Table of Contents


Title page

Copyright page

Series page



About the Author

1 Using Writing to Promote Thinking

Steps for Integrating Writing and Critical Thinking Activities into a Course

Four Discouraging Beliefs and Some Encouraging Responses

Conclusion: Engaging Your Students with the Ideas of Your Course

PART ONE: Understanding Connections Between Thinking and Writing

2 How Writing Is Related to Critical Thinking

Overview of the Writing-Across-the-Curriculum and Critical Thinking Movements

Writing, Thinking, and a Dialogic View of Knowledge

Avoiding a Thesis: Three Cognitively Immature Essay Structures

What Causes These Organizational Problems?

Pedagogical Strategies for Promoting Critical Thinking

Teaching Thinking Through Teaching Revision

Conclusion: The Implications of Writing as a Means of Thinking in the Undergraduate Curriculum

3 Helping Writers Think Rhetorically

Helping Students Think About Audience and Purpose

Helping Students Think About Genre

Conclusion: Thinking Rhetorically as a Transferable Skill

4 Using a Range of Genres to Extend Critical Thinking and Deepen Learning

The Value of Teaching Closed-Form Academic Prose

The Value of Teaching Alternative Genres and Styles

Genre Awareness and Student Learning


5 Dealing with Issues of Grammar and Correctness

The Difficulty of Teaching Sentence Correctness

What Does It Mean to “Know Grammar”?

