does not allow undergraduate aides to grade more than 10% of the writing portion of the final grade.
  • Provides some required formative feedback, preferably on major projects in progress. Formative feedback should be structured so that students use it to revise final drafts. It gives them the experience of getting and incorporating feedback as they write a paper. Feedback on rough or nearly completed drafts is formative. Peer review that is used to improve a draft before the final grade is given is also formative. Comments on papers that have been graded is not formative. For more detail, read Formative Feedback.
  • Distributes assignments so as to allow feedback before a final draft is due and students have some indication by mid-term of the quality of their writing, even if on drafts.