Writing Competency

Definition of Writing Competency for General Education:

The writing across the curriculum W course requirements are designed to ensure that writing instruction continues after the First Year Writing courses (ENGL 1007, ENGL 1010, ENGL 1011 or ENGL 2011 for Honors). As one of the fundamental ways through which academic disciplines explore, construct, and communicate their various forms of knowledge, writing is an essential component of a university education. The goals of the First Year Writing seminars emphasize the need to “engage students in the work of academic inquiry through the interpretation of difficult texts, [to help them participate in] the issues and arguments that animate the texts, and [to reflect] on the significance for academic and general culture and for themselves of the critical work of reading and writing” (First Year Writing Description 1). The W requirement extends that work to other courses with an emphasis on the significance of writing in individual major fields of study.

W courses should demonstrate for students the relationship between the writing in the course and the content learning goals of the course. Students should not write simply to be evaluated;  they should learn how writing can ground, extend, deepen, and even enable their learning of the course material. In addition then to the general formal questions concerning strategies for developing ideas, clarity of organization, and effectiveness  of expression, and the discipline specific format, evidentiary, and stylistic norms, the W requirement should lead students to understand the relationship between their own thinking and writing in a way that will help them continue to develop both throughout their lives and careers after graduation.

The W requirement can be met in formats other than the standard three-credit course. For example, a department might add a fourth credit to a three-credit course to convert the course to a W; another department might adopt a portfolio assessment mechanism that requires substantial writing over a number of semesters’ work in the major; and another department might organize a series of partial W courses in sequence that when completed would fulfill the W requirement.

The W requirement does not limit writing only to courses with a W designation; the requirement is designed to support and encourage writing instruction throughout the curriculum. Courses without a W designation, for example, still would commonly require that students write papers and essay examinations.

The University Writing Center:

Much of the outside-of-class work involved in writing instruction will be supported by qualified tutors in the University Writing Center at Storrs and the regional campuses. The center, directed by a senior, tenured faculty member with another faculty member as an assistant and a group of graduate student (and in some cases undergraduate) tutors from across the disciplines, will be a clearing house for writing issues throughout the University. The Director of the Writing Center will organize on all campuses faculty development workshops for W course instructors and will be responsible for organizing and supervising the W course instructor orientations/workshops.


W courses normally will be taught by University of Connecticut faculty. When that is not possible, then qualified graduate students may be used to assist faculty in 2000+level W courses or, with faculty supervision, to teach a 1000-level W course.

All new instructors of W courses will be provided with a W course orientation. This orientation will be required of all teaching assistants assigned to assist in a 2000+level or to instruct a 1000-level W course. The orientation will present the W course guidelines and the pedagogical strategies and learning outcomes of the First Year Writing courses in order to provide the institutional context and rationale for the requirement.  Detailed descriptions of the First Year Writing courses and a copy of the writing handbook required of all students in First Year Writing will be distributed at the workshop. All orientation materials will be made available to experienced W course faculty. Supplemental workshops will be offered throughout the academic year. All W course instructors will be invited to those voluntary workshops, which will be designed to support the teaching of writing.

Departmental Responsibility:

1. Each department must submit to GEOC a pedagogically sound plan for all W courses approved for the major.  That plan must include specific courses and a brief rationale for how those courses are central to the major.

2. All plans that involve fulfilling the W requirement within each department (the preferred plan) or that link to courses in other departments must be submitted to the GEOC W course subcommittee for review and the GEOC for final approval.

3. Any changes in previously approved W courses that substantially alter the mode of writing instruction must be submitted to GEOC for review.

4. If a department desires to approve one or more W courses taught in other departments as a part of its own major requirements, the outside departments must agree to such arrangements.

5. Courses at the 1000-level taught by TAs or 2000+level courses with TA help must have a mechanism for TA supervision approved by GEOC.


Courses (and their equivalents) appropriate  for a W designation should:

1. Require that students write a minimum of 15 pages or a minimum of 4500 words, excluding references/works cited pages, that have been revised for conceptual clarity and development of ideas, edited for expression, and proofread for grammatical and mechanical correctness;

2. Address writing in process, require revision, and provide substantial supervision of  student writing. (The structure of revision and supervision may vary, including in-class writing workshops, individual consultation, substantial formative commentary  on drafts, and so on.);

3. Have an enrollment cap of nineteen students per section;

4. Make explicit the relation between writing and learning in the course;

5. Articulate the structure of supervision of student writing;

6. Explain the place and function of revision in the course;

7. Detail how the page requirement will be met;

8. Require that students must pass the writing component in order to pass the course.

NOTE: All of the criteria above (with the exception of #3) should be clearly detailed in the course syllabus for students. Regarding criteria #8 (i.e. the “F Clause”), we suggest the following standard wording: “Students must pass the ‘W’ component of the course in order to pass the course.”

Entry Expectations:

1. First Year Writing placement options for first year students at the University of Connecticut will vary depending upon their incoming qualifications.

Honors: Honors Students may choose English 2011, a three-credit seminar taught by full-time faculty, to fulfill the First Year Writing requirement.

SAT Placement Scores:  Students with Verbal SAT (VSAT) scores of 430 and below are automatically placed in English 1004.  There is no pre-class appeal. Student writing is evaluated after the first week of the term. In rare cases it is possible, based on that writing and with the approval of the Director of First Year Writing, for a student to be moved into an ENGL 1007, 1010, or 1011 section.

Students with VSAT scores of 440-540 have the option to enroll in either ENGL 1004 or ENGL 1007, 1010, or 1011. Student writing is evaluated after the first week of the semester and all inconsistencies brought to the attention of the Director of First Year Writing. At this point a student may be placed in a course more appropriate to his or her writing. All students who remain in English 1004 must pass that course in order to move on to ENGL 1007, 1010, or 1011.

Students with VSAT Scores above 540 have the option to enroll in either ENGL 1007, 1010, or 1011.

2. Connecticut Community College Transfer Students: There is an articulation agreement with each community college that prescribes which two, three-credit community college courses fulfill UConn’s First Year Writing requirement. Four of these six credits count toward the four-credit First Year Writing requirement; the other two credits come in as elective.

3. Transfer students from other Connecticut colleges and from out-of-state:  These students are assessed on a case-by-case basis by the Dean of their school or college. For students in CLAS, please contact Mansour Ndiaye. For students in all other schools and colleges, please consult your advisor for directions on how to request a course substitution. Please note that substitutions for W courses are rare, as courses must fulfill all W criteria and are at the discretion of the school and college Deans or their designees.

Exit  Expectations:

1. All students must take either ENGL 1007, 1010, 1011, or 2011. Students with Advanced Placement English scores of 4 or  5 are exempted from the ENGL 1007/1010/1011/2011 requirement.

2. Additionally, all students must take two writing-intensive courses, one of which must be approved for the student’s major (see Departmental Responsibility above). These courses may also satisfy other Content Area requirements. (Note: ENGL 1007/ 1010/1011/2011 are a prerequisite to all writing-intensive courses.)

3. A writing-intensive course approved for the student’s major does not have any credit-hour restriction, but it is to be at the 2000+level.