Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) in the Composition Classroom

  • Why should I use WAC in the composition classroom?
    • There are many reasons to use WAC in the composition classroom for both faculty and students. Chief among these are:
      • a better understanding of what faculty who teach other content areas are looking for in student writing.
      • a more thorough understanding of why to write a certain way for a certain subject (the logic behind the style, format, and citation style that each subject uses).
      • to learn skills that will simultaneously enrich understanding of effective composition practices and other how they achieve effective communication in other areas of academia.
  • How is WAC implemented by faculty?
    • While specific ways of implementing WAC may depend on the institution and/or instructors using it, the basis of implementation is in effective communication across departments/content areas. Since what may be considered effective writing practices in one subject may be considered ineffective in another subject, it is vital to WAC's success that all parties are aware of what writing expectations and standards are in each department/content area. This is most often achieved through faculty workshops.
  • What is/are the role(s) of students?
    • In one element of the WAC composition classroom, students engage in writing activities that aid in their learning and are free from being graded (journal writing and freewrites are examples of this); this component of WAC is known as writing to learn, and it is very much student-centered and reflective. In another element of the WAC composition class, students also engage in writing that is meant for grading which often requires them to critically analyze, revise and edit their writing extensively; this kind of "polished" writing is meant for publication and is described as writing to communicate.
  • What is the role of the teacher in a WAC composition classroom?
    • In a WAC composition classroom, a composition teacher facilitates learning by helping students become aware that conventions, standards and features of writing are particular to each content area or discourse community. For example, the set of writing conventions, standards, features, and format for history is very different from the set for science. The composition teacher who communicates across the curriculum (via faculty workshop or even just talking to their students' other teachers) will be able to do this effectively and helpfully in order to assist his/her students not only in success in their composition class but also to aid them in their endeavors to writing effectively and successfully for their other subjects.
  • What are some strategies for preparing to use WAC in the composition classroom?
    • A few strategies for effectively preparing to use WAC in the composition classroom are to:
      • get to know and talk to faculty in other fields about what they look for in writing.
      • participate in faculty workshops that focus on cross-curricular understanding (particularly about writing, but any understanding can be helpful).
      • read well-respected books and articles in other fields than composition and pay attention to the conventions, styles, and formats with which they are written.
  • How might students be assessed in a WAC classroom?
    • Students may be assessed on their writing to communicate in terms of how well their writing communicates to its intended audience and how strongly it adheres to and excels in the standards, conventions, and formats of discourse within the intended audience's discourse community.

Other Essential Resources

The WAC Clearinghouse supports "scholarly exchange about communication across the curriculum" and works with the International Network of Writing Across the Curriculum Programs to publish "journals, books, and other resources for teachers who use writing in their courses."

The International Network of Writing Across the Curriculum (INWAC) is an informal group of teachers, researchers, and institutions that provides a number of resources for those interested in learning more about WAC; these include an online forum, access to new and previously-published books and articles, a database of member-authored information about activities, projects and programs at sites around the world, and annual meetings at which members can come together to discuss and share concerns and practices regarding WAC.


McLeod, Susan. "The Pedagogy of Writing Across the Curriculum." A Guide to Composition

Pedagogies. Eds. Tate, Gary, Amy Rupiper, and Kurt Schick. New York: Oxford, 2001.

Young, Art. Teaching Writing Across the Curriculum. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall,


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*** created by: james hlavik *** on: 4/22/2009 *** updated: 4/24/2009 ***