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Writing Intensive Courses at Drexel University

The Writing Intensive (WI) course initiative at Drexel is designed to help students continue to practice writing by giving them opportunities to use writing as a tool for learning, and by introducing them to the writing conventions and practices of particular fields or disciplines.

As a graduation requirement, all Drexel undergraduates must take three WI courses (two of these WI courses must be within their major, the third may be taken in the major or elsewhere). The University Writing Program (UWP) is available to work with departments developing WI proposals, and all proposals are reviewed by the Writing Intensive Course Committee which designates/certifies WI courses through a straightforward, constructive certification process.

WI-Certified courses are identified in the Drexel Course Catalog, and a list of approved WI courses can be found below. Note that all courses are not offered every term. Students who have problems completing the writing intensive graduation requirement should contact their advisers.

WI Course Characteristics

While students use writing in many classes, Writing Intensive (WI) courses are intended to help students learn and practice discipline-specific writing skills. Writing in WI courses should be integrated into the course and situated in a disciplinary context. In particular, WI courses should focus on genres and qualities of writing that students will use in discipline, and/or writing that helps students to practice disciplinary thinking and problem-solving.

The characteristics of Drexel’s WI courses are intended to provide a flexible framework that allows programs and instructors to design courses in which writing is integrated in and emerges from course contexts and program learning goals. There are many ways to use writing productively in a course, and the UWP can work with faculty designing WI courses [Consultation Form]. The UWP's goal is to promote course design that offers valuable learning experiences for students and good, sustainable teaching experiences for faculty.

Disciplinary Writing

  • Students investigate and practice writing and communication that is valued by members of the discipline
  • Writing assignments focus on forms and genres of writing used in the discipline (to help students understand how and why members of the discipline write as they do), or on methods of disciplinary thinking and problem solving (to help students view, use, and present evidence in ways appropriate to the discipline)
  • Writing assignments ask students to take on a clear role and purpose, and write to a relevant audience


  • Writing assignments are designed to promote writing as a process (or emphasize how writing fits into a process of exploring subject matter and communicating the results to others)
  • Writing projects are broken up or scaffolded so that students develop them in stages, and informal writing may be part of the process of working on a larger project
  • Students receive feedback throughout the process (via instructors, teaching assistants, or peer review exercises); feedback prioritizes discipline-specific concerns (faculty are encouraged to take on specific and explicit roles as readers of student writing)

Clear Syllabus and Writing Goals, and Course Time Dedicated to Writing

  • Writing goals that students can achieve during the term are integrated into the course learning goals and articulated on the syllabus
  • Course time is devoted to discussing the qualities of writing students are asked to practice and how they are important to/valued by the discipline
  • Examples of the forms and genres writing practiced in the course are read and discussed

Substantial Writing Element in the Course

  • Course writing amounts to a substantial part of the coursework and grade
  • Specific word counts/assignment lengths are appropriate to the genre/kind of writing practiced, as well as the course design (e.g. a course might focus on repeated practice of a relatively short genre of writing or may focus on developing a longer genre of writing that is important to the discipline)
  • Course writing can include various modes of writing (e.g. informal writing that is aimed at helping students develop and pose topics for larger projects)

Instructor Background and Course Size

  • Courses are taught be instructors (of any rank) who are knowledgeable about writing in the discipline
  • Course size allows for meaningful interaction and feedback about writing/writing projects

WI Certification Process

Writing Intensive Course proposals are reviewed by the Writing Intensive Course Committee, which comprises faculty from across the University as well as members of the University Writing Program. The committee will accept proposals or respond with comments indicating requests for additional information and/or further development or integration of the writing component of the course. Please note:

  • The Writing Intensive Course Committee meets during the Fall, Winter and Spring Quarters, and all courses approved in an academic year will be designated WI, effective the next catalog year.
  • Courses are certified as WI at the catalog level, so programs should only propose courses that will be taught as Writing Intensive each time they are offered.

Writing Intensive Course proposals are designed to be useful tools for articulating the way writing is used in a course and relative to a program’s goals for students, and to help create a history of writing at Drexel. Programs can share proposal documents with new instructors teaching WI courses in order to orient instructors to the course design and writing goals, and the UWP may use proposal documents in research and presentations in order to depict curricular writing activities at Drexel.

The UWP is available to work with faculty designing and proposing WI courses [Consultation Form].

Instructors/programs proposing a course for WI certification should send the following to Dan Driscoll, associate director, University Writing Program, Curricular Initiatives:

1. Proposal letter that identifies the kind of writing taught in the course, how it is important to the discipline, program goals for students and how the course aligns with Writing Intensive Course characteristics.

2. Course syllabus with relevant writing assignment descriptions included or appended

The committee often reads proposals from disciplines they do not have specialized knowledge in, and appreciates when proposals articulate:

  • The qualities of the discipline-specific writing and the contexts in which it might be of use to students
  • How the assignments help students learn and practice the discipline-specific writing, as well as how the writing and the writing process fits into the course context (or is integrated with other learning goals in the course)
  • The instructor’s philosophy and methods for using writing in the course (or how the instructor supports and provides feedback to the student, and activities and aspects of the process that may not be apparent in the syllabus)

WI Recertification Project

Drexel’s Writing Intensive initiative has been in place for over a decade, and the University Writing Program (UWP) will be working with the University to evaluate and recertify of Writing Intensive (WI) courses.

Because the goal of WI courses is to provide students with writing experiences that are situated in a disciplinary context and allow them to learn and practice writing conventions and practices of a particular field or discipline, the UWP will focus recertification at the program level. Recertification is an opportunity for programs to further improve student-writing experiences and will involve:

  • Establishing program goals for student writing (identifying the kinds of writing students should learn and practice in order to meet the objectives of the program, the kinds of writing experiences/knowledge that will be valuable to students after graduation, and/or the kinds of writing that will help students practice and demonstrate discipline-specific thinking and problem solving)
  • Evaluating the extent to which these program goals for student writing are/aren’t met with current WI courses (and other writing experiences for students in the program)
  • Mapping writing experiences to the curriculum in order to meet goals for student writing (which may include revision of current WI courses, proposals for new/different WI courses, and/or decertification of existing WI courses that don’t meet program goals)

The UWP will be available to partner with and advise programs during the recertification process [Consultation Form].

Programs will be able to produce a recertification report that captures the results of this process, which will be useful for curricular planning as well as for future program reviews and accreditation processes.