Rhetoric and Composition

For Faculty and Professional Staff

For Faculty and Professional Staff

How to Encourage Students to Use the Writing Center

  • Include the Writing Center as a resource on Blackboard.
  • Share comments from past students about the effectiveness of Writing Center services.
  • Invite a Writing Associate to your class to talk about Writing Center services and answer questions.
  • Describe your own writing process and when/why you seek feedback from others.
  • Request a Writing Center flyer to post on your office door.
  • Include the descriptive paragraph, found below, in your syllabi.

Please contact Laurie McMillin at lmcmilli@oberlin.edu if you need assistance or materials for any of the above suggestions.


“Using the Writing Center”: A Paragraph to Add to Your Syllabi

The Oberlin College Writing Center is a free resource for all Oberlin students who are interested in developing their writing process, want feedback on a draft, or who are interested in talking to trained peer advisors (Writing Associates) about anything writing-related. The Writing Center can work with you to brainstorm a topic, develop ways to start writing if you feel stuck, workshop evolving ideas, and read advanced drafts and provide comments. Whether you love writing and consider it one of your strengths, or you feel less comfortable writing for certain assignments or in certain disciplines, the Writing Associates can help you work toward your writing goals. We believe everyone is capable of continuing to develop as a writer. The most important thing to know about the Writing Center is that we strive to create a supportive, non-judgmental environment for people of all backgrounds and at all stages in the writing process. We hope to see you this semester!

For more information on our philosophy and what to expect when you visit the Writing Center, visit our website: [insert link to WC landing page]

Hours & Location:

Monday - Friday 1 PM - 5 PM

Sunday - Thursday 7 PM - 10 PM

Sunday 3 PM - 5 PM

We are in a new location in the northwest corner of Mudd, next to the CIT office and Mac lab.


Request an In-Class Workshop

The Writing Associates Program offers a variety of workshops on topics from formulating a thesis to delivering effective oral presentations. We are happy to work with you to tailor our content to the needs of your particular course. For more information on workshops we offer and workshops we’ve given in the past, please see [pdf/link to “Workshops & Events”].

To request a workshop, please email Cortney Smith at csmith5@oberlin.edu. She will pair you with one or two Speaking Associates to develop and lead the workshop for your course or student group.


Workshops We Offer

Here is a broad overview of workshop templates that can be customized to fit your needs:

Academic Writing & Speaking

Transforming Writing into Speaking

This workshop is designed to help students think about how to deliver an oral presentation on a piece of written work or research. We will focus on how written and oral structures and organization schemes differ, as well as how to craft an effective oral text. Students will reflect on their audience, and develop strategies to connect to that audience. This workshop would be useful for presentations for First Year Seminars, capstones/theses, and academic research of all kinds.

Reading and Note-Taking Strategies for Academic Writing

This workshop is best suited for those enrolled in First Year Seminars and introductory/survey classes, where students are being asked to engage with texts and materials in a new way. It will cover techniques for reading and skimming efficiently, tracking arguments, understanding main points, and generating interesting questions about materials. Participants will also get tips on how to take notes on new information to prepare for writing a paper or essay.

Strategies for Revising, Editing, and Proofreading Your Own Writing

As writers, we often rely on peers or instructors to give us feedback on our work, and we at the Writing Center obviously believe this is a critical part of revising writing! But what if you want to help students develop their own ability to look at a draft or even a finished piece with fresh eyes? Being able to read one’s own work and see how a piece of writing can be strengthened, expanded, or adapted is a great skill to have, but it can be difficult to learn. This workshop is designed to give students tools and strategies for approaching their own writing with an editor’s eye, and learning different approaches to the revision process.

Communicating Your Research to Audiences Outside Your Field

How do you engage people in your work who may not have an established interest in the subject of your research? This workshop is aimed at helping participants generate strategies for connecting with audiences who may be unfamiliar with their research topic or area of study. We will focus on the “Beautiful Problem,” and learn techniques for organizing and framing information in ways that will appeal to people outside of your discipline. This workshop might be especially helpful for students who have been asked to present at a conference that brings together research from a wide variety of fields, those preparing to present at Senior Symposium, or those who are to present in some other formal setting.

The Architecture of Arguments

How do you craft a great thesis? What are the components of an excellent argumentative essay? Particularly helpful in First Year Seminars, this workshop will focus on the fundamentals of constructing a solid argument. We will work with students to understand the basics of devising a thesis statement, how to most effectively organize an argumentative essay that builds on that thesis, and how to create smooth transitions or signposts between concepts.

Interdisciplinary

Pitches

This workshop will help teach students the fundamentals of presenting ideas in a business setting. We focus on effective structure and delivery, as well as navigating the sometimes-daunting prospect of “selling” your idea. This workshop will help students prepare for competitions such as LaunchU.

