Troubleshooting Assignment Designs


As many instructors know, it can be difficult to know how well-developed a writing assignment is, how clearly the prompt is written, and how students will respond to the project, especially when the assignment is brand new.  Soliciting feedback from colleagues, writing specialists, or students can be an effective method of developing prompts, but instructors aren’t always able to take advantage of that opportunity.  Continue reading

The Meaningful Writing Project

Fenwick Library

Developing good writing assignments is a complicated task, one not simplified by the multiple ways in which students sometimes interpret them.  Instructors often find themselves asking: Are my instructions clear?  Do they align with the course’s learning objectives?  And perhaps most important, will my students find this project engaging?  Michelle Eodice, Anne Ellen Geller, and Neal Lerner can’t provide the answers to all of these questions, but their research is helping us to understand what a “meaningful” writing assignment might be for students.  Continue reading

Designing High-Impact Writing Assignments

College of Science

We often think of writing as a tool that prompts deep learning, but we don’t always talk about how to use writing assignments to realize this goal.  That might let us assume that assigning any kind of writing will lead to deep learning, or it might prompt us to wonder if there are particular practices that promote this goal more than others.  According to research by Paul Anderson, Chris Anson, Robert Gonyea, and Charles Paine, the answer is the latter: the quality of the assignment design has a greater impact on learning than the amount of writing students are asked to compose. Fortunately, their research has begun to uncover several high impact practices that instructors can use to design writing assignments across the curriculum. They describe these practices as follows:  Continue reading

Preparing for Writing After College: The Archives of Workplace Writing Experiences Project


Throughout the course of the school year, faculty members at universities across the country assign a plethora of writing assignments. Whether for an English, Chemistry, or Art History class, professors understand the importance of teaching college students how to write well, not only for the sake of the students’ academic career, but also for their professional careers as well. Upon graduation, however, many students are finding themselves unprepared to write for their new jobs, which means they might not be successfully transferring what they have learned about writing in college to the workplace. This lack of transfer presents a real challenge for faculty members, who find themselves asking: how do we better prepare students for writing in the workplace? Part of the solution, according to Professors Brian Fitzpatrick of George Mason University and Jessica McCaughey of George Washington University, is for faculty and students to better understand the expectations of writers in the workplace, so the two researchers teamed up to explore the numerous types of writing professionals produce in the workplace.

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WAC Presents an Evening with Laura Micciche


Writing Across the Curriculum is proud to sponsor “Partners on the Page,” a special event at George Mason’s annual Fall for the Book festival featuring an evening with author Laura Micciche as she showcases the power of partnerships in the writing community and the genre of written acknowledgments.

Partners on the Page will take place on Thursday, October 12 at 4:30pm on the 3rd floor of the Johnson Center in Meeting Room G.

WAC is also excited for our partner’s event, “Research in Rhetoric: Digital, Visual and Archival Methods.” The George Mason University chapter of the Society for Technical Communication brings Dr. Douglas Eyman, Dr. Laurie Gries, and Dr. Jennell Johnson together for a panel discussion about research methods in the fields of rhetoric, composition, and communication.

Research in Rhetoric will take place in Meeting Room G of the Johnson Center at 6:00pm following the Partners on the Page presentation.

Don’t miss these two great, back-to-back events!

Fall for the Book runs from October 11th – 14th. Find more information about the many incredible authors coming to campus at

Mason’s WAC Program Ranks Again!


For the 16th consecutive year, Mason’s Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) program has been ranked among the best writing in the disciplines programs in the US by US News and World Reports. In spring 2017, US News invited college presidents, chief academic officers, deans of students and deans of admissions from more than 1,500 schools to nominate up to 10 institutions with stellar examples of writing in the disciplines. Mason was once again included in the final listing.

Mason’s WAC program supports the efforts of faculty across the curriculum to make student writing a priority in course work for the major. Established in 1993, WAC was designed to develop students’ understanding of the writing in their disciplines, as well as their ability to communicate as professionals within their respective fields. The program fosters a number of ideals, but the core of the program advocates that students should have frequent opportunities to write in diverse contexts and for diverse audiences, to receive feedback, and to engage in revision strategies. This foundation helps students to think more creatively and critically, engage more deeply in their learning, and transfer their learning from context to context.

The list of educational institutions ranked by US News and World Reports includes Brown, Cornell, Duke, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and several others.

Congratulations to Mason WAC!

To see the listings, go to:

Introducing the new Stearns Center!


The Writing Across the Curriculum Program is excited to welcome the new Stearns Center to the Mason community!

August 29th saw the opening of the brand new Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning, a merging of the Office of Digital Learning and the Center for Teaching and Faculty Excellence. Located in Innovation Hall, the Stearns Center brings together resources and services for faculty and graduate students looking to develop their teaching methods with the latest developments in teaching and digital learning. The Center will host weekly open labs, collaboration spaces for faculty to utilize the same technology available in their classrooms, and allows teachers to research, experiment, and learn new skills to better serve their students.

Learn more about the many incredible resources the Stearns Center can offer faculty and students:

Technology Access and Use in Writing Intensive Courses

By Bree McGregor, December 17, 2015

Part 1: Introduction

The National Council of Teachers of English describes digital literacy as “proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology” (The NCTE definition, 2013), which include utilizing a networked, social approach to designing, sharing, analyzing, and synthesizing information, and the application of ethical considerations that such complex environments require. At George Mason University, we strive to embody an innovative spirit at institutional and programmatic levels: Continue reading

The Prevalence of Low Stakes Writing and Writing-to-Learn Activities in WI Courses

By Rachael Lussos

What is Low Stakes Writing, and Why is it important?

Low stakes writing and writing-to-learn activites (see table 1) include assignments such as in-class writing exercises, ungraded activities, and reflective writing opportunites. Table 1 poses the characteristics of low stakes and writing-to-learn activites in contrast to high stakes writing activites, which includes assignments like independent research and scientific papers, essay exams, and writing assignments that carry a high percentage of a final grade. Continue reading