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The Idea of SWS Courses

The Supplemental Writing Skills (SWS) program is a pedagogical component of the GVSU general-education requirements. The program began in the early 1980s as a response to a perceived deficiency in literacy among college students. It was based on a national "Writing Across the Curriculum" movement which asserted these principles:

  • that writing is the responsibility of the entire academic community,
  • that writing must be integrated across departmental boundaries,
  • that writing instruction must be continuous during all four years of undergraduate education,
  • that writing promotes learning, and
  • that only by practicing the conventions of an academic discipline will students begin to communicate effectively within that discipline.

SWS is premised on theories that writing is a valuable learning tool that can help students synthesize, analyze, and apply course content. All SWS-designated courses use the "Writing in the Discipline" approach and many also incorporate the "Writing to Learn" approach, as described below:

Writing in the Disciplines (WID)

This approach is based on the understanding that each discipline has its own conventions of language use and style and that these conventions must be taught to students so that they can successfully participate in academic discourse. Reports, article reviews, and research papers are the most commonly used assignments in a WID-focused course. Writing instruction emphasizes the process of writing, including drafting and revision.

Writing to Learn

This approach to SWS may make use of journals, logs, microthemes, and other (primarily informal) writing assignments. If students write reactions in their own words to information received in class or from reading, they often comprehend and retain information better. Also, because students write more frequently, they either maintain or improve their writing skills and avoid a decrease in writing ability from freshman to senior year.

  Last Modified Date: September 22, 2008
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