Writing-Intensive Courses Writing Intensive (WR) courses require both formal and informal writing. Formal writing is written to communicate ideas to another reader, while informal writing is written for the author. The distinction between these two types of writing lies in the intended audience. Generally, formal writing is evaluated for how well it communicates ideas within a discipline and for style elements consistent with the standards of that discipline. On the other hand, informal writing is used as a learning tool written by the student for the student. Informal writing is generally not evaluated, though it may be given a grade for completeness.
Formal Writing It is writing for an identified reader or readers; therefore, formal writing needs to be organized and edited. Additionally, it has to meet the minimum proficiency standards as defined by the discipline. (The total of formal written assignments per semester should include at least 2,000-2,500 words, the equivalent of 8-10 typewritten double-spaced pages). Research indicates that shorter formal assignments help students more than simply assigning one long paper. Many kinds of writing satisfy the formal writing requirement. These may include essay and short answer exam questions, research papers, essays, reviews, letters, memos, evaluation reports, critiques, case studies, lab reports, annotated bibliographies, and other discipline-specific writings.
Informal Writing It is writing for oneself. Informal writing helps the student to think on paper; it helps the student to learn in active and reflective ways. This type of writing can take the form of a variety of short in-class or out-of-class activities such as recalling on paper the subject of a previous class, clarifying an important idea during a lecture, brainstorming, speculating, journal writing, and listing. Informal writing can be considered as notes and rough drafts that will later be re-worked into formal writing that is organized and edited for a reader. Informal writing also promotes learning by encouraging students to actively engage in the subject matter through writing without worrying about being penalized for errors in grammar, content, style, or organization. In this way, students may think and discover through the writing process. Although informal writing is not generally evaluated, it may (if collected) be graded for completeness.
Rationale The writing assignments required by WR course instructors will stimulate the development of analytical and critical thinking skills and will improve both teaching and learning. Each perceived idea is, most often, only vaguely recorded in one's consciousness. When the mind begins to organize an idea for verbal expression, it is perceived more clearly and recorded into consciousness more permanently. Writing is the process that calls for such an involvement of the mind. Students who write have an opportunity to cultivate their thinking skills and to verbalize the content of their disciplines to themselves, their classmates and instructors, and, ultimately, others in their field of study and employment.
Evaluation The focus of evaluation of writing in a discipline should be on clarity, completeness, and organization. WR course instructors need not feel responsible for teaching the more technical aspects of writing. However, instructors may refuse to accept papers with numerous grammatical and mechanical errors and encourage students to edit and resubmit the work. Additionally, instructors may encourage students to seek help in the College’s Writing Center.
Various types of formal writing that you may use in your course:
Critiques / Reviews
Various types of informal writing that you may use in your course:
Problems / Questions
SLN Discussion Postings
Writing Prompt Responses
Drafts for Papers
The Writing Across the Curriculum Committee: Amy Burtner (English/Philosophy), Interim WAC Coordinator Jason Anderson (Chemistry) Kathleen Borbee (Business Administration and Economics) Pam Fornieri (ESOL)