Intensive and Writing-Intensive Courses at UAS
In the spring of 2001, Dean Mary Lou Madden formed an ad hoc committee to discuss criteria for identifying speaking- and writing-intensive courses across the curriculum. This committee included the following faculty: Todd Walter, Richard Stephens, Jan Parmelee, Dan Montieth, and co-chairs Alexis Easley and Susan Koester. At the first meeting, the committee agreed on the following guiding principles:
- To focus on speaking and writing competencies. Other competencies will be addressed by later committees.
- To agree on general guidelines that will be simple to administer and understand.
- To account for faculty time in an equitable manner.
- To fulfill student learning needs (rather than creating requirements that will be perceived as busy work).
- To steer clear of disciplinary and personal idiosyncrasies.
Given these parameters, the committee reached consensus on the rationale, general guidelines, and specific criteria for designating for speaking- and writing-intensive courses, which, once approved by the Curriculum Committee, will be made available to all faculty for their use.
Writing- and speaking-intensive courses are based on the idea that written and oral communication are the business of the whole academic community and that students’ communication skills will improve when they see speaking and writing at the center of their academic curriculum. They will learn the value of written and oral communication by being taught to write and speak not only in GER communication courses but also in courses across the disciplines.
Faculty from across the disciplines may choose to use writing- and speaking-intensive courses for any of the following purposes:
- To identify courses that will fulfill writing and speaking competencies in major or minor emphasis requirements.
- To assess senior-level competency in communication.
- To assist with advising.
- To serve as a screening tool for admission into UAS graduate programs.
- To demonstrate progress in speaking or writing competencies that can be used for accreditation purposes.
- To recognize and identify the speaking- and writing-intensive content that already exists in current courses.
General Guidelines for Writing- and Speaking-Intensive Courses
- After completing two GER writing courses (English 111 and English 211/212) and one required oral communication course (COMM 111/235/237/241), students may extend their experience by taking any number of writing-intensive and speaking-intensive courses. THESE ARE NOT EXTRA ENGLISH OR COMMUNICATION COURSES. They are regular, 3, 4, or 5-credit courses, usually offered at the upper-division level, that focus on content related to the major disciplines. These courses will be listed in the annual catalog and semester schedule with a “W” or a “S” designator (for example, SOC 375-W or GEOL 300-S). Both writing- and speaking-intensive courses will address issues pertinent to that discipline and how speaking and writing is used both academically and professionally in that discipline. A writing- and speaking-intensive course in biology, for example, should include discussion of the writing and speaking performed by working biologists and discussion of what makes that communication effective or convincing. In some fields, this discussion might apply to the kinds of speaking and writing expected in graduate or professional school.
- Writing-intensive and speaking-intensive courses will be proposed by faculty across the disciplines. The course should have a structured syllabus with disciplinary content and an enrollment of students who interact with each other and with their professor on a regular term schedule.
- Departments may want to institute caps on student enrollment for writing- and speaking-intensive courses.
- To receive a “W” or “S” designation, each course proposal must be reviewed and approved first at the department level and then by the Curriculum Committee. Both of these groups will use guidelines developed by this ad hoc committee for identifying speaking- and writing-intensive courses.
- To aid in the development of “W” and “S” courses, instructors may want to attend faculty development workshops coordinated by their departments with the assistance of communications faculty and/or work individually with the appropriate Director of Writing or Speaking in designing syllabi, activities, assessment tools, and other course material.
- Once a “W” or “S” course has been approved by the Curriculum Committee, it is the sponsoring department’s responsibility to monitor the writing- and/or speaking- intensive content of the course on an on-going basis.
Specific Guidelines for Designating Speaking-Intensive Courses
Criterion 1: Grading/Assessment. A minimum of 30% of the final course grade should depend upon the effectiveness of oral communication skills. This minimum is proposed so that students’ failure to attend to the speaking aspect of their work in an “S” designated course will have a significant effect on their final grade, while at the same time not overshadowing the importance of subject matter mastery. Student grades should reflect mastery of speaking skills and course content.
Criterion 2: Opportunities for Speaking. The course should provide students with frequent opportunities to practice speaking skills. Students should be asked to engage in at least six (6) separate speaking activities (including both informal and formal speaking opportunities, minimally two of which should be formal).
Informal speaking opportunities might include:
- Participation in a class discussion.
- Participation in a small group discussion/exercise.
- Participation in interpersonal conversation/exercise.
- Impromptu presentations.
