Writing Flag classes must teach effective writing strategies

Cole Krautkramer

The transition to college is a difficult process. For many students, not only do they leave their home, family and friends, they are also forced into academic situations that can come as a complete shock.

Some students may struggle with collegiate-level writing and need more support in the classroom.

To accommodate students of all writing levels and minimize the burden placed on students to learn alone, professors who teach Writing Flag courses should hold a lecture at the beginning of each semester focused on skills needed to write effectively.

“I’m from the south side of San Antonio, and the education (there) isn’t as good as it would be in the north side or if I were to come from a school in Austin, so I was very unprepared coming out of high school to go to UT,” government freshman Kassidy Muñoz said. “On the first day (of my signature course) we had an assignment … (and) I had no clue how to write any of the pieces that they wanted me to, and there was no introduction or instructions.”

For courses to receive the Writing Flag distinction, they must first pass a set of criteria proposed by the Faculty Council and approved by the Undergraduate Studies Advisory Committee. The criteria focus mainly on the need for substantial, reviewed and heavily weighted writing.

“The Writing Flag is a writing across the curriculum requirement, so we don’t mandate that faculty are teaching particular kinds of writing strategies,” said Jeanette Herman, the assistant dean for academic initiatives in the School of Undergraduate Studies. “We offer a lot of pedagogy support for faculty on how to do writing instruction well … (as) opposed to trying to have one rule that would cut across such a variety of courses.”

While it is understandable that the purpose of the flag is to aid in learning specific writing styles and developing critical thinking, it should not be assumed that students are already collegiate-level writers. The burden of having to seek out additional resources, such as University Writing Center workshops, to obtain that skill shouldn’t be thrown on students when there is minimal instruction by the professor on how to write effectively. 

It is important to note that some professors have introduced writing tactics into their curricula through external means.

“I have, in the past, had reps from the Writing Center come and give a workshop to students, and then I’ve even had someone from the library come to … (teach) research skills …. I’ll follow up that conversation with targeted information about writing specifically,” said Ja’nell Ajani, an American Studies assistant instructor.

However, while these external sources can be effective, they lack the personal factor associated with the relationship between a professor and a student. Not only would a single lecture be minimal commitment, but it would provide an opportunity for struggling students to pose questions to their specific professor before diving into writing assignments that heavily affect their grades.

Some professors would see this regulation as an infringement on their individual choices as a teacher. However, since UT prides itself on innovation and forward-thinking, I would call into question the appointment of any professor who remains unwavering and unwilling to change.

To give all students the best opportunity to grow as writers, all professors teaching courses with a Writing Flag should conduct a lecture focused on developing collegiate writing skills. 

Krautkramer is a Plan II honors and undeclared business freshman from Grapevine, Texas.