Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design

Committee Chair/Advisor

Billings, Andrew

Committee Member

Hu , Xiaobo

Committee Member

Howard , Tharon


Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) is a successful educational movement initiated in the US in the 1970s to promote better teaching and learning. It has developed to incorporate writing, speaking, digital educational technologies, and other communication modalities in the past several decades. WAC initiatives have now been successfully transplanted outside of the U.S. in nations and areas such as Australia, Sweden, Germany, and Hong Kong, yet one country that has not endorsed a WAC approach is China. Given the current tension between access and quality for Chinese higher education after an unprecedented enrollment expansion, incorporating WAC approaches is currently a debated option for easing this tension.
Using a historical review of the political and cultural realities of Chinese higher education system, this study investigated into the feasibility of introducing WAC in China. A qualitative study composed of 8 interviews with US WAC experts and 28 interviews conducted in China with faculty members, higher education administrators, and employers was combined with activity theory to explore the embedded contradictions within and among the activity systems of university courses, university administration, and workplace. A total of 4 primary themes and 29 secondary themes were uncovered within the interviews, leading to a clear conclusion that there is an urgent need to include WAC researchers into the community of the activity systems of Chinese university courses to facilitate greater teaching and learning objectives. Even though challenges persist, such as the lack of technological resources and the issue of academic dishonesty, faculty interest is strong and there is a near-unanimous sense of a need for WAC insights.
This study advances the application of activity theory in WAC research by focusing on the function of the community of the activity systems. It also suggests an approach for studying the feasibility of adapting WAC pedagogies and programs into the unique and dynamic local contexts, cultures and educational systems.

Included in

Communication Commons



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