Writing-in-the-Major

WiM courses (a full list can be found here) emphasize the study and practice of discipline-specific writing; faculty prepare Cadets to write in particular genres and modes, and to address specialized audiences. By teaching strategies for writing within their discipline, WiM instructors facilitate deeper understanding of the subjects, methods, and communicative aims of the course and discipline. Depending on the conventions of the discipline, cadets may execute writing for WiM courses predominantly as individuals or as collaborators. Yet, while learning to collaborate responsibly is an important part of any writing course, there is also significant attention to individual proficiency.

All Cadets must complete one mandatory WiM course in their major. (Courses designated "WiM" are always required for the major.) While the Writing Program encourages placement of the WiM course before the Firstie year, where the course does occur in the Firstie year departments have a special duty to ensure that earlier courses gradually introduce Cadets to writing in their discipline. (Regardless of when a WiM course occurs, departments themselves specify the consequences for failing to demonstrate writing proficiency in the SWE that all WiM courses include.) Because there is always an “integrative relationship between writing and knowing,” as the composition scholar Michael Carter puts it, the progress of cadets as writers in their fields evolves in concert with the knowledge they have—and the bottom line is that writing better helps students think more complexly, too.

NB: Cadets who double major usually complete the WiM course in both majors; however, in cases where required courses for one major take precedence over the WiM course for the second major, cadets may graduate having completed only one WiM course.

The following list specifies the Curricular Standards for WiM courses.

Writing-in-the-Major (WiM) Curricular Standards

  1. Completed in the yearling, cow, or firstie year by all cadets. One mandatory course in every major is designated WiM so that cadets receive intensive education in discipline-specific writing that prepares them to write in genres and modes particular to their major field. Passage of WiM courses is independent from attaining proficiency on the SWE that all WiM courses include. 
  2. Section sizes are limited to 18; overall instructor loads are capped at 60 cadets/instructor. Relatively small sections and manageable grading loads are essential to extensive implementation of the WPWP Pedagogical Model. 
  3. Syllabus includes statements that explain the importance of a) writing as a student learning outcome for the course and b) further learning resources available to cadets (including the Mounger Writing Center). Item a references USMA Academic Program Goals and is authored by the Program or Course Director, as appropriate; item b is supplied by the WPWP. 
  4. Writing is a significant component of classroom instruction. The WPWP Pedagogical Model is employed extensively (≥4/7 enumerated approaches). Course Directors and faculty determine which approaches their courses include, how to meet the intent of those approaches, and how often those approaches occur.  
  5. At least one major assignment requires a recursive writing process. Graded writing assignments are distributed throughout the term to enable cadets to build rhetorical knowledge incrementally; they encourage iterative drafting and substantive revision in response to instructor and/or peer feedback. 
  6. Faculty respond to cadet writing with timely, detailed, and personalized feedback. The usage of rubrics devoid of comments tailored to individual writers does not constitute appropriate feedback. 
  7. Cadets author substantial amounts of finished writing, individually or collaboratively, appropriate to the discipline. Ungraded prewriting and drafting tasks, while valuable to the writing process, do not count as ‘finished’ writing. 
  8. A minimum of 20% of the final course grade must come from writing assignments that are either individually-authored or include an individually-authored component. One such writing task is collected as an SWE.