Here is an email I sent off to my university’s main student association about a student-run writing skills co-op:
I am a casual tutor and lecturer at UWS in the humanities and I had an idea that I thought might be useful for the association and for the student body in general.
A serious problem we are facing is with general literacy levels. We basically don’t have enough time to help every student who needs it, and there are quite a number of mostly first year (but also higher level) students who need it. I know the university apparently runs sessions through student services helping students with their writing but I thought a more flexible approach would be better suited. This is because students often need help at specific times during the semester (i.e. when assessments are due), not when student services are able to run sessions.
The basic idea is to run a writing services co-op through the association and staff it with older second/third/honours year students. Students would pay some nominal amount (maybe $10 for a 30 minute session) for another student to read over their work and go through it with them. I imagine most students would require 2 or 3 sessions per assessment. Space to have such sessions would have to be negotiated with the university. The university could also be approached for some seed funding to run it on a small scale at one of the campuses. If you set up an online booking system, then students could book a place ahead of the day. It would give the other students employment that is worthy of being put on a CV. Various protocols would have to be put into place regarding how much ‘help’ can be provided as you wouldn’t want situations where students expect their assessments to be written for them or the like.
Maybe you have thought of such ideas in the past, if you have then I encourage you to implement them as there are a number of students who need help (and others possibly that need work!).
I am a student at ND that you taught last semester. I just wanted to say that I think this is a brilliant idea and that I would be extremely interested if this sort of program was offered at ND – I hope it works out for you at UTS.
Do you have any suggestions on how I could propose this to ND staff without sounding like I was undermining other students? I think the issue of student literacy is extremely important and that students would really benefit from some guidance from older students. I feel that sometimes students dont feel like they can talk to the teachers about their writing skills. I know that our “essay workshops” are only attended by a few first year students and are generally percieved as “kinda lame”. Maybe they would feel more comfortable talking to someone who is younger, arguably more approachable, and doesnt control what grade they get at the end of the year!
Well the student association at UWS has responded very positively to my suggestion and they are going to bring it up at the next meeting.
I suggest you write up a proposal and submit it to Gerry Turcotte. I think he will be responsive to such a proposal. You can take the above text and modify it to suit your purposes if you like. What you may want to do is to propose it first as a test and then if it is successful, to expand. You will need a room (easy enough) and a few willing students with the competency to teach others. You might be able to discover who these students are through the various lecturers and the like. For the test it wont matter so much, but for the co-op you may need to set in place protocols for hiring (ie standards for application, availability, contact information, and how much work they would like). You may need to develop protocols for what sort of assistance is required. At the planning stage, research stage, writing stage? I suggest for the test it stay at the writing stage. A very useful text that I suggest all potential student writing co-op staff should read is Bate, D and Sharpe, P 1996, _Writerâ€™s handbook for university students_.
Let me know how it goes.
Thank you for all of your suggestions. This will definately be an area that I will propose to the staff and I cannot imagine why it has not been dreamt up already!
I will keep you posted on my progress. Thank you for sparking a fantastic idea and congratulations on your new appointment and renewed career prospects. I wish you the very best of luck.
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