College of Arts and Letters

WAC Background

Foundational Purposes

In response to students' needs in critical reading and writing skills, universities began developing writing across the curriculum programs over ten years ago. Drawing on a variety of research -- Piaget, Vygotsky, Shaughnessy, Berlin, Britton, Flower and Hayes -- writing across the curriculum programs emphasize that

  • writing is a skill which must be practiced;
  • though each discipline demands similar organizational skills, each has writing tasks and formats which are specific to that discipline;
  • writing visualizes thought, and thereby facilitates learning.

This last discovery -- that the written expression of information expands the learning process -- provides the philosophical basis of Writing Across the Curriculum. Therefore, faculty are encouraged to incorporate more writing into their curricula in order to produce not just better writers, but critical readers and thinkers. "The more students write, the more active they become in creating their own education: writing frequently, for themselves as well as their instructors, helps students discover, rehearse, express, and defend their own ideas" (Toby Fulwiler, A.D.E. Bulletin, 1988, p.35-40). At the core of any Writing Across the Curriculum Program are the introductory English composition courses where students develop their abilities to

  • critically examine both a text's and their own assumptions;
  • use their reading materials to create, organize and support a rational thesis;
  • hone their mechanical skills.

Since research points to the need for continued practice of writing in disciplines other than English, successful writing across the curriculum programs build upon newly acquired competencies by requiring a writing intensive course in any discipline before the end of the sophomore year (or by the completion of 100 hours).

Therefore, by the junior year (or before the completion of 140 credit hours) students will be prepared to undertake a discipline specific writing course; the focus of this upper level course is on those critical questions, stances and formats particular to the students' majors. Students who then encounter writing tasks in their senior year will have necessary critical reading and writing background to develop the professional skills they will need after graduation.

On this campus, most writing intensive courses can be developed from existing courses with the addition of a writing component. Such courses will meet the general principles which guide writing intensive classes, namely, that writing instruction is integrated with the learning of course material.

Courses may fulfill this objective:

  • by containing multiple assignments such as several short papers, laboratory reports, or one or two long papers divided into sections and revised throughout the quarter;
  • by including in the writing assignments a sequence of preliminary drafts, revision(s), and final drafts which, altogether, total no less than 20 double-spaced, typewritten pages;
  • by incorporating clear explanations of assignments and various approaches to writing instruction, such as guided peer evaluation, workshops, individual conferences, evaluation handouts;
  • by using essay examinations whenever possible, and by evaluating these examinations on the basis of content and quality of writing;
  • by involving frequent written evaluations by students and/or instructors.

In order for the WAC Program to achieve its purposes, enrollment in writing intensive courses will be limited to twenty-four students.

In all writing across the curriculum programs, faculty are given assistance in developing writing assignments that allow students to work through the cognitive processes necessary in mature, independent thinkers.

Final components of a writing across the curriculum program include a Writing Center, a standing committee to coordinate and determine the direction of the program, and a series of writing workshops for faculty and teaching assistants.


By unanimous vote in the spring of 1987, the Arts and Sciences Council passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Writing Across the Curriculum Program in the College of Arts and Sciences. Prior to the 1987 vote, Dean Alfred Cave had appointed a Writing Across the Curriculum Committee whose charge was to investigate and develop a program for the University of Toledo.

From 1985 to 1987, the Writing Across the Curriculum Committee, chaired by Dr. Thomas Barden, researched other writing programs and invited specialists in writing theory to lead faculty workshops. As a result of these efforts, the Arts and Sciences Council passed its 1987 recommendation, and the Committee proposed the establishment of a Writing Center as a first step towards building a Writing Across the Curriculum Program.

In the summer of 1987, Dr. Joan Mullin, was hired as Director of the Writing Center and authorized to develop and promote a campus Writing Center. The Writing Center continues its evolution as a writing resource for faculty and students in all the disciplines. Besides offering individual writing tutorials for students, faculty and staff, the Center has sponsored a faculty writing workshop and piloted a tutor assisted history course.

Also, in the continued effort to explore writing methods in the disciplines, the Writing Across the Curriculum Committee sponsored a series of University of Toledo faculty presentations during the 1987 academic year. These proceedings culminated in an in-house source book which was distributed this past winter.

In the fall of 1988 Dean Cave impaneled a new WAC Committee with Dr. Joan Mullin as chair. The Committee's charge was to recommend guidelines for implementing a college wide WAC Program. The proposal is based upon three years of research by the Committee which explored writing across the curriculum programs at other universities as well as current efforts in the area of writing within the University of Toledo College of Arts and Sciences. These guidelines also incorporate faculty responses to a recent questionnaire about writing practices in the classroom.

That proposal, passed by the Arts and Sciences Council in spring of 1989, responds to Council's resolution to develop guidelines for implementing a Writing Across the Curriculum Program. Departments are encouraged to offer writing intensive courses before the implementation of the Writing Across the Curriculum Program.

Original Charter

Last Updated: 12/21/23