First-Year Writing Courses at UVA: Goals & Practices

First-Year Writing at UVA

Goals and Practices

What are the goals of first-year writing at UVA?

  • To offer students a course in which the focus is primarily on their own writing and its rhetorical possibilities.
  • To engage students in writing as an act of critical inquiry—a process wherein they represent and engage with the ideas of others, test ideas of their own, explore uncertainty, and discover what they think on the page or screen.
  • To assist students in writing with insight, precision, and nuance as they analyze and respond to texts from a variety of rhetorical contexts.
  • To foster students’ ability to evaluate their own writing and that of their peers, so that they learn to read closely and revise wisely.
  • To help students engage in and reflect on contemporary forms of rhetorical expression, including oral and digital communication.

Why are these our goals?

  • Studies of writing pedagogy have long shown that the most effective way for students to develop as writers is through continual practice, accompanied by encouraging and detailed response to their work.
  • Different disciplines hold different conceptions of effective writing, but all disciplines pursue critical inquiry in which participants explore, examine, and question.
  • Students need to respond with insight, precision, and nuance to what they read, encounter, or observe to develop as writers and thinkers in college and beyond.
  • Becoming a mature, discerning writer requires an ability to evaluate writing—both one’s own and that of others—from many perspectives, anticipating how diverse readers might respond.
  • Entering the university at a moment of profound diversification of literate practices, students benefit from opportunities to represent their ideas in speech and in digital forms of communication.

These goals are supported by the following practices:

  • Teachers give student writers the opportunity to write in or out of class every week of the semester. While teachers need not respond individually to every assignment, they frequently share and discuss examples of student work in class.
  • Teachers design their courses to explore problems, issues, or questions related to writing as well as to the subject at hand. Readings (generally limited to 50 pages per week) are selected to develop the inquiry and/or model the kind of writing that student writers are asked to perform.
  • Teachers include at least three writing projects or activities of roughly 1,000 – 1,500 words each, with opportunities for student writers to revise initial drafts by the end of the term.
  • Teachers arrange for student writers to engage in self-evaluation and peer review of each other’s work periodically throughout the term.
  • Teachers include activities that help develop student writers’ facility with oral presentation (perhaps by leading discussion or by sharing their research for an upcoming project) and with digital rhetoric (perhaps by creating a multimodal text or assembling a digital portfolio).