Writing Assistants can help your students become better writers.

This program places a Writing Assistant into discipline-specific courses, providing the instructor with a trained writing tutor who can guide students through writing assignments and help them hone their writing process: generating and developing ideas, working with sources, drafting, citing and editing for clarity.

The program is designed for intro-level undergraduate courses, but can sometimes be tailored to advanced undergraduate courses as well.

Philosophy of the Program

The Writing Assistants Program has been designed around a few central pedagogical principles:

  1. We assume that all writers, of whatever background and capability, benefit greatly from a thoughtful response to a draft of their writing. Indeed, good writers almost by definition understand the value of feedback and actively seek it out.
  2. We are convinced that writing itself is a cognitive act central to learning, and that writing can be used fruitfully within any discipline as a tool of instruction.
  3. We value improving the writing habits and processes of student writers more than ensuring the production of perfect papers.
  4. Finally, we believe firmly in the effectiveness of peer-assisted learning and the value of collaboration.

A collaborative program like this one only works when faculty dedicate themselves to making the Writing Assistant an integral part of the course—and if necessary—adjust their assignment and class design to maximize use of the additional help.

Faculty who would like to request a Writing Assistant should read more about the program in the faculty handbook and then fill out the online request form.

For the program to work as intended:

  • Work with the Writing Assistant must be required of all students—not just recommended.
  • Faculty must enforce the requirement, ensuring that students are meeting their obligation to work with the Writing Assistant.
  • All students must fulfill the same requirements (i.e., no exemptions for “strong writers,” though we might recommend weaker writers seek additional help.)
  • Use of the Writing Assistant must be spread fairly consistently across the semester, not isolated to two or three points in the semester when papers come due.
  • Any short, periodic writing assignments (such as reflection papers) should be designed to lead to larger, more complex projects.
  • Writing Assistants must work about 5 hours/week (preparing workshops, reading students’ written work, conferencing with students, attending the class when appropriate, etc.)

Step 1: Read the Writing Assistant Handbook

Step 2: Identify the student you want as your Writing Assistant:

  • Any graduate student or undergraduate who will be a junior or senior during the term may be nominated.
  • Writing Assistants may not be enrolled in the course in which they are working.
  • Any student nominated to be a Writing Assistant should be an outstanding student and a good writer. Equally important is that Writing Assistants have the same qualities of good teachers—good social skills; patience, conscientiousness and trustworthiness; and an ability to communicate clearly in both speech and writing.
  • Writing Assistants average 5 hours of work per week.

Step 3: Fill out the online request form

Step 4: We will contact you to request further information or an in-person meeting if needed (the meeting is required if you have never used a Writing Assistant before), and we will send the nominated student an invitation to fill out an application.

Step 5: Send us a finalized plan for using the Writing Assistant before the start of the semester.

Students are nominated by faculty to become Writing Assistants. Interested students often approach faculty who have used Writing Assistants in the past to offer their services. If you have been nominated to work with a faculty member, please read the handbook and then fill in the online application.

Your role as a Writing Assistant would be to help students with their writing processes; to help them devise strategies for tackling class assignments; to offer a reader’s informed feedback on drafts of essays; and to build on the work of English 107 or any other writing classes the students have taken.

The faculty members involved in the Writing Assistant Program are eager to get extra assistance for their students and understand that this program will succeed only if they make the effort to communicate regularly with their Writing Assistants, to design assignments (and deadlines) that provide ample opportunity for the Writing Assistant to work with students and to encourage all of their students to meet with the Writing Assistant. Writing Assistants are thus a primary source of writing instruction in such classes, making the Writing Assistant central to the students’ becoming more accomplished writers.

Writing Assistants are paid a stipend for the semester based on five hours of work per week, which comes to $850 for undergraduates and $1350 for graduate students. We train and meet regularly with Writing Assistants to provide ongoing support in their work.

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