The Writing Assistance Program

RWIT offers trained undergraduate writing assistants to writing-intensive courses in any discipline. The Writing Assistance Program (WAP) operates under the premise that guided revision is the most critical process in improving student writing. Writing assistants enhance the educational experience of students as well as encourage students to value the revision process. By using a writing assistant, professors are more likely to see better final drafts of student papers.

Please review the information detailed below before requesting a writing assistant. We ask that faculty review the Writing Assistance FAQs for more in-depth information about working with a WA.

What Does a Writing Assistant Do?

The writing assistant diagnoses and responds to students' first drafts through margin notes and end commentaries, covering local and global writing problems, from grammar and style to paragraph organization and structure. The WA may meet with students either individually or in small group sessions to discuss compositions.

Your WA is a resource for students to develop effective writing practices. To maintain a facilitative approach to commentary, the WA may not edit, proofread, or grade papers. Furthermore, WAs may not comment on professors' grades with either the professor or the students.

The WA expects to work in close partnership with the professor. We ask professors to review basic protocol in the “How to Request a Writing Assistant” section before requesting a writing assistant.

How Should Professors Work with WAs?

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

  • Provide WAs with copies of syllabi and assignments.
  • Clarify logistical issues, such as due dates and turnaround times.
  • Establish goals for students' writing.
  • Discuss expectations for assignments and what issues WAs 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.

Caps & Turnaround Time:

The cap on hours your WA may work per term is typically 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 your WA, then please require that all your students attend. You and your WA should negotiate this matter, for WAs are full-time students and their basic obligation is to address drafts.

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

How to Request a WA:

Please note that writing assistants are in high demand, and there are terms when we cannot accommodate late requests. We give priority to requests for courses that have a significant writing component and that include a request form and a brief overview of the way the professor will employ the WA. We will not assign a writing assistant to your course unless we have a completed request form by the deadline. Writing Assistants will be assigned to courses that will use them in optimal ways, i.e., provide a sufficient workload. See the FAQs for more information.

Please contact Joanna Asia Rowe, Acting Director of Student Writing Support, for information on requesting a Writing Assistant.