Writing about Writing (WAW), is a method or theory of teaching composition which puts emphasis on reading and writing about writing in the writing course, and reimagines first-year composition as an “introduction to writing studies.” This is not to say WAW only teaches a first-year writing course as if it were an introduction to a writing major, but rather it advocates merging the how of writing with its practice. An introduction course to a writing major has both a different audience and purpose than a first-year composition course framed in WAW. The development of WAW is largely credited to Elizabeth Wardle, University of Central Florida, and Douglas Downs, Montana State University, after the publication of their 2007 article “Teaching about Writing, Righting Misconceptions.”
A relatively new area of first-year composition, WAW continues to emerge and change as it gains recognition by academics and composition scholars.
— Wikipedia contributors, “Writing about Writing,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Writing_about_Writing&oldid=620296821 (accessed September 29, 2014).
Here’s a syllabus I used in the summer of 2012 for an upper-level course in “theory and practice of expository writing” at Hunter College, part of the City University of New York:
miller – 2012 summer – english 301 – composite syllabus (no contract)
On the WAW network Ning in 2014, instructors had a conversation about pilot programs implementing WAW approaches. With the contributors’ permission, we have copied and pasted the initial post and–in the comments–the replies.
Hi. I’m new here. We are heading into the fourth semester of a small, informal WAW pilot at Hunter College. For two semesters, I was the pilot. Now we are three teachers and next semester we will be at least four.
So far it’s been bottom-up and horizontal, run mostly below the school’s radar by a grad student and adjuncts, with support from WPAs who see us as an interesting experimental model.
We are thinking about issues like common course elements and goals, recruiting other adjuncts to do a kind of teaching that we know requires more work for no extra pay, and formulating programmatic assessments that move beyond rubric-based essay or portfolio readings so we avoid the negative washback effects and unanticipated misuses of information we generate, so that our assessment can deeply benefit our teaching.
We haven’t thought about “threshhold concepts” as such; but we agree with Liz Clark’s 2010 argument that we face a “digital imperative” so this semester we all taught paperless classes that included website portfolios and movie essays. Rhetoric feels important too: we all taught some classic rhetoric and some visual rhetoric, even as we learn it ourselves.
Wardle and Roozen’s goal of teaching to promote “rhetorical dexterity (Carter, 2008) across boundaries and in multiple contexts.” (111-12) feels like a powerful touchstone.
Anyhow, I’d love to talk here or directly at smolloy at hunter dot cuny dot edu.
On the WAW network Ning in 2011, instructors had a conversation about how to help students read scholarly articles. With the contributors’ permission, we have copied and pasted the initial post and–in the comments–the replies.
I’m in the process of meeting w/ and preparing a group of 9 of our part-time faculty here to pilot WAW in spring 2012. (It will be piloted in our second semester comp course.)
The one question I’m getting consistently, that I am currently unable to answer is about supporting students with the readings. I know Barb Bird has done a good deal of work on this and I’m sure others of you have as well. I’d benefit from seeing handouts, hearing about your approach, and advice on supporting instructors in their approaches!
(To read the replies, scroll below or click on “Comments,” above.)