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Transforming “W” Courses: Projects and Pedagogies Developed in the Writing@UW Fellowship

Members of the Writing Fellows standing together for a photo.


  • Megan Callow, Associate Teaching Professor, English, University of Washington, Seattle campus
  • Rebecca Taylor, Predoctoral Instructor, English, University of Washington, Seattle campus
  • Laura Chrisman, Professor, Nancy K Ketcham Endowed Chair, English, University of Washington, Seattle campus
  • Emily Levesque, Associate Professor, Astronomy, University of Washington, Seattle campus
  • Janine Slaker, Assistant Teaching Professor, Communication, University of Washington, Seattle campus
  • Lucas Meza, Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle campus
  • Anne Searcy, Assistant Professor, Music History, University of Washington, Seattle campus
  • Rachel Chapman, Associate Professor, Anthropology, University of Washington, Seattle campus
  • Yen-Chu Weng, Lecturer Part-Time, Program on the Environment, University of Washington, Seattle campus

Project Description

This project proposal brings together members of the pilot cohort of the Writing@UW Fellowship, which consists of faculty from 8 different disciplines at UW Seattle (Anthropology, Music History, Environmental Studies, Mechanical Engineering, Communication, Astronomy, and English) who seek to transform their “W” courses. (A “W” course satisfies the Additional Writing General Education requirement.) The Writing@UW Fellowship was developed to support W faculty who aspire to leverage writing as a tool for learning, and who also may be navigating some of the challenges associated with teaching W courses, including large class sizes, language diversity of students, differences in students’ experiences and habits, and differences in faculty training and exposure to writing pedagogies.

As part of the fellowship, participants will develop a project that serves as an intensive alteration of or addition to their W course. Projects can take any number of forms, including overhauling an existing assignment sequence, designing a writing-intensive capstone project or course, or designing and implementing a training for TAs of a W course. Since the Fellows’ interventions will not yet be completed at the time of the Teaching & Learning Symposium, for the Teaching & Learning Symposium Writing@UW will provide snapshots of works in progress, including an overview of Fellows’ goals, what they have carried out so far, and some reflections on how their intervention has been going. Project snapshots are published on the Writing@UW website.

Project Question

For their Fellowship projects, W-course faculty inquire about how to assign, support, and assess writing to help students develop critical thinking skills; navigate genres and methods of their discipline; think about how their communicative choices affect and are affected by power and difference; and cultivate students’ agency to choose the most effective modes of expression for specific contexts and audiences. The Writing@UW Fellowship aims to provide a productive and supportive community for accomplishing these objectives.


The context of this proposal is the inaugural Writing@UW Fellowship, whose participants are faculty coming from various disciplines at UW Seattle. These Fellows are united in the fact that they teach at least one W course in their department, but the nature of these W courses (size, learning goals, student profiles, modality, relationship to major) varies widely.


This proposal does not feature one research project, but rather compiles overviews of up to seven different Fellows’ plans for transforming writing instruction. The Fellows are designing their projects through an iterative process of reading, brainstorming, and collaborating. In particular, over Winter quarter, Fellows read and discussed writing pedagogy scholarship with their cohort-mates, met with co-organizers Megan and Rebecca to brainstorm a project plan, and then will be implementing that project in their W course during Spring quarter. For this Symposium presentation, Fellows will describe their courses, the problems they are attempting to solve through their writing pedagogy, and any successes or lessons they may have learned so far. Check out their projects on the Writing@UW web site!


The Writing@UW Fellowship is designed to foster a community of practice in which faculty members grapple with teaching writing, together building a shared understanding of some of the transdisciplinary aspects of writing pedagogy while also deepening their understanding of the ways that writing can support learning in their own fields. By exploring resources, scholarship, and practices that are grounded in equity, these Fellows will contribute to UW’s campus-wide commitments to DEIJA. In particular, Fellowship organizers will not only highlight the ways that writing can transform, liberate, and include, but also how writing has long and lingering histories of oppression. Participants will consider the ways that their W course can encourage seeing language diversity as an asset, not a liability, as they develop strategies for antiracist assessment.

Impact of the interventions that Fellows design will take time to measure (the full successes of Fellows’ projects may not be fully clear until the end of Spring quarter or beyond). What we can and will share in this Symposium, however, are some of the methods by which Fellows will be measuring their impact on student learning. As Writing Studies scholarship shows, the best assessment practices build in cycles of self-assessment and incorporate student feedback so instructors can understand the ways their pedagogical approaches were effective, and the needs for adjustment.


Through their participation in this Fellowship, we will encourage participants to become ambassadors of writing in their respective departments and programs, assisting other disciplinary writing instructors and TAs in the development of pedagogies that support student learning through writing. Our participation in this Symposium will kickstart our snowball-approach to ambassadorship because it will enable us to advertise the Fellowship (enticing, we hope, future applicants), while also publicizing some of the other aspects of the growing culture of writing on campus (e.g., the recently revised guidelines for teaching W courses, and the Strategies for Implementing Writing modules on the Writing@UW web site). In the immediate term, our presentation will share concrete strategies for assigning discipline- or context-specific writing with other faculty who may teach W courses of their own, or who wish to enrich their own writing instruction.

Additional Resources

We hope W-course faculty at UW Seattle will consider applying for the Writing@UW Fellowship in a future year!

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