Schneer enhances writing support services at College

The new interim writing coordinator at the College, Deborah Schneer, has given the Writing Workshop a facelift. Her primary accomplishments have been in conducting new writing tutor trainings and organizing the Writing Assistants pilot program, which she hopes to make a permanent part of the College’s writing services.
Schneer meets with the new Writing Workshop tutors on a weekly basis. In the tutor training sessions, she leads discussions about student writing samples to facilitate dialogues about paper structure, content, focus and sentence mechanics.
Student co-coordinators Andres Lopez ’09 and Helen Hood ’09 also meet with Schneer weekly to discuss workshop-related issues and events. “The training sessions that I’ve observed have been great,” Hunt said. “In the past, we had held some similar sessions to train tutors, but we never had input from a professional … responding to papers to ground our discussions.”
The Writing Assistants program, which assigned three trained students to three writing intensive courses this semester, has been a key short-term achievement for Schneer. The Writing Assistants serve as tailored tutors to help students with their papers for a specific class.
For the spring semester, Schneer has already taken on 14 new students to serve as Writing Assistants for 10 faculty members’ courses. The list of faculty members includes professors from each of the three divisions, ensuring that the program has room to grow across the academic spectrum. “The response from faculty has been very enthusiastic,” Schneer said.
Schneer will also run a Winter Study course, the Peer Writing Tutor Workshop, which will train the 14 new assistants. Along with the returning Writing Assistants from this semester, the new tutors will use their theoretical and practical experience with editing to help students sharpen their papers.
Schneer will also meet with faculty currently involved in the pilot program to hear feedback that she can use to improve the program and offer advice to the faculty signed up for next semester.
As a pilot project, the Writing Assistants program provides a lens that helps the College observe how to ensure that every student graduates with a strong sense of how to write.
“Hiring Dr. Schneer was a big first step. Her input will be crucial in designing a mechanism to effectively achieve this goal,” Hood said. One idea on the table is that of requiring future students to take at least one class with a Writing Assistant.
Schneer hopes that the Writing Workshop and Writing Assistant programs will carry the College into a future that better responds to students’ needs but also hopes that writing will become an integrated part of educational philosophy.
“The broader goal is for conversations about student writing to take place, be affirmed and honored,” Schneer said. “The relationships we establish with one another in discussing our writing is what will be remembered and make a true difference in the quality of writing we ultimately produce.”
In rounding out her position as writing coordinator, Schneer has collected feedback on a Web site tutorial that Academic Resources and the Library co-launched. According to Schneer, the tutorial is an interactive online tool to help students learn the rules of
documentation and the principles of the Honor Code.
“It is also intended as a reference for writing assistants, tutors and faculty, who can refer students to the tutorial as needed,” she said.
Schneer also has completed research on English as a Second Language so that she can distribute relevant materials that will better equip tutors to work with non-native English speakers.