What We Do

Faculty outside of the University Writing Program are often curious about the kind of work that students do in our program and how they might be able to build on it in their own classes as they ask their students to write.  The most important thing for all faculty to know is that our students’ writing development is an on-going process, one that will continue for a lifetime. If we think about the multiple ways faculty write now--emails, grant proposals, texts, review materials, academic articles, textbook chapters, blog posts etc.--we know that our own literacy development is also spiral and ongoing.

Students learn best as writers when they can see themselves as novices at two distinct points in their university education in order to be open to new ways of writing (Yancey et al Writing Across Contexts, 2014).  The first place to adapt this novice stance is in  first-year writing, where students have to transition from the expectations of high school writing to that of college writing. The second place where students benefit from a novice stance is when students enter their major and have to learn how to write within a particular discipline. Knowing that students need continual support as writers as they navigate their way into college and then disciplinary writing is key.

The First-Year Writing program strives to support our students with the transfer of writing practice and knowledge from their introductory writing course, through their General Education curriculum, and into their major. This focus on Teaching for Transfer helps us to be intentional in assigning reading and writing assignments that help students know how to apply what they practice in First-Year Writing long after they leave our classes.

In UWRT 1101, students are introduced to the discipline of writing studies. In this class, writing is the primary activity and the primary subject of the course. In this course we help students to understand the concept of literacy, deepen awareness of their own writing identities and how they have been shaped, and how to conduct and contribute research about literacy that can be shared with an audience (Wardle and Downs, Writing About Writing, 2014).

Embedded in the work is critical reflection, where students write before, during and after the assignment  they are creating in order to practice talking about their writing and gaining greater understanding about how they work as writers.

See our About The Curriculum page to view course discriptions

Some major assignments that students often complete in UWRT 1101:

  • A literacy narrative, where students explore, analyze and reflect on their history as a reader and writer. This assignment asks students to connect their histories  as readers and writers to the values and social structures of the cultures and communities that surround them. Recognizing their on-going literacy development and how it is constructed is an important part of being an effective writer.

  • Genre Analysis, where students practice creating and analyzing types of texts (genres) that are recognizable to readers and writers and figure out how each genre meets the needs of the particular rhetorical situation. This might entail an analysis of different types of genres, or using the same information in several different genres to better understand how the genres work and why.

  • Multimodal Remediation, where students re-mediate a text they have created from one form into another. For example, they might write a traditional academic essay but then turn that into a video and write about the changes they made and why in that process.

  • An ethnographic research project (or a discourse community analysis), where students carefully observe and describe a particular discourse community (maybe their sports team, their sorority, their religious community, for example) and how that community uses reading and writing.

  • Rhetorical reading responses ask students to address how a text is working and what “moves” a writer makes in a text instead of looking only at the content of the text.

  • The ePortfolio is the capstone project for both UWRT 1101 and 1102.  Students collect various composition throughout the semester, select the ones that act as evidence of their learning throughout the course and then reflect on their choices.

In UWRT 1102, students continue to build on their concept of literacy and awareness of themselves as writers and readers, but this course adds on to that work by giving students practice working with sources. The core of the course is the Extended Inquiry Project, which is a semester-long endeavor consisting of a series of interrelated assignments. The goal of the project is to have students engage in authentic inquiry into a topic (sometimes assigned by the instructor; sometimes chosen by the student), dig deeply into the conversation taking place about that topic, map their inquiry through journaling, blogging, or some other method, and then think through and create the type of a text needed to reach an appropriate audience for showing what the student has discovered and what she has to contribute to the ongoing conversation about the topic.

Some major assignments that students often complete in UWRT 1102:

  • The Research Proposal where students present their initial inquiry question and preliminary research.

  • A Research Synthesis  allows students to create a type of  literature review or annotated bibliography in order to think through what they have discovered thus far in their inquiry and to make connections and generate new questions.

  • A Reader’s Guide has students explain their inquiry work to an audience. This assignment helps writers make connections, generate new knowledge and develop more inquiry questions.

  • The Multimodal Academic Essay is one assignment that allows student to “go public” with their discoveries. In this assignment, students practice the synthesis, analysis and knowledge creation from their inquiry work, practice appropriate documentation styles, and enter the conversation around their topic.

  • The ePortfolio is the capstone project for both UWRT 1101 and 1102.  Students collect various composition throughout the semester, select the ones that act as evidence of their learning throughout the course and then reflect on their choices.  

Eample of assignments and the 1102 inquiry sequence: Extended Inquiry Project, by Julie Cook