Students are usually interested in two things regarding Writing to Learn courses: how much writing there will be and what kind of writing it is. The quick answer is that they will be writing at least once every two weeks, probably more often than that, and that the writing assignments vary from informal paragraphs in class to fully developed research papers, depending on the course and instructor. They should go to Questions Students Frequently Ask on the WAC website for more detailed information.
1. Frequent writing
2. Small classes
3. Informal writing assignments
4. Formal writing assignments
5. Critical thinking
Writing to Learn courses are specially designated General Education and other introductory courses that use frequent writing as a way to teach course content. The courses are taught by faculty members in the disciplines involved who have completed a two-day workshop during which they discuss ways to use writing in their classes.
The courses are initially limited to 25 students (although faculty can agree to add a few students beyond this number if they so choose), making them different from many of the freshman and sophomore-level courses that often have sections with 60 or 90 students. The teacher can get to know the students, and students are often expected to join in class discussion. Because of the small class size, many WL teachers devise interesting assignments that require student involvement.
Much of the writing in a WL course may be informal -impromptu in-class writing, journals, personal responses to the readings. The emphasis in these assignments is usually on discovery of ideas or on making the course material relevant to the student's own experience. For instance, students might be asked to find real-life examples of theoretical issues they have been discussing in class and to comment on how well the theory applies. (For Psychology, they might be asked to watch children at play and determine where they fit in Piaget's developmental model. For Political Science, they might be asked to read the Christian Science Monitor to find an article on election politics.
Most WL courses also require some formal writing -fully-developed essays that go through revision. These assignments ask students not only to create a thoughtful thesis and to support it with evidence and logical reasoning, but to communicate the ideas clearly, using standard academic English. Many WL instructors ask for rough drafts of these essays and encourage use of the Writing Center.
Writing to Learn courses demand (and develop) critical thinking and communication skills. Students learn the expectations of academic writing and thinking early in their college career, giving them the practice they need to succeed in upper-division courses and eventually in the workforce.
English 101 is a basic composition course in which students learn to write college-level essays, using standard academic English. They learn to develop a thesis and give supporting evidence. They also learn to read complex articles and use information from them in their own arguments. It is the first course in the WL Series of Courses.
English 299 is the second composition course (called English 102 at some other universities), offered in the second semester of the sophomore year. It is the final course in the WL Series of Courses. English 101 and two WL courses are pre-requisites for this course. The course title, " Introduction to Research Writing ," explains the emphasis of the course. Students learn to find appropriate sources for academic research papers, both in the library and on-line, and they learn how to integrate ideas from these sources into their own arguments. The course deals with citing sources in various formats (especially MLA and APA) and with avoiding inadvertent plagiarism. English 299 is put at the end of the WL series because it demands good critical thinking skills, which are developed in the WL courses. Students often write on topics that relate to their majors.
English 190 is a specially designed composition course for students with exceptional writing ability. Students are invited into this course if they receive a 28 or higher for the English section of the ACT. English 190 takes the place of English composition 101 and Introduction to Research Writing, English 299. The course asks students to write essays on a variety of topics, using research techniques.
The WL Series of Courses is a three-course series for these students: 1st WL ® English 190 ® 2nd WL, preferably in the first three semesters the students are at PSU. If your advisee is eligible to take English 190, he or she will receive a letter to that effect. For the first semester, enroll the student in English 101-40 (a phantom course) as well as the first WL course. Once the WL class is completed, your student will receive credit for English 101 (with an "A" recorded as the grade). On the advisor printout , English 101 will be marked as "done" once the first WL course is completed.
English 190 is the new number for the previous English 103. The course is essentially the same, but it occurs in the second semester of the freshman year instead of the first.
Students test out of English 101 and English 299 by receiving a high score on the English section of the ACT. A score of 27 waives the English 101 requirement. A score of 28 or higher waives both English 101 and English 299 and makes the student eligible for English 190 instead.
To ensure that your advisee receives credit for the waived English 101, enroll him or her in the phantom course English 101-40 at the same time as you enroll him or her in the first WL course. When the WL course is completed, your student will receive credit for English 101, with an "A" grade. On the advisor printout , English 101 will be marked as "done" once the first WL course is completed.