wp home > junior year writing > sourcebook for instructors > basic expectations
Expectations for Junior-Year Writing Courses at UMass Amherst
The purpose of the Junior-Year Writing Program is to give students the opportunity to improve their skills in advanced, discipline-specific writing. These courses strive to meet both the “learning to write” and “writing to learn” goals of the broader international and national “Writing Across the Curriculum” (WAC) movement of which our 1982 JYW initiative was a part. To this end, departments and JYW instructors exercise a great deal of freedom and creativity in designing their courses.
Students can become more adept writers when they are asked to write in a variety of intellectual contexts; for that reason, junior-year writing assignments ask students to write in multiple genres and for diverse purposes and audiences. Teachers can encourage such writing by asking students to develop professional writing portfolios that contain samples of documents that reflect discipline-specific expectations for genre, style, and correctness.
The University Writing Committee approves all new and significantly changed JYW courses according to the expectations listed below. To request approval for a new or changed course, departmental representatives or instructors should read about the course criteria below and then submit a proposal for a new or changed course.
1. Assignments. A junior-year writing course asks students to complete multiple writing assignments that reflect writing valued in the discipline or profession; these assignments should total at least 20-25 pages of finished prose writing. It’s recommended that courses avoid the “term paper” model in which students’ writing efforts are poured into one large assignment at the end of the semester. Rather, students can benefit from having multiple opportunities to think about, draft, and revise over several weeks.
2. Drafting, Feedback, & Revision. Writing is improved through practice; for this reason, major writing assignments should ask students to draft, give and receive feedback, and revise.
Drafting. Students should write drafts of the major assignments; drafting can help since one’s writing can get messy when an assignment asks one to grapple with new or difficult concepts in the discipline. Informal, low-stakes writing (e.g., brief in-class responses, discussion board posts) can help students learn course content and develop writing fluency. And writing drafts of formal, “high stakes” writing (e.g., academic essays, proposals, lab reports) can help students develop and effectively communicate their ideas.
Feedback. Students should also get responses on the major assignments from the teacher and from other students and, based on these responses, revise at least once.
From teachers. Students benefit most when an instructor offers feedback on global writing issues (e.g., clarity, focus, development, critical thinking, organization) before turning to grammar and mechanics issues that do not impede meaning.
With peers. Students benefit most from peer reviews in which they share drafts of their writing, give feedback, and reflect critically on each other’s writing. It is an important source of mutual help in which students can become more aware of strengths, areas needing improvement, and their writing options.
Revision. After receiving these comments, students should be required to revise and edit their writing. Revision can help students clarify their understanding of course content and also further develop and polish their writing.
3. Access to Writing Handbook. All writers need access to print or on-line writing reference resources. Students in JYW courses who took College Writing their first year at UMass will have purchased a print reference book which could be used for the JYW course as well.
4. Class Size. Because good writing-intensive courses require active learning, interaction, and individualized feedback from instructors, classes should be small. An enrollment of 15-20 students is recommended, with no more than 25 students per section.
1. Information Literacy. Learning to do advanced writing in a discipline also means learning how to find and cite appropriate sources in the discipline. As students advance in their major, they need to learn how to access and make effective use of the literature of their field. They need to become familiar with the indexing databases, reference sources, search strategies, and citation styles used in their major and in their future professions. Junior Year Writing courses should give some attention to discipline-specific information literacy which encompasses the ability to recognize when information is needed and how to locate, evaluate, and effectively use information in writing and other contexts. Students should also understand the ethical issues pertaining to the use of and citations to sources of information in their field. The Junior Year Writing Program partners with UMass Libraries in this effort.
2. Career Development. Professional development elements (e.g., resumé writing, oral presentation skills, etc.) may be incorporated into the syllabus as a way to add value to the course and give students an opportunity to plan ahead for their careers. (Click here for information on how Career Services can help with this aspect of JYW.)
Updated May 3, 2013