Writing Across the Curriculum, Quantitative Literacy Across the Curriculum, Comparative Study


The percentage of American institutions with a Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) program grew from 38% to 54% over the 20-year period from 1987 to 2008. Meanwhile the trajectory of the numeracy movement from publication of the popular book Innumeracy in 1988 to the appearance of Numeracy in 2008 was similar to the trajectory of the WAC movement from the publication of “Why Johnny Can’t Read” (1975) to the appearance of the first WAC journal in 1994. Review of the WAC literature shows that the growth of WAC occurred despite numerous challenges: the need for institutional buy-in; assessment; orthodoxy of English departments; the notion that writing is a pre-college skill; recognition of WAC scholarship; the workload of grading; student resistance; and difficulties of getting external funding. Similar challenges face the numeracy movement today. The WAC literature reveals four major contributors to its successful growth: (1) a paradigm shift in thinking about writing pedagogy (exemplified by WTL, “writing to learn” rather than just “learning to write”; WID, writing in the disciplines; a rethinking of first-year writing courses; and writing across the curriculum); (2) campus-level faculty and student support for writing; (3) professional networks and scholarship around WAC; and (4) framing WAC within institutional movements. How can the numeracy movement apply these “lessons learned” from WAC? I conclude with five suggestions: (1) document that numeracy education increases students’ critical thinking and decision-making skills; (2) compile electronic resources for faculty to integrate numeracy education into their disciplines; (3) expand our research methodologies and scholarly output so that numeracy education can be seen as its own field of study; (4) work with math departments and funding agencies to integrate numeracy more explicitly into high-volume, entry-level mathematics courses; and (5) support models of campus-wide programs that include a center for faculty and student support that is led by a numeracy education professional.




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