Faculty

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 this short form:

Writing Assistant Request Form (requires a Dartmouth login).

Feel free to contact the WA Program Director, Nick Van Kley, to ask questions or discuss ideas for incorporating a WA into your work. 

Policies

  • The WA Program does not serve Writing 5 courses or Writing 2-3 courses at this time.
  • 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 currently taking.
  • In order to act as a Writing Assistant, a student must be on staff as an RWIT Tutor.

Working with Writing Assistants

See our About the Program Page for basic information about what Writing Assistants do and how Dartmouth faculty have incorporated WAs into their courses. Below, find some additional guidance that covers frequently asked questions and some niche topics: 

Trying Something New

We would love to support your students, and working within your vision for your class is the best way we can do that. If you have ideas for using a WA that depart from the most common WA-work models or seem an awkward fit for our stated mission, we're happy to discuss it. Please reach out to the program director if you'd like to try something experimental. 

WAs and Subject 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. But WAs are not always in a position to provide advnaced judgement about subject-content accuracy. 

While WAs are not typically content experts, they will need to understand students' intentions and meanings to provide guidance about projects. Faculty can support WAs by sharing materials or guides that clarify discourse conventions in their field. Lecturer notes or summaries of larger works can also help a WA get oriented. Because form and content are entangled, we don't think it's wise to ask a WA to focus solely on style and grammar.  

Providing Feedback

When a WA-faculty partnership thrives, it naturally includes opportunities for feedback during the term. Faculty can support WAs by pointing out things they do well and by promptly explaining how they can improve. If there's a breakdown in communication, or if a WA is falling short of faculty expectations, faculty should let the WA know and contact the program director if the matter isn't immediatley resolved. 

At the end of the term, faculty will be invited to provide confidential feedback to the program director about the course and the WA's performance.

Limits on WA Work

Hours Cap

Unless there are special arrangments, WAs shouldn't work more than about 60 hours in the term. Faculty can reduce WA hours by asking that they:

  • Provide feedback on only some student projects
  • Work with only parts of larger research projects
  • Make one-on-one meetings optional for some project

Reasonable Turnaound Times

Since WAs manage their own academic schedules and other commitments, they should know early in the term when their most intensive work periods will fall.

Because substantive written feedback takes time to produce, faculty should take special care to ensure that the turnaround times for written feedback are reasonable and will work for the WAs' schedules. To generate written feedback on 16 essay drafts of ~1,500 words, most WAs will need three-four days. But the nature of specific projects and WAs' relative familiarity with the genre and discipline may lengthen or shorten that period. Faculty should work with their WAs to balance a good work flow WAs with good timing for student writers. 

Getting Started

Start-of-Term Checklist:

Faculty should add WAs to Course Canvas sites as "UGrad TAs", and provide them with copies of syllabi and assignments.

Faculty and WAs clarify logistical details for WA work, such as:

  • dates when WAs will receive students' drafts and when WAs must complete feedback (Sample Schedule),
  • dates when WAs will need to schedule meetings with students
  • where scheduling polls for individual meetings will be shared or posted (Canvas Announcements are a good option)
  • tools WAs will use to record feedback (e.g.: Google Docs, Comments on Microsoft Word, pencil and paper)
  • how WAs will share a record of their work with faculty  
  • timing and nature of check-ins between WAs and faculty (probably at least twice during the term; perhaps weekly)

Faculty should explain the writing-related learning objectives for the course and how those objectives align with the course design.

Faculty should share expectations for relevant assignments to help WAs focus their feedback.

Faculty and WAs should agree on the protocol that WAs should follow if they suspect plagiarism in a draft.

Other Recommendations

Faculty should consider inviting WAs to meet their classes early in the term, schedules permitting, or asking WAs to record a short video introduction to post on Canvas.

Adding WAs to Canvas sites as Ugrad TAs gives them access to important course content (readings, assignment prompts, discussions, announcements, the roster) without giving them access to grades. If faculty choose to make WAs an Observers or Students on Canvas, they will need to send WAs the course roster (names and emails).

Ongoing communication is crucial for WA success. Faculty should consider requiring regular updates if they are not meeting frequently, and WAs should know the best methods for staying in close contact with Faculty.  

Faculty should give feedback to WAs about the substance and style of their work by reviewing WA commentary or reviewing WAs' 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.