Writing across the curriculum: A course development project in English written proficiency

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingPaper in conference proceeding


Proficiency in writing is a central graduate attribute of higher education. In practice, this means that students are expected to acquire both generic and discipline-specific writing skills that will be beneficial for their professional lives. Although the learning outcomes for many courses include the ability to express oneself in writing, a predominant function of writing is that of mere testing; not enough attention is paid to the role of writing as a learning tool. At our institution, the English Unit in SOL, few undergraduate course modules involve actual writing-for-learning activities. Far too often, students’ writing activities are restricted to traditional exams where writing is assessed only in terms of the accuracy of its contents. The need for process- and learning-oriented approaches to writing is especially clear when students are writing in a language that is not their mother tongue; then, mastering the disciplinary discourse (e.g. conforming to genre conventions and using language that is both grammatically correct and stylistically appropriate) poses an additional challenge.

In our presentation, we discuss a course development project within written proficiency and academic writing in English. Our point of departure is that the learning outcomes of writing courses and other courses cannot be separated: the role of writing courses is to teach transferable skills that can and should be applied extensively and systematically throughout the curriculum.

We present the first steps of our project which aims at creating a WAC (Writing across the Curriculum) programme for the English Unit in SOL. We outline our redesigned first-term written proficiency course where we have over 100 students each term. In addition to teaching students the basics of academic writing, one important goal of our project is to design a course format that allows constructive feedback to be given on multiple drafts of an essay and where students apply knowledge that they have acquired on the other courses they take during the same term. A second goal is to create a clear line of progression from the first-term level up to the postgraduate level. An advantage with this course is that it will increase students’ learning opportunities regarding both discipline-specific and generic writing skills that will also be beneficial for their professional lives. We believe that implementing such a writing-for-learning approach across the curriculum will also improve students’ critical thinking, which will be important especially on the higher levels where students and supervisors need to focus more on the actual research tasks at hand.

A potential difficulty when creating an integrated approach to writing is that teachers who teach writing often have no specific training in Composition Theory. In this respect, the situation in many Swedish universities is different from that in e.g. the US where writing is regularly taught by staff whose degrees are in subjects like Composition Studies or Composition and Rhetoric, and where writing teaching is done in specific writing centres instead of academic departments.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Languages and Literature


  • Writing across the curriculum, English, Academic writing, Written proficiency
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings Utvecklingskonferens13
EditorsÅsa Lindberg-Sand
PublisherCentre for Educational Development, Lunds universitet
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Publication categoryResearch
EventLunds universitets utvecklingskonferens, 2013: Att skriva för att leva, lära och lyckas - Lund University, Lund, Sweden
Duration: 2013 Oct 242013 Oct 24
Conference number: 4


ConferenceLunds universitets utvecklingskonferens, 2013

Related research output

Satu Manninen, Ellen Turner & Cecilia Wadsö-Lecaros, 2019, (Accepted/In press) Open Books at LU: Humanities & Theology. 250 p.

Research output: Book/ReportBook

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