The Writing Center’s Purpose
The Writing Center’s primary purpose is to work with students one on one, by appointment. In a relaxed but confidential setting, writing coaches certified by the College Reading & Learning Association help undergraduate and graduate students wherever they are in the writing process: planning, focusing, developing, revising, proofreading, and documenting. Additionally, the Writing Center works to accomplish the following:
- To help students clarify and solidify their sense of purpose within a clear understanding of your expectations as the course instructor
- To challenge students in the context of writing assignments to face their weaknesses, while supporting them as they work toward higher levels of excellence
- To demonstrate the interconnection of all academic skills: writing, reading, thinking, and speaking
- To help facilitate faculty use of writing not just as a means of formal communication, but as a method of practicing critical thinking, developing creativity, and fostering greater engagement in academic processes and topics
What specific services does the Writing Center offer UNI Instructors?
Classroom Visits from Peer Writing Coaches
Upon your request, Writing Center staff will visit your classes to promote Writing Center services and explain how they work, or deliver presentations/demonstrations on writing-related topics. Email the Writing Coordinator, Deanne.Gute@uni.edu, or call 319-273-2361 to talk with Deanne to describe your interests, any assignments the visit will supplement, and your date/time preferences.
Faculty Referral Form/Request for Writing Center Services
The form gives you a chance to offer your students specific feedback about their writing when you recommend or require a Writing Center visit. Feedback forms help ensure that writing coaches provide effective assistance. Students should bring the form to their first appointment. Students are responsible for arranging an appointment time at 319-273-2361.
Assignment Bulletin Board Service
If you are recommending that your students visit the Writing Center in connection with a specific assignment, please email your assignment guidelines to Deanne.Gute@uni.edu. The guidelines will be distributed to the writing coaches to help them provide meaningful feedback for your students.
Can I send my entire class to the Writing Center for help with an assignment?
We encourage you to recommend the Writing Center to individuals or groups in your courses; however, please consult with Deanne Gute if you’re thinking of requiring large groups to schedule appointments. This will ensure that the Writing Center has adequate appointment slots available and that the writing coaches and reception staff are aware of your requirements and goals for your students’ visits. We also request that you share all assignment guidelines for distribution to the writing coaches.
When recommending that your students use the Writing Center, please refer them to the Student Information link for appointment procedures, and let them know that we do not schedule appointments by email.
Can I get verification that students I refer to the Writing Center work with a Writing Coach?
All students check in using AccuTrack, and all appointments are logged and summarized by the writing coaches. Faculty can request verification of student visits with or without appointment summaries. If you are offering extra credit for a Writing Center visit, remind your students to let the writing coach know that they need the writing coach to provide a verification form after the appointment.
Will the Writing Center proofread my students’ writing for them before they turn in their assignments?
Because the Writing Center is an instructional service, writing coaches do not edit or proofread FOR students. They do review points of grammar and mechanics and help students practice quality control strategies for finding and eliminating errors.
I sent a student to the Writing Center, but the paper the student turned in was terrible. What happened?
This is a complex question with many possible answers. If a student or faculty member has a specific complaint about the handling of a writing appointment, we want to know about it; contact Deanne.Gute@uni.edu. However, there are a number of factors that should be considered in determining why the quality of a finished paper may be poor in spite of a visit to the Writing Center.
1. The paper finally turned in may be significantly improved over the rough draft a student started with, though it’s still not at the expected level of quality for a final draft.
If you’ve recommended that students use the Writing Center, you might consider asking them to submit all paper drafts and label the one reviewed by a writing coach. The writing coaches do not make detailed notes and comments on student papers; part of the learning process involves encouraging students to mark their own drafts. However, glancing at the drafts will give you a sense of the paper’s evolution and the effort students have invested, which can be informative even if it’s not a factor you want to consider in grading final drafts.
2. Writing coaches are trained to deal with content, focus, and organization issues first. A single appointment may be taken up entirely with making decisions about and planning a revision for a paper’s purpose, coherence, and organization. A student may have time only to revise global features, leaving no time for sentence editing and proofreading.
3. Some students reject the opportunity to deal with content and focus issues in preference for proofreading advice (this is more common the closer the appointment is to the paper’s due date).
4. Some students have an appointment before they’ve actually started the paper. They use the appointment to get started and make a plan, so the writing coach has never actually dealt with a draft of the paper.
5. When a paper has multiple problems at both the global and sentence levels, coaches advise additional appointments if time allows; sometimes, there is no time, and many students choose not to follow up with additional appointments.
6. Writing coaches aim to help students accomplish something tangible during an appointment, but no paper gets thoroughly revised in a session. What happens after the session depends on each student’s individual motivation, the amount of time devoted to revision, and the ability to follow through on the advice received in the writing appointment. Many students need much more additional practice than they can receive in one appointment.
What additional resources are available at UNI for instructors interested in improving student writing skills and incorporating writing as part of the learning process for students?
See Writing @ UNI for information about the University Writing Committee, its campus-wide survey of faculty writing instruction, and resources for faculty.