Frequently Asked Questions about the W Proposal Process

To help you expedite your proposal or renewal for a W Focus, the W Board has compiled these FAQs, based on Board members' experiences in reviewing the proposals. The FAQs are sectioned according to Application and Renewal Procedures, Deadlines, and important details on the W Chart, Syllabus, and Approaches for Meeting the Hallmarks. If you cannot find an answer to the question you have, please e-mail us at or call us at 956-6660.





What is the review process for W proposals, and how long does it take?

When your complete proposal arrives in the Mānoa Writing Program (MWP) office, it is

  • logged,
  • input in the Focus database,
  • reviewed by an Academic Coordinator,
  • sent to one of the W Board members for review and possible negotiation, and
  • presented to the W Board for final approval.

The Gen Ed Boards are staffed by your faculty colleagues who volunteer to serve on the Board without corresponding release time. The W Board meets roughly every other week during the semester, at which time Board members share their review and recommendations with the full Board. Since the W Board receives 150-200 proposals each semester, each Board member may have a dozen or more proposals that s/he must review and potentially negotiate during one or more such two-week periods. If a proposal is complete and clearly meets the Hallmarks, then an approval will be issued as soon as possible in alignment with W Board meeting dates.

If you are contacted by a W Board member with questions about your proposal or a request for revisions, then the final decision may be delayed. We ask that you respond as quickly as possible to these questions and requests to assure the swiftest decision possible. When the proposal has been approved for the W, you will be notified by e-mail by the Board member who reviewed it. (Note that this is a new method of notification, effective Fall 2014.)

How do I move my proposal through the process as swiftly as possible?

Please pay attention to the following details:

  • Match the percentage of students' grades for writing assignments on the W chart with the syllabus.
  • Match the number of pages/words on the W chart with the syllabus.
  • To interpret the Hallmarks, consult the “explanatory notes” and then contact the Manoa Writing Program (956-6660, if you have additional questions. MWP staff will be able to either answer questions or refer you to a Board member who can assist you while preparing your proposal.
  • Use the same term(s) for your writing assignments on the W chart and your syllabus. Don't refer to the "reaction papers" on your syllabus as "essays" on the W chart.
  • State on your syllabus how feedback on writing assignments will be provided (the procedure should match what is listed on the W chart).

If my proposal is approved, how long is the approval "good" for?

Instructors who are submitting a Focus proposal for their course for the first time receive a three-year Focus designation upon approval. Instructors who are renewing a Focus designation for which they previously (personally) received approval will be approved for five years upon approval. Renewal is required every five years thereafter.

Where can I get help in completing my proposal

Consult the Mānoa Writing Program website, particularly the Faculty tab, where you will find Tips from the W Board, Tips from UHM faculty, sample syllabi, and more. The MWP website also has a search box that should yield information on your question topic. You are also invited to contact the MWP directly ( or to attend one of the pre-semester W workshops in August or January.

What's the difference between "Instructor-based" and "Course-based" proposals?

An "instructor-based" proposal is used by individual instructors to request a W Focus for their section(s). "Course-based" proposals are completed by the Department Chair and are only for those courses that the department intends to ALWAYS offer with a W Focus, no matter who the instructor is. Such courses must have a track record—(i.e., at least two faculty must have received approval in the past to teach the course with a W Focus) as well as a designated Course Coordinator who will ensure that the course is taught each semester in accordance with the W Hallmarks. Course syllabi are also required.

What If I would like to apply for other Focus designations in addition to W? Can I do that?

Certainly! The Focus proposal form includes all four Focus areas for which you may apply. (Note that only 300- and 400-level courses are eligible for E and O designations.) Be sure to check off all the Focus areas for which you are applying. Your proposal will be reviewed by the Focus Boards responsible for each Focus area you have marked. If you request three or four designations, the proposal will also be reviewed by the General Education Committee (GEC) after the individual Focus Boards have reviewed the proposal and made their recommendations. The GEC may contact you with questions and requirements for obtaining approval, even if you were previously contacted by the individual Boards. Please keep in mind that this process can slow down the decision on your multiple (3+) designation proposal considerably. (Proposals requesting one or two designations do not go before the GEC for review.)

I am submitting a renewal and nothing has changed in my course. Why do I have to do this again?

