Pilot of New Criteria for Second Writing Requirement Courses

The Committee on Educational Policy and the Curriculum (CEPC) has approved a curricular pilot in the College which allows Second Writing Requirement (SWR) courses to use either (1) the existing SWR criteria or (2) the new writing-enhanced (WE) criteria. The College is encouraging the pilot of the new WE criteria because the criteria are designed specifically to develop students’ writing proficiency and deepen students’ engagement with learning in SWR courses.

Read on for information about both options and guidance on the new review process, required for all new SWR courses. Please note: faculty seeking a new SWR designation must specify to the CEPC which criteria they plan to use for their SWR course.

Regardless of the criteria used, all SWR courses must be taught in the College of Arts and Sciences, in order to fulfill the CAS requirement. Exception: If a student took an otherwise qualifying course in another School of the University of Virginia before transferring into the College, the course will satisfy the SWR.

Step 1: Two Options to Meet SWR Course Requirements


Option One: Existing SWR Criteria 

Courses using the existing SWR Criteria to meet the SWR must adhere to the following:

  1. Be designated as appropriate for the development of writing skills;
  2. Have at least two writing assignments totaling 20 pages or more;
    1. Assignments must be written in English
    2. Blue books, quizzes, and exams do not count.
  3. Have a student/instructor ratio no greater than 30/1;
    1. Teaching Assistants may be counted as instructors, but graders may not.

For additional information about restrictions: https://college.as.virginia.edu/competency-requirements

Option Two:  New WE Criteria

Courses using the new WE criteria to meet the SWR must adhere to the following:

  1. One major learning objective for the course must be the development of student writing, which  is reflected in the final course grade.
  2. Multiple writing assignments are sequenced and distributed over the course of the semester.
    • Students should write a minimum of 15-20 double-spaced pages (or the equivalent in word-dominant multimodal projects), which may include both drafts and final versions of assignments.
    • Of this total, at least 10 double-spaced pages should be finished, polished writing.
  3. Students are required to revise at least 1 longer assignment based on feedback from the instructor and/or peers. This longer assignment should be developed through some type of multi-step drafting process.
  4. The course provides writing instruction and repeated opportunities to discuss and practice writing.

For  more information and suggestions for criterion #4, please check out the detailed WE Criteria Guidelines.

Step 2: Review Process for All SWR Courses

Any course seeking a new SWR designation (regardless of the criteria) will be reviewed by a University committee of faculty, chaired by the Director of Writing Across the Curriculum (T. Kenny Fountain). This SWR committee would offer advice to the instructor proposing the course and input to the CEPC Executive Committee concerning the proposed course’s alignment with the criteria chosen.

Before submitting a CCI form, instructors or department staff must complete the following questionnaire and upload a copy of their course syllabus and weekly schedule. By answering these questions, instructors will specify which criteria their SWR course will use and briefly explain how the course will incorporate each component of the criteria. Before submitting the questions, instructors will be asked to attach their syllabus and weekly schedule.

Here is a link to the questions: https://virginia.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_dmUWaAbh1pZB46p

The SWR committee consists of the Director and the Associate Director of WAC (T. Kenny Fountain and Heidi Nobles), as well as at least one faculty member with disciplinary expertise in line with the SWR-seeking course. This faculty member will be called upon to review materials related to their disciplinary orientation. For example, a faculty member in the sciences would be asked to review the materials for a SWR-seeking course in the sciences.

The SWR committee will review the syllabus, weekly schedule, and the completed questionnaire. The committee will create a brief (1-page maximum) recommendation that will be sent to the CEPC Executive Committee. The decision to grant any course a SWR designation will rest solely with the CEPC; the SWR review committee’s role is advisory.

If you have questions about this process or would like someone to review your materials before you submit them, contact T. Kenny Fountain at tkf3bb@virginia.edu.

Why Consider the New WE Criteria ?

The purpose of the Second Writing Requirement (SWR) is to build on the experiences of UVA’s First Writing Requirement in order to improve students’ writing abilities. However, this existing SWR criteria are insufficient to ensure that SWR courses actually foster the development of student writing. For example, the existing SWR criteria presupposes that requiring students to produce longer papers improves their writing. However, there is no empirical evidence to support this supposition. Instead, Anderson, Anson, Gonyea, & Paine’s (2015) findings, which are supported by the studies listed below, suggest that requiring students to write fewer but longer papers with no revision or feedback has far less impact that requiring students to write shorter papers guided by a multi-step drafting process that includes revision and feedback.

