The Level 2 (Writing Intensive Course), or W2, requirement provides an opportunity for students to focus their attention on modes of writing unique to the various academic disciplines. These writing intensive (W2) courses incorporate aspects of stylistics, critical thinking, and disciplinary content. But if students, both skilled and unskilled, are to make real progress with their writing, they need to apply analytical attention to their writing processes. Few can do this well on their own. For students to make serious improvements in their writing skills, they must have more than rigorous assignments, tough grading policies, and comprehensive professorial comments on returned papers; they must know how to analyze strengths and weaknesses in their writing for improving those processes. Thus, the faculty who teach writing intensive courses (W2) are those persons conversant with content and process, with course material and writing theory. These faculty can help our students unite and differentiate content and process.
In 1989 when the faculty passed the Curriculum Committee proposal to add writing intensive courses (W2) to the curriculum as a graduation requirement, the following guidelines were adopted:
- W2 courses are at the sophomore level or above;
- W2 courses may be used to meet other departmental, area, or general education requirements as appropriate;
- W2 courses should have no more than twenty (20) students; exceptions to this limit are considered by the WAC Director;
- W2 courses must include a minimum of three (3) writing assignments; students should be assigned papers of substantial length (5 pages or more), as appropriate to learning the conventions and practices of the discipline;
- W2 courses may require a variety of writing forms, including formal essays, mathematical proofs, short philosophical arguments, research papers, essay examinations, and so forth;
- Regardless of the type of writing required, the writing process must be ongoing throughout the semester—that is, students must periodically turn in drafts, receive written and oral feedback from the instructor, and have the opportunity to revise their work;
- W2 credit is based on each instructor’s reading of his or her student’s portfolio; each portfolio is read holistically;
- W2 credit is earned only with the successful submission of the required writing and only when that writing shows the student to be proficient in writing;
- Enrollment in and completion of a W2 course does not automatically guarantee receipt of W2 credit;
- Failure to receive W2 credit for any course is not recorded on the student’s transcript;
- The degree of proficiency needed to receive W2 credit is based on those traits of successful writing listed below in “Expectations for the Writing Intensive (W2) Courses,” borrowed (with permission) from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame.
We want to encourage our students to complete at least one writing intensive course in their major. Moreover, we want to encourage them to complete the W2 course in the junior or senior year. The space between completing the W1 requirement and enrolling for W2 requirement should give them an opportunity to develop their writing skills, to acquire content in their discipline, and to develop a stronger motivation for writing well in their discipline.
Expectations for Writing Intensive (W2) Courses
In order to earn W2 credit a student must be able to organize a short paper which articulates and develops an argument. The prose should be grammatically correct, the diction appropriate to the audience and topic, and the sentences well-structured and clear.
- Organization and Coherence. A student who earns W2 credit has demonstrated his or her ability to write fluent, clear, and logical short papers, marshaling the necessary information to respond to a well-structured and clearly explained assignment. The student is able to present this information to an educated audience, simultaneously conveying the student’s viewpoint on the topic.
- Thesis. A student who earns W2 credit has learned to formulate, develop, and summarize a thesis. In the thesis statement the student indicates the direction of the paper and then develops this thesis with supporting illustrations and arguments. The conclusion creates an effective sense of closure that does not simply repeat the thesis.
- Grammatical Correctness. Students who earn W2 credit have demonstrated their ability to proofread their papers and to spell and punctuate properly. Many students, however, continue to have difficulty with these three skills. Every professor, therefore, needs to stress these skills constantly and to offer assistance and encouragement when needed. Among the common grammatical problems a successful W2 student is expected to avoid are fragments, run-on sentences, dangling modifiers, lack of agreement, inconsistent use of tenses, vague pronoun reference, and errors in common usage.
- Diction and Sentence Structure. W2 courses help students to improve their diction and use fairly sophisticated sentence structure. A W2 student learns to choose appropriate words for the assigned audience and topic. In order to be competent writers, students also learn to subordinate their ideas properly through the use of both simple and complex sentences. Sophisticated vocabulary and sentence structure develop over time as the student reads more widely.
Students who receive W2 credit are not always accomplished writers. W2 credit certifies only that they can organize and give expression to a relatively limited body of material in a particular discipline and express a clear opinion about the subject matter. A few students’ writing is outstanding and needs little attention from their other professors. Many students, however, need constant assistance throughout their college career in developing and formulating their ideas, especially as the subject matter of upper-division courses becomes more difficult and assignments demand more sophisticated kinds of analyses. Every teacher in a liberal arts college has a responsibility to develop his or her students’ ability to think critically and to write clearly.
The Portfolio in W2 Courses.
Ideally, the portfolio should contain the following:
- A paper from any point in the semester and its revised version;
- A paper from near the end of the semester, unrevised;
- An in-class writing sample, i.e., essay examination, lab report, and so forth.
Faculty may modify these suggestions as long as the “coaching” of the writing process is ongoing and the student presents a minimum of three writing assignments, one of which must be at least five (5) pages.
Academic Policies for W2 Courses.
To meet the Level 2 writing requirement, a student must receive writing proficiency certification (including earning a grade of C or higher), or W2 credit, in a writing intensive course offered by any department of the College. Writing intensive courses are identified by W2 in the most recent Schedule of Classes.
W2 courses are sophomore-level and above. W2 courses may be used to meet other requirements, as appropriate. W2 credit is not given until a student has completed the Level 1 requirement, and a student may not complete both Level 1 and Level 2 requirements in the same semester.
W2 credit must be completed at Hendrix College. Students may not use credits received from an Advanced Placement exam, an International Baccalaureate exam, or transfer courses to satisfy this requirement.
Completion of the Level 2 requirement is indicated on the student transcript.
W2 Course Designation and Approval Process.
All regularly scheduled courses with the W2 designation must have that designation approved by the Writing Across the Curriculum Committee before the designation can be listed on the schedule of classes. For new courses, the designation can be requested as part of the regular curricular approval process, and the Curriculum Committee contacts the WAC Committee as needed. For existing courses, the designation should be requested directly from the WAC Committee. In either case, approval must have been received before the schedule of courses has been finalized. All sections of an approved course do not have to carry the W2 designation. Once a course has approval for the W2 designation, future sections of the course retain the designation unless the faculty member removes the designation.
Faculty members who want to offer an independent study course with the W2 designation must have that designation approved by the Writing Across the Curriculum Committee before the usual course “add” deadline (one week from the start of classes).
Course Syllabus for W2 Courses.
The syllabus for any course with the W2 designation should explain the assignments required of the student who wants to receive W2 certification (credit) for the course.
Course Enrollment for W2 Courses.
During the first week of classes, professors receive confirmation rosters for all courses. For those courses designated W2, the confirmation rosters also have a section where each student who wishes to receive W2 credit for the course must indicate that intent. Students are reminded on this roster that
- Students cannot add their names to this list after the faculty member has returned the confirmation roster. However, students who add the course before the usual course “add” deadline (one week from the start of classes) may also add their names to the confirmation rosters at that time.
- There is no penalty—i.e., no notation appears on the student transcript if the student does not complete the requirements for W2 credit for this course.
- Students who do not make a C or higher in the course or who later drop the regular class cannot receive W2 credit or the course.
- These rosters are used to generate separate W2 sections for each course. At the end of the semester faculty members report W2 credit on the W2 section roster. For each student on the W2 roster who has completed the W2 requirements for the course, the faculty member chooses the grade CR. All other grades are ignored. Successful completion is noted on the student's transcript and the student’s course history. However, lack of completion is NOT noted on the student's transcript.