Getting Started

At the beginning of the term, professors should meet with Writing Assistants to:

  • Provide WAs with copies of syllabi and assignments.
  • Clarify logistical details for WA work, such as:
    • the dates upon which WAs might receive students drafts and the time they have to finish responding (Sample Schedule),
    • where scheduling polls for individual meetings could be shared or posted,
    • what tools WAs will use to record feedback (e.g. Canvas Speed Grader, Microsoft Word comments, pencil and paper),
  • Explain the writing-related learning objectives for the course and how those objectives align with the course design,
  • Discuss expectations for assignments to help WAs focus their feedback, and
  • Agree on the protocol that WAs should follow if they suspect plagiarism in a draft.

We recommend that professors:

  • Invite WAs to meet their classes early in the term, schedules permitting,
  • Add WAs to Canvas sites as observers,
  • Provide WAs with the class roster so that they can contact students and keep accurate records,
  • Arrange regular, substantive conversations with WAs, whether face to face or through e-mail, about the WAs work and observations about student work, and
  • Give feedback to WAs about the substance and style of their work, by reviewing WA commentary or asking for WA reports on their out-of-class meetings.

While WAs want to serve as resources for your students, they are also eager to further their education. So, much like Presidential Scholars, WAs require mentoring.

Working with Writing Assistants

What if I want to try a new way to use a WA in the course?

Feel free to consider innovative ways to use your WA. All the guidelines are subject to modification. However, we ask that you check with the director, and certainly discuss any innovations with your WA before you commit to “new ways of doing things.”

Remember: The program has coached WAs to expect some basic parameters in the program, i.e., they will receive sufficient drafts to make their assignment “worthwhile.” So if you want to try something new—anything at variance with the guidelines—please check with the director and your WA.

Do WA's address content?

Together, the professor and WA should assess the degree to which the WA should address content. Writing Assistants learn fast, and they welcome the opportunity to learn about new subjects and discourses. We encourage professors to offer the WAs any material that helps them with discourse conventions in your field. RWIT’s writing assistance service is not necessarily a useful option for some professors and in some courses. Some professors see a very clear border between form and content, and so may not be comfortable with a WA who ventures beyond form. If this caveat fits, then a WA is not a viable option.

What should I do if the WA and I encounter difficulties we cannot resolve?

If, after talking with your WA about the issue, you find that you cannot solve the problem, please consult the Director of Student Writing Support, or the Head Writing Assistant. Whether you have a pedagogical question that stumps you both, or a logistical issue that seems unsolvable, please contact either the HWA or director, or both. If the matter is sensitive, please contact Stephanie.

Throughout the term, you can expect occasional check-in emails from the head writing assistant and director. At the end of the term, the director will ask you to evaluate your WA’s performance. Your WA will ask your students to complete an anonymous online survey about her work. WAs will see the student evaluations. However, if you want your WA to see your evaluation, then you must give the director permission to share the evaluation. Alternatively, you may show the WA your evaluation, and cc the director.

Do call or email the director to discuss how a WA might best serve your course, any issues that you and your WA cannot resolve, suggestions you have for the program, and strategies you and the WA have used to good effect (even those that proved unsuccessful).

What if I am unhappy with my WA’s performance?

Your WA would appreciate it if you would talk with her—first—about whatever concerns you. If you and the WA are not able to work out your issues, then please alert the head writing assistant or director.

Please do not let any concern go unaddressed. If you are not pleased with a WA’s performance, do not wait until the end of the term to address the matter. By then it will be too late to solve the problem.

Hour Caps & Turnaround Time

The cap on hours your WA may work per term is typically around 60 hours. You might manage this hours cap by asking the WA to:

  • Address certain papers and not others, or every other draft.
  • Address some stages of a larger project.
  • Hold open office hours for students who would like to talk about their writing.
  • Send post-paper notes to the class about general writing issues and tips.
  • Meet with those students requiring the most assistance with their writing.

RWIT recommends that professors encourage, rather than require, their students to meet with the WA. If you want all your students to conference periodically with your WA, then please require that all your students attend. You and your WA should negotiate this matter, for WAs are full-time students and their basic obligation is to address drafts.

Since your WA has her own academic schedule and other commitments to manage, she should know early in the term the dates for receiving drafts. Professor must provide the WA with reasonable turnaround time for those papers. For instance, the average turnaround time for a set of sixteen 4-6-page papers is four to five days. You can expect the WA to handle a maximum of 450 pages of student text in a term. For example, a first-year seminar with 16 students that assigns four five-page papers would generate approximately 320 pages of text for the WA to address.

How To Request a Writing Assistant

The limits of our staff size and the class schedules of our WAs can sometimes make it difficult to find a suitable match, but we will do our best to honor any reasonable request. Requests submitted at least one month before the start of a term will be reviewed first. To submit a request for an upcoming course, please complete the Writing Assistant Request Form.

Additional Policies

  • The WAP does not serve WRIT 5 courses or WRIT 2-3 courses.
  • WAs may not be involved in any grading of student work. This policy is in line with the guidelines established in the Dartmouth Faculty Handbook. We ask that faculty do not discuss any students' grades with WAs.
  • Students are not eligible to act as a WA for a course they are taking.
  • In order to act as a Writing Assistant, a student must be on staff as an RWIT Tutor.
  • Please contact the Director of the Writing Assistance Program, John Pfister, for information on requesting a Writing Assistant.