Faculty Frequently Asked Questions

How does the Writing Center work with students?

The main thing we do is talk with writers. This might seem like a small thing, but it’s a HUGE thing. Think about writing processes and how it can be to get feedback from colleagues, friends, etc. Our primary purpose, therefore, is to sit (or Zoom) with writers, listen to their questions and concerns, read through their assignments and their writing with them, help them clarify what they want or need to say, and then help them learn what they need to know to accomplish what they would like to accomplish with their writing. This means that we might be doing any number of things in a Writing Center session. We’ll list just a few here: discussing/explaining an assignment prompt, brainstorming some ways to respond to an assignment, reading through a draft to see if the ideas are clear, discussing how ideas can be developed or organized more clearly, discussing how choices in grammar can affect readers’ understanding of a text, etc., etc. We are a place where students can come and talk, think, and practice writing. We are here to help students become the kind of writer they want to be.

Can a faculty member schedule a class visit from the Writing Center?

Yes! We have found that when one of our writing assistants visits a class and speaks directly to students about our services, students are more likely to come in to work on their writing with us. Visits can be scheduled at the faculty member’s convenience and usually last from 5 to 10 minutes. Visits can be scheduled by contacting the Writing Center of your campus.

How can faculty members craft clear and meaningful writing assignments for students?

In our experience, the best writing assignments do a few things well:

  • They present students with an interesting way to engage with course materials and course goals while also allowing students to bring something of themselves to their writing.
  • They convey the instructor’s goals for the assignment clearly and succinctly, articulating what the instructor hopes the student will learn from the assignment.
  • We’ll be happy to provide feedback on assignments. Please email the Writing Center on your campus for more information.

How can faculty members respond to students’ writing effectively?

Providing feedback to students about their writing can be a very time-consuming process, so faculty want to make sure that the feedback they’re providing will actually help students move closer to meeting course goals through the processes involved in a particular writing assignment. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Tie your responses to student writing to your learning goals for the assignment. Decide on the main purpose for this assignment, and then focus your response on aspects of the student’s writing that align with those goals. For example, if your goal is to teach students how to incorporate sources in their writing, focus your comments on the places they engage with sources.
  • Point out to students when they’ve done things well. Seeing what they’ve gotten right can allow students to see what they need to do more of.
  • Provide sample texts and model the kind of writing you’re looking for. All academic writing takes place in particular contexts that can be unfamiliar to students (even when they seem very basic to you). It’s helpful to actually show students what you’re looking for. For example, if you want them to write particular kinds of thesis statements or topic sentences, show them some samples of strong ones and model examples in your feedback.
  • Provide feedback in language students will understand. The more conversational and clear you can make your comments, the better. Particularly if the student is a multilingual writer, you’ll want to be sure that you’re using vocabulary that gets your points across in a clear and meaningful way.
  • Consider the tone of your comments. Students can sometimes feel defeated and unable to revise their writing effectively when comments are phrased in ways that sound a bit harsh. It can be helpful to read your comments aloud to see how they sound.

For more information on responding to student writing, we highly recommend listening to The Critical Thinking Initiative podcast, “Responding to Papers: Ways that Work”. You can find a link here: https://www.thecriticalthinkinginitiative.org/

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