Case Studies and Partnerships

Close-up of arms shaking hands.

National research and scholarship indicate that “departmentally-focused implementation” is the best model for WAC. Why? Because department outcomes in student writing are “based on what the faculty believe should be the abilities of students who graduate with a degree in that discipline” (see Anson 108-109, “Assessing Writing in Cross-Curricular Programs: Determining the Locus of Activity.” Assessing Writing 11.2 (2006): 100-112.)

WAC Research at NIU supports this claim, with examples from the School of Nursing (SON) and a grant-funded project that WAC conducted in a Rockford School District science department.

WAC and the Office of Institutional Effectiveness also conducted a longitudinal project that yielded statistically significant differences in writing abilities between undergraduates who took more writing-infused courses related to their majors—and those who didn’t.

Nursing (1999 to present)

  • Faculty asked WAC to consult with them about their baccalaureate curriculum.
  • Faculty incorporated writing in courses throughout their Bachelors’ program.
  • Faculty designed a rubric based on SON baccalaureate learning outcomes and national nursing standards and developed a Nursing Portfolio
  • SON assigned portfolio requirements and oversight to a subcommittee of the Curriculum and Evaluation Committee.
  • The portfolio subcommittee informed students about the portfolio every year, and students collected written work to place in their portfolios.
  • The whole faculty met for two hours each semester to assess 50% of randomly selected portfolios for each B.S. cohort.
  • SON submitted portfolio assessment data as part of its annual and eight-year Program Review.
  • Faculty have done portfolio research, conference presentations, and scholarship that contribute to promotion and tenure.
  • Students have used portfolios to enhance job applications and interviews.

Sample presentation and publications:

WAC-Rockford School District (2005-2011)

  • Grants from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Quality Enhancement, and IBHE’s Promoting Achievement through Literacy Skills helped fund WAC outreach to RSD 205.
  • RSD faculty participated in WAC workshops and credit-bearing courses to implement writing-to-learn (WTL) activities in their curricula.
  • Faculty from Biology, History, Economics, English, and Special Education in Reading participated in a two-year study of implementing and assessing WTL portfolios.
  • Faculty in ninth-grade science enrolled in a course focused on WTL in science and then implemented/assessed WTL portfolios. Matched pre/post-writing tasks demonstrated statistically significant gains.
  • Students who did WTL science portfolios tested significantly higher than students who did no WTL in the school district’s quarterly science exams.

Sample publications:

WAC-University Writing Project (2013-2015)

  • 41 cross-disciplinary NIU faculty did a follow-up study after taking the workshop on Designing a Writing-Infused Course.
  • The faculty used an adapted VALUE Rubric to score and submit 640 junior/senior writing assignments to the University Writing Project.
  • The UWP culled 398 samples from students who took a higher number of courses that assigned out-of-class writing.
  • The UWP asked: Does assigned out-of-class writing help predict UWP scores?
  • The UWP identified three categories of out-of-class writing: in the major; non-major; general education (sorted by Course Activity Documentation, 2012-2015)
  • The UWP used ACT scores as a control variable, finding negligible interaction between ACT scores and all categories of out-of-class writing.
  • Results: Students with low and high ACT scores alike achieved an average of one point higher on the rubric if they took more courses with out-of-class writing in their major.
  • The results prompted NIU to add a baccalaureate requirement of two upper-division, writing-infused courses, preferably in the major, to the requirements for First-Year Composition.

University Writing Center

Research confirms the link between student retention and a strong writing center. Faculty who effectively integrate writing into their their teaching style also know the value of a partnership with their institution's writing center.

NIU's University Writing Center (UWC), located in Founders Memorial Library (room 260), is everyone's best friend in helping undergraduates, graduate students and even faculty to develop drafts into quality writing.

Additional Partners

Contact Us

Bradley Peters
Director of Writing Across the Curriculum