- Request an outreach presentation
- Blurb for your syllabus
- What do consultants do?
- Additional information for faculty
Request an Outreach Presentation
The Writing and Media Center offers 10-15 minute outreach presentations that detail the services we offer to students. If you are an instructor who would like to request an outreach presentation for your class, please fill out the request form here.
Please feel free to copy the following blurb and use it in your syllabus.
The Writing & Media Center is a FREE resource for ISU students who are working on written, oral, visual, and electronic communication in any discipline, for academic or personal purposes. WMC communication consultants meet with students one-on-one to assist with every step of the composing process. Visit http://wmc.dso.iastate.edu to make an appointment or learn more about WMC services.
Collaborating, not Fixing
WMC peer communication consultants help students assess the effectiveness of their own work and provide strategies and suggestions for improvement. While many people think writing centers only work with people who do not communicate effectively, WMC consultants work with students of all ability levels. Just like a professor who receives peer review on a research article, each student, regardless of ability, needs a critical audience to refine ideas and adapt work for specific audiences. The WMC provides exactly that service.
Communication consultants do not edit, or “fix,” your writing and assignments for you.
The types of feedback communication consultants provide range from meeting formal expectations to asking students to articulate their own expectations. Consultants help students learn ways to converse concretely about communication. The result is that students become more confident and independent as scholars.
Focusing on Students
Because expectations about writing and communication differ between disciplines, and even between individual teachers, consultants ask questions that engage students in their own learning. Consultants presume neither to know everything about communication nor about teachers’ expectations. Because all academic writing and communication is collaborative in some way, we model academic conversation for students. Consultants engage students in that critical conversation—an opportunity many people do not have either on their own or in the classroom.
Communication consultants value writers above writing. While they are concerned about the quality of the products that students create, they place more emphasis on enabling students to learn strategies and perspectives to communicate successfully.
Ultimately, students who learn to make clear decisions about assignments are more likely to communicate effectively, as opposed to students who want to be told what to do.
Referring Students to the Writing and Media Center
Meeting rigorous, academic communication expectations demands that we all need help at some point. Sometimes, that help comes in the form of mentorship. At other times, it comes in the form of observing a trusted colleague or meeting with an IRB official who explains tone or content guidelines in a grant proposal. Still at other times, it comes in the form of a blind reviewer commenting on the quality of the methodology in a journal article submission. In the same way, recommending students to work with a consultant in the Writing and Media Center means that you as their teacher have both their interest and the interest of the university in mind: you want students to succeed and understand course material in ways that are useful to them, but you also want them to write documents that clearly meet curricular standards.
A wide variety of concerns compel teachers to refer students to a writing center, from “Show my student how to correct run-ons,” to “Please show my students how to write so they can pass my class.” In effect, many people see writing centers as places where consultants fix student writing. Teachers identify problems in their students’ writing, and expect consultants to remedy them. The resulting expectation places authority over a student’s writing with consultants. That is, since consultants are well-versed in academic conventions, they should be able to impart to students the necessary knowledge to write a paper.
However, WMC consultants work under the idea that each student needs to take responsibility for her or his writing. Of course, learning to write well and communicate effectively takes time. It is a collaborative and iterative process, one that takes the guidance of a teacher and the time and willingness to learn from each student. In this way, consultants guide students through the processes of writing, rather than telling students to make corrections. For example, conversations between consultants and writers about run-on corrections turn into larger discussions about sentence clarity and coherence, and enable students to implement punctuation rules to improve sentence structure. Similarly, conversations with students about writing simply to pass a class turn into discussions about style conventions, documentation format, and the ways that writing assignments reinforce learning goals.
The writing center as a fix-it shop is a myth that has multiple harmful effects: teachers become puzzled when problems persist even after students have met with a consultant, students blame themselves for not “getting it,” and believe—possibly for the rest of their lives—that they just are not “good writers,” and the quality of the student-teacher relationship could even become impaired. Given these possibilities, then, where do writing center consultants fit in the student-teacher relationship, and what kinds of things can teachers and student writers expect from working with a consultant?
Turning Expectations into Conversation
Writing and Media Center consultants prioritize two things: student learning and the student-teacher relationship. Prioritizing student learning means that we focus primarily on a person’s autonomy. For example, when explaining rules to correct instances of run-ons, we model the process of identification and correction, and then have writers go through the process themselves. This process takes time. In the course of a consultation, a writer and consultant may cover only one or two conventions. The benefit, however, is that students begin to conceptualize ways to communicate effectively.
Additionally, because consultants focus on each student’s understanding, the discussion often turns to broader issues of writing (such as brainstorming or arguing clearly), questions that writers have either forgotten or felt afraid to ask, and even personal stories about past difficulties or success with writing.
This type of collaborative conversation prioritizes each person’s learning, rather than individual assignments exclusively—an approach that often makes people frustrated when they expect that working with a consultant means that they will receive an “A” or a “B” on their assignment. For some writers, a single session with a consultant does improve individual papers. For the majority, however, multiple sessions are necessary to help writers understand how to meet university communication expectations.
Prioritizing the student-teacher relationship means that consultants focus on course goals for assignments. Consultants ask questions about course topics and lecture notes. We ask about the purpose for each assignment. When writers ask us for advice that is best answered by teachers, we help students formulate specific questions that students could ask during class or office hours.
Consultants do not talk about grades, since grades should only be addressed between teacher and student. However, we do use assignment sheets and syllabuses to talk about the expectations and philosophy of each course. When students work with a consultant, they can expect to have a critical audience for their work, and one that has their best interest in mind. Ultimately, consultants help students to clarify ways to approach an assignment or ways to ask specific, content-based questions of teachers. In all cases, our goal is to help students understand how their own authority over their writing and learning process is paramount to their success.