How can I get Writing Proficiency?
By getting writing proficiency in two WR or WRi courses, in two different departments. (WR means Writing Certification and WRi means Writing Intensive.)
What's the difference between Writing Certification and Writing Intensive Courses?
At Oberlin College most WRITING CERTIFICATION courses (designated as "WR" in the course catalog) are those in which instructors require a substantial amount of writing but do not devote special attention to writing instruction. WRITING INTENSIVE COURSES (labeled "WRi" in the catalog) are a special category of WR courses. Most First-Year Seminars are Writing Intensive. As in Writing Certification (WR) courses, Instructors of these courses require a substantial amount of writing, but they spend more time discussing student writing in class and in student-teacher appointments. WRi teachers are expected to give students more detailed evaluations of their writing skills than they might receive in other courses, as well as comments on the content of their papers. These teachers are committed to providing writing instruction, not merely through evaluation but also by actively helping students learn the language of the discourse of their fields.
Several papers are usually assigned during a writing intensive course, and a certain amount of rewriting/revision is normally expected. Instructors often use such techniques as class "workshopping" of student writing in progress and group or paired discussion of rough drafts to introduce students to the rhetorical fundamentals of writing in the course's discipline. Peer tutors, trained by the Department of Rhetoric and Composition to discuss writing with students in challenging but non-threatening ways, are available to help WRi course instructors with the task of responding to multiple drafts of student writing.
HOW DOES THE INSTRUCTOR KNOW WHICH STUDENTS IN A WR OR WRi CLASS NEED WRITING PROFICIENCY CREDIT?
Instructors of WR or WRi courses can tell which students need writing proficiency credit by noting the Writing Certification symbol by their names on the grade sheets at the end of the term. Generally it is not necessary for a student to go through any additional procedure to be considered for writing proficiency credit in these courses. However, some instructors will ask interested students to notify them, to follow certain procedures, to do particular assignments, etc.
WHAT AMOUNTS OF WRITING ARE EXPECTED OF WR AND WRi COURSES?
Students should expect to do a minimum of 15 pages of writing in a WR or WRi course. Although some instructors may find it necessary to incorporate the writing component of a course in one big, culminating paper due at the end of the semester, the Department of Rhetoric and Composition recommends that several shorter papers be assigned. Often three 5-8 page papers or several 2-4 page papers leading up to a 10-page paper, for example, can give students a better opportunity to improve their writing skills over the course of a semester. In order to encourage students to see writing as a process of rethinking conceptual content and improving language through revision, the Rhetoric and Composition Committee suggests that instructors count early drafts of any given assignment along with final drafts as part of the writing required for a course.
WHAT KIND OF WRITING IS EXPECTED OF A WR OR WRi COURSE?
WR and WRi courses are expected to give students an opportunity to show that they can write analytical prose that fulfills a clearly defined purpose, with a strong sense of their audience's needs for clarity and consistent use of such writing conventions as spelling, punctuation, grammar, form, and structure.
Typical writing assignments in which it might be possible to demonstrate these abilities include analytical essays, research reports, book reviews, and critical writing of various kinds. Varying the audiences to which different writing assignments are addressed can also be an excellent way of measuring a student's writing ability.
WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF WRITING THAT PASSES THE WRITING REQUIREMENT?
One characteristic of many kinds of proficient writing is its seeming invisibility--when a writer focuses and organizes the ideas of a piece clearly and uses the conventions of grammar and usage well, the reader is freed to concentrate on what is said, without paying undue attention to the writing. Occasionally, however, proficient writing may call attention to itself in good ways, by demonstrating a strong, imaginative use of language. Students whose writing addresses its subject matter analytically and conveys their thinking easily should probably earn writing proficiency in a course.
Determining writing proficiency in WR courses should simply be a short, final step at the end of the term in which an instructor makes a yes or no judgment of whether to record writing proficiency credit for each eligible student. In addition to this process, WRi instructors usually respond in a more detailed way to students' writing, especially earlier in the semester, telling them what they have done well and how they might strengthen their writing.
For further explanation of the characteristics of proficient writing, see Criteria for Writing Proficiency.
HOW ARE WRITING PROFICIENCY AND COURSE GRADES RELATED?
Writing proficiency credit is not automatically dependent on a student's grade for a course. The relation of grades to writing certification is entirely up to the instructor of a given course. In practice, however, it is difficult to conceive of course grades and writing proficiency credit being completely unrelated. In many cases students' facility in writing for a class depends directly on their knowledge of the subject and reflects their understanding of the special language habits of a discipline.
Often students writing A or B papers by the end of the semester are probably proficient writers. To determine the proficiency of students writing C papers (or earning lower grades), instructors will need to decide if the writing apart from the content appears to be fluent and well-controlled or whether the grade reflects difficulties in composition as well as an average knowledge of the course material.
It is possible, however, for a student to make a high grade in a course without demonstrating writing proficiency, or vice versa. An instructor always has the right to make this judgment, and students should not assume that earning high grades entitles them to writing proficiency credit for a course.
For other ways of meeting the Writing Requirement, see Worried?