I co-wrote this proposal with Jon Rylander in Spring 2015, while working as the Special Projects Coordinator at Miami University. The purpose of this project was to research and present potential types of embedded consulting programs and training approaches for consultants, students, and faculty.
The purpose of a Writing Associates program through the writing center is to partner with disciplines to promote and facilitate the role of writing and revision in courses across the curriculum. The program offers consultants opportunities to partner with instructors, to learn about specific disciplinary approaches to writing, and to better understand the process of pedagogical development. Writing Associates could be involved with the faculty fellows program as a reward for faculty who are trained within the writing center and value improving their ability to work with student writing. Writing Associates could also play a role in the newly designed advanced writing classes.
Optional Program Models
Writing Associates will be trained to provide a variety of tasks (as needed by instructors), including the following:
- Attending every class or attending only as needed
- Working with students one-on-one or in groups to address their concerns, expectations, and composing processes
- Preparing and/or facilitating peer response groups
- Conducting course-specific workshops
- Modeling revision strategies, such as color blocking and reverse outlining
- Assisting instructors with the development of assignments and class projects
All options must be negotiated with Writing Associates through a semester-long schedule approved by the HCWE.
The amount of time consultants spend as a Writing Associate would depend on the faculty member they work with. Their associate hours would be part of their regular 8 to 10 hour schedule.
To become a Writing Associate, the consultant must
- Be a veteran, with knowledge, practice, and confidence regarding writing center pedagogy. Veteran consultants have enough knowledge of their role within a consultation to recognize and accept roles within the classroom that will not misrepresent the writing center or threaten the instructor’s authority. They also have enough confidence to apply their consulting skills to group sessions and peer response groups. Additionally, veteran consultants deserve extra opportunities to expand their professional development and gain additional skills beyond consulting one-on-one.
- Have an invested interest in partnering with instructors. For the program to be successful, the consultant would need to commit to attending class as scheduled and meeting with the instructor, as well as engaging with the instructor and students during class. They would also need to show an interest in recruiting students from their class to visit them in the writing center and in becoming familiar enough with course assignments to offer students beneficial information they could not receive from a consultant outside the course.
Course and Instructor Eligibility
The course must involve a significant amount of writing and incorporate peer review. Instructors should be required to plan ahead for the consultants’ arrival. The instructor must apply for a Writing Associate and explain why and how they plan to incorporate an Associate into their course.
Consultants should be trained (through the guidance of writing center staff) in the semester preceding their involvement with a course. Writing Associates should be trained on the following:
- Facilitating peer response groups
- Modeling peer review and revision techniques
- Conducting workshops
- Creating concise, focused handouts and PowerPoints
- Working with faculty and respecting their authority over their classroom
- Offering suggestions on assignment design
Once a program is in place, new consultants could be trained by current Writing Associates and observe their practices in the classroom.
Faculty who are interested in the program must first attend an informational workshop to fully understand the writing center’s pedagogy and the role of the Writing Associate. Instructors chosen for the program could also be required to attend a certain number of writing workshops throughout the semester. These workshops could be interactive or discussion based.
Furthermore, faculty will need to be trained on the expectations of the program and the expectations of writing center consultants. Faculty will need to be trained on the ways that consultants should and should not be used within the classroom. For instance, faculty should be informed that writing center consultants should not be seen as teachers, should not take the role of teaching assistants, and should not be responsible for grading.
Instructors should also be expected to meet with their Writing Associate to provide them with assignment sheets/course materials to use in a session; explain expectations for assignments; and allow consultants the chance to ask for clarification. Faculty should be expected to involve their consultant whenever they are scheduled to visit class so the consultant is not merely another student in the course.
Program Model Overview
- Embedded tutors (ETs)
- Embedded consultants
- Writing fellows
- Writing mentors
- Writing associates
- Writing assistants
- Writing colleagues
In the literature, embedded consulting programs consisted of one or more consultants being assigned to a student, classroom, and/or course project. Consultants’ roles in the program could include one or more of the following:
- facilitating a special student project (e.g., senior capstone project)
- visiting an assigned classroom regularly or only when necessary
- holding peer review groups inside or outside of the classroom
- providing electronic or handwritten feedback and then “conferencing” with students
- meeting with students in “permanent” writing center sessions, per course requirement
Potential Approaches at Miami
Option 1: Peer Review Groups
review groups take place in the writing center with a consultant and 3 to 4
students of the same course.
- The professor decides these groups, and they stay the same for the whole semester.
- Students email their papers to the consultant and other group members before the meeting.
- The consultant and the students read every paper before the meeting and bring their feedback (electronic or written).
- Students verbalize their feedback to each other, with the consultant helping them to elaborate and be more detailed, before adding in their own thoughts.
- The consultant offers strategies for implementing feedback.
Option 2: Electronic Feedback and “Conferences”
- Students are assigned to a consultant for a semester.
- Students submit their drafts to their instructor, who checks their progress on the assignment.
- Instructors then pass the papers on to the consultant.