Evidence-Based Practices to Develop Student Writing

More specifically, the existing SWR criteria fail to include the following key evidence-based practices proven to develop students’ written abilities:

  1. Inclusion of deliberate, focused practice in writing through multiple occasions to write (Kellogg & Whiteford, 2009; Graham, Harris, & Chamber, 2017; Klein, Arcon, & Baker, 2017)
  2. Incorporation of some type of multi-step drafting process for major writing assignments (Galbraith & Baaijen, 2018; Sommers, 1980; Zimmerman & Kitsantas, 2002)
  3. Opportunities to revise one’s writing in response to meaningful feedback (Anderson, Anson, Gonyea, & Paine, 2015; MacArthur, 2017; Traxler & Gernsbacher, 1993)
  4. Guidance and instruction that models ways of writing and thinking students are expected to develop (Santiago, Harris, & Graham, 2017; Thaiss & Zawacki, 2006).

The WE criteria are designed to make it easier for SWR courses to incorporate these practices.

What Resources Are Available to SWR Instructors?  

T. Kenny Fountain, the Director of Writing Across the Curriculum, and Heidi Nobles, the Associate Director, work with faculty, departments, and schools seeking to foster students’ writing abilities, promote students’ learning through writing, and develop writing-enhanced courses in their majors and minors. We offer the following resources:

  1. Consultations: one-on-one or group meetings on course-specific or curriculum-level strategies.
  2. Workshops: sessions focused on practical suggestions for incorporating writing into any course. Topics include:
    • responding to student writing and managing the paper load
    • structure peer review sessions (in class or out of class)
    • incorporating the new WE criteria into your SWR course
    • guiding students in writing with sources
    • offering forms of writing instruction and guidance that fit inside a content-heavy course.
  3. Faculty Seminar on the Teaching of Writing: a four-day seminar offered to faculty from across UVA.
  4. Graduate Instructor Seminar on the Teaching of Writing: a four-day seminar designed for graduate students teaching writing in schools across UVA. (A partnership with the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs)

If you have questions about workshops or to arrange a consultation, email T. Kenny Fountain.


Anderson, P., Anson, C., Gonyea, R., & Paine, C. (2015). The contributions of writing to learning and development: Results of a large-scale multi-institutional study. Research in the teaching of English, 50(2), 199-235.

Beaufort, A. (2007). College writing and beyond: A new framework for university writing instruction. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press.

Blakeslee, A., Hines, S., Primeau, S., McBain, A., Versluis, J., & McCaffery, R. (2018). Reading and writing in nursing education. Journal of nursing education and practice, 8(6), 56-65.

Carter, M. (2007). Ways of knowing, doing, and writing in the disciplines. College composition and communication, 58(3), 385-418.

Galbraith, D., & Baaijen, V. (2018). The work of writing: Raiding the inarticulate. Educational psychologist, 53(4), 238-257.

Goldschmidt, M. (2014). Teaching writing in the disciplines: Student perspectives on learning genre. Teaching & learning inquiry, 2(2), 25-40.

Goldschmidt, M. (2017). Promoting cross-disciplinary transfer: A case study in genre learning. In J.Moore & R. Bass (Eds.), Understanding writing transfer: implications for transformative students learning in higher education (122-130). Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Graham, S., Harris, K., & Chambers, A. (2017). Evidence-based practice and writing instruction: A review of reviews. In MacArthur, S. Graham, & J. Fitzgerald (Eds.), Handbook of Writing Research (211-226). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Hilgers, T., Hussey, E. L., & Stitt-Bergh, M., (1999). “As you’re writing, you have these epiphanies”: What college students say about writing and learning in their majors. Written communication, 16(3), 317-353.

Lindenman, C. (2015). Inventing metagenres: How four college seniors connect writing across domains. Composition forum, 31. http://compositionforum.com/issue/31/inventing-metagenres.php

Kellog, R., & Whiteford, A. (2009). Training advanced writing skills: The case for deliberate practice. Educational psychologist, 44(4), 250-266.

Klein, P., Arcon, N., & Baker, S. (2017). Writing to learn. In C. MacArthur, S. Graham, & J. Fitzgerald (Eds.), Handbook of Writing Research (243-256). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Klein, P. & Boscolo, P. (2011). Trends in research on writing as a learning activity. Journal of writing research, 7(3), 311-350.

Kuh, G. (2008). High-impact educational practices. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

MacArthur, C. (2017). Instruction in evaluation and revision. In C. MacArthur, S. Graham, & J. Fitzgerald (Eds.), Handbook of Writing Research (272-287). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Soliday, M. (2011). Everyday genres: Writing assignments across the disciplines. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Sommers, N. (1980). Revision strategies of student writers and experienced adult writers. College, composition, & communication, 31(4), 378-388.

Stratchen, W. (2008). Writing-intensive: Becoming W-faculty in a new writing curriculum. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press.

Thaiss, C., & Zawacki, T. (2006). Engaged writers, dynamic disciplines: Research on the academic writing life. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.

Traxler, M., & Gernsbacher, M. (1993). Improving written communication through perspective-taking. Language and cognitive processes, 8(3), 311-334.

Zimmerman, B., & Kitsantas, A. (2002). Acquiring writing revision and self-regulatory skill through observation and emulation. Journal of educational psychology, 94(4), 660-558.