WAC as a Force for Change within Writing Studies

As a scholarly endeavor, WAC draws on theory, research, and practice within writing studies even as its interdisciplinary nature positions WAC at the intersection of a wide array of disciplines. Within writing studies, WAC stands at the intersection of several growing (and seemingly divergent) areas of research, theory, and practice. For example, by emphasizing the role of writing in the formation and enculturation of disciplinary ways of knowing and doing, WAC draws on rhetorical genre studies' conception of genres as social actions that inscribe and reflect community identity and values (Bawarshi & Reiff, 2010; Bazerman, 2004; Devitt, 2004; Miller, 1984; D. Russell, 1997). Similarly, WAC has embraced problem-based learning (PBL), a student-centered pedagogy emphasizing open-ended problems and experiential learning, upholding principles of lifelong learning (Williams et al., 2013). Key principles of PBL that WAC embraces include a move toward learner-driven self-identified goals and outcomes, adult learning theory or andragogy, enhanced teamwork and communication practices with responsibilities for shared learning, and applied learning and writing transfer.

WAC also intersects with recent conversations about writing assessment and social justice (Inoue, 2015; Perryman-Clark, 2016; Poe, Elliot, & Inoue, 2018; Ruiz, 2016) that wrestle with what it means (or should mean) to assign and evaluate student writing across disciplinary and social contexts. Moreover, because WAC has always been concerned with the transitions between writing contexts, it holds important implications for efforts to understand the impact of the concurrent enrollment on first-year writing programs (see, for example, the recent special issue of Teaching English in the Two-Year College at https://library.ncte.org/journals/tetyc/issues/v48-1), the study of teaching for transfer (Anson & Moore, 2017; Yancey et al., 2014), and lifespan writing research (Dippre, 2019; Dippre & Phillips, 2020; Smith & Prior, 2020). As a result, even as WAC has developed a disciplinary identity that has allowed it to build connections outside of writing studies, it has emerged as an interstitial pursuit that can provide a language and practice to explore resonances among various areas within writing studies. 

It's no wonder, then, that we are seeing a growing focus on WAC within writing studies graduate programs. In some cases, graduate programs have developed courses that directly address WAC (e.g, Colorado State University, UMass Amherst, and West Chester University, among many others). These offerings have often emerged from a long history of offering WAC programs. In other cases, however, graduate students who are pushing the scope of writing research into other disciplines find themselves, in the words of Brian Hendrickson (2017), "doing the applied WAC dissertation sans WAC program" (para. 1). During her leadership stint in WAC-GO, for example, Alisa heard over and over from graduate students who realized they were interested in—or in fact already engaged in—WAC research and administration without realizing there was a rich, well-established body of scholarship that could support their work. These graduate students find themselves in the all-too-common position of writing a thesis or dissertation without the support of a WAC mentor at their institution, a position that is described frequently when graduate students complete an intake survey to enroll in WAC-GO's Cross-Institutional Mentoring Project.