Writing plays a central role for students throughout their time at UW and in their lives beyond. We share these foundational principles in order to enrich conversations about how writing cultivates core academic skills, facilitates lifelong learning, and builds personal and professional identities.

  • For students, we hope these principles will show the benefits of writing across all of their courses.

  • For faculty, we hope these principles will inform their approaches to teaching and supporting writing in their courses.

Writing varies from situation to situation. Learning to write occurs slowly over a writer’s lifetime. Writers need extra support at times of transition.

  • Writing is a process that cannot be learned once and for all because effective writing varies across situations. When students enter new situations (e.g., disciplines or professions), they need to learn writing conventions specific to those contexts. 

  • Writers face significant challenges when they encounter new writing contexts, and many writers (even professionals) need extra support when learning to write in new ways. This is why writing support needs to occur not in a single class, but across students’ entire education.
  • While no single class can teach students everything they need to know about writing, writing teachers can help students learn strategies for learning to write in other situations.

Writing is a social practice that helps us become a part of and transform communities.

  • Writing effectively requires an awareness of the audience, purpose, genre, disciplinary conventions, and content knowledge, all of which make up a community’s ways of knowing and interacting. By becoming aware of and using these conventions, writers can enter into and participate in the social life of a community. 

  • Writing is a process through which participants build new knowledge and use previous knowledge simultaneously.  It allows students to integrate what they already know and what they are learning.

  • Writing helps us participate in and transform communities. It enables us to engage, grapple, invent, inquire, inform, express, and create new meanings. 

Writing involves and also demonstrates learning. Writing can help students develop critical thinking, reflective, and problem solving skills.

  • Writing can help students think through and better understand new concepts and complex ideas. It can also help students reconsider their thinking. Through the analysis of their own and others’ writing, students can discover the ideas that matter most and to whom and why.

  • Writing offers methods for exploring, understanding, and responding to urgent public problems. It can facilitate communication and collaboration with those with whom we disagree.

Writing includes many different forms of communication, including multimodal, digital, and visual forms. Writers must consider how different forms of writing are shared with different audiences.

  • Communication increasingly involves digital technologies and other forms of expression for the screen, such as images, sound, video, and code. Writers must consider these forms in addition to more traditional printed texts.

  • Rhetorical awareness of the many different forms and modes of communication will help students to write across genres, media, technologies, and languages.

  • In addition to making choices about the content and form of their writing, writers must make complex decisions about sharing their writing with others. These include questions about accessibility, audience reception, available technologies, and the potential impacts of one’s writing.

Writing is related to systems of power. Writing is an ethical practice, which creates meaningful communication in public life.

  • Writing can both maintain and disrupt power hierarchies within communities, classrooms, institutions, and all spaces. 

  • Creating and analyzing arguments, critically examining assumptions, and attending to what writing enables and prohibits can make students more aware of the ways that language and ideas can empower or harm.

  • Through writing, students become responsible for how they communicate with diverse people and communities.

  • By writing critically and ethically, students can learn to resist systemic legacies of oppression.

Given the above, student writing should be evaluated based on criteria that are specific, transparent, and tied to the ways they are taught. 

  • The assessment of student writing should emphasize substance and learning, rather than strictly on academic English norms and standards of correctness. What might seem like writing errors are a normal part of writing development and should be addressed as such.

  • Writing assessment practices should intervene in the ways that systemic inequities privilege or penalize our students’ language practices unevenly. 

  • Writing should be assessed based on things that were explicitly taught and valued in classroom instruction (e.g., rhetorical and analytical effectiveness, revision efforts, development over time, and depth of ideas).

  • Writing conventions (style, grammar, language use, citations, organization, etc.) vary significantly across situations. It is important to explicitly teach these conventions and how they vary to students throughout their time at the university.