The University Writing Center and Your Students
At the University Writing Center our goal is to work with your students to help them become better writers and be more successful in completing their writing projects. If you’re not familiar with the Writing Center, here is a quick overview of our philosophy of teaching writing as well as what your students experience during an appointment. In addition we offer some suggestions of ways you can prepare students to make the most of their Writing Center consultations. Other questions about the University Writing Center are addressed on our Frequently Asked Questions page. If you have questions about the Writing Center and how we work with students that are not answered on this page, we welcome your emails or phone calls.
Our Philosophy of Teaching Writing
We approach Writing Center consultations with students as an opportunity to work with them to improve their current projects, as well as teach them skills and strategies that will help them as writers in the future. We are not an editing or proofreading service and we never edit or correct papers for students. Instead, we regard Writing Center consultations as teaching situations. As we state in our Mission Statement:
Our philosophy of teaching writing begins with conceiving of writing as a process. We believe that the best writing develops through a process of invention, drafting, and revision - though the process is not always linear and direct. At all stages of the process, we believe that writers benefit from the kind of thoughtful response we offer at the Writing Center. In our consultations we engage in a dialogue with writers to help them develop their writing, and to become more effective and confident writers.
Our approach to teaching writing means that we focus first on what we perceive to be the most important concerns in a student writer’s draft. We also take the time needed to try to make sure the student understands the issues being discussed so that the student - not the consultant - can make necessary revisions. In doing so, however, we are sometimes not able to address every issue in a draft during a single, 50-minute consultation. If we are not able to address all the concerns in a student draft, we encourage students to make additional appointments at the Writing Center, as well as to plan to visit us early in their writing process. We find that our most successful work with students happens when we can work with them over multiple sessions.
We can’t guarantee that a student will leave a Writing Center consultation with an “A” paper or an error-free paper, or even that your particular pet peeve will have been corrected. What we can do is work with the student to identify concerns in a draft and teach the student strategies addressing those concerns and improving as a writer.
What takes place during a typical University Writing Center appointment?
During a typical session, a consultant will begin by asking the student questions about the nature of the project, when it will be due, and the kinds of work the student has already completed on the assignment. The consultant will also ask the student about concerns the student has about the project and about writing in general. If the student is just beginning an assignment, the consultant will help the student develop ideas and think about organization. If student has written a draft already, the consultant will read through the draft with the student. Typically we read the draft aloud, which helps the student writer get a sense of the organization of both the draft and individual sentences. During the session, the consultant will continue to ask questions to help clarify what the student is trying to accomplish in the draft and to indicate where the draft might need revision. The consultant may also make suggestions about possible revisions, but will allow the student to decide whether to make the changes in the draft. Near the end of a session, the consultant will take time to review what was covered during the session and make plans for how the student will revise the draft after leaving the Writing Center.
How can I best prepare students to work with the University Writing Center?
There are several ways that faculty can help prepare students to work with the Writing Center. First, it is helpful if you mention the Writing Center you do so in terms of our approach to working with students to improve their writing, rather than “fixing” their papers. If you have commented on a student’s draft, it can be helpful to the student and to us if you can list a few top concerns we can discuss with the student during the appointment. Also, please encourage students to bring to their appointment the prompt for the writing assignment and any other information or materials that are connected to it.
When talking to a student who has been to the Writing Center about what took place during an appointment, one effective strategy is to ask the student about the conversation that concluded the appointment. Consultants typically use the final five to ten minutes of a session to review what has been discussed and to help the student plan strategies for writing or revising a draft. The student may be more likely to remember the key points from this concluding review. Students are also often encouraged to take notes during an appointment and the student may still have the notes for reference.
If you would like us to fill out a form confirming that the student has attended a Writing Center appointment, we are happy to do so. Typically, when we fill out these forms, we ask the student to summarize what took place during the session as a way of reviewing with the student the main concepts we worked on with them. Please note, that we do not discuss what takes place during a Writing Center appointment with a student’s instructor without the permission of that student.
How can I encourage students to use the University Writing Center?
Faculty recommendations are among the most important ways that students learn about and decide to make appointments at the University Writing Center. We want to support the writing that takes place in your courses and know that your recommendations have a great deal of influence on students. When you mention the Writing Center as a place students can go to improve their writing skills, we will see more of your students walking through our doors. Again, it is helpful to students and to us if, when you mention the Writing Center, you talk of it as a place where consultants work with students to improve the students’ writing, rather than as a place where a paper will be “fixed.”
In addition, we are happy to have our consultants come to your class and give a brief five-to-ten minute presentation about the Writing Center and how we work with student writers. We find that having someone from the Writing Center come to a class also increases the likelihood that students from that class will make appointments with us.
Some instructors require students to visit the Writing Center as part of their course requirements. We are always grateful for the support of instructors and always happy to work with students who come to see us. It is also true, however, that some students who are required to visit the Writing Center may not be as motivated to participate fully in their work with our consultants. If there are ways to discuss working with the Writing Center as opportunity, rather than an obstacle or punishment, that helps us in our work with students.
How are University Writing Center consultants trained and can they work with students in my discipline?
Our consultants are graduate students from the UofL English Department. They have all had graduate course work in the theory and practice of teaching writing. Their coursework includes the theory and practice of working with writing in different disciplines, including writing in the sciences. Our consultants can work with any piece of writing, whether for a specific course or for professional or personal development. We work with students from every department and college at UofL, from both campuses. While not experts on the content of every discipline, our consultants are able to help writers from across the University with issues of organization, audience, form, and usage and style. Our consultants also offer suggestions to help with writing process issues such as getting started and approaching revision. We also welcome collaborative projects as well as multimedia projects.
If I’m teaching a distance education course, can my students use the University Writing Center?
Absolutely. For students unable to attend a face-to-face writing consultations, the Virtual Writing Center allows them to receive feedback on their writing. Students can submit a piece of writing and choose whether they would like and email response or to meet with consultant through a live chat. We try to respond to submissions in two business days, but during periods of high usage, it may take us more than two business days. You can watch a video to learn more about the Virtual Writing Center. Virtual Writing Center sessions are 50 minutes long and are limited to one session per week. The Virtual Writing Center is closed any time that the University of Louisville is closed, including semester breaks and holidays.