What information does the WA need me to provide?
A syllabus, all handouts about writing, and each writing assignment. Your WA will be happy to meet with you in order to discuss any and all of these documents.
Can I expect writing associates to attend class meetings?
WAs carry full course loads. Thus, although your WAs will make every attempt to visit up to three key class meetings per semester, it is unlikely that he or she will be able to attend all your class meetings. We consider “key meetings” to be those in which you discuss writing or writing assignments.
The WA may also ask your permission to take five minutes at the end of a class meeting to arrange the scheduling of conferences or to speak about writing problems common to many papers.
Even if the WA attends discussions of writing assignments, it is important for you to provide a syllabus, all handouts about writing, and each writing assignment. Also, the WA will want to discuss the writing assignment with you before meeting with students. In doing this, he or she can discover what kind of paper you hope to read.
How should I Introduce CWP and the WA to my students?
If you promote CWP as a valuable program that provides important benefits, students will be more likely to improve their writing and succeed in meeting your expectations. It is often helpful to introduce your WA as a source for informed peer review not unlike that provided at journals. Such reviews are not perfect; however, they benefit authors by identifying potential problem areas and helping to define an overall argument.
Here is a sample paragraph for use in a syllabus:
To help integrate the study of writing in courses throughout the curriculum, Lafayette established a College Writing Program (CWP). CWP provides individualized instruction to help you identify potential writing problems before your professor reads a paper. You will meet with a Writing Associate (WA) four times this semester. The WA assigned to this course is [WA’s NAME]. In these conferences (which typically last about 30 minutes), you will discuss drafts of your writing assignments. The conferences will give you an excellent opportunity to ask questions and to discuss your writing in detail. All students, regardless of their writing abilities, should benefit from working with the WA, and therefore, you are required to participate.
What kind of comments will the writing associate make?
We believe that the student should define the conference agenda whenever possible because it is important that students “own” their writing and their conferences.
WAs are trained to help students formulate their thoughts and meet assignment requirements, not to judge or grade written work. Therefore, WAs are trained to make “readerly” comments. In other words, they attempt to express the experiences of a person trying to read an essay. The WA should be expected to frame many comments as questions; e.g., “What is the main point of this paragraph?” “Where is this argument going?”
Since the primary goal of most academic writing is to express particular ideas in a logical and coherent fashion, WAs are expected to focus first on major problems in argumentation, thesis development, organization, and transitions between supportive ideas. We refer to these issues as “higher order” concerns or HOCs. Sentence-level errors, such as grammatical mistakes, often result from conceptual confusion and often disappear once HOCs are addressed.
WAs will also ask each student to identify grammatical problems and proofreading mistakes, so-called “lower order” concerns (LOCs), and then make the proper changes. Generally, the WA will identify patterns or general characteristics of a student’s errors rather than attempting to find each one. Students who need additional explanations or help with grammar can ask for this help.
Additional information about WA training is available from Christian Tatu. An electronic copy of the Writing Associate Handbook is also available.
When should I meet with my writing associate?
We encourage you to keep the lines of communication open with your WA. Your WA will contact you after the first training session, to set up a meeting. At this meeting, you will want to discuss the following:
- the syllabus and course goals
- the writing assignments and their goals
- your late paper policy
- procedures for scheduling conferences
- any writing “pet peeves” you or the WA may have
Additional meetings should take place before assignments are distributed and after papers are graded. You should use this time to discuss the WA’s work and make suggestions for improvement, explain the purpose and scope of the assignments, and to clarify your expectations.
How do I develop better rapport with my WA?
Your WA wants you to be satisfied with the job he or she does. If your WA is doing a good job, please say so.
Several Writing Associates compiled a list of suggestions, entitled “What Your WA Wants You To Know.” We have adapted the suggestions here:
- Your attitude will influence the students’ attitudes toward the WA.
- Please introduce your WA to the class because it will be helpful for the students.
- If possible, include the WA’s name and phone number on the syllabus. If several WAs are holding meetings in the Watt Writing Room at the same time, your students can look up the correct name rather than asking each person which class he or she supports.
- Please give your WA a copy of each assignment.
- WAs like to know if you have any stylistic preferences, pet peeves, or special requirements for student writing.
- It would be helpful to understand your policy regarding students who decide not to go to conferences.
- Please remember to tell your WA if the writing schedule changes.
- Finals week is not an optimal time for WA meetings.
- The WA is trained to function as an intelligent reader who brings an outsider’s perspective to the paper. If WAs are expected to do class readings, attend lectures, or see movies for the class, they cannot provide this perspective.
- Please understand that each student should be held responsible for correcting his or her own grammatical problems, and that severely entrenched problems may require more help than a WA can provide.
- Please don’t ask the WA to be a grader because this distorts the peer relationship.
- If you grade rough drafts before you hand them to the WA, please include your thoughts about the focus of conferences. This approach will be more helpful to the students and allow the WA to support your goals.
- WAs usually fill out Conference Records for each meeting. If you would like to see what was discussed and what kind of progress the students made from draft to draft, please ask.
- WAs are eager to hear your concerns, answer your questions, and forward your comments. If you have anything positive to say, please do so; the WAs will be grateful.
What kind of instructional support does the program provide?
CWP provides numerous opportunities for instructional support:
- We regularly ask specialists in writing instruction to offer workshops (experts in writing pedagogy from any discipline are welcome, so please let us know if you would like us to invite someone particular to campus).
- We offer additional workshops on topics, such as assignment design.
- We sponsor workshops for faculty teaching FYS or VAST courses for the first time.
- Our in-house publication, Teaching With Writing, is available upon request.
- Our links provide access to resources on a range of topics related to teaching and learning.
Program Administrators are happy to work with you individually, at your request, to discuss course design, assignments, and evaluation practices. (We’re happy to talk in person, over the phone, or through email.)
How Is the program evaluated?
At the end of the semester, you should meet with your WA to discuss the Program. In addition to this informal evaluation, we ask that you and your students complete a one-page evaluation form. Copies will be sent via campus mail toward the end of the semester.
How can students in my non-affiliated courses meet with a writing associate?
If students in your other courses desire assistance, please send them to the Drop-in Service.
The Drop-in Service is located in the Watt Writing Room (Pardee 319) and is staffed by our trained Writing Associates on a rotating basis. Students can drop in during the posted hours for a conference of approximately thirty minutes. They should bring with them a draft of their work and, if possible, a copy of the assignment. Students can also receive assistance from Writing Associates for the writing of resumes, job application letters, or other kinds of non-academic writing.