The Politics of Grammar and Usage

What Teachers Across the Curriculum Need to Know About Recent Studies of Error

Responding to Error: Policies and Strategies for Teachers Across the Disciplines

A Note About Nonnative Speakers of English

A Note About Spell-Checkers and Grammar-Checkers

Conclusion: Keeping an Eye on Our Goals

PART TWO: Designing Problem-Based Assignments

6 Formal Writing Assignments

The Traditional Method

Alternative Approaches to Assigning Writing

Traditional and Alternative Methods Compared

Thinking Rhetorically: Five Variations on the Same Assignment

Articulation of Learning Goals as Preparation for Designing Assignments

Planning Your Course Backward by Designing the Last Assignment First

Best Practices in Assignment Design

Examples of an Effective Assignment Handout

A Common Problem: Asking Too Many Questions

Asking a Colleague to “Peer-Review” Your Assignment Handout

Giving the Assignment in Class

Assignments Leading to Closed-Form Thesis-Governed Writing

Microtheme Assignments for Writing-to-Learn

More Open Forms: Alternatives to the Thesis-Governed Paper

A Potpourri of Other Kinds of Alternative Formal Assignments

Conclusion: Writing Assignments in the Context of the Whole Course

7 Informal, Exploratory Writing Activities

Why I Find Exploratory Writing Valuable

Common Objections to Exploratory Writing

Logistics, Media, and Methods for Assigning Exploratory Writing

Explaining Exploratory Writing to Students

Twenty-Two Ideas for Incorporating Exploratory Writing into a Course

Evaluating Exploratory Writing

Managing the Workload

Conclusion: Engaging Ideas Through Exploratory Writing

PART THREE: Coaching Students as Learners, Thinkers, and Writers

8 Designing Tasks to Promote Active Thinking and Learning

Ten Strategies for Designing Critical Thinking Tasks

Conclusion: Strategies for Designing Critical Thinking Tasks

9 Helping Students Read Difficult Texts

Causes of Students’ Reading Difficulties

Suggested Strategies for Helping Students Become Better Readers

Developing Assignments That Require Students to Interact with Texts

Conclusion: Strategies Teachers Can Use to Help Students Become Better Readers

10 Using Small Groups to Coach Thinking and Teach Disciplinary Argument

The Advantages of a Goal-Oriented Use of Small Groups

Sequence of Activities for Using Small Groups During a Class Period

Suggestions for Designing Productive Small Group Tasks

Making Small Groups Work

The Controversy over Using Small Groups: Objections and Responses

Conclusion: Some Additional Advantages of Small Groups

11 Bringing More Critical Thinking into Lectures and Discussions

Increasing Active Learning in Lecture Classes

Increasing Active Learning in Discussion Classes

Conclusion: Engaging Ideas Through Active Learning

12 Enhancing Learning and Critical Thinking in Essay Exams

The Importance of Essay Exams

Why Essay Exams Are Problematic

How We Can Improve Our Use of Essay Exams

Conclusion: Getting the Most from Essay Exams

13 Designing and Sequencing Assignments to Teach Undergraduate Research

The Complexities of Research Writing

Creating Short Meaning-Constructing Research Assignments

Designing Backward: Teaching Research Skills to Novices

Departmental Collaboration to Teach Undergraduate Research in the Major

Conclusion: Engaging Students in Research

PART FOUR: Reading, Commenting On, and Grading Student Writing

14 Using Rubrics to Develop and Apply Grading Criteria

Controversies About Evaluation Criteria

An Overview of Different Kinds of Rubrics

Controversies About Rubrics

My Own Approach to Using Rubrics

Deciding on an Approach to Grading That Works for You

Conclusion: The Role of Rubrics in Coaching the Writing Process

15 Coaching the Writing Process and Handling the Paper Load

1. Design Good Assignments

2. Clarify Your Grading Criteria

3. Build in Exploratory Writing or Class Discussion to Help Students Generate Ideas

4. Have Students Submit Something Early in the Writing Process

5. Have Students Conduct Peer Reviews of Drafts

6. Refer Students to Your Institution’s Writing Center

7. Make One-on-One Writing Conferences as Efficient as Possible

8. Hold Occasional Group Paper Conferences Early On

9. Use Efficient Methods for Giving Written Feedback

10. Put Minimal Comments on Finished Products

Conclusion: A Review of Timesaving Strategies

16 Writing Comments on Students’ Papers

Students’ Responses to Teachers’ Comments

The Purpose of Commenting: To Coach Revision

General Strategy for Commenting on Drafts: A Hierarchy of Questions

Suggestions for Writing End Comments That Encourage Revision

Conclusion: A Review of General Principles



Title page

The Jossey-Bass Higher and

Adult Education Series


I still remember the first incarnation of this book I saw. It was an in-house manual John had written to help faculty at his institution incorporate writing in their various courses. It was one of those proverbial diamonds in the rough. I remember constructing a list of reasons why Jossey-Bass should publish it as a book, which I presented with some passion to the then higher education editor, Gale Erlandson. I kept my fingers crossed, unsure whether the in-house manual would realize its potential as a full manuscript. When John submitted it, I couldn’t believe how good it was. The years since its publication have confirmed that this book is better than good. It is one of the best books on teaching and learning published during the last twenty-five years. It has become the book that cemented the legacy of writing across the curriculum in countless classrooms. To write the Foreword for a new edition is indeed a privilege.

I was a bit surprised when I reread my Foreword in the first edition. The conditions described there are darker than I remember them. Could this be an even bleaker time? The lack of resources and devaluing of teaching described there are still realities today. Faculty continue to contend with large classes, students with pressing learning needs, and pressure to do lots of scholarship and service in addition to teaching. Higher education’s days of wine and roses have yet to arrive.

Something positive can be said about the differences between those days and these. College teachers everywhere now understand that teaching students to write is a shared responsibility, not one to be relegated to those faculty assigned composition course instruction. Faculty have incorporated writing in courses from introductory to capstone in a long list of disciplines. The results haven’t always been pretty. Many faculty have struggled more than they anticipated with designing writing assignments, reading what students write, providing constructive feedback, and assessing its merit. Teaching writing in any field is a labor-intensive, time-consuming endeavor. This book has helped many faculty members accomplish those tasks more productively. There is no need to start working on student writing skills without knowing what to do or how to do it when a book like this offers a plethora of ideas, information, and resources that can dramatically increase the success of those who are teaching and learning to write.

The features that contributed to this book’s enormous success remain in this edition. John sees writing as more than a necessary communication skill, more than the skillful management of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. He believes that writing promotes critical thinking, and he makes that case most convincingly. When students write, their writing and their thinking improve. As a writer struggles with word choice, sentence structure, and paragraph composition, thinking occurs. Writing forces the clarification of ideas, attention to details, and the logical assembly of reasons. You can write without thinking—students often do. But as this book so ably shows, writing activities and assignments can be designed so that they are very difficult to complete without mind engagement, and when that occurs, critical thinking skills are being developed.

