Here are responses to questions that faculty have occasionally expressed.
Do Writing Fellows really need a full week to comment on papers?
Yes! Fellows are trained to comment extensively and thoughtfully on drafts of student papers. Fellows often spend 1-2 hours reading and commenting on each paper. In addition, they are full-time students and some of them work additional jobs to support themselves. As a result, they need at least one full week to comment fully and effectively on each student’s draft.
Why didn’t my Writing Fellow edit my students’ papers?
Research on writing shows that revision is most effective when it is done first at the “global” level and then at the “local” level. Global concerns include such issues as: Is the paper fulfilling the terms of the assignment? Does the paper follow a logical progression of thought? Is the paper well-organized? Local concerns include style, spelling and punctuation, and grammar. Once a student has addressed global concerns in his or her revision, s/he can focus on local issues that are persistently problematic or that interfere with the student’s ability to communicate effectively. We recognize how important both global and local issues are to writing; however, given that they have only 30 minutes to meet with students, Fellows may not have time to address all of the concerns in a given paper. Please let Fellows know what your personal priorities are but please understand that we teach them to respond globally before locally.
Is it ok to change a paper due date mid-semester?
If at all possible, please do not change due dates for papers your students are working on with Writing Fellows. Fellows are all full-time students with many commitments. They carefully plan their schedules to allow time to comment fully on student papers. If you must change a date, please check with the Fellows to make sure their schedules will allow for it.
I have three Writing Fellows for my course; how should I manage the logistics of meetings with all of us?
To cut down on multiple emails and to make finding meeting times easier, you and your Fellows should decide on one Writing Fellow to be the “team leader.” The Leader will initiate meetings and coordinate schedules.
What should I do if a student submits a late paper?
It is important that you insist that all papers be turned in on time. Nevertheless, some students may miss deadlines. At the first meeting with your Fellow, establish a late paper policy (for example, marking a student down a small percentage for each day a paper is late). Your Fellow will make every effort to comment on a late paper, but his/her schedule may not allow it. Students should not be allowed to omit revision by submitting their papers late.
What should I do if a student turns in a final paper without the first version and the Fellow’s comments?
For the program to be effective, students must receive a Fellow’s comments, attend a conference, and revise the paper. Therefore, we ask that you accept only papers accompanied by the first draft and the Fellow’s comments. If for some reason a student neglects to turn in his or her first draft and comments, remind the student that these are required. If the student has lost them, ask the Fellow for a copy of his or her endnotes (which Fellows typically save); you won’t be able to look at the marginal comments, but at least you’ll get a sense of the Fellow’s main suggestions.
What should I do if a student says he or she does not need a Writing Fellow?
Since the program is mandatory for all students in a participating course, please do not excuse any students. Sometimes writers are initially skeptical about working with a Fellow, but ultimately find the experience beneficial and enjoyable. You may want to discuss a skeptical student’s paper with your Fellow when he or she is in the process of commenting on it. Also, feel free to contact the program administrators to discuss strategies for working with skeptical students.
What do I say to a student who complains that his or her Writing Fellow is not familiar with the course content?
We ask you to tell students that Fellows are educated lay readers. Since Fellows comment on form rather than content, they need not be experts in a field to help a student improve his or her writing. Please help students appreciate the kind of response a lay reader can give by sharing your own experiences of having colleagues outside your immediate field read your work.
Some faculty members choose to augment the Fellows’ work with their students by scheduling fifteen-minute conferences with each student to discuss content exclusively or by scheduling in-class peer workshops (before or during the Writing Fellows paper cycle) to focus on content-related issues in the papers.
What should I do if a student complains about a Writing Fellow?
Very rarely, a student complains about a Writing Fellow’s comments. Please do not allow the student to switch to another Fellow simply because the student was unhappy with the comments. Rather, meet with the Fellow and student, together or separately, to review the paper and discuss solutions for the second paper cycle. (If a student feels that a Fellow’s behavior has been inappropriate, please contact Emily Hall [firstname.lastname@example.org] immediately.)