Last semester, one of my IDC 101 students frequently asked his mother to review his papers for my class and would then come to me with the paper marked with her corrections. No doubt this had been a successful strategy for him in high school, and her insights about content and her technical corrections were generally on target. I have had students in the past likewise come to me with comments made by high school English teachers. Again, this is not necessarily a bad strategy for getting feedback; certainly as writing teacher and professional writer I know the value of having a trusted colleague review work. But it always makes me wonder: Why isn’t the student looking toward his new academic community for information about how to effectively communicate his ideas and shape his academic writing?
The answer is probably the same as it is for why kids still, even in college, ask their parents to take care of laundry and finances and transportation and even food: it’s just easier, and the outcome is usually swift and predictable. By contrast, bucking up the courage to ask a professor to clarify expectations for a paper, or to provide feedback on a rough draft, or to suggest strategies for getting started on a paper can be intimidating. But if there’s any one skill that students can develop that will help them mature as college writers, it’s learning to access and engage the resources available to them here, including their professors and the Writing Center. E-mail makes it possible for students to quickly paste in part of a draft of a paper (easier on reader and writer than attaching a document), or even ask a question about a thesis statement or a documentation style and get an answer quickly from the source. Signing up for an appointment with a writing consultant is another way students can get appropriate and expert feedback on their writing projects, often from a more advanced student who has been in the same classes and written the same papers.
This week the Writing Center opens with by-appointment and drop-in hours for all students. Many students have received information about our services but we continue to try and get our message across: come early and come often! We can help students at all stages of the writing process – from coming up with a topic to checking for comma errors –in a non-threatening environment. Encourage your child to stop by for help with a paper; the laundry, though, is up to you!
Dr. Lynnell Edwards,
Director, Writing Center