As in the first edition, this one showcases the many different ways writing can be used in assignments and activities, all illustrated with concrete examples from a wide range of disciplines. Beyond writing, there are other classroom activities with potential to develop writing and thinking skills—things like reading, working in groups, essay exams, and course projects. This edition concludes with a section of pragmatic advice on ways of dealing with student writing, including how to provide feedback and develop grading criteria. This is a book that addresses all the issues faculty face when they incorporate writing in their courses. This book not only persuades you that you should incorporate writing; after having read it, you are convinced that you can.

Most faculty do not read a lot of pedagogical material. We are not expected to grow our pedagogical knowledge the same way we are expected to keep current in our fields. No special rewards come to those few faculty who are pedagogically well-read. Even so, most faculty are readers, and, if you give them a book on a topic they care about (or think they should care about) that is written with voice and style by an author who knows and believes in the material, faculty will read that book and pass it on to others. I refer to this book when I need an example to support that claim.

If you have read the previous edition of this book, perhaps you even have a copy in your collection, there are lots of reasons to read the new edition. Every chapter has been updated with current references, and new chapters have been added. Those chapters address the need to get students thinking rhetorically, “sizing their audience and purpose,” as John describes the topic. Another new chapter explores genre—the various kinds of writing that can expand critical thinking and promote deep learning. Students benefit when they do different kinds of writing—not just the typical academic, thesis-driven structure that usually ends up as some form of a term paper.

It’s hard to imagine college teachers in any field reading this book and not finding some kind of writing assignment or activity that could be used in the courses they teach. But most how-to books don’t make you think, and this book definitely does. Most how-to books don’t usefully blend theoretical and practical knowledge, and this book does. Most how-to books don’t develop a commitment to do what’s being proposed, and this book does. Most how-to books don’t end up being classics, that kind of timeless resource with dog-eared corners on the cover, turned-down pages, and a wide array of underlines, stars, and marginalia—all signs of hard use and high regard.

Those of us committed to writing across the curriculum have been after John to do a second edition for some time now. Yes, the content merits updating and enriching with new ideas and information that have emerged since the first edition, but more important than making the book current is the continuing need to work with students to develop their writing and thinking skills. Many now arrive at our colleges and universities deficient in both. And to graduate from college without good writing and thinking skills is to embark tenuously on a professional career. The need for faculty to teach writing and thinking in every course across the curriculum has never been more crucial. Fortunately, there is a book that can guide your efforts and contribute to your and your students’ success.

Maryellen Weimer


I have been both gratified and humbled by the success of the first edition of Engaging Ideas, which has proven helpful to teachers across a wide range of disciplines. My aim in the second edition, as in the first, is to help teachers design engaging writing and critical thinking activities and incorporate them smoothly into their disciplinary courses. The goal of these activities is to transform students from passive to active learners, deepening their understanding of subject matter while helping them learn how disciplinary experts ask questions, conduct inquiry, gather and analyze data, and make arguments.

What’s New in the Second Edition?

Much has changed since 1996, when the first edition was published. Readers of the second edition will notice (and I hope appreciate) how the second edition responds to recent developments in scholarship, teaching practice, and campus cultures. Particularly, the second edition has been influenced by changes in and interest in:

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)

Although scholars working in learning theory and pedagogy have long struggled to find a respected place in the research university, the impact of SoTL is increasingly felt throughout academia—in faculty development workshops, in training of graduate teaching assistants, in national teaching conferences, in the growing presence of centers for teaching and learning on campuses, and in spectacular new research in teaching and learning published in recent books and scholarly journals. Nurtured by the Carnegie Foundation, the Professional and Organizational Development Network (POD), the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSOTL), the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), the National Science Foundation, major granting agencies, and many other organizations and forces, the scholarship of teaching and learning has provided theoretical foundations for pedagogical research along with empirical evidence for teaching practices that promote deep learning. A glance at my references list will reveal the number of recent SoTL publications that have helped shape the second edition.

