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Three alumni join Board of Trustees
By Hannah Marr, News Editor • June 21, 2024

Writing center launches semester-long peer support group

File Photo by Sydney Walsh | Photographer
GW Writing Center director Carol Hayes said the writing groups will allow students to share their experiences with similar assignments and grow as writers.

Students seeking to improve their writing can now take advantage of a peer-based resource in the writing center.

The GW Writing Center is holding a “writer’s support group” once a week this semester for a group of up to 10 students to share tips to overcome issues they face with writing. Officials said the program gives students an opportunity to learn from and offer advice to peers with similar types of writing assignments.

Carol Hayes, the director of the writing center and an assistant professor of writing, said students who use the writing center’s services typically set up an appointment with a single mentor who reads through the student’s work and answers individual questions about writing. She said the group model will differ by allowing students to collaborate and brainstorm with their peers about shared problems involving writing.

“The idea was to create a group that would be facilitated by the writing center but that is student-directed,” Hayes said. “So the students who go into the group share their writing experiences and their goals and definitely work together.”

She said students in the support group will also meet individually with a center consultant for shorter periods of time than a typical writing center appointment, which lasts 25 or 50 minutes, according to the writing center’s website.

Hayes said the group formed after an undergraduate student requested a “sustained, supportive” writing group to continuously help the same students through regularly scheduled meetings. After piloting the group late last semester, she said leaders of the center decided to continue the meetings weekly for a full semester this year.

Hayes said the first meeting of the semester was held last week for students who applied through the writing center’s sign-up link.

She said the center currently has enough students for one class, which is capped at eight to 10 students, but more groups will be created throughout the semester depending on the level of student interest. She said students can create personal objectives for themselves other than improving a specific piece of writing, which would be their main focus in an individual center appointment.

“In the writing center support group, it’s more about each writer setting their own goals and talking about challenges they may be facing with the group,” Hayes said.

Kate Kramer, the writing center consultant who runs the sessions, said the sessions have a “flexible structure to fit the needs of every individual student.” She said students will share their frustrations with current writing assignments, discuss their thoughts on writing prompts and ask questions about their anxieties with writing during the first hour.

“The goal during this hour is to encourage individuals to feel comfortable voicing their writing anxieties while also providing a diverse and constructive work environment to discuss various ideas and concerns with their peers,” Kramer said in an email.

She said students will work on their writing assignments during the second hour and ask her any questions they have.

Kramer added that for students, meeting with the same consultant for two hours every week is beneficial because the consultant has the opportunity to develop a consistent knowledge of the student’s writing abilities. She said she hopes students will gradually develop an understanding of their specific writing needs.

“Throughout the course of a semester, I am able to watch them grow and adapt to various assignments and challenges due to the consistency that the support group provides,” Kramer said.

Writing and language arts experts said the service, along with the writing center’s traditional resources, will give students the advanced writing skills they need and more choices to determine which writing support works best for them.

Jay Simmons, a former professor of language arts and literature at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, said he “consistently” found that students’ grades on their writing improved more significantly when they received feedback from peers, based on research he has conducted throughout his career.

Simmons said one reason why collaborating with peers is more valuable than with a single mentor is because the participants are working with students who are actively striving to improve through continuously writing throughout the semester, which he said is a “key” aspect of strengthening skills.

“You’ve got to be building better writers, which is more of a process of shaping attitudes and habits, as opposed to simply fixing particular issues and paper in front of them,” Simmons said.

Linda Adler-Kassner, a professor of writing studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara, said granting students the option to choose between an individual and a group meeting will let them make a choice about which option is best for them based on their own academic needs.

“Providing opportunities for individual and group consultation on writing are both important, since writers’ needs and goals can vary,” she said in an email.

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