Read and respond for 1/7


For our next meeting on 1/7, please read my Threshold Concepts in Writing Studies (link located on the syllabus), and respond to this prompt:

What threshold concepts from the above list inform, or could inform, your choices when it comes to teaching writing in your discipline? What assignments do you have already (whether formal or informal) productively act out and introduce threshold concepts in writing for your students?

Looking forward to seeing you all in the new year!


Jenna “WAC” Goldsmith

New scholarship in WAC

Greetings from the land of cheese and hotdogs, WAC-y colleagues!

During the time off teaching this month, I’ve enjoyed catching up on new and recent scholarship in writing studies, and I thought I would share some of what I’ve learned with you all as you put the finishing touches on your Winter 2019 syllabi.

From “WAC Seminar Participants as Surrogate WAC Consultants: Disciplinary Faculty Developing and Deploying WAC Expertise” by Bradley Hughes and Elisabeth L. Miller. The WAC Journal (December 2018).

First, more evidence of positive impact of groups like ours:

“Even though one-time workshops about teaching and learning have long been staples in faculty development programs, including WAC programs, the semester- or year-long faculty learning community (FLC) model has proven to lead to far more change in actual teaching practices (Desrochers, 2010).”

“From a dissemination study about FLCs across six research intensive or extensive universities, Beach and Cox offered persuasive evidence that as a result of participating in a FLC, faculty incorporated into their teaching, for example more active learning activities, student-centered learning, discussion, cooperative or collaborative learning, and writing. The faculty participants in FLCS reported gains in their own attitudes about teaching and in their students’ learning and improvement in their own attitudes about teaching” (10).

New evidence reinforces the idea that the more active the writing assignment (concrete audience, analysis of their own writing and the writing of their peers, etc.), the more effective the writing assignment.

The author looked at writing related questions from the National Survey of Student Engagement (72,000 students survey). According to the survey, “assignments engage undergraduate students and enhance student learning when they involve (a) ‘interactive writing process’ (b) ‘meaning-making tasks, such as ones that ask students to analyze, synthesize, apply or otherwise do more than just report’ and (c) ‘clear writing expectations’” (20).

“Instructors in this WAC seminar chose [authentic writing situations] in order to focus communicate tasks and give students opportunities to sue their developing expertise about course content to communicate what they know with non-expert audiences, as recommended in the Boyer Commission Report on Reinventing Undergraduate Education (1998)” (emphasis original) (23).

At some point, I would love for us to discuss the ways in which we are already helping our students engage with “real” audiences, how students benefit from these concrete interactions, and how we aspire to improve in this area.

WAC-y NEH Grants


The NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) Grant recipients were announced this week, and I was pleased to see a couple of projects funded having to do with Writing Across the Curriculum. That these projects were funded indicates the vitality of discussions like ours. We are doing important work! Here are some project summaries:

  1. San Jose State University Research Foundation. Outright: $100,000 [Humanities Initiatives: HSIs] Project. Director: Richard McNabb. Project Title: Arguing the Humanities: A Course for STEM Students.” Project Description: The integration of humanities texts and methods of inquiry into a required writing course for STEM students, followed by faculty training, implementation of the course, and the creation of a digital archive. 
  2. University Corporation at Monterey Bay. Outright: $99,441 [Humanities Initiatives: HSIs] Project Director: Nelson Graff. Project Title: “Improving Learning and Achievement with Reading/Writing-Enriched Curriculum in the Disciplines.” Project Description: The development of discipline-relevant reading and writing instruction to be incorporated into the core and elective courses of six majors.