When it comes to the written word, Colorado Academy Upper School English Teacher Kathleen Law knows how to use a means to an end. This month, Law is launching a student-staffed Writing Center in the Upper School that will provide students who have a knack for writing with the opportunity to be a “Writing Fellow” and give fellow students feedback on essays, papers or other English writing as part of CA’s academic disciplines.
Writing Fellows or tutors will be trained by reviewing case studies, models, and scenarios on how to give positive, productive feedback without overstepping the boundaries of “too much help.” Those boundaries include ensuring that the author does all of the work, including marking up his or her own papers based on feedback from the tutor. In fact, each tutor and student will complete a form that describes exactly what they worked on; those forms will be attached to the author’s final product. They will also be trained in avoiding the pitfalls of plagiarism, use of intellectual property, and other writing mistakes. Tutors will be evaluated regularly on the quality and professionalism of their feedback. To become a Writing Fellow, CA students must follow an application process that will emphasize not only strong writing and editing skills, but says Law, “most importantly, interpersonal skills. Applicants must be either a junior or senior.
What is the ultimate goal? Law says there are several, but one of the most salient is, “We want to train students to complete their papers, lab reports, and other written materials with ample time before they are due so that they can use their resources, seek and implement feedback, and produce the best possible writing. We all know that doesn’t happen in a hurry.” Besides, says Law, most colleges and universities have student-staffed tutoring and writing centers, and this program at CA will train students on both sides of the table to put those resources to work.
The Writing Fellow concept also offers another, but different kind of leadership opportunity for CA students. Sometimes the students who are the most adept at using the written word may be quieter when using the spoken word. This is a way to strengthen and highlight those skills and talents.
One student who plans to apply to be a Fellow says, “I’m interested in working at the Writing Center because I love English and collaborating with peers over writing. Talking to a teacher about your ideas for a paper can be a bit of a daunting experience, as opposed to talking to a peer which, I have found, is much easier.”
Writing Center sessions will take place in the Raether Library, and student tutors will staff the center during free periods in their schedule. Each session will last 25 minutes.
Interested Fellows should contact Ms. Law for an application. She hopes to have the Center up and running this month.