- Membership/participation in a relevant out-of-class activity or event.
- Participation in student-teacher conferences.
- Providing constructive oral feedback to peers.
Formal speaking opportunities might include:
- Preparing and delivering an extemporaneous, persuasive, informative, or special occasion speech (ideally 15- 20 minutes duration). Ideally, one of the presentations would be given to an audience of at least 12 persons
- Participation in an on-going group project or team of at least three members. The project should cover a substantial portion of the semester and should be a coordinated effort by the group members, not simply individual projects put together.
- Presentation of information gathered in a group project (ideally 8-12 minutes duration).
- Presentation at a community/academic event.
- Participation in a community service activity.
- Taking part in interviews (job search, information-gathering, performance appraisal)
- Serving as an elected or appointed leadership of a group or team.
- Oral exams.
- Video-taped presentation.
Criterion 3: Topics of Instruction. The course should include instruction in speaking skills appropriate to the discipline. As part of the course structure, instructors will provide information/instruction on effective speaking, organization, and development of media/visual aids. In the development of speaking-intensive activities, instructors may want to include instruction in the following areas:
- Methods of responding to questions from an audience.
- Strategies for organizing presentation material.
- Methods for developing and using appropriate visual aids.
- Techniques for gathering information to be included in presentations.
- Strategies for moderating panels or discussions.
- Methods for effective group dynamics and/or teamwork.
Criterion 4: Method of Feedback. Speaking-intensive courses should provide students with the opportunity to receive significant feedback on their speaking skills (e.g., from instructors, students, and/or members of public).
Students might be required to:
- View videotapes of their presentations, either inside or outside of class, for the purpose of self-evaluation.
- Provide peer evaluations orally or in writing.
- Write self-evaluations.
- Write a short analytical paper, engage in a graded group or class discussion, or conference with the instructor for the purpose of evaluating and analyzing group dynamics.
The instructor might:
- Provide written and oral evaluation of speaking competency.
- Evaluate videotapes of student presentations or interviews.
- Solicit evaluative input from students’ interviewees (in a written evaluation mailed to the instructor).
- Provide feedback in a performance-appraisal interview with the student.
Specific Guidelines for Designating Writing-Intensive Courses
Criterion 1: Grading/Assessment. A minimum of 30% of the final course grade should depend on the effectiveness of written communication skills. This minimum is proposed so that a student’s failure to attend to the writing aspect of his or her work in a “W” designated course will have a significant effect on his or her final grade in the course, while at the same time not overshadowing the importance of subject matter mastery. A student’s grade should reflect mastery of writing skills and course content.
Criterion 2: Opportunities for Writing. Instructors should include frequent opportunities for students to practice writing skills. At least 4000 words (16 pages) of writing must be required in the course. Approximately 2000 words (8 pages) of this total should be formal writing that students have revised after receiving feedback and criticism.
Informal writing activities might include:
- Reflective essays/learning logs
- Essay exams or timed writing assignments
- In-class writing focusing on a particular problem, question, concept, or reading
- In-class group writing activities
- Reading responses
- Caucus entries
Formal writing assignments might include:
- Academic essays
- Position papers
- Article reviews
- Lab reports
- Research papers
- Collaborative papers
- Case studies
- Web pages
Criterion 3: Topics of Instruction. The course should include instruction in writing skills appropriate to the discipline. In the development of writing-intensive activities, instructors may want to include instruction in the following areas:
- Methods of generating ideas, gathering information, or conducting research in preparation for writing.
- Strategies for drafting, organizing, and formatting written material.
- Techniques for using technology as part of the writing process.
- Methods for incorporating tables, illustrations, or other visual elements into a written document.
- Techniques of research documentation.
- Methods for revising papers or incorporating feedback.
- Strategies for collaborative writing.
- Techniques for editing and polishing writing that are specific to the discipline.
Criterion 4: Method of Feedback. Writing-intensive courses should provide students with the opportunity to receive significant feedback on their written work (e.g., from instructors, students, and/or members of public). As noted in criterion 2, approximately 2000 words (8 pages) of the total amount of writing required in the course should be formal writing that students have revised after receiving feedback and criticism.
Students might be required to:
- Solicit feedback from Learning Center tutors.
- Solicit feedback from experts or members of the community.
- Write self-evaluations (e.g., reflective essays or cover letters)
- Prepare written and/or oral peer evaluations.
The instructor might:
- Provide written evaluation to drafts of student papers.
- Provide feedback on student writing in an individual or group conference.