The Writing Fellows Program is funded via the Kelly Funds for the Improvement of Teaching.
What is a Writing Fellow?
Writing Fellows are Writing Center consultants who work one-to-one with 10-15 students in a single course from any discipline. In addition to taking English 380/880: Writing Center Theory, Practice, and Research and attending Writing Center staff meetings, both of which provide guidance on how to conference effectively with student writers, Writing Fellows take English 495: Internship in English (Writing Fellows) and attend regular meetings, where they receive specialized training on how to give written feedback and how to hold individual conferences that build on this feedback. It is a paid and selective position.
How can a Writing Fellow help me in my course?
If you're reading this, we know you're already committed to teaching students about writing in your discipline. Writing Fellows can help your students figure out how to do what you're asking them to do in writing. Students often find it challenging to apply what they've learned in class to their own assignments, and it takes time and practice for them to become knowledge generators instead of knowledge reporters; Writing Fellows can help them navigate these processes. We believe that stronger ideas and clearer articulations of these ideas often come out in conversation, and Fellows can engage in productive dialogue with your students and help them hone their thinking.
Faculty comments on the benefits of working with Writing Fellows:
- “The writing got much stronger and student also gained confidence.”
- “Working with the writing fellow made me more cognizant of my own writing process and what are the kinds of things that are opaque to students as they are learning to improve their writing.”
What exactly will a Writing Fellow do? Can they comment on all the writing in the course?
Writing Fellows can offer 4 "rounds" of feedback in a given semester. In the most traditional format, Writing Fellows work with students on 2 writing assignments in a course, and they will give written feedback AND conduct in-person conferences with students for each assignment:
|Writing Assignment 1||written feedback and conferences (2 rounds)|
|Writing Assignment 2||written feedback and conferences (2 rounds)|
Combining written feedback and conferences offers multiple opportunities for Fellows to help your students revise their own work, so we recommend incorporating Fellows feedback into two writing assignments (as in the table above), if possible. We know that not all courses are structured with major midterm and final assignments, however, so how you integrate Writing Fellow responses can be flexible (to a degree). For example, some of the written feedback and conferences could happen separately, as in the example below:
|Writing Assignment 1||written feedback and conferences (2 rounds)|
|Writing Assignment 2||written feedback (1 round)|
|Writing Assignment 3||Conferences (1 round)|
We are more than happy to talk through the logistics of this with you. We can help you figure out what makes sense for your particular course while keeping the workload manageable for the Fellows, who are students themselves.
Note: this process presumes that students will be working through at least a rough draft and a final draft of assignments that Fellows will be commenting on. That is, students would submit a rough draft to the Fellow, receive comments and/or have a meeting about this draft, then turn in a revised draft to you (either right away or later in the course). However this gets structured, it's vital to plan for multiple drafts of writing for at least 2 assignments in your course, if you'd like a Writing Fellow to support your course.
In response to “How did the Fellow help you grow as a writer?” students responded:
- “I understand what professors mean when they ask particular questions.”
- “Helped me organize ideas and learn how to provide greater clarity.”
Sounds great. What do I need to commit to doing?
We're glad you asked! We have learned that the following are necessary for successful integration of a Fellow into a course:
Setting up your course schedule:
- As we just mentioned, there need to be at least 2 writing assignments in the course that will go through more than one draft (i.e., a rough draft and final draft, at minimum).
- You'll need to take a careful look at the timing of assignments, particularly rough drafts and final drafts. If Writing Fellows are giving written comments and meeting with students for an assignment, the first draft will need to be due at least 2 weeks before the final draft. The Writing Fellow will write comments during the first week, then meet with individual students during the second week.
- We'll ask that you share these due dates with us before the start of the semester, so we can help ensure that everything is logistically feasible and beneficial for both you and the Fellows.
- Fellows' work needs to be completed by the end of Dead Week, if not before. They can conference during Dead Week if absolutely necessary, but they need to receive drafts at least a week before. Integrating Fellows feedback into the course:
- You'll need to require students to do something with the feedback they get from the Writing Fellow. If they are turning a revised draft soon after meeting with the Fellow, that's great; they could accompany this with a short paragraph describing the changes they made as a result of the Fellow's feedback. If they are working on one piece of a semester-long project, however, you'll need to ask students to explain what they plan to do with the feedback. For instance, you might ask them to submit a brief memo that describes their plan for revision after meeting with the Writing Fellow. Unless students do something with the feedback they receive right away, it's unlikely to "stick."
- Submitting work to and meeting with Writing Fellows needs to be required within the course--that is, it needs to figure into students' grades in some way (how exactly is at your discretion, of course). Unless there are material benefits to participating as well as consequences for missing meetings or not submitting drafts, some students will not engage in the process, which is frustrating and demoralizing for your Fellow.
Communicating with the Fellow:
- You will need to meet regularly with your Fellow(s) so they can talk with you about your expectations for writing assignments and share feedback about your students' progress. We recommend meeting early in the semester to talk about your vision for the course and before the Fellows begin commenting on each assignment as a minimum. Meeting or communicating via email after Fellows have looked at assignments is also helpful, so they can let you know what they've encountered in student drafts.
- The Fellows are eager to learn--please don't hesitate to contact them if you have questions or concerns about their work!
Facilitating communication between students and Fellows:
- You'll need to ask students to provide information to the Fellows when they turn in drafts that will offer guidance as Fellows give feedback. We highly recommend asking students to write an "Author's Note" that explains what they are most confident about and most concerned about in the draft they are turning in. We're happy to share ideas and templates for these.
- Writing Fellows will need direct access to students in the course, so they can exchange drafts and comments easily, schedule in-person conferences, and deal with any scheduling difficulties that arise. Adding Writing Fellows as TAs in your course is one easy way to do this. If you have concerns about Writing Fellows seeing student grades, they can simply exchange drafts over emails or via Google Drive, as long as Fellows have access to the email addresses of students in your course.
- You'll need to include some information about the Writing Fellows program in your syllabus and set aside some time during the first week or two of class to introduce your Fellow. Showing students that you believe the Writing Fellows program offers an important way for them to continue improving as writers is crucial. Unless students see that you are invested in it and see the value in it, they are unlikely to buy into it on their own. And the sooner the Fellows can start building a relationship with your students, the more successful their interactions can be.
Please know that the above are designed to ensure that your time, the Fellow's time, and your students' time is used most effectively. Our goal is to support you and your course's writing goals, and we are glad to brainstorm and troubleshoot with you at any stage of the process to keep this collaboration functioning smoothly.
Still have more questions? Please contact Rachel Azima, Writing Center Director and Director of the Writing Fellows Program (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Nicole Green, Assistant Director of the Writing Fellows Program (email@example.com).