“What is the Writing Center’s mission?”
We help individuals improve as writers. To this end, we focus on helping writers to develop skills no matter what their writing context. We help writers to make their own choices about a text rather than “fixing” papers for them. We don’t write on students’ papers; we counsel students about the choices they have as writers. Students who work with a writing coach often see improvement in their writing and feel better prepared for courses that require written work. Students may visit the Writing Center occasionally with questions about specific assignments or meet regularly with a coach to improve their writing habits. They often visit with concerns about developing arguments, organization, evidence, and sentence-level issues.
“Who works in the Writing Center?”
A full-time director, an assistant director, three ESL specialists, an administrative manager, and a group of graduate and undergraduate students with special training in teaching writing staff the Writing Center. The writing coaches come from departments across campus and have been selected because they are good teachers. Coaches are trained to respond to writing assignments from across the curriculum. You are welcome to stop in at any time to get acquainted with our staff and services.
“How can I encourage my students to use Writing Center services?”
- Add a description of Writing Center services and your view of them to your syllabus. Feel free to copy the following paragraph:
The Writing Center offers free, one-on-one help with all aspects of writing at any stage in the writing process. To make an appointment, browse the Writing Center’s online resources, or submit a draft online, please visit writingcenter.unc.edu. The main Writing Center office on the lower level of the Student and Academic Services Building is open for appointments Monday through Thursday from 9:00 AM until 8:00 PM, Friday from 9:00 AM until 4:00 PM, and Sunday from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM. There is also a satellite office in 221 Greenlaw Hall. To make the best use of your time, please bring a copy of your assignment with you. The Writing Center will not proofread papers or talk with you about grades. Many students find visits to the Writing Center well worth their time.
- Include the Writing Center tab on your course’s Sakai site tools. Start by selecting Site Info from the left hand menu. Next select Edit Tools from the top options under the title of your Sakai site. Check the box next to Writing Center on the alphabetical list of tools. Then scroll to the bottom of the page and click Continue. Finally, click Finish to complete adding the Writing Center tab tab to your Sakai site.
- Share comments from past students about the effectiveness of Writing Center services.
- Without using names, share anecdotes about your former students who have used Writing Center services and improved as writers.
- Bring your class on a tour of the Writing Center at the beginning or end of a class period or recitation section, or invite one of our writing coaches to visit your class. We can give a 5-10 minute overview of our services and answer questions. Use the “Request Our Services” link in the “Faculty Resources” section of our site to request a visit or tour. These visits acquaint students with our friendly faces (and, in the case of tours, location), and they clarify the nature of our services for those who are reluctant or skeptical.
- Make an appointment for yourself so that you can experience firsthand what students do. Faculty and TAs can work with coaches on drafts of assignments or articles. Follow the directions on our homepage to make an appointment with a writing coach.
- Remind students that you receive conference summaries from the Writing Center each time they visit. Reinforce for them that you value these summaries and see them as evidence of initiative and seriousness about the course. Alert them that they are welcome to have copies of these summaries as well.
- Remind students that they can get help online as well as on-site. Some students feel more comfortable sampling Writing Center services through the relative anonymity and distance of our online services. These services take two forms: 1) our handouts and demos section, a self-help bank of handouts and multimedia strategy lessons addressing common writing issues, and 2) our Online Writing Coach, a space where students can submit drafts and receive written feedback from a writing coach. Online resources are accessible from our homepage.
- Describe your own writing process and when and why you seek feedback from others. Sharing multiple drafts of your own work can provide a powerful visual illustration of the writing process.
- Distribute the Writing Center semester calendar to your students on the first day of class. This calendar maps the whole semester onto one page and is a valuable planning device for writing projects and academic life in general. Many students appreciate this tool, and it conveniently lists Writing Center contact information as well. You’ll find the calendar on our Handouts and Demos page.
- Request a flyer to post on your office door.
“How will I know when my students visit the Writing Center?”
When a student visits the Writing Center, his or her coach asks permission to write a brief summary of the conference and emails it to you. These summaries do not evaluate the student; they let you know the issues your student and his or her coach discussed. Most professors are pleased to see that their students have taken the initiative to improve their writing skills.
“Can the Writing Center help me revise or develop writing assignments for my courses?”
Yes. The Writing Center directors are happy to meet with you; you are welcome to request a consultation via the “Request Our Services” link under “Faculty Resources.”
“I’d like for all of my students to visit the Writing Center. Can I require my whole class to use the Writing Center?”
No. While we support your efforts to encourage students to examine and improve their writing skills, we cannot support required visits to the Center. This policy derives from both practical and pedagogical reasons outlined below. If you’d like to discuss this policy, contact the directors.
- Demand for our services exceeds the supply of appointments. When students make appointments because they are required to come in, are being given extra credit, or are making up missed classes, they prevent other students who voluntarily seek help from getting it. We seek to reward intellectual initiative and commitment by keeping all appointments available to those who make their own decisions to improve as writers.
