While all instructors want students’ writing to be clear, coherent, and insightful, what counts as a feature of good writing can mean very different things depending on the discipline and course context.
Disciplines often demand specialized writing tasks with specific communication purposes for specific audience needs. Undergraduate students, by contrast, travel across disciplines as they move from general education courses to the range of topics in their majors. When writing activities are well designed and when the key features of discipline-specific writing are made explicit, students develop insights into the ways of thinking and knowing in their fields of study. When writing activities lack a clear purpose and audience, students may feel as though they are merely completing assignments according to the idiosyncratic demands of their instructors.
When considering characteristics of writing in your discipline, start by thinking about the authentic contexts for writing and communication in your field. How do people share information? What kinds of things might be included? What media do people choose? Who are the audiences with whom they communicate? What do those messages look like? In many departments and programs on campus, Writing Plans developed by your department will provide faculty-developed guidance on the forms of writing in your field and graduation level expectations for student writers. Current writing plans are available online.
When translating those answers to the context of your class, consider the learning goals of your course. What do you want students to know and be able to do? How do you know their learning is successful? When considered together, these learning goals will guide you to the purposes, tasks, and audiences for your assignments. You may even choose to add a syllabus statement on the role of writing in your course and your field.
Writing Enriched Curriculum
The Writing-Enriched Curriculum program supports undergraduate departments as they develop plans for ensuring relevant and meaningful writing practice in all curricula and majors. Follow this link to see department-generated writing abilities and department-determined criteria for assessing writing.