Temple University, Japan Campus (TUJ) offers a wide variety of courses in ten undergraduate majors from international business to art, based on American-style liberal arts education. Recognizing the importance of good writing skills, the new “Writing Across the Curriculum” initiative aims at helping students develop and maintain writing skills, not just during the first year, but throughout the curriculum for four years because students with solid writing skills are more likely to be successful in future careers in any industry. Alistair Howard, Chief Academic Officer (CAO), and Ada Angel, Director of Writing and Director of First Year Writing Program, explain why and how this initiative can benefit TUJ faculty and students alike.
By Alistair Howard and Ada Angel
The Importance of Writing Skills
At TUJ, we believe all graduates should be able to write well: This skill is vital in college, in finding jobs, and throughout their careers. Whether students want to pursue graduate studies or immediately enter the workforce, they will find writing and communications skills are essential to success. Even applying for a job requires writing a letter of application, and its quality often determines who is hired and who is not. At the same time, employers of all kinds want recruits who can understand, analyze, and communicate complex ideas in writing quickly and clearly. Good writing skills demonstrate credibility, capabilities, and education, whether writers are art students, social scientists, or area specialists.
At TUJ students have many opportunities to improve their writing skills throughout their academic careers. Students begin academic writing in TUJ’s long-established First Year Writing Program. They learn basic conventions of academic writing such as structure, organization of ideas, and coherence and cohesion techniques. To help students maintain these skills and to extend the focus on writing to their second, third and senior years, a Writing Across the Curriculum initiative has been launched. In Writing Across the Curriculum, writing is not viewed as a set of conventions to be mastered. Instead, it is seen as a natural part of developing subject knowledge. In programs that emphasize Writing Across the Curriculum, students write to learn in addition to learning to write.
Integrating Writing into the Curriculum
The Writing Across the Curriculum initiative aims to support both students and instructors as they integrate writing into their disciplinary curriculum. For this purpose, we are conducting workshops to demonstrate different techniques and strategies that faculty can use to emphasize writing in their classes and integrate into their subject teaching. One method that has proven to be successful is for instructors to assign brief and informal writing tasks about class material or course readings. These might be freewrites, blogs, or short summaries.
For example, a biology professor might ask students to briefly summarize some important element of a lecture or group work. Done well, this kind of writing to learn activities can help students differentiate unimportant from important content, develop lecture-note-taking skills, interpret ideas, think critically, share knowledge, and retain the subject matter they need to learn. At the same time, these writing activities can help professors assess student understanding of their lectures and the effectiveness of their teaching.
TUJ is proud of focusing on the ‘whole student’ rather than simply the ‘whole subject.’ We want to help students develop their skills to effectively communicate the relevance of their knowledge in the real world. With careful planning and hard work by faculty and students, the Writing Across the Curriculum initiative ensure that graduates will leave TUJ with the necessary writing skills to succeed in the workplace and in graduate school, and will have learned the value of communicating well.