Teaching Writing


The purpose of this Guide is to (1) explain why the writing check is in place, (2) provide recommendations to assist you in deciding whether or not to assign a check, (3) provide guidance on how to assign a writing check in Banner, and (4) describe how students are notified that they have received a writing check and the different ways that students may choose to address it before graduating from Brown.


What is the writing check?

A writing check necessitates that students spend additional time working to improve their writing before they can graduate. The writing check is a process—noted by a “check” on students’ internal transcripts—that helps faculty directly connect students with Brown’s writing support network. The writing check emphasizes the value the Brown community places on written communication and helps to ensure that learning to write well is an integral and intentional part of all students’ educational experiences.


Why should a writing check be assigned?

Faculty are advised to assign a writing check to students if there are significant concerns about one or more of the following:

  • Their writing lacks awareness of purpose, audience, and/or genre

  • They use primary or secondary sources improperly

  • Their sentences cannot be easily understood

  • They are unfamiliar with the kinds of writing required of them at Brown

  • They struggle to complete writing assignments


For less significant concerns about a student’s development as a writer, you may put the student directly in touch with the Associate Director of the Writing Center via email (stacy_kastner@brown.edu) or recommend that they schedule a Writing Center appointment where they can spend 60-minutes working one-on-one with a staff member.


How can a writing check be assigned?

The WDEF (Writing Deficiency) column in Banner - Faculty Grade Entry can be used to indicate undergraduates who are having difficulty with their writing and would benefit from additional help. Selecting WDEF will post a “⇃” to the student’s internal academic record.  


How can students address a writing check once it has been assigned?

Students who receive writing checks are contacted by the Registrar’s Office at the beginning of the following semester and directed to meet with the Associate Director of the Writing Center to determine how they will address the writing check and to learn about writing resources on campus. Students with a writing check cannot graduate until they have taken steps to address the check.


1. Students can enroll in and successfully complete (1) ENGL 0900, Critical Reading/Writing I: The Academic Essay, (2)a Writing Fellows course, or (3) ENGL 1030, Critical Reading/Writing II: Research Essay. When they successfully complete the course, the check is cleared.


2. Students who have completed a combination of 3 or more WRIT, English, Comparative Literature, or Literary Arts classes without receiving another writing check, have their checks cleared at the end of their 7th semester.


3. Students can enroll in a WRIT course and work closely with a Writing Center staff member. Students generally meet around five times over the course of the semester with the same person in the Writing Center (sometimes with subject librarians as well). When students successfully complete the course, the check is cleared.


4. Students can enroll in a non-WRIT course that will require them to produce a fair amount of writing and work closely with a Writing Center staff member. Students generally meet around five times over the course of the semester with the same person in the Writing Center (sometimes with subject librarians as well). The staff member will clear the writing check when the student has met the requisite criteria. 



1. Suggested language to include in your syllabus:

  • This course is a writing-designated course (WRIT): (1) you have the opportunity to write at least twice, (2) you receive substantive feedback on your writing, and (3) you have opportunities to apply feedback to multiple drafts of the same assignment or future drafts of different writing assignments. There are many resources on campus to support your writing, including the Writing Center, English Language Learning, and Subject Specialists in the Library.


2. Key considerations for your WRIT syllabus:

  • At minimum, does the syllabus provide a brief description of the required writing assignments, clearly indicate when they are due, and information about how they will be assessed/evaluated?  

  • Have you considered incorporating writing into at least one of the student learning outcomes of the course?

  • Have you considered how you might scaffold longer assignments into manageable smaller tasks for students?

  • Have you considered structuring the course so that students have completed one writing assignment before beginning another?

  • Have you considered defining or describing what good writing in your discipline means for students somewhere in the syllabus?

  • If you are assigning multiple drafts (the writing-designation does not require you to do so), does the course schedule allow time for you or TAs to read and respond to drafts and also allow for students to read and consider comments in order to make appropriate revisions? (Students can usually revise a five-page paper in two or three days, and a ten-page paper in five days.)


3. Sheridan Center resources to help you and your students:

  • For a consultation on designing and grading writing assignments, Sheridan Center staff members Dr. Stacy Kastner (Associate Director of the Writing Center) and Dr. Jessica Metzler (Associate Director of Humanities and Social Sciences) are available for 1:1 consultations. To set this up, please email sheridan_center@brown.edu.

  • You may encourage students to visit the Writing Center, where they can spend 60-minutes working one-on-one with a Writing Associate, Coach, or English Language Learning Specialist on clearly articulating and persuasively arranging their ideas in writing. Please put students who are seeking regular (weekly or bi-weekly) practice with a Writing Associate or Coach in touch with the Associate Director (stacy_kastner@brown.edu). We do request that faculty not require Writing Center appointments because our staff has found that students are more productive when they are self-motivated.

  • Additionally, you may contact the Associate Director (stacy_kastner@brown.edu) if you would like the Writing Center to visit your classes to facilitate peer response sessions and/or writing groups. The Writing Center is also available to develop a workshop or presentation that addresses the needs of a faculty member’s particular course and writing objectives.


4. Web resources to support your work:

  • The Sheridan Center offers digital resources on course and syllabus design, effective classroom practices, and assessment.

  • The Harvard Writing Project has well-developed resources for faculty regarding writing assignment design and response methods.

  • Carnegie Mellon University maintains a page of resources for faculty teaching writing across the disciplines; their guidance on creating rubrics to assist with writing assessment is particularly useful and includes sample rubrics from across the disciplines.

  • University of Michigan’s Sweetland Center for Writing has also developed an extensive page of resources for faculty members teaching writing across the curriculum, including information about collaborative projects, working with multilingual writers, and facilitating effective peer review.

  • The WAC Clearinghouse, hosted by Colorado State University, maintains a database of resources on writing across the curriculum for both faculty and students, including open-access student-centered readings on writing.