Helping Your Students Make Effective Use of the Writing Center
Students should be taught how to make effective use of the variety of services offered on MCC’s campus, including the Writing Center. As an instructor, you can play a vital role in this process by sharing these helpful hints with students so they can better understand our services as they prepare for an appointment with a writing consultant.
Encourage students to bring their written assignment sheets and notes about any additional instructions you have given during class. Also encourage them
to bring any relevant course materials, including textbooks. Our consultants often help students with documentation and other mechanics issues by demonstrating how to look up appropriate examples in their course textbooks.
Many students think they must bring a written draft of a paper to the Writing Center, but this is not true. On the contrary, we encourage them to visit during the prewriting stage to discuss the assignment requirements, brainstorm topic ideas, and develop a plan or outline.
Writing assistance is especially helpful for students who visit the Writing Center multiple times at various stages during the creative process. A single, 60-minute session with a consultant is often not sufficient time to address everything. Students are allotted two appointments per week and can make additional visits for walk-in assistance as availability permits.
It’s your writing.
Encourage your students to take ownership of their Writing Center appointments and subsequent revisions. Students are not obligated to utilize every suggestion made by the consultant. The Writing Center relinquishes control over what students do with their writing after they have visited us. In fact, we aren’t seeking control in the first place. Our goal is to help students make good decisions about their own work.
Students can request a specific consultant or request not to work with a specific person. We take no offense to this request because we know that just like instructors have different personalities and teaching styles, so do our consultants. Sometimes students need to work with a variety of people before they find an optimal fit.
“I think my teacher said . . .”
When students visit the Writing Center for assistance in revising an essay, encourage them to bring any written feedback they have received from you. It is very helpful for the consultant to see exactly what you have commented on so they can assist the student with interpretation and application of the feedback.
“What was that?”
Feedback from both instructors and consultants is open to interpretation. What the consultant suggests and what the student hears and internalizes might not always be congruent. Please be aware of this and encourage students to take notes during their session with a consultant to minimize confusion and produce a tangible point of reference.
Back to you.
Our consultants are familiar with the general requirements for some courses (like those in our composition sequence, comprised of ENGL100 AND ENGL101) but not with instructor-specific requirements. Consultants rely on students’ understanding of these requirements and might, therefore, need to send the student back to you with specific questions.
If students tell you they visited the Writing Center and did not find their session helpful, it might be useful to ask about their expectations. Sometimes, well-intentioned students ask the consultant to edit a paper or predict a grade, which our consultants are not permitted to do. If the student does not fully understand why these requests cannot be fulfilled, a follow-up conversation with you can provide further clarification.
Talk to us.
We encourage feedback—both positive and critical—from students and faculty. If a student approaches you with a complaint, please encourage them to come talk to us. If you would rather bring the concern to our attention on behalf of the student, please try to get as many details as you can about the student’s visit, who they worked with, and what happened.
If you are requiring students to provide evidence that they visited the Writing Center, please remind them to record essential details about their visit while they are here. You are welcome to use or adapt the student reflection form to help them do so. We recommend that, at minimum, you ask them for the date and time of their appointment, the first name of the consultant, and a brief description of the feedback they received.
The College does not offer editing services for students. Therefore, no matter where students seek assistance on campus, they will likely return to class with papers that still contain errors. The Writing Center assists students with writing assignments for all classes and at all stages in the writing process. Consultants focus primarily on content and organization in student writing but offer instructional editing (identifying patterns of error) in later drafts. In other words, we don’t proofread students’ papers, but when the time is right (in later drafts), we’re happy to help students improve their own editing/proofreading skills.
(Adapted from material created by Jill Reglin, Writing Center Coordinator, and Andrew Hicks, Peer Writing Assistant, Lansing Community College)