OWI Principle 9: OWCs should be capped responsibly at 20 students per course with 15 being a preferable number.
The CCCC’s Statement of Principles and Standards for the Postsecondary Teaching of Writing (1989), regarding the teaching conditions necessary for a quality education, stated that no more than 20 students (and preferably 15) should be in a college-level writing course. Further, it indicated that teachers should have no more than 60 students of writing in any one term. These guidelines were written in 1989 before the major onset of OWCs that continue to increase in number. Teaching writing through digital media is a text-intensive enterprise, even when voice and video are used. Text-heavy writing instruction leads to a high literacy load in terms of reading and writing for teachers and students, as noted in the rationale for OWI Principle 8. Because contemporary writing pedagogy encourages high-quality, individualized teacher-to-student interactions as well as peer reading and written discussion opportunities, the literacy load must be made manageable. Given these realities and the necessity to provide a robustly accessible teaching and learning environment (see OWI Principle 1), the maximum number of students in an OWC should adhere to these teaching conditions.
Coordinating the statement cited above with the principles of the CCCC Statement on Second Language Writing and Writers (2009) and with OWI Principle 1 of this document, any OWC solely comprised of physically-, learning-, linguistically-, or socioeconomically-challenged writing students (i.e., sometimes called “developmental” or “basic” writers) should have no more than 15 students. In such cases, teachers should be assigned a maximum of 45 such writing students per term. The added concerns of assisting students with basic reading and writing skills in a text-intensive online setting requires additional time and especially thoughtful writing on teachers’ parts, as well as possible offline phone or in-person interventions. Fifteen students remains a reasonable number in these conditions.