- Writing Center services complement and supplement the writing instruction that takes place within courses. We do not have the staff to support individual writing instruction for all students in any single course. Our services cannot replace the writing instruction necessary in any particular course. When students have questions about the accuracy of the content of their papers, we will direct them to you and/or your teaching assistants.
- Students who aren’t invested don’t learn well. Past experience has taught us that students who visit the Writing Center under some form of requirement are not necessarily interested in improving their writing skills. Some (not all) come expecting to stay for just a few minutes so that we will write a conference summary attesting to their appearance here. While their visits acquaint them with our services and sometimes develop into worthwhile sessions, often these students simply fill up our calendar and prevent others from getting an appointment. Given the high demand for our services, we cannot afford to allot space to students who haven’t expressed interest in their development as writers.
“Should I give extra credit points to students who use the Writing Center?”
No. While awarding extra points may give students extra incentive to visit, our past experience indicates that most make appointments simply to get the points without intent to improve as writers. Students who make these perfunctory appointments crowd out other students who have actively and independently chosen to get help.
“Can I send students to the Writing Center for makeup sessions when they miss a meeting with me or with group members?”
No. Writing Center visits cannot replace course-related activities or requirements. Writing Center work supplements and complements course instruction. We know you are busy, but so are we!
“I have one student who desperately needs help with writing. Can I require this particular student to visit the Center?”
No. Even though you may have the best of intentions, requiring a student to use the Writing Center often backfires. If students are not ready to seek help, they will not be likely to receive it when they get here. Singling a student out may come across as punitive and discourage other students in the class from seeking help from the Writing Center. Promoting the service to the entire class will make it easier to personally encourage individual students when needed. You can strongly recommend that students make an appointment, but we caution against compelling them to visit or involving the Writing Center in a grading issue. If you’d like to discuss ways to encourage a particular student, feel free to contact the directors for options.
“Should I make grade decisions dependent on Writing Center visits?”
No. If you’d like to discuss ways to encourage student visits, feel free to contact the directors for options.
“Are there alternatives to requiring students’ use of the Writing Center?”
Yes. The following options may provide new avenues for you to direct your students to Writing Center services and help them improve as writers. If you’d like to discuss your particular students, assignments, or your students’ writing issues, feel free to contact the directors.
- Request a Writing Center visit. A Writing Center staff member would be happy to visit your class to deliver a short promotional message about our services, or you are welcome to bring your students to our space. If you would like to request one of these options for your class, please complete a request form.
- Include a Writing Center handout or multimedia writing strategy demo in your course assignments. Faculty members around the country use these materials as teaching tools. If you point students to the Writing Center webpage to find these resources, students may take further advantage of the on-site and online coaching opportunities available to them.
- When you set up the Sakai site for your course, check the Writing Center as one of the tabs you would like to have included.
- Develop writing coach-supported writing groups in your course. Contact the directors for more information.
- Promote Writing Center services to the whole class. See the promotion tactics above.
- Talk with our directors about your writing assignments and ways to improve students’ responses to them within your course.
“Do coaches at the Writing Center discuss grades with students?”
No. Writing Center staff members will not discuss scores or grades or make evaluative comments about assignments or papers during appointments.
“How much help can an undergraduate student get from the Writing Center?”
Undergraduate students can have two appointments per week (although they may not schedule two appointments on the same day). Students sometimes elect to come regularly over the course of a semester.
“Can graduate students make appointments?”
Yes. Graduate students may schedule one appointment per week. Graduate students in the professional schools must schedule their sessions on a same-day basis.
“Can students make standing appointments to work on overall writing improvement?”
They can schedule regular appointments, and we’d love to work with them on their writing skills and process. Ideally, students working on overall writing improvement or a large writing project should work with a coach once a week.
“Can students bring in non-course related work such as creative writing or personal statements for applications?”
Yes. Many students do. If we become overwhelmingly busy, we may restrict students to a maximum of two appointments per semester for personal statements.
“My students are working on a group project. Can the whole group come in for an appointment?”
Yes. Students may make a group appointment if they are working on a group assignment.
“Does the Writing Center help students with take-home essay exams?”
Yes. We rely on students to ask their instructors whether or not they may bring take-home exams to the Writing Center. If you do NOT wish your students to receive feedback from a Writing Center coach on a take-home exam, please make that explicit when you distribute the exam.
“My students can’t seem to proofread. Will you proofread papers before they turn them in to me?”
No. We do not provide editing or proofreading services, and students may not drop off a paper and pick it up later with corrections. We can, however, teach students to edit and proofread their own work more effectively. Don’t expect them to turn in a flawless paper after a visit here; our goal is to help them increase their skills and knowledge, so there’s a limit to the number of different concerns we can discuss in a single session.
“Do students need to have a full draft before they make an appointment? Some of my students wait until they have a full draft and then find they can’t get an appointment in time.”
Students do not need to have a completed draft before they make or attend an appointment. They do not even need to have started writing. Encourage students to make and keep appointments regardless of how far along they are in the assignment.