Recent Scholarship in Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing in the Disciplines

The first edition of Engaging Ideas is rooted in the writing process paradigm that dominated composition theory in the 1980s and 1990s—the belief that most problems with student writing could be alleviated if teachers encouraged student writers to spend more time-on-task, going through the stages of the writing process, doing multiple drafts, and learning the principles of global revision. The second edition still emphasizes process but adapts a more broadly rhetorical view of writing based on novice/expert theory, which shows how experts in a field think rhetorically about genre, audience, and purpose. To write “expert insider prose” in their majors—a term I have adopted from Susan Peck MacDonald (1994)—students need to enter their field’s discourse community, especially learning how disciplinary genres embody disciplinary ways of thinking and making knowledge. In the second edition, these influences are particularly felt in an entirely new chapter, “Helping Writers Think Rhetorically” (Chapter Three), an extensively revised and newly named chapter, “Using a Range of Genres to Extend Critical Thinking and Deepen Learning” (Chapter Four), and a new approach to teaching undergraduate research, “Designing and Sequencing Assignments to Teach Undergraduate Research (Chapter Thirteen).

The Assessment Movement

In 2000, my institution received what we might euphemistically call a “bad mark” for assessment during its accreditation visit from the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges. Our provost hired an outside consultant—Barbara Walvoord, one of the first proponents of writing across the curriculum and the coauthor of Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment (now in its second edition, 2009), whose work on our campus has influenced me profoundly. Walvoord showed us how embedded writing assignments anywhere in the curriculum can be used for systematic outcomes assessment—not just for assessing writing but for assessing disciplinary outcomes connected to inquiry, research, problem solving, critical thinking, or subject matter knowledge. We soon discovered that if assessments of senior papers revealed patterns of weaknesses, disciplinary faculty could use the principle of backward design to make pedagogical changes earlier in the curriculum to improve student performance—particularly short “scaffolding” assignments in lower level courses to teach targeted disciplinary thinking skills. Walvoord’s visits led to a renaissance in writing across the curriculum at Seattle University—a story my colleagues and I have told in Bean, Carrithers, and Earenfight (2005) and in a number of subsequent articles and conference presentations. Ways to use embedded writing assignments for outcomes assessment are suggested in numerous places in the second edition, particularly in Chapter Thirteen, “Designing and Sequencing Assignments to Teach Undergraduate Research.”

Quantitative and Scientific Literacy Across the Curriculum

Modeled partially on the writing-across-the-curriculum movement, new programs in quantitative and scientific literacy are having an impact on general education. Among the pioneers are the Quantitative Methods for Public Policy program at Macalester College, the Quantitative Inquiry, Reasoning, and Knowledge program (QUIRK) at Carleton College, and our own work with rhetorical mathematics at Seattle University. These programs generally do not focus on higher mathematics but on what the Mathematical Association of America defines as the “quantitative reasoning capabilities required of citizens in today’s information age” ( One of the best ways to promote quantitative literacy is to design disciplinary writing assignments that ask students to make arguments using numbers. This second edition has numerous examples of quantitative writing assignments, many of which ask writers to design their own graphs and tables that serve as visual arguments reinforcing the text’s verbal argument.

Use of Classroom Technology

The first edition of Engaging Ideas appeared during the early age of e-mail, long before the advent of classroom management software, drop boxes, class discussion boards, social networking sites, text messaging, Twitter, PowerPoint, or YouTube. The second edition is updated to reflect this new technological universe—including online and blended learning—although I must confess that I have depended on my wired, linked, and gadget-loving younger colleagues to guide me into this new age.

Teaching Undergraduate Research

Although the “research paper” has long been a traditional college assignment, faculty across the curriculum increasingly realize that learning to write a research paper in first-year composition does not teach students the kinds of disciplinary thinking, genre knowledge, and specialized research skills needed for actual undergraduate research in the major. Programs that require a senior thesis, a capstone project, or some other kind of “expert insider prose” in their discipline need to develop a curriculum in which research skills are taught intentionally within the undergraduate major. In this second edition, I propose a new approach to teaching undergraduate research. (See Chapter Thirteen, “Designing and Sequencing Assignments to Teach Undergraduate Research,” which is a complete revision of the first edition’s chapter on research papers.)

What Hasn’t Changed?

Throughout I have tried to retain the strengths of the first edition, which aims to integrate two important movements in higher education—the writing-across-the-curriculum movement and the critical thinking movement. A basic premise of both editions, growing out of the educational philosophy of John Dewey, is that critical thinking—and indeed all significant learning—originates in the learner’s engagement with problems. Consequently, the design of interesting problems to think about is one of the teacher’s chief behind-the-scenes tasks. Equally important are strategies for giving critical thinking problems to students and for creating a course atmosphere that encourages inquiry, exploration, discussion, and debate while valuing the dignity and worth of each student. Teachers of critical thinking also need to be mentors and coaches, developing a range of strategies for modeling critical thinking, critiquing student performances, and otherwise guiding students toward the habits of inquiry and argument valued in their disciplines.

