Writing Across the Curriculum and High-Impact Practices

Guest editors: Neal Lerner, Northeastern University, and Elizabeth Boquet, Fairfield University

A central tenet of writing across the curriculum and in the disciplines is that the use of writing (or composing broadly understood, including speaking and visualizing) goes far beyond improvement of students' skills. Instead, writing is essential to learning and to the processes of development that higher education aims to foster. What might not be as clear to those of us in WAC and WID programs is how we map the work we do on to these higher-level outcomes. We believe that one path is to look toward the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) research on High-Impact Practices.

The AAC&U defines High-Impact Practices as "an investment of time and energy over an extended period that has unusually positive effects on student engagement in educationally purposeful behavior" (Kuh, "Foreword" viii). More specifically, the AAC&U describes 10 types of experiences that research suggests contribute to transformational educational opportunities when made widely available to undergraduate students[1]: First-Year Seminars and Experiences; Common Intellectual Experiences; Learning Communities; Writing-Intensive Courses; Collaborative Assignments and Projects; Undergraduate Research; Diversity/Global Learning; Service Learning, Community-Based Learning; Internships; Capstone Courses and Projects.

WAC initiatives routinely deepen student learning by promoting or supporting many of these practices, and WAC programs are uniquely positioned at many institutions to integrate the localized efforts of individual courses, programs, and departments with the university's broader goals related to academic engagement, as those goals are articulated in strategic plans, vision statements, accreditation reports and governance documents. However, the WAC/WID literature rarely conceptualizes these initiatives collectively nor does it regularly refer to the body of literature developing on these practices.

To that end, we invite proposals for articles integrating research, theory, and practices in the following areas, as well as others that explore the relationship between High-Impact Practices and Writing Across the Curriculum/Writing in the Disciplines. We seek articles that move beyond program description and that instead report on research, explore key questions, and/or wrestle with central tensions in these or related areas:

  • Research on the relationship between the distinguishing features of High-Impact Practices and WAC/WID initiatives. (These features typically include frequent and significant contact with faculty, peers, material; contact with material in active-learning, novel, and culturally diverse settings; continuous feedback on performance; and integration, synthesis, and application of knowledge.)
  • Research on efforts to incorporate WAC/WID into initiatives that support the distribution and scaffolding of High-Impact Practices across the undergraduate experience from the first year to graduation.
  • Research that draws on WAC/WID principles to promote educational access, or to address gaps in access to, High-Impact Practices.
  • Research on WAC/WID partnerships supporting High-Impact Practices at sites beyond campus (e.g. international, community, pre-college, workplace).
  • Research that specifically engages with, responds to, or shapes nationally normed instruments (such as the National Survey on Student Engagement) in areas related to HIPs and WAC/WID.

We welcome proposals focused on these and other questions related to the intersections between WAC/WID and the AAC&U High-Impact Practices. We especially welcome collaborations between WAC scholars and other institutional stakeholders, such as writing programs and writing centers, offices of international programs, institutional research, academic advising, and community engagement; directors, staff, and faculty working with internships, libraries, and athletics; and other partners.


[1] Rather than elaborate on each HIP in detail, we encourage you to explore the AAC&U's excellent website (http://www.aacu.org) and specifically this brief synopsis: http://www.aacu.org/leap/hip.cfm

Deadline for Proposals: January 15, 2015

Notification of Acceptance: February 15, 2015

Manuscripts Due: July 15, 2015

Publication: Fall/Winter 2015

Proposal Format: Please submit a one-page proposal explaining your topic, the research and theoretical base on which you will draw, and your plans for the structure of your article, following the general guidelines for submissions to Across the Disciplines. Send your proposal to guest editors Neal Lerner (n.lerner@neu.edu) and Elizabeth Boquet (E.Boquet@fairfield.edu), and also to ATD editor Michael Pemberton at michaelp@georgiasouthern.edu.  Please provide full contact information with your submission.