The Local Context: Faculty, Students, Staff, and Programs

3.1 First-Year English at WSU

Currently at WSU, English 111, College Reading and Writing (4 credits), is the only single course in written composition required of all students. As a requisite of WSU's University Studies Program, every student also completes at least six semester credits of writing-intensive coursework in the major or minor, and most majors require additional courses demanding writing of their students.

A small set of students places into English 099, a remedial course in composition prerequisite to 111. Additionally, some majors are required to take English 210, Advanced Expository Writing, or another writing course. And English majors often are (depending on their program) expected to take courses in community writing, creative writing, essay writing, and technical writing.

However, since over 80 percent of WSU students place into general sections of English 111, most Writing Center work begins here. The course is described below.

College Reading and Writing: 4 s.h.
The purpose of the College Reading and Writing class is to help WSU students increase their critical reading, thinking, and writing skills. The course will help students develop a mature writing style and an ability to integrate material from multiple sources with their own writing. The course will further emphasize writing as essential to academic learning and intellectual development.

This class is designed to establish a foundation for the reading and writing done in later college courses, supporting a larger writing-across-the-curriculum educational experience; therefore, students should take it as soon as possible, preferably in their first year and certainly no later than their third semester.

This class must include requirements and learning activities that promote students' abilities to: 
  1. read challenging texts that reflect important cultural themes and demand critical thinking;
  2. analyze the rhetoric and structure of (their own and others') arguments;
  3. summarize and critique examples of mature expository and argumentative prose;
  4. revise through multiple drafts and critical readings to create and complete successful essays;
  5. formulate intelligent claims and make purposeful, appropriately documented use of authoritative sources as supporting evidence;
  6. make use of basic tools of research, such as general indexes, periodicals, and on-line databases;
  7. construct coherent essays based on reading, interpreting, analyzing, critiquing, and synthesizing texts;
  8. adapt the structure, content, and tone of their writing to the knowledge and attitudes of their audience;
  9. use vivid, concrete language; concise, varied sentences; unified, cohesive paragraphs; gender-inclusive English; and a college-level vocabulary; and
  10. proofread, edit, and correct their final copy for common errors of spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and usage.

For further information regarding English 111, see the "Resources for Teachers of English 111" pages on the English Department website. 

3.2 Upper-Division Writing-Intensive Courses

WSU's University Studies Program requires that all students complete at least six hours of writing-intensive coursework beyond English 111.  Flagged courses will normally be in the student's major or minor program. All flagged courses must require the relevant basic skills course(s) as prerequisites (e.g., the "College Reading and Writing" Basic Skill course is a prerequisite for Writing Flag courses), although departments and programs may require additional prerequisites for flagged courses. The purpose of the Writing Flag requirement is to reinforce the outcomes specified for the basic skills area of writing. These courses are intended to provide contexts, opportunities, and feedback for students writing with discipline-specific texts, tools, and strategies. These courses should emphasize writing as essential to academic learning and intellectual development.

Courses can merit the Writing Flag by demonstrating that section enrollment will allow for clear guidance, criteria, and feedback for the writing assignments; that the course will require a significant amount of writing to be distributed throughout the semester; that writing will comprise a significant portion of the students' final course grade; and that students will have opportunities to incorporate readers' critiques of their writing.

These courses must include requirements and learning activities that promote students' abilities to...
  • practice the processes and procedures for creating and completing successful writing in their fields;
  • understand the main features and uses of writing in their fields;
  • adapt their writing to the general expectations of readers in their fields;
  • make use of the technologies commonly used for research and writing in their fields; and
  • learn the conventions of evidence, format, usage, and documentation in their fields.
In the English Department, Writing Flag courses include Literary Criticism, Shakespeare, and Technical Writing. Other WSU departments offer a wide range of Writing Flag courses, ranging from Business Communication to Nineteenth Century Art, from French Composition to Modern Physics, from Psychological Testing and Measurement to Information Resource Management.

3.3 Notes on Collaboration, Remediation and Plagiarism

Collaboration
Tutors are sometimes concerned about giving too much help to a student. This is a legitimate concern, but as long as the student is doing the actual writing, there should be nothing to worry about. Tutors should feel comfortable in providing students with explanations, with strategies for responding to a particular assignment, and with suggestions for what might be included or left out of a piece. On the other hand, tutors should resist the urge to thoroughly edit and revise a piece. There is nothing wrong with teaching students how to edit their paper-but it is not the job of the tutor to edit the entire piece for students.

Tutors should be aware of some of the complexities that arise from disciplinary knowledge in academic communities as well. Too often one trained in English will set about "correcting" the passive tense structures of a paper written for a sociology course when such structures are not only acceptable but required in that context. Tutors should be sensitive to the stylistic and rhetorical demands of different academic communities. The particulars of writing in different academic communities are discussed in Emily Meyer and Louise Z. Smith, The Practical Tutor, and James D. Williams, et. al., The Interdisciplinary Reader.

