UW 4×4 Writing Initiative

Communication is participating in the 2007-2008 4×4 writing initiative (Gina, Leah, Ralina, and me). Notes from the first meeting. History: Writing center started two years ago. Fourth year of this program – integrating writing across the curriculum.

Writing has been identified as a way of thinking. Issue of sub-skills — how people in a discipline think, what works as evidence. More like playing the piano: the instrument and notes are the same but playing jazz is much different from playing classical.

  • What teaching issues or obstacles have you found yourself dealing with in designing, teaching or evaluating writing projects for your classes?
    • Scalability – weekly reading response reflection
    • How much and what kind of feedback to provide on graded papers (ie, dangling participles versus issues of structure or argument)
    • How much should I expect them to know about how to structure an argument and how much should I try to teach?
    • Balancing content versus writing
  • In what areas of designing, teaching or evaluating writing assignments would you find discussion with colleagues or additional resources particularly helpful?
    • How to design assignments for how to think versus how to demonstrate knowledge
    • How to create authentic assignments
    • Best practices
  • Most people describe themselves a s having strong affective responses to writing — share anecdote.

John’s themes (this group has more sophisticated questions than the first year)

  • Grading issues
  • Time issues
  • Expectations/knowing audience
  • Sequencing as writing practice
  • Authentic writing
  • TA training

Integrated writing assignment versus add-on writing assignment, for example find and critique a scholarly article

  • We forget the sub-skills required, for example, in finding a scholarly article
  • Then we’re asking them to make sense of the article
  • Fisheries example of success


  • Low-stakes writing is primary tool (+/-)
    • Best is no stakes writing, esp for grading
    • Students need to know why the writing assignment is relevent
    • Some I’ll read, some you’ll read
  • High stakes writing (traditional writing)
  • Publication is the least-used tool for motivation or assessment

Next steps:

  • Either one half-day on Saturday or two 2-hour meetings (Oct/Nov)
  • One Dept small group meeting (Dec) – first assignment
  • Feb meetiing – second assignment
  • May meeting – third assignment
  • June reports due

Look for note from John in the next day or two RE good meeting times – two-hour blocks.

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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