Because we see the W courses as part of a program, we attempt to track faculty engagement with the program longitudinally for program development and research. We also seek to tap insights garnered by individual faculty to share with all. We appreciate your "lessons learned" as we develop our knowledge base, and we will excerpt from your application to add to this base on the "Tips from UHM Faculty" webpage on the MWP website. Requiring instructors to renew their W Focus every three to five years also ensures that any course changes that have occurred during the last approval period (intentional or otherwise) still allow the course to meet the W Hallmarks. If you have no new information to share, you can answer the questions fairly quickly.

Is it common for a proposal to be rejected?

No. It is rare. But it is possible that you will be asked to revise your proposal (and possibly your syllabus) to meet the Hallmarks. The W Board will support you through this revision process, just as an editor supports you through the revision process when publishing your research. Some of the more common revision requests include adding your process for student feedback on your syllabus and clarifying discrepancies between the W chart and the syllabus.


When are the deadlines for submitting Focus proposals or renewals?

Deadlines are established to assure that your course is listed with a W Focus on Class Availability prior to the start of continuing student registration. Generally speaking, proposals for Summer and Fall courses are due in mid-January, while proposals for Spring courses are due in early to mid-September. Please check for exact dates.

Why are there two deadlines for each semester?

Having two deadlines - a priority deadline and a late deadline – allows the W Board to review and designate "priority" sections before the first posting of Class Availability, while also allowing departments to submit "late" sections that arise as a result of personnel and/or class schedule changes. Proposals submitted by the priority deadline will be reviewed first and if approved will be designated by the time Class Availability is first posted. Proposals submitted between the priority and late deadlines will be reviewed thereafter, with the understanding that there may not be time for the consultation/negotiation that is sometimes needed to secure approval.


Why do I have to include a syllabus?

The syllabus is required so that it is clear how the Hallmarks are being integrated into teaching and learning and to ensure that all parties involved (the W Board, the faculty, and the students) are in agreement on the metrics used in class for the W credit. This requirement also helps ensure that your syllabus is clear and specific from the start of the semester. To aid faculty in syllabus development, the Manoa Writing Program (MWP) website's capacity is being enhanced as a support tool for all faculty. Consequently, you may be asked for your permission to include your syllabus on the site as an example. The MWP is also expanding its research component, and information about how writing is taught across the disciplines contributes to this research.

What if I've revised the syllabus since the initial proposal?

Many faculty adjust their teaching during the semester in response to student performances or due to new ideas about implementing the writing assignments. Changing your syllabus is not a problem, as long as you are still meeting the Hallmarks.

Must the W chart specifics be found in the course syllabus/description

Yes. Including consistent information on the W chart and on your syllabus facilitates Board review and helps move your proposal through the process more swiftly. It also helps students better understand W course expectations and procedures. You can find model syllabi on the Mānoa Writing Program website at

Must the minimum number of words/pages required of each student in the class be stated in the course syllabus/description?

Yes. A minimum of 16 double-spaced pages (approximately 250 words/page) or 4,000 words per student is required.

Must the procedures that will be used for feedback on writing assignments appear in the syllabus?

Yes. This information helps students know what to expect and may also contribute to Manoa Writing Program (MWP) support services, as sample syllabi are included on the MWP website and shared in W workshops.

Can I assign less than 40% of the class grade for writing assignments?

Yes, but you must have a statement in your class syllabus that all writing assignments must be completed satisfactorily, or a grade no higher than D- or F will be given and no W-credit given (n.b., suggested verbiage can be found on the proposal form, below the W chart).

Can group writing projects in my class "count" as meeting the W Hallmarks?

Yes, but there must be a clear way to determine how many pages/words EACH student in the class contributes to the group project, and this information should be stated on the syllabus/course description. For example, [put link to Jim's handout here]

What is the difference between formal and informal writing?

Formal writing is writing that usually undergoes multiple revisions—with input from the instructor and possibly from student peers—leading to a final, edited, polished product. Informal writing is not as developed and consists of journal writing, freewriting, blogging, posting to discussions in Laulima, etc. Both kinds of writing are integral to using writing to learn, as validated through research in writing studies and through students' reflections on their W experiences. There is no required percentage for either formal or informal writing; generally speaking, though, upper-division courses tend to weight formal writing more heavily than informal writing.

Does the writing that students complete in my course have to be in English?

No! Several W courses each semester are taught in languages other than English. If your course syllabus is in another language, however, please submit it with an English translation of the section(s) that demonstrate how your course is meeting the W Hallmarks when you apply or renew.