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About Writing Consultants

Many writing consultants serve in the Writing Center through our online appointment calendar, while others are assigned to specific courses and instructors. When assigned to a course, the writing consultant's main responsibility is to provide appropriate written commentary on a student's rough draft and to meet the student in a brief writing conference to provide feedback and helpful writing tips.

Faculty should expect that Writing Consultants will:

  • Meet with the instructor early in the semester to establish guidelines for assigning papers and helping students, as defined by the instructor and the goals of WAC at University of Richmond.
  • Introduce themselves to the instructor's class members early in the semester, providing students a positive model of peer scholarship and representing the WAC program effectively.
  • Provide appropriate and effective written commentary on any rough drafts or other preliminary work assigned by the instructor, keeping within the guidelines established earlier in the semester.
  • Begin assisting writers, unless told otherwise by the faculty member, with global concerns (answering the assignment, finding a focus and/or governing claim, supporting arguments).  When looking at structural and sentence-level concerns, Consultants are trained to look for patterns of error, to give instruction, and to avoid fixing every mistake. Their jobs are to help writers learn to self-correct and proofread on their own.
  • Provide students an opportunity to schedule appointments for individual writing conferences.
  • Attend all individual writing conferences at the designated time and at the designated location.
  • Return annotated rough drafts to students in a timely fashion (i.e. within one week).
  • Remain in regular contact with the Writing Center Director.
  • Remain in regular contact with the instructor, reporting any problems or unusual events immediately. This includes late rough drafts and other student actions that seem questionable or outside the instructor's assignment guidelines.
  • * Check e-mail frequently and include a sign-up sheet or other method so writers and instructor will know where a consultant should be for appointments.

How faculty can help Writing Consultants do their best work:

  • Communicate expectations for timeliness, deadlines, and tasks to Consultants right away.
  • Explain the rationale for the Consultant’s presence in class as a trained reader for all writers, not merely for those needing special help.
  • Collect preliminary work for the Consultant to evaluate and give Consultants at least a week to meet all writers, who then should be given a few more days before final revisions come due.
  • Require that all writers see the Consultant at least twice during the term, and penalize writers who skip or who turn in paltry drafts (my penalty is a +/- letter grade on the project).
  • Explain any “pet peeves” so writers will understand what they need to avoid or to do well. My “peeves” appear as a link from my syllabi.
  • Arrange a reporting method. I don’t recommend individual reports, as you receive from the Center; instead, I ask my Consultants to sum up, in one e-mail, notes about the meetings with students and observations about their drafts.
  • Contact The Writing Center Director if a Consultant is not meeting expectations, goes missing, or has helped a student who needs assistance beyond what the Consultant can provide.

Consultant Testimonials

In my own classes, I've yet to work with a writing consultant. If one had been assigned to a class during my freshman year, I probably would have assumed that the fellow would read my paper over and make all necessary corrections including punctuation, spelling, and grammar. Yet proofreading is not included in the fellows' duties. The fellow should neither write papers for students nor put ideas in their heads. The fellow should instead help writers organize and clearly state their thoughts by asking appropriate questions. The fellow does not have to have taken the subject or course for which the paper is written. Instead, the consultant must maintain the role of writer to writer, not of tutor to student.

As a consultant I have learned a lot from the people with whom I've worked, because I have considered them writers, not students or tutees. The role of the writing consultant, therefore, is one which enables writers to be confident that what they are writing is part of a process in which ideas can be shared.

- Kelly Nagle, UR writing fellow

I believe that the role of a writing consultant
is to be someone who listens at all times and who offers advice in a non-threatening way to peers. It is advantageous, especially for writers who are still adjusting to the demands of college life or those who are just entering a discipline, to have someone they can go to on a friendly level.

Even though it is the fellow's duty to be impartial and to avoid giving away ideas, the consultant relationship is a great way for less experienced writers to gain confidence in their own voices through peer encouragement. Having someone to talk to who can identify with a writer's problems, because the consultant went through the same things in the past, helps to eliminate a writers' feelings of bewilderment about writing. Once the initial problems of organization and clear, concise writing are addressed, the writer will have the courage to express ideas and will feel confident that these ideas are being successfully conveyed to others.

- Laurie Linder, UR writing fellow