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Departmental Programs

Religion Writing Program

A. Background and Rationale

In accordance with its mission as a Christian liberal arts institution of higher learning and in recognition of the need for students to write clearly in professional life, Calvin College established its writing program with a view to ensuring that student writing in the college’s curriculum meets appropriate levels of expected competence.  Across the curriculum, students are required to learn to write and write to learn (writing to learn includes learning to read effectively).  To achieve its goal, the college has implemented various institutional measures (director of the writing program, faculty development seminars, an expanded Rhetoric Center) and has instituted departmental writing programs, wherein writing is conceived not as a product but as a process.

B. Department Implementation and Requirements:

The Religion Department must consider the needs of two groups of students, namely, the general student body taking two basic core courses in the department (one at the 100 level, the other at the 200 level), and department majors.  Therefore, the department has built a gradual and incremental writing program which focuses on the general needs of all students and the particular writing needs of majors.  In this way, students master basic skills and assignments before going on to more complex work.  The department’s requirements are as follows:

  1. Because the needs of all students must be addressed (clear thinking, perceptive reading, articulate written expression, and feedback that can be acted upon in subsequent work), all students in 100 level courses are to submit at least six pages (1500 words) of carefully monitored formal writing (i.e., graded with attention to content, structure, style, grammar and mechanics in order to provide the student with feedback).  The writing should be of at least two different kinds (e.g., summary, analysis, case study, comparison, book review, research/thesis papers).  Informal writing is also encouraged (e.g., self-expressive essay, contemplative essay, journal, timed in-class responses).

  2. All students in 200 level courses must meet the same requirements as 100 level classes, but are to write at least eight pages (2000 words) or carefully monitored formal writing.  200 level requirements should also account for the presence of majors and their preparation for formal research papers in 300 level courses.

  3. Because of the level of intellectual engagement and the specific needs of majors (who comprise the majority of enrollment), all students in 300 level courses are to write at least ten pages (2500 words) of carefully monitored formal writing.  A research/thesis paper is required.

  4. Because each Religion major is to receive individual attention with respect to his or her writing, and in preparation for the department’s seminars, all department majors are to do W-designated work in one course in their departmental concentrations (exclusive of 100 level courses, 357 and 396).  This work should normally be done during the junior year.  This requirement is listed in the College Catalog, is to be explained to majors by their department advisers, and must be formalized early in the semester with a contract specifying the requirements.  Signed copies of the fulfilled department contract must be forwarded by the professor to the Registrar for inclusion on the student’s AER.  The requirements for the W-designation are as follows:
      • The current minimum competency requirement in the English department;
      • a diagnostic essay in the first two weeks of the course;
      • significant faculty instruction and feedback on writing, including faculty-student conferences;
      • students are required to read Joseph M. Williams, Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace (Longman, 2003); familiarity with Booth, et. al., The Craft of Research (Chicago, 2003) is strongly advised;
      • at least fifteen pages (3750 words) of carefully monitored formal writing in at least two different assignments;
      • a revision component (with the provision that up to one-third of written work required for the course can be revised work);
      • writing requirements for the course are to count for at least twenty-five percent of the final grade.

  5. To give each major the opportunity to synthesize skills mastered in previous courses, and as both a fitting capstone activity and an important preparatory activity for those students intent on post-baccalaureate study, all majors must complete Religion 396, the senior seminar (or Religion 357 for teaching majors).  Writing requirements are as follows:
    • The primary component of the senior seminar is a substantial research/thesis paper of at least twenty pages (5000 words);
    • students are required to read Booth, et. al., The Craft of Research (Chicago, 2003).