The WIC program supports and instructs faculty across the disciplines who are developing and teaching writing-intensive courses as part of Oregon State’s Baccalaureate Core requirements. Through faculty seminars, luncheons, departmental consulting, and review of course proposals, WIC enriches faculty understanding of how to most effectively foster a culture of writing in the university.
WIC courses fit into a sequence of courses at OSU: WR I, WR II, and WIC. This following overview was prepared by Sarah Tinker Perrault (Director of WIC) and Kristy Kelly (Director of Writing) to help faculty understand the relationship between Writing I, Writing II, and WIC. Although the WR I and II names will be changing to “Writing Foundations” and “Writing Elevation,” the purposes will remain the same.
Why do we have WR I, WR II, and WIC?
We have three stages of writing—one for students new to college, one for students starting to move into their majors, and one for students in their majors—because students need and are ready for different kinds of writing knowledge and skills at each stage.
When students enter college, they need to acquire certain fundamental knowledge and skills relevant to all areas of academic and professional writing. For example, WR 121: English Composition teaches students to use evidence in support of claims, and to cite the sources of evidence.
As they start to move into their majors, students are ready to (1) start learning to adapt prior knowledge and skills to kinds of academic or professional contexts they are likely to encounter in their majors, and (2) acquire additional knowledge and skills relevant to writing in those kinds of academic or professional contexts. For example, students know from WR 121 that they should use evidence and cite sources. In WR II classes, they adapt and refine that knowledge in domain-appropriate ways:
In WR 201: Writing for Media, students consider what kinds of evidence to use in feature articles versus in op-eds, and how to credit sources using journalistic techniques rather than academic citations.
In WR 327: Technical Writing, students learn what kinds of evidence are generally acceptable in technical reports, and what citation formats are most commonly used in such reports. (For example, the personal anecdotes that are acceptable, and even expected in journalism, are not acceptable in technical writing.)
In WR 362: Science Writing, they learn to use and integrate scientific forms of evidence, including use of scientific visuals such as graphs and charts, and how to cite different kinds of scientific sources (e.g. pre-prints, journal articles, databases, etc.).
Once they are in their majors, students need to (1) keep learning to adapt prior knowledge and skills to new situations by using them in specialized areas, and (2) acquire knowledge and skills relevant to writing in those specialized areas. For example, here are three of the dozens of WIC classes that students take after taking WR 327: Technical Writing:
FOR 460: Forest Policy
GEOG 323: Climatology
CS 461: Senior Software Engineering Design
In these classes, students learn to tailor their use of evidence in technical reports to the demands of their profession. This includes making sure they know what kinds of evidence to use, how to evaluate it, how much and what to say about that evaluation in their reports, and so on. This and similar area-specific writing conventions and practices cannot be taught at the intermediate level, since they vary so much from area to area, and sub-area to sub-area.
Figure 1 shows how WR I serves all majors, WR II helps students start to understand a narrower range of genres and audiences, and WIC helps students become strong, skillful writers within their disciplines and professions.
Figure 1. WR I introduces foundational skills. WR II classes help students connect the foundational skills from WR I to the domain areas of their majors, while WIC classes help develop and refine the highly specific knowledge and skills for writing in their majors.
An analogy for WR I, WR II, and WIC
Learning to write can be compared to learning a sport, and writing classes can be compared to fitness and athletics training.
All sports rely on people having and developing physical abilities—aerobic capacity, strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, and so on. Nearly all also require knowledge of and skill with specific kinds of equipment. Finally, some require people to learn to interact with each other or with animals (horse-related sports, for example) in certain ways.
The range is enormous, as the small sample of athletic categories in Figure 2 shows.
Figure 2. A general fitness class has people from all athletic areas and sports.
A general fitness class, which needs to prepare students for everything from tennis to figure skating, has to focus on only those elements that are sure to be useful in all sports; it can help people develop general aerobic capacity, balance, flexibility, and muscle tone, and create healthy exercise habits.
To excel in their specific sports, people need more than general fitness, and that comes from gradually more specialized training. For example, at the intermediate level, the horse people need to learn to handle and ride horses, while the skating people need to learn to skate, and the runners need to focus on running. This shows in the dark blue and dark green categories in Figure 3. At the level of the individual sport, they further refine their abilities and skills, as shown for runners in light blue in Figure 3.
Figure 3. Fitness training grows more specialized as people move into individual sports.
Writing I, II, and WIC classes are like general fitness, general sports categories, and specific sports. Figure 4 shows this for Writing 121, for the two most common WR II classes, and for a small selection of WIC classes.
Figure 4. WR II classes help students connect foundational skills from WR I to the domain areas of their majors, while WIC classes help develop and refine the highly specific knowledge and skills for writing in their majors.