Faculty FAQs

Have a question about the Writing Program, the WRC, or writing support at New College? Let us know!

General Questions about Writing at New College

Writing is a complex activity that occurs differently in different contexts and requires ongoing practice and guidance. Effective writing depends on the writer’s ability to understand and address audience, purpose, and topic. Consequently, a single class can’t teach students to write in all situations because genres and conventions vary from community to community and context to context. Students can become better writers when they have multiple opportunities to write in classes across the curriculum throughout their education–not just in the first year. Writing Studies courses provide a foundation for faculty across the disciplines to build on as they teach students the conventions and expectations of their disciplines.

Current Writing Studies courses are not tiered, i.e. there is no “basic” or “advanced.” While some courses may better suit new students or those who struggle with writing, the courses are designed to benefit all levels of proficiency and interest. Currently, Writing Studies: Writing about Writing is recommended for incoming students or students who have struggled with college-level writing. For information about Writing Studies courses, or other writing enhanced courses, please feel free to contact us at writing@ncf.edu.

It can be difficult to watch a student struggle with writing, and tempting to desire a quick and effective way to help that student. That being said, as writing instruction and support happen both in and outside of the classroom, there is no one place or one person who can “fix” student writers. In addition to sending students to meet with student writing assistants in the WRC, faculty can guide all students to develop as writers by providing well-designed writing assignments. including explicit writing instruction, and offering opportunities to practice and receive feedback or feedforward with those assignments.

The Director of Writing and Assistant Director of Writing are available to work with individual faculty members or entire Areas of Concentration on ways to include or strengthen existing writing opportunities in order to develop all students’ writing potential as fully as possible. The Director of Writing/Assistant Director of Writing/Student Writing Assistants are also happy to suggest additional tools to whole classes or individual students that can help students plan and manage their time, set goals, improve proofreading, and more.

Faculty can extend the learning opportunities for students by recommending their students/advisees choose from an array of additional resources. This could include guiding students to take a Writing Studies/Seminar in Critical Inquiry/Writing Enhanced Course, encouraging students to make a one-time visit or series of recurring writing conferences in the WRC, or including mandatory WRC conferences for a whole class as a part of a course/assignment.

All courses taught by the Director or Assistant Director of Writing are “branded” with the title “Writing Studies” to reflect their theoretical and pedagogical affiliation with the field of Writing Studies, in which writing is “both the practice and object of study” (Beard, 2010).

Through Writing Studies courses, students read and write about the “content” of writing, which changes their understanding about writing and the ways they approach their own writing. Writing Studies is not an AOC.

Writing Studies courses: Jennifer Wells, the Director of Writing; Allie Maass, the Assistant Director of Writing

SCI/WEC: Other participating Faculty (if you are interested in teaching an SCI/WEC, please contact the Director of Writing)

Students who take Writing Studies classes have the opportunity for focused engagement with their own writing and the writing of others in order to identify successful and unsuccessful features of their writing process.

Students who take Seminars in Critical Inquiry or Writing Enhanced Courses have the opportunity to explore and practice writing within the context of specific disciplines.

All writing classes give students the opportunity to critically examine their own writing as they build foundations for future growth, an opportunity they may not have if they continue to struggle to figure out how to write academically on their own.

The answer to this question largely depends on what the person who asks it means by “teaching grammar.”  Over 100 years of research has shown that acontextual, standalone grammar instruction is ineffective.

Writing Studies courses do not teach grammar by asking students to memorize rules, diagram sentences, practice in workbooks or on worksheets, or complete other “skill and drill” tasks that many of us may remember from our own schooling.  We also do not copy-edit or “fix” students work for them as research and experience have also shown this approach does not improve student writing.

However, we do teach students that mechanics and usage are conventions that are dictated by the genre, discipline, and/or occasion. For example, many students have been taught to never use the passive voice, but in some disciplines, the passive voice is preferred.

Through formal and informal writing assignments, students develop knowledge of linguistic structures, including grammar, punctuation and spelling, and begin to understand why, and how, genre conventions for structure, paragraphing, tone and mechanics vary.

