Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) Resources

Writing Across Curriculum's most commonly understood method and practice of teaching.

Writing Across the Curriculum – Principles & Pedagogy

The Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) movement started in the 1970s at several universities where faculty engaged in cross-disciplinary writing workshops. The movement quickly spread to other colleges and universities. This movement continues to spread across college and university campuses as a means for improving student writing and learning. McLeod, Miraglia, Soven, Thaiss (2001) state that Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) initiatives are often defined by their intended outcomes: “helping students become critical thinkers and problem solvers, as well as developing their communication skills. However, in their book, WAC for the New Millennium: Strategies for Continuing Writing-Across-the- Curriculum Programs, they emphasize that ultimately WAC is defined by its pedagogy. Recent scholarship on WAC encourages professors to move away from the lecture mode of teaching and incorporate models of active student engagement. (McCleod & Miraglia, 2000). As McLeod and Soven (2000) explain, “WAC assumes that students learn better in an active rather than a passive mode, that learning is not only solitary but also a collaborative social phenomenon”

While it is important for a WAC program to acknowledge the individual modes of instruction that are used in different disciplines, the scholarship suggests that writing pedagogy can be based on several shared principles that can be applied across the curriculum. The International Network of Writing Across the Curriculum Programs’ “Statement of WAC Principles and Practices” identifies these principles as “Writing as rhetorical,” “Writing as a process,” “Writing as a mode of learning,” and “Learning to write.” These principles are supported in a report entitled, “Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing,” which was developed by the Council of Writing Program Administrators, National Council of Teachers of English, and the National Writing Project. The report emphasizes the following objectives:

WAC Objectives

  • Developing Rhetorical Knowledge

    The ability to analyze and act on understandings of audience, purposes, and contexts in creating and comprehending texts.
  • Developing Critical Thinking Through Writing, Reading, & Research

    The ability to analyze a situation or a text and make thoughtful decisions based on that analysis.
  • Developing Flexible Writing Processes

    The multiple strategies writers use to approach and undertake writing and research.
  • Developing Knowledge of Conventions

    The formal rules and informal guidelines that define what is considered to be correct (or appropriate) and incorrect (or inappropriate) in a piece of writing.
  • Composing in Multiple Environments

    The ability to create writing using everything from traditional

WAC Best Practices

The best practices for Writing Across the Curriculum are grounded within the well-established connection between writing and learning. Anderson, Anson, Gonyea and Paine (2016) found writing about a topic is one of the ways to learn about a topic. It is not merely the recording of content that aids learning, but the writing process itself has measurable value in relation to clarifying thought on subjects.

Writing to Learn

In many instances, faculty think that writing-intensive courses only involve “writing to communicate” which usually translates into formal, graded writing assignments that require more time for grading and providing feedback. However, Mcleod and Soven (1992) suggest that “writing to learn” is vital to improving student writing. “Writing to Learn” involves informal, often ungraded activities that help students develop idea generation and reflection skills. “Writing to Learn” low-stakes activities help students improve their critical thinking skills along with the ability to develop ideas.

Frequent Reading and Writing

Graham and Hebert (2010) propose that frequent reading and writing promotes and enhances student learning. Fitzgerald and Shanahan (2000) state that writing facilitates improved reading and helps students to learn new material. Shanahan (2006) suggests that writing and reading rely on common cognitive processes. Anson (2002) states that opportunities for exploratory writing facilitates recursive thinking. When students engage in the act of writing and reading for the purpose of making connections and expressing their thoughts in the exploratory writing process they become “more engaged participants in class.” (Anson, 2002)


Anderson et al. (2016) cite involvement in an interactive writing process as an important component of WAC programs. Good writing involves opportunities for rewriting. Even the best writers engage in a process of revision to clarify diction and improve the efficiency of language usage. Likewise, it has been shown that writers on all ends of the skill spectrum benefit from constructing multiple versions of assigned documents. Revision can be accomplished on two levels: editing for content and proofreading for grammar, spelling, and mechanics.


Peer Review can be utilized for low-, medium-, and high-stakes assignments in varying degrees. Research in this area states that the integration of frequent peer-review in the assessment process increases the efficacy of writing. For instance, the literature suggests that a student makes larger gains as a writer when being critiqued by his/her peers (McLeod & Soven, 1992). Peer review allows students to see a reflection of their own work in their classmates’ work and to understand the evaluation process. This deeper level of participation in assessment gives the student multiple angles with which to view variation in writing quality.


Best practices for integrating technology into instruction includes a philosophical shift about technology. The research says universities have to prepare students, staff, and faculty to see teaching with technology as rhetorical (Seibner, 2004). Electronic portfolios (e portfolios) have become a viable institutional tool to facilitate student learning and its assessment. Many higher education institutions use e-portfolios to enhance student-learning outcomes, conduct institutional assessments, and support students as they prepare for future careers. Electronic portfolios communicate various kinds of information for the purposes of assessment.