Writing Across the Curriculum in Discipline Subjects

Winnie CHENG
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong
winnie.cheng@polyu.edu.hk

Abstract

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University has a strong English support programme in which students study reading and writing skills related to their discipline areas in their early years of study. These courses are seldom referred to by the professors teaching discipline subjects. The Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) project aims to address the challenges of improving students' academic literacy in the context of their academic subjects by embedding academic reading and writing skills related to their discipline areas in the subject syllabuses and major assessments. Working with discipline subject teachers, the project introduces WAC strategies and activities in three major ways: by designing innovative written assessment tasks that are conducive to effective, critical writing and thinking; by providing scaffolding to help students to plan and structure their writing effectively; and by including feedback not only on the content and grammar but also the rhetorical functions and structural pattern of their writing. Evidence of project effectiveness was obtained from surveys (and assignment analyses). Interviews with students focused on the value the students place on WAC, the impact of the WAC strategies on their knowledge of writing an assignment, their confidence regarding transferring the strategies to other subjects (now or in the future), and changes in the quality of their writing. Interviews with subject teachers focused on their perception of the importance given to academic writing in English, whether such perception has changed during the WAC project, and whether they feel confident/competent regarding becoming a teacher of writing in their own subjects.

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