Each semester, the Writing Lab hires four or five student managers, who help to keep our office running smoothly—answering phone calls, replying to e-mail, reminding students of their appointments, and assisting students when they come to the Lab. These positions are available on an as-needed basis and involve working one or more morning or afternoon shifts. If you are interested in a position working for the Writing Lab, please complete this application or contact Helyn Wohlwend.
Writing Mentors Program
Writing Mentors serve particular classes by consulting with students in those classes about their writing.
Mentors are nominated by Faculty members across the curriculum.
Each Writing Mentor:
- attends the class he/she/zi serves
- consults with the professor about writing assignments and responses
- meets with students outside of class
- sometimes organizes peer workshops
- takes a 2-credit class called Teaching Writing, offered through the Writing Lab
- receives $9.10/hr
Goals of the Program:
- help students and faculty view writing as a process intimately tied to learning
- encourage revision
- create a conversation about writing among the student body
- empower students to view themselves as writers communicating to an audience, not just as students writing for a grade.
The program resulted from the findings of the Portfolio Project, a college-wide assessment project that began in 2007.
Participants in the 2010 summer workshop identified the need for more support for teaching writing across the curriculum.
The Writing Mentors program resulted.
Writing Mentors FAQ
What is the Writing Mentors program?
The Writing Mentors are upperclass peer mentors who help students improve their writing in particular courses. Chosen by the professor in the course, the Mentors attend most or all of the class sessions and hold group and/or individualized sessions in which they coach students through the writing process.
How are the Mentors chosen?
Faculty members, in collaboration with the Writing Lab, choose the Mentor they want. The Writing Mentors Program seeks a diverse pool of Mentors.
How are the Mentors trained?
Mentors are trained through a two-credit semester-long course called Teaching Writing, taught by a Writing Lab staff member. In the course, students read scholarship and advice on the teaching of writing. These articles focus on recognizing variations in the writing process; creating good assignments; offering helpful commentary; working with students whose first language is not English; emphasizing responsible use of sources. Mentors also meet periodically with the hosting professor to discuss course content, expectations and goals for writing and revision and other specifics.
What do faculty members gain from having a Mentor in their course?
• Another mature voice in the classroom, one that can model how to ask questions or how to engage in discussion.
• A trusted source of feedback to the professor regarding assignments and student reactions to them.
• A consultant who can give feedback on how the class periods are going.
Does having a Writing Mentor require the professor to spend a lot more time on that course?
While situations differ, most faculty who have had Writing Mentors report a time investment toward the beginning of the semester that is more or less compensated for later on: the Mentor takes on some of the time commitment of meeting with students about papers, and the professor often sees a better written product at the end of the process.
What does the College require of courses that utilize a Writing Mentor?
The College requires a course utilizing a Writing Mentor to be listed and taught as a Writing Intensive Course.
Are the Mentors compensated?
They earn $9.10/hour, and they receive two credits for taking the Teaching Writing course. In addition, the opportunity to work closely with a professor teaching a course may provide the Mentor with intensive pre-professional mentoring in the art of teaching.
How often should the professor expect the Mentor to attend class?
Many faculty have the Mentor attend all the classes. At a minimum, the Mentor should attend enough sessions that the students become comfortable and familiar with him or her and that the Mentor understands well the instructions and goals for each paper in the context of what the class members are discussing.
How do the Mentors work with students?
Mentors may facilitate peer response groups-- using a rubric that relates directly to the assignment-- and/or engage in one-on-one conferences with students.
How specifically should the Mentor communicate with the faculty member about their interactions with the students?
Mentors reflect on their experiences in the courses in a Wiki on the PWeb site for the Teaching Writing Course; faculty members can access those Wikis. Generally, Mentors have communicated the numbers of students who have consulted with them and the general areas on which the consultation focused. Of course, the Mentor and the faculty member may meet to discuss general concerns about the teaching of writing.
