For faculty and instruction staff: Help with designing writing assignments for your courses

The following message was recently shared by Brad Hughes, director of the UW–Madison Program in Writing Across the Curriculum, and Mike Haen, assistant director of the program:

Greetings from the Writing Across the Curriculum Program!

Educational research makes clear that well-designed writing assignments engage students in learning and help deepen their understanding of course concepts—in every discipline across the university. As you plan your courses for the spring semester (or for any future semester), the university’s program in Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC), sponsored by the College of Letters and Science, is eager to help you think about creative and effective ways to incorporate writing and speaking assignments into your courses at all levels and in all disciplines—in the sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities. We consult with faculty, instructional staff, and TAs—individually and in staff meetings for courses. We work with faculty and curriculum committees in departments to design ways to integrate writing assignments and instruction throughout an undergraduate major. And we develop and lead custom workshops for faculty, instructional staff, and TAs in departments across campus.

For Spring 2019, we are offering the following workshops for instructors at the Writing Center (6171 Helen C. White Hall), which you can sign up for by clicking the workshop title links below:

Creating and Sequencing Effective Writing Assignments: Tuesday 2/5, 2:00-3:30 pm

Designing an Interactive Writing Process for Your Students: Wednesday 2/13, 2:00-3:30 pm

Working with Multilingual Writers and Fostering Their Success: Thursday 2/28, 1:00-2:30 pm

Responding to and Evaluating Student Writing [sec 1]: Wednesday 3/6, 1:00-2:30 pm

Writing Recommendation Letters: Tuesday 3/12, 2:30-4:00 pm

Using Online Tools in Canvas to Respond to Student Writing: Tuesday 3/26, 12:30–2:00 pm

Responding to and Evaluating Student Writing [sec 2]: Friday 4/5, 12:00-1:30 pm

In addition to our workshops, we would be glad to schedule a time to meet in your office or lab or to chat by phone, skype, or email. Among the many topics we could discuss—

  • designing writing and speaking assignments that match your learning goals for students and that follow principles for successful assignments
  • connecting your assignments to essential learning outcomes and to the Wisconsin Experience
  • expanding your repertoire of writing and speaking assignments, including brief, low-stakes writing
  • incorporating writing and speaking assignments into introductory courses, FIGs, laboratory courses, or advanced courses for majors and for graduate students
  • designing assignments that match ways of thinking, conducting research, and making arguments within your discipline
  • sequencing assignments effectively
  • designing assignments that are inclusive
  • clarifying your expectations for assignments and communicating those expectations to your students
  • anticipating challenges students may have with particular assignments
  • using proven methods to improve the quality of students’ papers or projects
  • incorporating digital elements into writing assignments–including blogs, podcasts, wikis, websites
  • designing writing assignments and written discussions for online courses
  • developing evaluation criteria and rubrics for assignments
  • reducing the risk of plagiarism
  • responding effectively and efficiently to student writing and speaking assignments
  • working with the Writing Center and the Undergraduate Writing Fellows program
  • co-teaching, with you, a brief writing unit tailored to a particular assignment in one of your classes
  • helping multilingual writers succeed with your assignments
  • mentoring teaching assistants who are learning to design writing assignments and to give feedback on writing and speaking assignments
  • developing Communication-B and writing-intensive courses
  • integrating writing and speaking assignments systematically across your department’s undergraduate curriculum
  • incorporating writing and speaking activities into your department’s assessment plans for the major
  • solving specific teaching challenges you have faced

The Writing Across the Curriculum program also publishes a sourcebook for faculty, instructional staff, and TAs, with 300 pages of advice and successful examples of writing and speaking assignments drawn from courses across UW-Madison. Additionally, you can get a glimpse of the latest work of the WAC Program through our fall newsletter, which can be found here:

If you would like to schedule a time to meet or if you would like to have a copy of the WAC faculty sourcebook, please contact the director of the university’s program in Writing Across the Curriculum, Brad Hughes, at, or at 263-3823. Thank you very much for your interest in supporting a strong culture of writing and speaking instruction across the university.