Information for Faculty
Working with faculty is an important part of what the Writing Center can do. We are here to help your students become better writers across the curriculum. That’s our mission. We are in the unique position of talking with students on a daily basis about their writing projects at Pierce. We work with students to help them:
- Understand the assignment prompt
- Know what to write about or how to shape a topic
- Know how to research a topic
- Know how to integrate sources
- Know how to develop their ideas in a critical and well-structured way
- Identify when and how they make errors in their grammar
Writing Center Pedagogy
Our writing tutors, both peer and professional, are trained to model and scaffold the writing process and to talk through writing projects with students in ways that help elicit from them, and clarify, their ideas and knowledge. This approach is common to writing centers everywhere. It is a pedagogical approach that has developed out of decades of doing this work. The writing center consultation is a perfect example of social constructivism, of negotiated knowledge-construction, of Vygotsky’s “zone of proximal development”. It is the power of students helping each other learn.
How the Writing Center can Work with Faculty
As the Writing Center is, first and foremost, engaged in student learning, we hope to work with faculty in ways that will facilitate that learning. It is not here to replace the explicit teaching and scaffolding of academic writing by faculty, but to support that scaffolding. It is here to help students develop a metacognitive awareness of their writing strategies by engaging them in developing that awareness. We can work with faculty across the curriculum in the following ways:
- Class visits to introduce the Writing Center and its services to your students
- Class visits to discuss specific aspects of the writing process at a time when students are involved in their assignments
- Embedded approaches to writing tutoring in which a writing tutor comes to your class during writing workshop times
- Feedback about what students have struggled with in your writing assignments
- Other, as yet, undreamed of ways to work together!
Recommending a Student to Be a Writing Tutor
We are always on the lookout for students who are excellent writers, good verbal communicators, and who are friendly and work well with others, to become peer writing tutors. We welcome your help with this! If you know of a student you would like to recommend to work in the Writing Center, let us know, or let the student know so that they can consider applying for a position. We have application forms and faculty recommendation forms in the Writing Center that the student can pick up.
Academic Dishonesty and the “Fix-it Shop”
Students often come to us with questions about their grammar, their spelling, punctuation, and formatting. We know that many faculty members demand a grammatically accurate, perfectly formatted paper, and so some students come to us at the last minute asking for their papers to be “edited” or “proofread” so that they can hand in something as spotless as possible. We know that many students do not understand that our job is not to “fix” papers for students, but to guide them in the writing process and help them learn how to become better writers. It takes not only time and effort to become a better writer, but the motivation to do so as well, and while our writing tutors are trained in motivational strategies, the real work remains with the writer.
It would be a form of academic dishonesty bordering on collusion for the Writing Center to proofread or edit a student’s paper. We cannot and should not engage in that kind of exercise. This is a position supported by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Writing Centers Association (IWCA) position statements on two-year college writing centers.* A student’s work must remain his/her own. “Fixing” or “proofing” papers is a job that the student needs to learn how to do -- it is part of the writing process. If the Writing Center were to do this work for them, where is the learning for the student?
Extra Credit for Visiting the Writing Center
Some faculty members like to give students extra credit for coming to the Writing Center. We appreciate the encouragement to have students come to us! We also want to make it clear to the student, however, that visiting the Writing Center does not mean they will end up with an error-free paper or a better grade, and that a visit to the Writing Center does not constitute an implicit or explicit guarantee to the student or the faculty member as to the academic value of a particular paper. That is why we no longer stamp or sign a student’s paper as proof of their visit. A visit to the Writing Center is, first and foremost, a learning experience. We also discourage our tutors from writing directly on a student’s paper, so that the paper and the comments on it remain the work of the writer. We do have consultation sheets that the writing tutor can and does fill out during a consultation in collaboration with the student. This gives the student something to take away that is a reminder of what was covered in the session and what strategies and resources were recommended. A completed consultation sheet can be used as evidence of a meaningful visit to the Writing Center.
How the Writing Center Manager Can Work with Faculty
The Writing Center Manager, Keith Kirkwood, is a 30-year educator with previously held faculty positions in higher education. He is more than happy to be involved in deeper discussions with faculty about ways to develop student writing at Pierce.
These discussions may include:
- Ways to scaffold the writing process in the context of your course
- Designing assignment briefs for your students
- Developing assessment rubrics around writing
- Getting the most learning out of the peer review process
- Prioritizing higher-order concerns (thesis, critical thinking, structure) over lower-order concerns (grammar, spelling, formatting) in student writing
- Equity in writing assignment design and assessment
We look forward to meeting and working with you in any number of ways to support student writing at Pierce!
Writing Center District Manager
* “The writing center should not be an editing or proofreading service.” Pennington, Jill and Clint Gardner (2006). Position Statement on Two-Year College Writing Centers, in Teaching English in the Two-Year College, 33:3, pp. 260-63. Available here. Accessed 16 March 2016.
* “Writing centers should avoid operating as proofreading services; rather, they should address editing and revising through practices consistent with current writing center pedagogy.” ICWA (2007). International Writing Centers Association Position Statement on Two-Year College Writing Centers. Available here. Accessed 16 March 2016.