Remediation
While the Writing Center has in past years progressed well beyond the status of a "remedial lab," there are nonetheless still two significant groups of students for whom the Writing Center will perform remediation: students who need individualized work to meet the Education Department's writing clearance requirement, and English 099 students who need individualized work to pass the English Department's exit exam allowing them to enroll in English 111. Both of these groups of students must "pass" an examination in which they write a brief essay, and students who do not pass may work in the Writing Center before rewriting the examination. Such students will require a certain amount of paperwork for documentation.

Plagiarism
Sometimes it will be obvious to you that a student has brought in a paper that is plagiarized. It is a tutor's responsibility to explain to the student what plagiarism is and why it is considered unethical in the academic community. Although in some cases a student will attempt to submit a paper under false pretenses--by copying from a published work, downloading off the Internet, cribbing from a friend or a "paper mill"--it is often the case that students merely do not understand how to work with sources. The tutor may need to explain how and why all materials, including those summarized and paraphrased, need to be attributed to sources in a consistent and acceptable documentation format.
  • See also: The Writing Center's handout, "Ten Tips for Countering Plagiarism“

3.4 Working with WSU Faculty

Working in a Writing Center can prove a complicated rhetorical situation if students or faculty have differing expectations. The keener your awareness of the local context-and the more articulate your presentation of Writing Center work-the more likely you are to avoid any misunderstanding of your efforts. Communicating clearly will help faculty understand and respect the work done here.

Memoranda
The "Writing Center Referral" form that students may bring to the center indicates whether instructors wish feedback. If the instructor has indicated that she wishes information about the student's work in the center, tutors should use the "Report to Instructor" form. The section in this guide entitled "A Model Tutoring Session" contains information about summarizing a session.

You also may wish to use the "Report to Instructor" form to notify instructors of your work or to request information. Like the notes you make on the reverse of the "Student Information Sheet," such communications are valuable for informing and reminding faculty about the work we do in the Writing Center. These forms provide an important opportunity for tutors to converse with their students' instructors.

Using the Writing Center: A Guide for Faculty
Of course, tutors should also talk directly to instructors when they can. This will help them better understand what the instructor expects from the student and will provide them with an opportunity to expand their conversation about writing in the academic community. Generally speaking, instructors are appreciative of the work tutors do and will be pleased to talk with them about their students.

Writing Center services can vary greatly from institution to institution. At Winona State, ours is a student service: we are educators working to serve the needs of student writers. If you are asked how faculty can make better use of the center-or if you find an appropriate context for delivering this advice unsolicited-you can offer these suggestions.

1. Suggest that faculty contact the Writing Center.
If faculty want to hear more about the kind of work we do, they can check out our website, or they can drop us a line at wcenter@winona.edu or phone us at 457.5505.

2. Suggest that faculty send the Writing Center copies of their course assignments.
Even if they are not working directly with the Writing Center, students from their courses might well want to seek help there. Faculty can help their students and our staff by sending copies of their syllabi and assignments. We'll review them and keep them on file, helping us to clarify their expectations for student writing.

3. Suggest that faculty urge their students to use the Writing Center.
Often, students are unsure whether or not faculty approve of their working with others on their writing. Tell faculty they can clarify this issue by urging students, orally and in their syllabus, to take full advantage of the center's help. If students are offered an authorized source of help, they may be less inclined to seek out unauthorized sources that can result in misinformation or plagiarism. Here's a few ways to remind students that they can-and should-use the Writing Center. None takes more than a few seconds of faculty's course time.  
  • Faculty can make a note of our services on the syllabus, assignment sheets, and writing-related handouts.
  • Faculty can insert a hyperlink to the Writing Center website on their course pages.
  • Faculty can remind students orally of the Writing Center each time they mention a writing project.
  • Faculty can refer specific students to the Writing Center early in the writing process (not "late," as a punishment for poor usage).
  • Faculty can ask us to update them on their students' use of the Writing Center's services.

4. Suggest that faculty not think of the Writing Center as a "fix-it" shop
Some students try to drop off a paper due that afternoon, saying they'll "pick it up in an hour." Some faculty "require" students to have their work "corrected" by the Writing Center staff. But writing centers do not edit or proofread students' work. In fact, except for a few special cases, no student can be "required" to visit WSU's Writing Center-despite what an individual faculty member might wish or hope.

Rather than doing students' work for them, our tutors help students respond to rhetorical situations. Tutors discuss topics with writers, offer feedback on developing drafts of papers, suggest writing strategies, diagnose writing problems, ask questions, review missing or misunderstood information, listen to writers, and help them gain perspective on their writing.

Trying to "require" students to use the Writing Center or "punishing" their prose with threats of "writing center remediation" is counterproductive-for us, for faculty, and for their students. Telling faculty "just what we do" in the Writing Center is one of the best ways of helping faculty help their students write better.

3.5 Support Services

The Advising Department provides several advising and academic support services and programs.  

Academic Skills Center

Darrell Kreuger Library 219
457.5465

Warrior Success Center
Maxwell Hall 314
457.5878

Contact Us

Writing Center
Minne 348
507.457.5505

Semester Hours
Mon.-Thurs: 9am – 7pm
Friday: 9am – 2pm