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Philosophy of the Writing Intensive Program

Philosophy of the Writing Intensive Program

Writing Ability is defined not merely as students' control over surface textual features (grammar, mechanics, format, usage). It also involves their ability to adjust writing to the demands of audiences, to organize it, to invest it with critical thought, to utilize argumentation and presentation, and to produce documents that fulfill the expectations of both general and discipline-specific audiences.

Moreover, writing ability is not learned once and then applied formulaically in all new situations. Instead, learning to write involves a series of specialized principles and smaller abilities that students acquire and practice over long periods of time in a wide variety of situations. While some of these principles and abilities can be developed in first-year college writing classes, several others are discipline-specific and genre-specific.

Freshman English composition courses cannot, nor are they designed to, achieve all of these goals. They are designed to introduce students to methods that will enable them to produce effective academic writing. Therefore, after being introduced to general principles of academic writing in first-year composition courses, students must learn to write in disciplinary settings. University faculty members are uniquely qualified to help acquaint students with various means my which writers in their fields achieve their ends. This, in turn, can help students understand that writing is a process which requires specialized strategies, practice, and an investment of time and energy. Furthermore, writing in disciplines is a means by which students learn more about disciplines themselves. That is, writing about content is inseparable from learning in the ways that members of disciplines think, argue, and research.

Ultimately, students also learn to write by practicing and receiving feedback on their efforts. Thus, to improve writing instruction at Tarleton State University, we need to increase the amount of writing students do, to enlarge the number of contexts in which they write, and to make sure that writing is assigned and evaluated in courses beyond first-year composition.