- The consultant responds electronically to each student’s paper in Microsoft Word.
- The consultant returns the papers via email to the students and schedules a writing center session with each student.
student must revise beforehand and come to the session with questions regarding
the consultant’s comments or strategies for revision.
Program Model Descriptions
Some programs assign consultants to special student projects, rather than courses (Soven, 2001; Hannum, Bracewell, & Head, 2014). At Georgia Tech, consultants and librarians provided “guidance and feedback” to student teams working on philosophy research projects and white papers (Hannum, Bracewell, & Head, 2014). Similarly, at La Salle University, consultants were assigned to senior writing projects in the biology department (Soven, 2001).
Sample Programs: Georgia Tech, Seattle University, La Salle University
When consultants are assigned to the students in a classroom, they may or may not attend class. Consultants may work with students in the writing center and only visit their assigned course on a few occasions, to introduce themselves and the writing center (Hannum, Bracewell, & Head, 2014) or to hear class assignments being introduced (Pagnac et al., 2014). Or, they may work with students in class and visit the classroom frequently to do any of the following tasks:
- present writing workshops and resources specifically for that course and its assignments (Carpenter, Whiddon, & Dvorak, 2014; Hannum, Bracewell, & Head, 2014; L. Schubert, personal communication, December 17, 2014; Titus, Boyle, Scudder, & Sudol, 2014)
- model peer review, reverse outlines, color blocking, and other helpful techniques in class
- hold in-class sessions and group work (Carpenter, Whiddon, & Dvorak, 2014; DeLoach et al., 2014; Hannum, Bracewell, & Head, 2014)
- help with discussions of readings (Pagnac et al., 2014)
Sample Programs: Oakland University, Rider University, Central College, Georgia Tech
Peer Review Groups
Peer review groups (also termed “peer writing groups”) pair a consultant with a group of students (typically four to five) from the same course who exchange papers and provide each other with feedback (Anderson & Murphy, 2004). Peer review groups can meet inside or outside of the classroom; in either case, the consultant is familiar with the instructor and course assignments. The consultant, or “peer group leader,” facilitates the exchange of verbal and/or written feedback between peer writers (You, 2005) and helps students with any of the following:
- better reading skills, to become better responders (Gilewicz, 2004)
- better writing skills, by responding to others’ writing (Gilewicz, 2004)
- ways to talk to other students about writing (Corbett, 2005; Decker, 2005)
- rhetorical strategies (Gilewicz, 2004)
- ways to give helpful feedback (Gilewicz, 2004; Giger, 2005)
- the difference between global issues and surface issues (Giger, 2005)
- the difference between revising and editing (Giger, 2005)
- revision strategies for applying all of the feedback from the peer review (Giger, 2005)
Peer review groups can be managed in a number of ways. Students can exchange papers via email and bring their feedback to the meeting (Decker, 2005; Webster & Hansen, 2014). Or, papers can be read out loud during the meeting while other students listen and take notes (Anderson & Murphy, 2004). The consultant provides feedback for each paper as well, but does so last to let students stay in control of the session (Anderson & Murphy, 2004; You, 2005).
Sample Programs: Penn State Berks, University of Washington, Ohio State University, California State University, Baylor University
Written Feedback with Face-to-Face “Conferences”
In many programs, student drafts of specific classroom assignments are sent to their consultant to read and comment on (either electronically or handwritten in margins). Students are then required to “conference” with their consultant about the feedback they received and plan strategies for revision.
Specifics of these programs can vary. At The University of Iowa, two to three “writing fellows” may be assigned to a classroom, and each is assigned around 12 students (Severino & Knight, 2007). Fellows work with students on two papers in their course. All students are required to submit these papers (along with a cover sheet) to their writing fellow two weeks before the due date. The writing fellows have one week to comment in the margins and write a “commenting letter” to each student about the paper’s overall strengths and weaknesses (Severino & Knight, 2007). Students then meet with their fellows to discuss their feedback.
Sample Programs: The University of Iowa, Brown University, Boise State University, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Barnard College/Columbia University, Brigham Young University, DePaul University, James Madison University, Tufts University
Required Writing Center Sessions
At Central Michigan University, students in basic writing courses are required to attend weekly writing center sessions as part of their coursework. They have a “permanent” appointment at the same time every week with the same consultant and must attend at least 11 sessions out of their scheduled 12. Their instructors provide course syllabi and assignment sheets to the writing center, and students are expected to bring these writing assignments to their sessions. CMU also offers these “permanent” appointments as a one-credit course to any student (undergraduate or graduate) wanting to improve their writing. They can bring in writing from any course they are currently taking.
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Carpenter, R., Whiddon, S., & Dvorak, K. (2014). Guest editor introduction: Revisiting and revising course-embedded tutoring facilitated by writing centers. Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, 12(1), 3-7.
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You, C. (2005). Building trust and community in peer writing group classrooms. In C. Spigelman & L. Grobman (Eds.), On location: Theory and practice in classroom-based writing tutoring (pp. 72-84). Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press.