Writing across the curriculum

group huddleIn university, writing effectively is integral to learning. Research has shown that the relationship between how much writing students do in a course and their level of engagement in that course is stronger than the relationship between engagement and any other course element (Light, 2001), making writing-intensive courses in any field of study a high-impact practice.

Asking students to write often in disciplinary courses also helps them develop their communication skills more generally, moving students toward the undergraduate degree-level expectation (UDLE) of Communication Skills.

In particular, students learn best when their written assignments have clear instructions, involve an iterative process, and ask them to make meaning (Anderson et al., 2015).

At the same time, short and simple writing-to-learn exercises in classes of any size, level, or discipline can promote deep learning and engagement (Bean, 2011).

To discuss how to design and assess assignments and activities to help your students better understand and communicate course content in courses at any level and in any department, contact Dr. Stephanie White, CTE’s Writing Support Instructional Developer.

Teaching Tips

The following Teaching Tips provide guidance for instructors who want to use writing-to-learn as a teaching strategy in their courses or help their students learn to communicate effectively in a field of study.

  1. Using writing as a learning tool
  2. Low-stakes writing assignments
  3. Responding to writing assignments: managing the paper load
  4. Promoting and assessing critical thinking
  5. Rubrics: useful assessment tools
  6. Assignment design: checklist
  7. Assignment design: sequencing assignments
  8. Motivating our students


Anderson, P., Anson, C. M., Gonyea, R. M., & Paine, C. (2015). The contributions of writing to learning and development: Results from a large-scale multi-institutional study. Research in the Teaching of English, 50 (2), 199-235. (Link to article.)

Light, R. J. (2001). Making the most of college: Students speak their minds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP.

Bean, J. C. (2001). Engaging ideas: the professor's guide to integrating writing, critical thinking, and active learning in the classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Further Resources

Books, journals, and resources from the WAC Clearinghouse

Sample assignments and activities from the Writing Across the Curriculum program at the University of Wisconsin­ –Madison.

Resources (and a WAC App!) from the Writing Across the Curriculum program at the University of Alberta.