How to Do W4O

There’s a series of choices to make as an instructor shaping your course: What’s the big picture, shape of the syllabus or unit, specifics of assignment design, daily technique(s) and planning?

Structural Options: Partnerships

We’ve identified three primary types of partnerships for W4O. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, though, and every variation can be adapted in lots of ways. We encourage faculty to adapt these approaches in ways that work best for you and your students.

Internal client partnerships

These are partnerships with offices or units around campus. Recent partners include Lauinger Library, the Office of Fellowships, Awards, and Research (now the Undergraduate Research Center), and Cawley Career Center. In this type of partnership, the office will share with students their mission, projects, and challenges, and students work to invent new ways to contribute to the mission of the office. This work has included website content, event series, programming, promotional campaigns or materials, and more.

Internal clients can be easy to get in touch with initially, are often eager to connect with students in new ways, and might be open to a broad range of writing projects.

External client partnerships

These are partnerships with organizations outside of Georgetown. Recent precedents include courses taught by David Lipscomb, in which students have partnered with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and a wide variety of government agencies. In this type of partnership, the organization will often provide a specific writing task, such as new and improved web content.

External clients may prove more challenging to connect with, though that depends on the faculty member’s social and professional network. Also, they might be less motivated by connecting with students than internal clients. The writing, however, might seem more exciting and higher stakes to students because it extends beyond the campus community. External clients may be less willing to offer open-ended challenges and more prone to assigning specific and discrete writing tasks.

*Based on early prototypes, we think the minimum time commitment from a client, whether internal or external, is about 3-5 hours. This includes at least one visit to class early in the semester to discuss the organization and its work with students, and a few hours spent in critiques of student work later in the semester. Clients can also help the class succeed by working with the faculty member to build a reading packet that will familiarize students with the organization, its mission, and challenges.

Consulting partnerships

These are partnerships in which the writing tasks come less directly from a single entity, whether they are on or off campus. Consulting, or informant, models emerge when a class or team of students identifies a challenge or issue they want to work on and they bring the results of their research and writing to an entity who might benefit from it or use it in some way. These might be looser relationships or affiliations than the rather more formal-seeming “client” relationships. Courses taught recently by Theodora Danylevich offer a precedent for this approach; her students investigate Disability Studies approaches to local challenges and create projects that they then consult on with units on campus who work in those areas, such as the Academic Resource Center.


Each iteration can take many shapes. Consider the following options:

  • translate, adapt → new creation
  • students choice
  • research variable
  • variable on reflection (how much, what type, when)
  • connect to students’ major disciplines or not
  • students’ level
  • collaborative vs. competitive models
  • number of clients
  • type of client: internal, external, etc.
  • projects that span more than 1 semester
  • range partnerships from stand-alone assignment to whole semester engagementVariables on the model: (put these in better order)


  • All three types of partnerships can be pre-arranged by the faculty member or students might seek out the partners themselves.
  • Clients may be very involved in class, but they needn’t be — and this can change over the course of the semester.
  • There is a wide spectrum in terms of how specific clients will be with what they want from students. Some may need a specific web page converted to language for a new target audience, for example, while others may pose a broad challenge in response to which students may take many paths.
  • Projects may span multiple semesters. In this variation, one semester’s class would pick up a project where the prior semester’s students left off. No precedents yet exist for this possibility, but we find it intriguing.
  • A W4O project might fill the whole semester, but it needn’t always: a W4O assignment can just easily be a stand-alone unit in the midst of a semester-long course that features units with other writing projects.


Phil Sandick taught WRIT015 in partnership with Georgetown’s Cawley Career Education Center.

Read more about Phil’s experience

Nate Brown taught WRIT015 in partnership with Georgetown’s Center for Research and Fellowships.

Read more about Nate’s experience