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Writing to Learn

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Based on material from the WAC Clearinghouse at Colorado State University, Writing to Learn (WTL) is one of the three basic writing assignment categories (the others being Writing in the Disciplines–WID–and Writing to Engage–WTE). Writing to Learn assignments focus on content concepts and ideas and generally represent low-stakes tasks.


In general, WTL assignments should be low-stakes, brief, and focused. Different than writing to communicate, which might be defined as writing in order to convey ideas to another person, “the primary function of this ‘expressive’ language [in writing to learn] is not to communicate, but to order and represent experience to our own understanding.” (WAC Clearinghouse)

Consider types of assignments to achieve this end:

  • Summarizing key concepts from a lesson
  • Summarizing articles or brief readings
  • Keep a learning journal
  • Annotate readings with connections, questions, or reflections
  • Retrieval Practice writings like Braindump
  • Analyze or evaluate data, events, or readings
  • Write about a problem (how to solve, why it is challenging)

These types of assignments constitute WTL because they focus on students’ thinking and ask students to order their thinking as it relates to classroom concepts and ideas.


Find more examples and suggestions at the WAC Clearinghouse here.

Find sample activities, assignments, and ideas at the WAC Clearinghouse here.

For a deeper dive into the concept of Writing to Learn, read Roots in The Sawdust: Writing to Learn Across The Disciplines (edited by Anne Ruggles Gere, full text copy provided by WAC Clearinghouse)

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