1: What is Writing Across the
2: What type of approach does WAC@CUHK adopt?
3: What are the objectives of the WAC program at CUHK?
4: What are the reasons for emphasizing writing in the
5: What are the four basic qualities in a piece of
6: What should be in an assignment description?
1: What is Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC)?
WAC began as the 1960's British
"language across the curriculum movement", but also describes attempts
to broaden the scope of American university students’ writing in the
late 1970s and early 1980s. WAC programs were usually initiated by
English departments, with affiliating departments influencing their
WAC works best across the
disciplines―whether physics or anthropology or engineering―where
students need to learn to think through and evaluate problems. When
students are asked to write, they actively engage with the subject
matter, seeing patterns, connecting ideas, and making meanings.
2: What type of approach to writing does
“product-oriented” approaches, the instructor sees only the final
paper submitted for marking; no opportunity is provided to revise the
paper. Such an approach assumes that the student is sufficiently
skilled in English writing to compose a paper independently.
on the other hand, uses a “process-oriented” approach, focusing on the
process by which the written product is created rather than the
product itself. The teaching assistants from
intervene during the writing process, providing advice to the student
writers on both style and grammatical features, so that the students
can improve the final version of the paper. By reading the drafts and
providing feedback to the students, the teaching assistants relieve
the professors of this responsibility.
WAC’s full-time teaching
assistants all hold relevant postgraduate qualifications and have been
trained to provide feedback on students' writing. The TAs attend
lectures to become familiar with course content and will be available
to the students to give them oral and written feedback on plans and
early drafts of their written papers. If requested, the teaching
assistants can also offer mini-workshops to your students on various
topics relating to improving their writing.
All we ask of professors is an
initial meeting with WAC and that they personally introduce WAC and
the TA to their students.
3: What are the objectives
of the WAC program at CUHK?
The major objectives are to:
undergraduate courses for inclusion in the WAC@CUHK program,
Conduct workshops for
teachers from the university,
Assist teachers to
incorporate writing in their courses, and
Provide a model of
implementation for the further expansion and dissemination of WAC
programs in Hong Kong.
4: What are the reasons for emphasizing writing
across the curriculum?
First, writing can help students
to learn better; many research studies support this view.
states that “verbalization at the more conscious levels, including
writing, probably helps the write to understand the thoughts that
otherwise would remain inaccessible”. Research also suggests that
“writing helps people to operate at a higher level of abstraction”.
Writing is somehow integrally involved in our learning process.
more writing results in improved student writing. Cooke
states that “we should dispel the erroneous notion that one semester
or even one year of a university-level writing course will correct the
serious deficiencies in students' writing. If writing is to become a
natural and effective skill for them, they must be offered practice
and instruction in a great variety of academic settings”. Many of the
problems in students' writing arise from not having enough practice
5: What are the basic qualities of a piece of
The Writer Center at The
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (http://www.giastate.edu/grants/admin.html#wacprograms),
lists these four qualities as:
The quality of the content: the ideas, the perceptions, the point of
Is the basic idea or
insight a good one?
Is it supported by
logical reasoning or valid argument?
Is it supported by
evidence and examples?
Is it really saying
something or is it just a collection of thoughts or observations
(however unified and well written) sitting there limply? Did the
writer communicate why this whole thing matters?
Is there too much
abstraction or generalization? So few details, examples, and
explanations that it ends up dull, empty, impossible to understand?
Is there too little
abstraction and too much clutter of detail? Too little standing back
Does it do what it says
or implies it is going to do? Does it satisfy the issues it raises?
Is there a point of view
or is the writing just disembodied statements from nowhere? Is that
point of view unified and consistent?
Is the piece fitted to
its audience? Has the writer understood their needs and point of view?
B. The organization
Is the whole thing
unified? Is there one central idea to which everything pertains? Or is
it pulling in two or three directions or full of loose ends and
Are the parts arranged in
a coherent or logical sequence?
Is there a beginning?
That is, does it start off in a way that allows you to get comfortably
Is there a middle? A
body? Or does it turn around and say good-bye as soon as it is
finished saying hello?
Is there an ending? Does
it give you a sense of closure or completion?
Were the paragraphs
really paragraphs? Could you tell what each one is saying? Does each
one function as helpful and comfortable unit of thought?
effectiveness of the language
Are the sentences clear
Are the words used
Is it succinct enough for
the purpose and audience? Not too long, repetitious, dull?
Is it full enough? Is the
language, even if correct, indigestible?
Does the diction, mood,
or level of formality fit the audience and occasion?
Is the language alive,
human, interesting? Either because of interesting metaphors or turns
of phrase; or because of a voice or presence in the words?
D. The appropriate
choices in usage
Are there mistakes in
grammar, usage, spelling and typing?
Are there mistakes in
footnotes, graphs, or other special effects?
Is it neat and easy to
read on the page?
6: What should be included in a writing assignment
given to students?
A description of the
purpose of the assignment. “The paper will require you to review and
evaluate the most recent publications on the Basic Law in Hong Kong."
A description of the
intended audience for the paper. “Aim the paper at a professional
audience who would be familiar with the field” or “Aim the paper to
the type of person who would be reading Psychology Today.”
An indication of the
level of sophistication of resources required. “Data for this paper
should be drawn exclusively from primary sources.” This may require an
explanation of the concepts of alternative data sources.
A minimum number of
pages, rather than a maximum, recognizing that if they can't condense
it down to a small number of pages, they haven't given the assignment
Criteria for evaluation,
including large issues such as content accuracy and persuasive
documentation down to picky details such as what you expect in terms
of font size, page format, etc.
In addition to making the
assignment as clear as possible, there are some other steps that the
instructor can take to avoid confusion and to help the students along:
Provide good and bad
examples along with explanations for your evaluations. This helps the
students get a feel for the assignment.
Discuss the assignment in
class. After allowing time for the students to read the assignment,
spend some time helping them to get started with it.
Schedule conferences with
students, if possible, early in the writing sequence to head off any