Started in fall 2005, the Writing Links program combines, or "links," two courses that satisfy General Education Core requirements. One course is always a first-year composition course, either ENG 101 or ENG 102 (see course descriptions). Hence the name, writing link.
The other course comes from a number of different departments and can be either small (~24 students) or large (~50-60 students). In either case, instructors work together to share readings and assignments. The degree of sharing, or "linking," depends on the subject matter, the size of the course, and the instructors' preferences.
Real Writing Context. In any link, small or large, the composition class treats the other class as a real context for writing. The composition instructor can help students understand the demands of writing in a history class, a philosophy class, a geoscience class, or a women's studies class, and use that example to teach students how to adapt to any new writing situation.
Seminar-Sized Links. If the course linked to the composition course is small, or seminar sized, then instructors in both classes have an opportunity to share more assignments, particularly writing assignments. The composition class teaches the process of completing the writing assignments of the other class. The composition class focuses on answering the general question, "How does one write effectively in this particular class?" Students learn strategies for addressing the question and reflect on how to adapt such strategies to new writing situations.
Lecture-Course Links. If the course linked to the composition class is large, there is less opportunity to share writing assignments, because it is harder for instructors in the large lecture courses to assign lots of writing due to increased paper load. However, the composition course still treats the other class as a writing context, asking the same question as above, but using writing more as tool for learning. When linked to a large lecture course, the composition course focuses on the subject and theme of the course, posing the general question, "How can writing be used as a tool for learning and problem solving in this particular class?" Writing assignments, while teaching the writing process, also help students better understand the material of the lecture class.
Linked Learning Communities. In either case, and regardless of the degree of "linked," or shared, assignments, Writing Links put the same group of students in both classes, which leads to a more familiar and comfortable learning environment for students and instructors alike. Since students see the same faces in both classes, a learning community forms, with more friendships and study groups occurring than in non-linked classes.
Convenient Scheduling. The links program also tries to make scheduling more convenient, arranging classes in back-to-back time slots and in classrooms as close as possible to one another. (This is not always possible due to the complexity of class scheduling on an over-crowded campus.)
Mixed-Populations in Large Classes. Not all of the students in the large lecture class version will be "linked," or taking the composition class connected to the lecture class. However, those students who do sign up for a Writing Link with the large lecture class will have the advantage of having a built in learning community. (And this is not an "unfair" advantage, since any student can elect to sign up for a Writing Link and not every student desires such support.)
More Benefits. Instructors have reported higher attendance and having had some of the best classroom discussions among linked students. Students report that the link helps improve their writing skills and that they generally do better on tests and writing assignments in the course linked to the composition course. For specific examples and more evidence of how the links work, see section on Assessment.
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