Unique Features of This Book

In keeping with these premises, therefore, this book has the following unique features:

  • It takes a pragmatic nuts-and-bolts approach to teaching critical thinking, giving teachers hundreds of suggestions for integrating writing and other critical thinking activities into a disciplinary course.
  • It integrates theory and research from the writing-in-the-disciplines literature with the broader scholarship-of-teaching-and-learning literature on critical thinking, intellectual development, active learning, and modes of teaching.
  • It gives detailed practical assistance in the design of formal and informal writing assignments and suggests time-saving ways to coach the writing process and handle the paper load.
  • It treats writing assignments as only one of many ways to present critical thinking problems to students; it shows how writing assignments can easily be integrated with other critical thinking activities such as use of small groups, inquiry discussions, classroom debates, and interactive lectures.
  • It has a separate chapter devoted to academic reading, exploring the causes of students’ reading difficulties and offering suggestions for promoting more engaged and deeper reading.
  • It has separate chapters devoted to small groups, to increasing critical thinking in discussion or lecture courses, and to evoking more learning from essay exams.
  • It devotes a separate chapter to teaching undergraduate research and proposes alternatives to the traditional term paper.
  • It assumes that there is no one right way to integrate writing and critical thinking into a course; it therefore provides numerous options to fit each teacher’s particular personality and goals and to allow flexibility for meeting the needs of different kinds of learners.
  • It emphasizes writing and critical thinking tasks that focus on the instructor’s subject matter goals for the course, thus reducing, and in some cases perhaps even eliminating, the conflict between coverage and process.
  • It offers a wide array of ways to use writing in courses, ranging from short write-to-learn “microthemes” to major research projects and from formal academic writing to personal narratives; it also offers numerous ways to work exploratory writing into a course, including in-class freewrites, blogs, practice exams, and thinking pieces posted on class discussion boards.
  • It devotes a separate chapter to the creation of rubrics for grading student writing, discussing both the upside and downside of rubrics. It also devotes a chapter to the art of commenting on student papers to minimize teacher time while maximizing helpfulness and care.
  • Throughout it suggests ways that embedded writing assignments can be used for assessment.

Link Between Writing and Critical Thinking

Although this book examines a wide range of strategies for promoting critical thinking in the classroom, it assumes that the most intensive and demanding tool for eliciting sustained critical thought is a well-designed writing assignment on a subject matter problem. The underlying premise is that writing is closely linked with thinking and that in presenting students with significant problems to write about—and in creating an environment that demands their best writing—we can promote their general cognitive and intellectual growth. When we make students struggle with their writing, we are making them struggle with thought itself. Emphasizing writing and critical thinking, therefore, generally increases the academic rigor of a course. Often the struggle of writing, linked as it is to the struggle of thinking and to the growth of a person’s intellectual powers, awakens students to the real nature of learning.

Intended Audience

Engaging Ideas is intended for busy college professors from any academic discipline. Many readers may already emphasize writing, critical thinking, and active learning in their classrooms and will find in this book ways to fine-tune their work, such as additional approaches or strategies, more effective or efficient methods for coaching students as writers and thinkers, and tips on managing the paper load. Other readers may be attracted to the ideas in this book yet be held back by nagging doubts or fears that they will be buried in paper grading, that the use of writing assignments does not fit their disciplines, or that they will have to reduce their coverage of content. This book tries to allay these fears and help all professors find an approach to using writing and critical thinking activities that help each student meet course goals while fitting their own teaching philosophies and individual personalities.

