The Writing Fellows program at UNH provides another role for graduate students to be involved with teaching at UNH. Based on a peer tutoring model, the Writing Fellows program assumes that students need time and collaboration to learn the conventions of disciplinary writing. In short, the Writing Fellow is a writing coach who provides class-based assistance.
What is a Writing Fellow?
A Writing Fellow is a graduate student trained to work with the students in a single course to help them become better writers. Usually Writing Fellows know the faculty member teaching the course and have expertise in the appropriate field. Fellows often hold individual writing conferences with students, help facilitate draft workshops in class, comment on student papers via email, and lead short in-class discussions on applicable topics. Writing Fellows are paid for the 3-5 hours per week that they work and gain invaluable experience related to teaching and writing.
The Writing Programs have supported Writing Fellows in a variety of disciplines, including courses in Animal & Nutritional Sciences, Communication Sciences & Disorders, Health Management & Policy, History, Kinesiology, Management, Mechanical Engineering, Microbiology, Natural Resources, Occupational Therapy, Philosophy, Political Science, and Zoology, among others.
What are the benefits of working with a Writing Fellow?
Research in Composition Studies suggests that students need to collaborate in order to become better writers. That is, they need to converse with others – peers, faculty, readers – to understand what works and what might not work for their writing in a given rhetorical situation. Writing Fellows can help provide the kind of collaboration that students need in order to improve. Writing Fellows also serve as important, non-intimidating intermediaries by helping students understand instructors’ expectations.
Working with the Writing Fellows program has been great. For my students, it supports their development as writers and makes them more confident when they submit drafts to me. Plus, because my Writing Fellow helps students organize and craft their papers before I see them, I can focus on providing content-based feedback. This helps students write more solid second and third drafts, moves their understanding along earlier in the writing process, and saves grading time on my end.
What do Writing Fellows do?
Most Writing Fellows spend the bulk of their time meeting individually with students to help them understand assignments, revise effectively, and grasp the writing conventions of a discipline. In addition to conferencing, Writing Fellows may also lead small group discussions and help facilitate peer review workshops. The only thing Fellows are not allowed to do is grade or act in the capacity of unofficial TA: as soon as they became involved in formal assessment, their relationship with students would change dramatically.
What makes for a good a Writing Fellow?
Over the years, we’ve learned that successful Fellows share the following traits:
- They are trustworthy and get along well with the course instructor.
- They communicate effectively with peers and with the course instructor.
- They know what it means to write well for the discipline or field in question. They are familiar with the genres and writing conventions appropriate to that field.
- They recognize that they represent the course, instructor, and the university, and they handle themselves professionally and responsibly.
Will working with a Writing Fellow lighten my workload?
Not necessarily. Learning to integrate a Writing Fellow into your course can actually make for more work in the short term. After you’ve worked with a Fellow for awhile, your workload may lessen. But it’s important to keep in mind that a Writing Fellow’s primary purpose is to help students become better writers.
One particular girl came in for her first writing consultation with an average paper. She had some good ideas and her writing was ok, but she just wasn’t clear on how to write a business paper. She was receptive and told me where she felt she was struggling the most. She actually ended up coming in to see me for her second appointment and even made a third appointment to go over old papers just so she could have more feedback. Her papers improved, and some of my advice was really starting to make sense to her. She felt comfortable with me and trusted my advice and opinions enough to see me three times.
Kelly Muise, Writing Fellow
I want to work with a Writing Fellow in a course I’ll be teaching. What should I do?
First, please note the application deadlines:
- Apply by May 1 if you wish to work with a Writing Fellow in the following Fall semester.
- Apply by November 1 for the following Spring semester.
To apply, simply contact the University Writing Programs and let them know that you’re interested in working with a Fellow; please be prepared to discuss the details of your course with us as we follow up on your request. Our task will be to ensure that we have the resources to support your request and that your course would be a good fit for the program.
Finding a Writing Fellow: three steps
We can help you identify a graduate student who would make a good Writing Fellow in your course; however, it may be the case that you already have a potential candidate in mind. The best Fellows have good communication skills, should be easy to get along with, and should be responsible and reliable.
Once a potential Writing Fellow is identified, contact that student and invite him or her to be your Writing Fellow. Most faculty do this through email. When you contact the student, make sure to mention that Writing Fellows
- will have several consultation sessions with writing program personnel to help them to collaborate effectively with your students;
- are paid for their work (they work an average of 3-5 hours per week);
- gain valuable experience they can put on their resumes; and
- learn a lot about their own and others’ writing processes.
If the student is interested, you'll also want to contact your department chair about cost sharing with the Writing Programs. Graduate student Fellows make $600 per semester. The Writing Programs will pay for half of this cost. To participate in cost sharing, your department will need to make payment at least two weeks before the beginning of the semester in which you wish to work with a Writing Fellow.
Please contact your prospective Fellows and your department chair as early as possible in order to meet the May 1 deadline for Fall and the November 1 deadline for Spring. We recommend beginning the process a few weeks in advance of these deadlines.
After contacting the Writing Programs, identifying a Fellow and talking with your chair about cost sharing, the next step is to set up communication among yourself, your Fellow and the Writing Programs. A meeting should occur prior to the beginning of the semester you’ll be working with the Fellow; the goal of this meeting is to discuss your expectations and to work out the logistics of how the Fellow will be integrated into the course. Additionally, regular communication between you and your Fellow throughout the semester is essential to the success of the partnership.
Missed the Writing Fellows deadline or don't have access to Graduate Students?
You can arrange for help in your course by contacting the Connors Writing Center for classroom support. Please visit our resources for instructors page for support options. Finally, please feel free to contact us to plan for a future course.