Interviewing and Networking

This workshop will focus on how to make the personal professional, and vice versa. We believe that people’s own experiences constitute an important part of what they can offer in a variety of workplace settings.  We are committed to helping people express their strengths in interviews, cover letters, and through various aspects of the application process. Highlights of this workshop include helping students practice talking about the relevance of their degree, expressing their values and how these apply to the professional world, and working with students to help them articulate how their personal experiences inform the work that they do.

General Public Speaking

Almost everyone - particularly at a liberal arts institution - finds themselves needing to speak in front of an audience at some point in their education, and yet many people find public speaking  exceedingly intimidating or nervewracking. Our goal in this workshop is to “demystify” some of what goes into a successful, engaging public presentation. Students will learn about three “fundamentals” of speeches and oral presentations: audience, purpose, and occasion. We’ll also discuss organization and structure, visual aids, and delivery.

Leading Class Discussions

If your syllabus asks students to lead class discussion, this workshop could be particularly useful as it asks participants to think about what goes into structuring a productive, interesting or enlightening discussion. We will address questions such as: what kinds of questions will generate a lively discussion? What are a few strategies for breaking up the class period into different discussion formats? How can you encourage conversation when people are unresponsive or quiet? In addressing these questions, this workshop will prepare students to lead a more engaging, thoughtful class discussion, and introduce some skills that transfer well to other settings such as leading meetings, workshops, etc. 

Job Applications, Scholarships and Fellowships

Debates


How to Request a Course Writing Associate (CWA)

If you are interested in requesting a Course Writing Associate (CWA), please contact Laurie McMillin at lmcmilli@oberlin.edu. Typically, requests need to be made the semester before you’d like a CWA; watch for an announcement from the Dean’s Office. The request form will ask you to consider the following:

  • How is writing integrated into your course, and how a CWA is key to the process?
  • Are you available to attend a mandatory one hour faculty training at the beginning of the semester?
  • Are you willing to commit to regular, ongoing communication (including meeting in person) with your CWA over the course of the semester?


Making the Most of a CWA

Faculty and CWA relationships work best when viewed as intellectual partnerships, where the CWA is a mentor for the students in the course. To this end, it’s important that you work with your CWA to define specific activities and roles for their engagement with students. In these endeavors, please explore ways that the CWA can contribute dynamically to the course. You can expect a certain, consistent level of professionalism. This is an umbrella term for a whole host of adjectives, but collected from evaluations from very successful CWAs this includes being accessible, helpful, friendly, communicative, approachable, and patient. In addition, students have appreciated CWAs who make them feel more comfortable, empower them through taking their ideas seriously, instill confidence, listen thoughtfully, and who challenge students to act as their own critics (rather than doing the heavy-lifting for them!).

Here are some of the many things a CWA can do:

  • Lead brainstorming sessions.
  • Lead peer review workshops, in- or outside of class.
  • Give you feedback on assignments, prompts, proposals, etc. and help clarify your goals to students.
  • Hold scheduled meetings with students.
  • Create handouts to help with specific writing issues.
  • Run in-class or out-of-class workshops on disciplinary specific writing tips and/or more general rhetorical strategies (i.e. how to write a thesis; how to research efficiently and effectively).
  • Maintain an active presence in the classroom by participating in class as appropriate and taking notes to aid in conversations with students outside of class.
  • Provide feedback on the course from students.
  • Be available to work with students on specific assignments designed to focus on one aspect of the writing process.
  • Share their own writing and writing process with the class.
  • Provide you with a student perspective on the effectiveness and clarity of prompts and assignments.
  • Offer students guidance on the specifics of writing in the course discipline.

For any of these to be effective there must be consistent communication between you and the CWA. The Writing Associates Program will help you lay out your expectations for the WA and your goals for the semester, but having a CWA involves collaboration and on-going effort.


What to Expect When a Student Visits the Writing Center

Sometimes professors require students to visit the Writing Center (WC); at other times, they may suggest the WC as a resource. While we welcome the chance to work with students, it’s important that both faculty and students have a sense of what we can and can’t do. Our goal is for students to leave a session at the WC feeling more confident in their writing abilities; we want them to better understand different strategies for approaching assignments and to develop a clear plan of action. We’re not a “fix-it” shop: students can’t just give us a paper and have us make corrections. Nor can we edit a paper to guarantee a better grade. The worst case scenario is when faculty direct a student to “go to the Writing Center” without suggesting what exactly they should consider.

Generally we focus first on structural and organizational concerns, clarity of ideas, and coherence; however, if sentence level concerns impede any of these primary objectives we will address them. While we understand that you may be concerned about grammar, punctuation, and spelling, our primary goal is to get students to reflect on their writing process and to develop their conception of audience, purpose, occasion and style.

You can expect that a student who visits the WC will have a more nuanced understanding of their topic and a more structurally sound argument. Though their paper may not be perfectly copy edited, the conversations that happen during sessions encourage students to take ownership over their work and allow them to contribute to the academic conversation in a more meaningful way.