It may be helpful to realize that this book is aimed primarily at improving students’ engagement with disciplinary subject matter and not at improving student writing. Whenever I conduct writing-across-the-curriculum workshops, I always stress that a teacher’s purpose in adding writing components to a course is not to help English departments teach writing. In fact, improvement of student writing is a happy side effect. Rather teachers should see writing assignments and other critical thinking activities as useful tools to help students achieve the instructor’s content and process goals for a course. The reward of this book is watching students come to class better prepared, more vested in and motivated by the problems or questions the course investigates, more apt to study rigorously, and more likely to submit high-quality work. A serendipitous benefit for teachers may be that their own writing gets easier when they develop strategies for helping students. Many of the ideas in this book—about posing problems, generating and exploring ideas, focusing and organizing, giving and receiving peer reviews of drafts, and revising for readers—can be applied to one’s own scholarly and professional writing as well as to the writing of students.

Structure of the Book

Chapter One, designed for the busy professor, gives the reader a nutshell compendium of the whole book and provides handy cross-references enabling readers to turn to specific parts of the book that concern their immediate needs. It also addresses four misconceptions that tend to discourage professors from integrating writing and critical thinking assignments into their courses.

Part One (Chapters Two through Five) presents the general theoretical background and pedagogical principles on which the book is based. Chapter Two examines the principles that relate writing to critical thinking and argues that good writing is both a process and a product of critical thought. Chapter Three suggests ways that teachers can help students think rhetorically about writing, particularly about purpose, audience, and genre. Doing so helps students develop transferable skills related to titles, introductions, tone, and reader expectations based on genre. Chapter Four introduces readers to the debate in the writing-across-the-curriculum literature between professional writing and personal or experimental writing and argues that students benefit from practicing both kinds. In Chapter Five, I focus on the problem of error in student writing, examine the debate among linguists and others over the role of grammar in writing instruction, and offer concrete suggestions about ways to reduce the incidence of error in students’ writing.

Part Two (Chapters Six and Seven) focuses on the design of problem-based writing assignments. Chapter Six focuses on the design of formal writing assignments and Chapter Seven on ways to use informal, exploratory writing both inside and outside of class to enhance learning and promote critical thinking.

Part Three (Chapters Eight through Thirteen) examines a wide variety of strategies for stimulating active learning and for coaching students as writers and critical thinkers. Chapter Eight provides a heuristic for designing critical thinking problems and illustrates them with examples from across the disciplines. These problems can then be used in a wide variety of ways—as formal or informal writing assignments, as problems for small groups, as topics for class debates, and so forth. Chapter Nine, which focuses on teaching academic reading, explores the causes of students’ difficulty with academic texts and suggests coaching strategies to help students improve their skills in comprehending and responding to difficult readings. Chapters Ten and Eleven together discuss ways to use class time for active inquiry and critical thinking. Chapter Ten focuses on the use of small groups in the classroom, and Chapter Eleven suggests ways to make lectures more interactive and whole-class discussions more productive. Chapter Twelve examines the strengths and weaknesses of essay exams as writing assignments and suggests ways to promote more student learning from essay exam settings. Chapter Thirteen, on teaching undergraduate research, opens with a discussion of students’ alienation from research writing—an alienation that often results in uninspired cut-and-paste writing or even plagiarism—and offers suggestions for engaging students in undergraduate research that is truly productive and inquiry-based. Particularly, it explains the principle of backward design so that skills needed for advanced research writing at the end of the major are taught through strategically designed scaffolding assignments earlier in the curriculum.

The final section of the book, Part Four (Chapters Fourteen through Sixteen), concerns strategies for coaching the writing process and for marking and grading student papers. Chapter Fourteen offers advice on creating and using rubrics, which can clarify an instructor’s grading criteria and, in many cases, decrease an instructor’s time spent grading and commenting on papers. Chapter Fifteen offers ten time-saving strategies for coaching the writing process while avoiding burnout. Finally, Chapter Sixteen focuses on ways to write revision-oriented comments that guide students toward significant revision of their work.

Thanks and Acknowledgments

I have been fortunate over my teaching career at three different institutions to have been supported by major writing-across-the-curriculum grants from foundations or public agencies: Lilly Endowment for its support of a pioneering WAC project at the College of Great Falls (Montana) in the late 1970s; the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) for supporting the Montana State University Critical Thinking and Writing Project (Bozeman) in the early 1980s; the Consortium for the Advancement of Private Higher Education (CAPHE) with matching support from the Ackerley Foundation at Seattle University in the early 1990s; and the Teagle Foundation for a recent project entitled Using Embedded Assignments to Assess Writing in the Majors and the Core Curriculum at Seattle University and Gonzaga University (2008–2011). The interdisciplinary conversations and ensuing research and scholarship from these grant-supported projects have created a wide network of colleagues to whom I am deeply indebted.

