Writing across the curriculum: A qualitative evaluation study

Linda Kay Johnson Davis, Tennessee State University


The writing across the curriculum (WAC) movement in public education in the United States evolved to reflect changes in society, in the philosophy of education, and in learning theories. Since the 1970s WAC programs were largely housed in colleges and universities where most quantitative WAC research showed only tentative connections between achievement and participation in WAC programs. Additionally, much of the related literature pertained to WAC programs in the post-secondary arena. Secondary schools instituted WAC programs to help students write better and to personally connect students to the content being learned. However, little literature existed to help in implementing, sustaining, and evaluating high school WAC programs. Because WAC programs changed to reflect specific schools' or teachers' approaches or needs, they were difficult to evaluate. Success of high school WAC programs often depended on implementation in the classroom and perceptions of paricipants. Therefore, qualitative methods of inquiry were determined as more appropriate to study WAC programs. The purpose of this study was to qualitatively analyze the strengths and weaknesses the WAC program at one suburban high school (School A). This study employed educational ethnographic interviews, analysis of student writing samples, and artifacts submitted by participating teachers. Confirmatory data were obtained from two sources. Randomly selected Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) writing assessment scores of participant students from Schools A and School B, a comparison high school that had no WAC program at the beginning of this study, were analyzed with a t-test. Student writing samples from School A and School B provided information used to ascertain in qualitative and quantitative ways the students' perceptions of their writing experiences while in high school. As a result of this ethnographic study, recommendations are made for ongoing workshops, governance of School A's WAC program, faculty discussion groups, initiating a writing lab, communication to the faculty and public, and further research. Finally, this study adds to the limited existing body of knowledge about writing across the curriculum programs.

Subject Area

Language arts|Secondary education|Language

Recommended Citation

Linda Kay Johnson Davis, "Writing across the curriculum: A qualitative evaluation study" (1999). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3247779.