Students are given feedback and expected to revise when accumulation of errors 1) displays a pattern of error (e.g., repeating misuse of a semicolon) or 2) distracts the reader or otherwise diminishes their authorial credibility (e.g., tries to sound too “academic” or shows lack of attention to proofreading). They are also guided to identify the source of their struggles with producing a “clean copy,” whether it be lack of proofreading, first language/dialect influence, atypical cognitive or learning ability, or a misunderstanding of instructor expectations.

It is important to note that, as students write in unfamiliar genres or try to synthesize new content they don’t fully understand, their grasp of mechanics and usage will often appear to diminish because they are grappling with new material; additionally, while students may have a firm grasp of the conventions of one genre or discipline, they may attempt to ineffectively transfer those conventions in a different genre or discipline where they are not appropriate (e.g. use of passive voice).

Yes! Like other ISPs, students are welcome to contact the Director or Assistant Director of Writing in order to set up an individual ISP that explores a writing related topic not covered in existing courses.

If enough students express interest in a particular topic, group ISPs are also an option.

“Writing Studies: Pedagogy in Practice” provides an excellent introduction to the pedagogy, or study of, teaching writing, and provides students with opportunities to practice teaching writing through working with their peers in the Writing Resource Center. In order to apply for a Student Writing Assistant position in the WRC, students first need to satisfactorily complete this course. In addition to being the first step in SWA training, this course serves as a positive opportunity for students at any level and any AOC to gain additional writing instruction (i.e., this class isn’t  just for students who want to be a SWA. It also serves as an intermediate writing course). There are no pre-reqs, and the course is capped at 15.

Please direct any and all of your students who you think have the personality and aptitude to teach/be a SWA to take the course! We especially appreciate strong writers from the Nat Sci division as these students are often less likely to seek out additional writing instruction opportunities on their own. We also recommend that future TAs take this course as training for working with their fellow students. This course will be offered every spring.

For a description of current SCI/WEC courses, please refer the WEC support page.

The Writing Program would love to be able to offer more Writing Studies courses in the future, should funding and staffing be available.

Questions About Resources for Faculty

Yes! These are not “out of the box,” but rather customized for each individual faculty/course. Feel free to contact the Director, the Assistant Director, or even a SWA in order to design a presentation/workshop that fits your needs!

Identifying why a student appears to be struggling with writing can be a very difficult task. When a student is not a native speaker of English, this task can seem even more difficult as often it can be too easy to point the finger at first language influence.

Spend some time speaking with your student; ask them why they structured their paper the way they did or if they realize that they keep making the same mistake. It could be that they are unfamiliar with a particular writing convention in English, or they may have simply not proofread the paper (as many students neglect to do). Feel free to recommend your student take one of the writing courses or visit the WRC.

If you are marking the paper, note patterns and try not to overwhelm with corrections and feedback, keeping in mind that some parts of speech or grammatical constructions, like articles or verb conjugations, don’t have a counterpart in other languages.

The mind can only learn so much at a time, and receiving writing full of editor’s notes can often be overwhelming. If the issue is truly first-language-influence, typically more reading and more practice writing is the best way to gain fluency in the new language, not grammar drills.

Our Student Writing Assistants are trained to assist students by guiding them through critically reading and revising their own writing. If students come into the WRC asking for help with “grammar”, the SWA will read through the piece of writing with the student and help to identify patterns of error, introduce proofreading strategies, and help look up common writing and punctuation conventions. In this way, the writer remains an engaged and active participant in their own editing process and will, ideally, be able to better proofread their work in the future. For that reason, the SWA will not proofread and correct or line-edit the writing for students without their involvement (as learning does not happen in that case). If a SWA were to do this, they would in effect be doing writers’ work for them rather than assisting them to develop their own writing.

We ask that students and their faculty keep in mind that learning and mastering these strategies may take time, and we recommend that students who are struggling with standardized grammar and punctuation, academic English dialect, and/or a reading/writing disability set up a repeating appointment with a SWA.

New College students have mostly excelled at writing in high school contexts, which are often very different than college contexts. Students who excel at writing in one genre may fumble when writing in an unfamiliar genre. Writing is always in a state of development, and all writers can benefit from practice, explicit guidance, feedback and feedforward.

For insight into what NCF students may have experienced in high school, read this from The Washington Post.

Don’t see your question? Check out the student writing FAQs or feel free to contact us directly.