I wish particularly to thank W. Daniel Goodman in the Department of Chemistry at the College of Great Falls and Dean Drenk, John Ramage, and Jack Folsom for our FIPSE-grant days at Montana State University. At Seattle University, I thank my SoTL colleagues (many of whom have been coauthors with me on WAC or SoTL publications): economists Dean Peterson, Gareth Green, and Teresa Ling; finance professors David Carrithers and Fiona Robertson; chemists P. J. Alaimo, Joe Langenhan, and Jenny Loertscher; historian Theresa Earenfight; English professors Charles Tung, Nalini Iyer, June Johnson Bube, and David Leigh, S.J; and SoTL scholars Therese Huston and David Green of Seattle University’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. Thanks also to Larry Nichols, Director of the Writing Center at Seattle University, my longtime friend, workshop cofacilitator, and fellow advocate for good writing assignments and engaged learning.

A larger network of WAC friends has also nurtured and inspired my work: Joanne Kurfiss Gainen, former director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Santa Clara University; Linda Shohet, the Centre for Literacy in Montreal, Canada; John Webster, SoTL scholar and Director of Writing for the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington; Michael Herzog, Teagle Grant co-investigator and longtime SoTL colleague at Gonzaga University; Carol Rutz, Director of the Writing Program at Carleton College; Carol Haviland, former Director of the Writing Center at California State University at San Bernardino; and nursing professor Rob van der Peet of the Netherlands, who translated the first edition of Engaging Ideas into Dutch.

I owe a special debt of gratitude and warm thanks to pioneering SoTL scholar Maryellen Weimer, Emeritus Professor of Teaching and Learning at Pennsylvania State University, whose faith in my work, whose encouragement, and whose extraordinary generosity of time gave me the confidence to produce the first edition of Engaging Ideas and the persuasive push to write the second. Her contribution to the book is explained in the opening narrative to her Foreword, for which I am most honored and grateful. Finally, I’d like to thank my editors at Jossey-Bass: Gale Erlandson for the first edition of Engaging Ideas and now David Brightman for the second. David has been extraordinarily supportive and flexible in providing the space, timing, and guidance that made the second edition possible. His generous, unflappable spirit has been a comfort throughout the process.

My deepest thanks and love go to my wife, Kit, who is also a professional writing teacher at South Seattle Community College, and to our children Matthew, Andrew, Stephen, and Sarah for their patience and good humor in enduring parents who can turn any occasion into a writing assignment.

John C. Bean

Vashon Island, Washington

June 2011

About the Author

John C. Bean is a professor of English at Seattle University, where he holds the title of Consulting Professor of Writing and Assessment. He has an undergraduate degree in English from Stanford University (1965) and a Ph.D. in Renaissance literature from the University of Washington (1972). He has been active in the writing-across-the-curriculum movement since 1976—first at the College of Great Falls (Montana), then at Montana State University (Bozeman), and, since 1986, at Seattle University. Besides Engaging Ideas, the first edition of which has been translated into both Dutch and Chinese, he is the coauthor of four composition textbooks with varying focuses on writing, argumentation, critical thinking, and rhetorical reading. He has also published numerous articles on writing and writing across the curriculum as well as on literary subjects including Shakespeare and Spenser. He has done extensive consulting across the United States and Canada on writing across the curriculum, critical thinking, and university outcomes assessment. In 2001, he presented a keynote workshop at the first annual conference of the European Association of Teachers of Academic Writing (EATAW) at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands. More recently, he and his wife Kit (who is also a college teacher of writing) spent three weeks in Dhaka, Bangladesh, facilitating workshops on critical thinking for Bangladeshi educators at BRAC University. His current research interests focus on problems of transfer of learning as students move through and across a curriculum and on the development of institutional assessment strategies that promote productive faculty conversations about teaching and learning. In 2010 his article “Messy Problems and Lay Audiences: Teaching Critical Thinking within the Finance Curriculum” (coauthored with colleagues from finance and economics) won the 2008 McGraw-Hill–Magna Publications Award for the year’s best scholarly work on teaching and learning.