Writing Assistance FAQs for Faculty

General Questions

Does RWIT visit classes for presentations or workshops?

RWIT's Road Show Team will hold in-class and outside presentations and workshops. Please contact Christiane Donahue for details on what the team does and how to request a presentation or workshop.

RWIT Tutoring Sessions

Will RWIT verify a student's attendance at a tutoring session at the center if I request verification?

No. RWIT tutors are not permitted to engage in third-party discussions about a student's session.

May I ask a tutor for a progress report on one of my students?

No. RWIT tutors are not permitted to engage in third-party discussions about a student's session.

Will tutors comment on my assignments or grades on a student's assignment?

No. RWIT tutors are trained to look over academic projects for content, clarity, and structure. Tutors ask for the professor's assignment prompts so that they can better assist students. RWIT tutors, however, do not make comments on a professor's assignment or response to a student's work.

How do RWIT tutors respond to students who bring in take-home exams?

RWIT tutors ask students whether or not they have permission to seek help with an assignment, especially if the assignment resembles an exam. If the assignment is an exam, RWIT tutors will not assist the student.

Can multiple students working on a collaborative multimedia project schedule a group appointment?

Yes, but the group should contact the Head Tutor and the RWIT tutor they are scheduled to meet to let them know that multiple people will be attending.

Writing Assistance Program

Who are the writing assistants?

Writing assistants are full-time students: trained sophomores, juniors, and seniors majoring in various disciplines across the board. All have weathered a rigorous selection process, and many have been nominated as proficient student writers to RWIT by faculty, and some have won significant writing prizes and honors in their undergraduate careers. Over the years, some of our WAs have been Rhodes Scholars, Lombard recipients, Fulbright and Presidential Scholars, and Senior Fellows. They are writers dedicated to helping other writers.

What training do WAs receive?

The RWIT senior and junior staff train WAs in the pedagogy of writing, research, and multimedia composition. In the fall term, WAs attend 18 hours of intensive training in diagnosing and responding to student text (in the traditional academic essay and in multimedia composition) and addressing student research strategies and skills. In each term of work, WAs must complete four to six hours of ongoing training in one of four training domains: writing, research, multimedia composition, and English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction.

How should professors work with WAs?

At the beginning of term, professors should meet with WAs to:

  • Provide WAs with copies of syllabi and potential writing assignments.
  • Clarify logistical issues, such as due dates and turnaround times.
  • Establish goals for students' writing.
  • Discuss expectations for class assignments and what issues the WA ought to address.
  • Agree on the protocol that WAs should follow if they suspect plagiarism in first drafts.

We recommend that professors:

  • Invite WAs to meet their classes early in the term.
  • Add WAs to Blackboard sites as auditors, or provide them with the class list so that they can contact students.
  • Have regular substantive conversations with WAs, whether in one-on-one conferences or through e-mail, on students' progress and students' writing issues.
  • Give feedback to WAs about the substance and style of their commentary, perhaps by asking students to bring in first drafts annotated with WA comments.

Can WAs address content, having not taken the class themselves?

When possible, the program will assign WAs to courses that they have taken, or are in their majors. In these cases, the professor may be confident that the WA is prepared to address matters of content, as well as discourse conventions.

With the exception of First-Year Seminar and Writing 5 courses, WAs may be assigned to courses in which they have a limited background. Even so, WAs are prepared to read texts as common readers; that is, they are prepared to address clarity, style, structure, organization, and so on.

Together, the professor and WA should assess the degree to which the WA should address content. WAs learn fast, and they welcome the opportunity to learn about new subjects and discourses. We encourage professors to offer the WAs any material that helps them with discourse conventions in your field. RWIT’s writing assistance service is not necessarily a useful option for some professors and in some courses. Some professors see a very clear border between form and content, and so may not be comfortable with a WA who ventures beyond form. If this caveat fits, then a WA is not a viable option.

Will my WA meet with my students?

Although the program requires that a WA only write margin and end comments on drafts, some WAs do have time to meet in one-on-one tutorials with students or hold office hours. Often WAs will email notes to the class that address common writing issues after they have finished a set of drafts. Assuming the WA has time to conference, the professor and WA should work out a viable conference protocol. Professors and WAs should be mindful that time spent in conference does count in the hours cap.

How can I make sure students submit serious drafts to the WA?

Collect drafts from your students in class, and then pass them to your writing assistant. Have your WA return them to you, and then you return them to your students. This way your students understand that you expect them to turn in serious drafts. It is also helpful to just plain tell them what you expect in those first drafts. It may be helpful to describe or show your students an example of a serious draft, or show them an example of what does not measure up as a serious first draft, i.e., rough notes. Define the level of polish that you want to see in first drafts.

How can I encourage a productive relationship between my students and the WA?