Should the professor share particularly good or bad graded papers with the Mentor?
Because of the students' rights to privacy of their own work, the professor should not share grades on student work with the Mentor. The Mentors can see the students’ work if the student gives permission or if the student brings the paper to the Mentor. However, since models are extremely good ways of helping students see what is expected, the professor might ask permission of the student to share an ungraded version or piece of the paper with the Mentor or with the whole class.
How can professors add the Writing Mentor to the PWeb course site?
The instructors can add anyone to the site, except that they cannot list the role of that person as “student.” If they list the Mentor as an Instructor, Teaching assistant/Course support, Academic Support Assistant, or grader, then the Mentor will have access to student work loaded into PWeb and to grades kept in the PWeb site (which may violate students’ privacy rights). If the professors list the Mentor as a Course content manager, he or she can access only content; this role offers no access to discussion boards, blogs, or wikis.
How do Mentors deal with assuring responsible use of sources?
If Mentors have concerns about students’ use or misuse of sources, Mentors are instructed to communicate directly with the student, not with the professor. Of course, they may wish to discuss the matter generally with the professor, but they are not expected to identify specific students. By communicating their concerns and by teaching the rules of citation and the art of paraphrasing, Mentors treat this situation in a way that is fitting to their dual role as teachers and peers. It remains the responsibility of the professors to deal with misuse of sources in the finished product.
How are we assessing the program?
Faculty members administer to their students an addition to the end-of-course evaluations to gauge their reactions. Faculty members also conducted formal and informal assessments midway through the semester so as to offer guidance to the Mentor during the semester. In addition, the Writing Lab Director surveys faculty participants and mentors, using their responses to improve the program.
Who is responsible for acquiring the books for the course the Mentor will be sitting in on?
This responsibility has been shared: in some cases faculty members have written for desk copies; in some they have shared copies with the Mentors; sometimes the students already own their own copies; sometimes the Writing Mentors project buys them for the students. Please consult with the Writing Lab Director if you need to have books purchased.
Where did the idea for the program come from?
The idea for the Writing Mentors project came from two workshops during the summer of 2010: the Peer Mentoring workshop led by Minna Mahlab and the portfolio workshop to assess student writing. Faculty members involved in the portfolio workshop produced important recommendations to improve the way Grinnell teaches writing: strengthening the tutorial (in part by improving training and support and focusing on teaching real revision); making intensive writing courses available across the curriculum; challenging departments and concentrations to articulate the communication skills they are teaching and to specify in which courses those skills are taught ; augmenting the culminating experiences (MAPs, presentations, concerts) with more serious attention to how students communicate.
Does this program have larger goals?
The program is part of a college-wide move toward peer-to-peer tutoring, a model that, in the Science Mentor project, the Research Mentors in the Library, and the individual tutoring program, has shown success both for mentors and mentees. In addition, since one of the College’s major goals is to teach students to write, we hope to create a college-wide conversation around writing; instead of having that discussion occur only between one professor and one student, we want to celebrate writing as the profoundly social act it is.
Call for Applications: Writing Mentor for Writing Intensive Courses
Deadline for Fall Mentor Applications: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 5 PM.
The Writing Mentors program provides experienced students to help faculty teach writing in specific courses. Applications from faculty are currently being accepted for Fall 2013.
The Writing Mentors program, an initiative sparked by the Portfolio Assessment workshop, encourages the teaching of revision. Faculty who have a Mentor in the classroom must list their course as an “Intensive Writing” course and include revision in the syllabus.
Mentors provide the faculty member feedback on assignments and student learning, an extra hand for student meetings about papers, and assistance to encourage thorough writing processes among the students; the program offers student Mentors valuable experiential learning.
Faculty can find the application for the program at
If you have questions, please consult Director of the Writing Lab Janet Carl.
Please complete the above form and email to Janet Carl at carl[at]grinnell[dot]edu
answer all questions in an email to the above address.