The Writing About Writing Network (WAWN) is an informal community of teachers, researchers, and institutions interested and/or active in developing writing-about-writing approaches to college-level composition and rhetoric courses, especially First-Year Composition (FYC). There is a wide range of what such approaches might look like in practice; this site, and WAWN more generally, aims to facilitate the sharing of resources and the exchange of conversation about what works and why.
A Definition of WAW
Doug Downs, in the introduction to a 2010 WPA-CompPile research bibliography on the subject, offers this definition:
Writing-about-writing (WAW) curricula have students study and sometimes perform disciplinary research in writing studies in order to build procedural and declarative knowledge about and experience with writing with an eye toward maximizing transfer of knowledge from writing courses to new writing situations. By helping students use writing-studies scholarship to (re)construct knowledge about writing, writers, writing processes, discourse, textuality, and literacy, WAW aligns a writing course’s object of study—writing—with its read and written content, the research of the field of writing studies. Teachers and students pose questions about these subjects and read articles that address them. Students write a variety of genres that facilitate reflection on their literacy experiences and help them put readings in conversation with each other and in some cases conduct original research on their own questions about writing.
WAW approaches to writing instruction are predicated on the effectiveness of declarative knowledge about procedural knowledge, and mindfulness of that knowledge, in facilitating transfer (see Beaufort), so transfer research is a major area of study in the effectiveness of WAW pedagogies. The pedagogy also hopes to change students’ awareness and conceptions of writing as an activity that can be and has been studied empirically, and on which expertise can be gained, so research is currently focusing on these effects of the pedagogy as well.
History of WAWN
Annual meetings of WAWN members have been held since 2006 at the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), initially under the auspices of the “FYC as Introduction to Writing Studies” Special Interest Group (SIG) of CCCC. The SIG became a CCCC Standing Group following the creation of that category in Fall 2010, now under the name “Writing About Writing Development Group.”
Annual meetings are issues-and-problems workshops, and are open to any interested teachers of writing. The agenda is loosely set by a Steering Committee led by co-coordinators on staggered 3-year terms as per the group’s bylaws, but this agenda is generally modified to match the concerns of those present at the meeting. (For more information on annual meetings, see this recent CCCC proposal.)
This site represents the most recent effort to provide a central hub for keeping up to date on all things WAW. Previous projects include a static website, a Ning site private to members, and a listserv. A WAWN Newsletter was launched in Spring 2011; back issues are archived here under the Newsletter tab.
The mission of the Writing About Writing Development Group is as follows:
- To share information, resources, and approaches that facilitate our ongoing WAW efforts in our own classes and institutions;
- To advocate for WAW approaches to writing instruction with interested or curious parties;
- To support professional and program development for instructors and WPAs implementing WAW approaches in their classes and institutions; and,
- To encourage, support, collaborate on, and disseminate WAW-related research.