Ask students to submit their first drafts (complete with WA comments) with their revisions. This way you can see if the students re-envisioned their papers, or merely fixed their drafts, and you can oversee the WA’s work. Ask students to include a commentary on their own writing process (on the revised paper), taking into account how they used or did not use the WA’s commentary in revising their papers.

Share a sample of your commentary style with the WA, and ask the WA to share a sample of her commentary. Compare your comments with the WA’s on a short writing sample that you’ve encountered in your course (on separate sheets of paper) early in the term. Discuss how you and the WA should handle student response (or concerns) about discrepant comments—when yours and your WA’s comments don’t quite agree.

Ask your students to submit copies of revised drafts to the WA, so that she can see how their papers evolve (or do not). One of the great benefits with working with students is getting to see how much students’ writing improves over time. To see the students’ progress increases the WA’s confidence, and reaffirms her commitment to her work.

How many pages of student text can I expect my WA to address?

You can expect the WA to handle a maximum of 450 pages of student text in a term. For example, a first-year seminar with 16 students that assigns four five-page papers would generate approximately 320 pages of text for the WA to address.

How will I know how much time the WA is spending on my course?

WAs must show professors their WA logs. On the log, the WA will record the time she has invested in commentary, conferences, and so on. The WA will also report who did, or did not, turn in drafts, and alert you to any signs of trouble students may be having, e.g., decoding assignments, poor effort, and so on.

What should govern deadlines and turnaround times?

Since your WA has her own academic schedule and other commitments to manage, she should know early in the term firm dates for getting drafts, and have a reasonable amount of turnaround times for those papers. For instance, the average turnaround time for a set of sixteen 4-6-page papers is four to five days.

Is it all right to change deadlines?

We recommend that you and the WA negotiate deadlines in your first meeting. She will arrange her term schedule to accommodate those deadlines.

If you must change a deadline, please try to consult the WA as soon as possible. If she cannot accommodate this change, perhaps you can work out an alternative with her. WAs have a particularly difficult time adjusting to changes that occur near the end of the term, since all their papers are due at that time.

As a matter of professional courtesy, a WA should alert you in advance should she require emergency leave from work. Should this happen, please advise the director or head writing assistant, so the program can make arrangements for other WAs to address your drafts.

What is the cap on WA hours?

The cap differs from term to term depending on Writing Program policy, but it typically is around 60 hours. You might manage this hours cap by asking the WA to:

  • Address certain papers and not others, or every other draft.
  • Address some stages of a larger project.
  • Hold open office hours for students who would like to talk about their writing.
  • Send post-paper notes to the class about general writing issues and tips.
  • Meet with those students requiring the most assistance with their writing. RWIT recommends that professors encourage, rather than require, their students to meet with the WA. If you want all your students to conference periodically with all your students, then please require that all your students attend. You and the WA should negotiate this matter, for WAs are full-time students. Their basic obligation is to address drafts.

What if I want to try a new way to use a WA in the course?

Feel free to consider innovative ways to use your WA. All the guidelines are subject to modification. However, we ask that you check with the director, and certainly discuss any innovations with your WA before you commit to “new ways of doing things.”

Remember: The program has coached WAs to expect some basic parameters in the program, i.e., they will receive sufficient drafts to make their assignment “worthwhile.” So if you want to try something new—anything at variance with the guidelines—please check with the director and your WA.

What should I do if the WA and I encounter difficulties we cannot resolve?

If, after talking with your WA about the issue, you find that you cannot solve the problem, please consult the Director of Student Writing Support, or the Head Writing Assistant. Whether you have a pedagogical question that stumps you both, or a logistical issue that seems unsolvable, please contact either the HWA or director, or both. If the matter is sensitive, please contact Stephanie.

Throughout the term, you can expect occasional check-in emails from the head writing assistant and director. At the end of the term, the director will ask you to evaluate your WA’s performance. Your WA will ask your students to complete an anonymous online survey about her work. WAs will see the student evaluations. However, if you want your WA to see your evaluation, then you must give the director permission to share the evaluation. Alternatively, you may show the WA your evaluation, and cc the director.

Do call or email the director to discuss how a WA might best serve your course, any issues that you and your WA cannot resolve, suggestions you have for the program, and strategies you and the WA have used to good effect (even those that proved unsuccessful).

What if I am unhappy with my WA’s performance?

Your WA would appreciate it if you would talk with her—first—about whatever concerns you. If you and the WA are not able to work out your issues, then please alert the head writing assistant or director.

Please do not let any concern go unaddressed. If you are not pleased with a WA’s performance, do not wait until the end of the term to address the matter. By then it will be too late to solve the problem.

What resources are available for professors about teaching writing? For students about composition and research?

Useful materials on teaching writing for faculty can be found here. Materials for students about writing college papers can be found here.

Can I have a sample schedule for my WA?

Yes. Download one here.