Writing Across the Curriculum and in the Disciplines

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Sequencing Assignments

Sequencing assignments refers to when an assignment is given, and to the relationships between assignments.

Sequencing is a staple of WAC programs because, if professors consider why they assign something at a certain point in the semester, they are also better able to integrate writing into their course objectives, and connect evidence (reading, observational data, lab work) with the writing.

Moreover, sequencing allows professors to give students feedback early in the term---something students in assessments consistently say helps their learning.

Sequencing involves connecting one assignment to the other. Staging assignments, a related practice, involves breaking down one assignment into smaller parts.

Here, for example, are all the skillls needed to write a short research paper assigned in a humanities or social science course:

  • Focusing a topic;
  • Developing a search strategy for outside sources;
  • Evaluating the quality of sources;
  • Using specialized databases;
  • Reading and understanding the sources;
  • Summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting sources;
  • Documenting and citing sources;
  • Analyzing sources;
  • Synthesizing sources; and
  • Formatting the research (which could require graphing, etc);
  • Presenting the synthesis using the appropriate rhetoric.

A professor might consider sequencing the research essay:

3 short papers focusing on library sources. Final research paper is due later in the semester.

Alternatively, she might consider staging it:

3 short papers that develop the required parts of the final paper (introduction; literature review; implications, etc).

Excellent examples of sequencing include:

The research paper assignment in HIST 300, a GWAR course (staged in parts);

The research paper assignment in BECA 300, a GWAR course (staged in parts);

The policy memo assignment in CAD 626 (staged in parts); and

The research paper assignment in URBS 677 (sequenced reading summaries lead to the final paper).

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