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College Writing Program | What Students Should Learn


Fax: 202-885-2938
Battelle Tompkins, Room 237

Burgtorf, Michael R
Sr. Administrative Assistant

4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20016-8047

The following are the core skills and ideas students should gain from the College Writing course sequence:

Concepts of Writing

  • Students should understand that writing is a process, a series of choices, and not simply a product. 
  • Based on the idea that writing is a series of choices, students should learn how to make effective choices in their own writing. 
  • Since writing is a social act, students should learn how to give critical feedback to their peers’ writing and to receive critical feedback on their writing. 
  • In learning these concepts, students should begin to develop an awareness of themselves as writers.

Writing Process Skills

  • Students should understand and attend to the role of the audience in writing. 
  • Students should learn how to formulate an original thesis in their writing projects and to develop that thesis into a well-supported argument. 
  • Students should learn a range of research methods and how to incorporate source material into their writing so that it develops and supports their ideas. 
  • Students should learn effective organizational strategies for their writing. 
  • Students should learn to write in multiple genres (e.g. personal narrative, researched essay, textual critique, proposal, profile, timed-writing essay). 
  • Students should develop the ability to sustain an analytical essay for at least eight pages. 
  • Students should learn how to recognize and repair sentence-level errors.

Reading/Thinking Skills

  • Students should be challenged to develop critical thinking and reading skills, so that they can devise original ideas, rather than simply echo the ideas of others. 
  • Based on class discussion, class reading, writing assignments, and conferences, students should learn how to arrive at informed questions and opinions. 
  • Students should learn how to express themselves clearly as participants of the class, whether in discussion or more formal presentations. 
  • Students should learn how to analyze assignments from all disciplines. 
  • Through experience with the instructor’s commentary and workshops/peer review, students should learn how to interpret feedback on their writing.

Research Skills

  • Students should acquire research skills, including making full and meaningful use of the library’s resources, such as databases, catalog, stacks, periodicals, and media holdings, as well as non-textual sources (e.g., the larger DC community). 
  • Students should learn how to support ideas with persuasive research. 
  • Students should learn how to evaluate the credibility of a source (especially Internet sites), to use academic/scholarly resources, and to incorporate sources effectively. 
  • Students should learn the correct formatting for MLA citation, including the construction of an MLA-style Works Cited page. 
  • Students should learn the definitions of and consequences for plagiarism and other Academic Integrity Code violations, as well as techniques for avoiding unintentional violations.