What Is WID?

What is Writing in the Disciplines?

What is WID? “Writing to Learn” and “Learning to Write”

WID is grounded in the insights of the Writing-Across-the-Curriculum movement, which sees writing not merely as a medium for communicating preconceived ideas, but as a mode of learning in and of itself. From this view, students in all disciplines will benefit from opportunities to “write to learn” – to generate and explore ideas through writing – as they grapple with challenging new concepts and problems. At the same time, each disciplinary community has its unique conventions and practices that govern knowledge-making and communication. As a result, teachers in these fields – the expert insiders – are well placed to develop and implement activities to attune students to those conventions as they “learn to write” in the disciplines.

From the LAC (Literacy-Across-the Curriculum) workshops of the late 1980s and early 1990s, to the more recent LEAP (Linking English and Programs) sessions, the Dawson community has maintained an interest in literacy-oriented pedagogy, via theoretical discussions among teachers and in practical, in-the-classroom applications. 

Interested in getting involved?  Find out about the Faculty Writing Fellows, departmental and program-focused WID workshops, and the annual WID Spring Institute.  Or, contact WID Co-directors Anne Thorpe (ext.1628) and Ian MacKenzie (ext.1313) or one of the other members of the WID Working Group: Leanne Bennett (Associate Dean of Social Science and Business Technologies), Ben Lander (History), Lisa Steffen (History).

To see what WAC/WID programs look like at other colleges and universities across North America, browse some of the institutions on our Links page.

WID Spring Institute: Qs & As

What’s the WID Spring Institute all about?

The idea is to give teachers a quick opportunity to rethink the way they approach writing in their courses.  So much of what we do is communication-intensive — and yet we don’t always have the time or support to develop intentional approaches to how we deploy writing in our courses.  So, from assignment design through informal writing activities to evaluation practices, we’ll look at a spectrum of  writing-related topics.  A two-day workshop is intensive, but the collaborative format, which brings together diverse faculty and some previous WID Writing fellows, will provide plenty of structure.  We guarantee it will be stimulating and fun!  There is an emphasis on tangible, practical outcomes, so that along with each bit of theory, we’ll have a specific activity that leads to a useful take-away for teachers. 

Where did the idea originate?

In May of 2012, members of the WID Working Group visited our colleagues in the WID program at the University of Vermont in Burlington.  We participated in two days of their four-day Summer Insitute, which has been a feature of UVM’s WID program for almost a decade.   Fifteen faculty from across UVM departments gather for an intensive workshop on creating explicit learning objectives for writing, designing effective assignments, and choosing approaches to feedback and evaluation.  The UVM WID Institute strikes a nice balance between group discussion of WAC/WID pedagogy, and activities that develop new approaches and materials for courses that participants are currently teaching.

The conclusion we drew from our experience? We decided to grow our own Institute.  The intensive format offers a nice complement to the Faculty Writing Fellows, which requires a committment to participate over a whole semester — a committment that not everyone is able to make.

Who should sign up?

Both new and experienced faculty are welcome, as well as groups from departments/programs interested in working on broader objectives that touch on writing and critical thinking.  Teachers do not need a full course load to do the SI, which makes  it a good option for recent day-time hires and Cont-Ed teachers.




What about the timing — aren’t you concerned that people might be tired and ready to jump-start their summer?

Of course, we’re primed for summer.   But we also believe that a two-day crack at some fresh ideas, collegialty, and good food and drink is an attractive way of ending the semester on an up note.  For those  who want a chance to think about changes for upcoming Fall courses without the pressure to make decisions and start course planning right away, the Spring Institute fits the bill.

What have SI participants said about their experience?

“Very inspiring and much needed at a time when I am reflecting on the past semester and evaluating how I can improve my practice.”

“…immensely positive for me.  I leave here with loads of extra material – and stimulating ideas, fresh insight – and having met new people from many disciplines.”

“Very good experience.  I have many ideas or “pistes de solution” that I will try in class.  Very useful to exchange with teachers from different departments.”

“Incredibly positive…  I enjoyed the setting, our colleagues across the college, the amenities and user-friendly materials…Would do it again in a heartbeat.”

When is the 2015 WID Spring Insitute, and how can I register?

The 2015 SI takes place Wednesday, June 3 and Thursday, June 4, from 9.30-4 pm.  To register, just send a brief message to Ian MacKenzie.  The deadline to register is Monday, May 25.

WID SI 2014: (Standing) Robin Simmons, Anne Thorpe, Rebecca Million, Ian MacKenzie, Ivan Freud, Francis Lardy, Julie Andrews. (Seated) Marie-Pierre Gosselin, Michelle Braiden, Selma Hadami, Madelaine Cote.

WID SI 2014: (Standing) Robin Simmons, Anne Thorpe, Rebecca Million, Ian MacKenzie, Ivan Freud, Francis Lardy, Julie Andrews. (Seated) Marie-Pierre Gosselin, Michelle Braiden, Selma Hamdani, Madelaine Cote.




Image credit: Colored pencils – Nohan, Creative Commons