Disciplinary Writing Consultants

The Disciplinary Writing Consultant (DWC) program arose in response to a Presidential Initiative to improve writing instruction across all disciplines. We consider the DWC initiative to be a very important part of our work because DWCs provide high-quality and tangible support to student writers in the disciplines. Because disciplinary writing situations differ, the most effective way to help student writers involves training specialized writing consultants who are familiar with the conventions of writing in a specific discipline or group of disciplines, such as STEM.

Definition of Disciplinary Writing Consultants

Disciplinary Writing Consultants are trained writing consultants who assist students with writing in specific diciplinary courses, programs, and departments. Unlike the majority of writing consultants at the University Writing Center who usually work with a variety of student writers from across all disciplines and majors, DWCs are qualified to assist students with writing in a specific disciplinary context or course. They have undergone theoretical and practical training covering both general issues and techniques of tutoring writing and issues and techniques specific to a given discipline or group of disciplines. The WAC Program and the University Writing Center work together to identify, train, and guide these tutors.

Disciplinary Writing Consultants are not like student assistants who help faculty with the teaching of a course or the grading of papers. Instead, they meet with individual students or groups of students, face-to-face or online, to help them with writing issues. Disciplinary Writing Consultants follow the good practices of writing center consulting in their work. This means that they will not “write” or “edit” papers for your students, but will help them learn about difficult issues of discipline-specific writing instead.

Like University Writing Center Consultants, DWCs are paid for their work.

Goals of the DWC Program
  • Support writing instruction in a variety of modes and settings across campus, include large and small classrooms, online courses, and mixed-mode classes.
  • Develop a scalable and sustainable model of Disciplinary Writing Consultants.
  • Extend the work accomplished through the Writing Across the Curriculum Faculty Fellows program; only faculty who have successfully completed the semester-long program qualify for embedded Disciplinary Writing Consultants.
  • Create and maintain a robust consultant training program that represents a wide variety of students with different levels of expertise.
Typical Features of the DWC Program
  • Depending on the needs articulated by the department, 1-5 undergraduate tutors will be embedded in classes within the department.
  • Novice Disciplinary Writing Consultants are usually led by a Mentor Disciplinary Writing Consultants.
  • One DWC will be placed in a single class; the faculty member will have one contact person for writing-related inquiries and tutoring.
  • For faculty teaching multiple sections of the same course, a single DWC may work with students in all sections.
Qualifications of Disciplinary Writing Consultants
  • Most DWCs will have successfully completed both the ENC 4275/5276 (Theory and Practice of Tutoring Writing) course and 3 hours of weekly tutoring practice prior to beginning the DWC program.
  • DWCs split their time between disciplinary and generalist tutoring
  • DWCs participate in the University Writing Center community of practice by completing a semester-long seminar inquiry project that aligns with their disciplinary tutoring practice.
  • DWCs learn to tutor in a variety of contexts, including individual, group, face-to-face, and online consultations.
Faculty Involvement

To request a DWC, faculty must successfully complete the semester-long WAC Faculty Fellows program. In addition, faculty should design 2-3 scaffolded major writing assignments that reflect the needs of the discipline.

DWC Program Models

Because faculty needs and classroom contexts differ, the DWC program operates in a variety of formats. As of the Spring 2014 semester, we have developed five different models to accomodate the unique needs of various classes:

CHM 2046 (Chemistry Fundamentals Laboratory): Cherie Yestrebsky

  • 12 Graduate Teaching Assistants teaching 24 face-to-face laboratory sections (meet once per week)
  • 576 students enrolled in course
  • Two Disciplinary Writing Consultants (Robert Lovelady and Adam Benzekri)
  • Tutoring consultations are available in the Chemistry Tutoring Lab

AMH 3403 (History of the South since 1865), AMH 4231 (US History 1914-1939), and AMH 4644 (Viewing American History 20th Century: History and Film): Scott French

  • Mixed-mode course delivery
  • 40 students enrolled per course; 120 students total
  • One embedded Disciplinary Writing Consultant (Heather Vazquez) is available for consultations for all three sections

AMH 2020 U.S. History (1792-1877): Dan Murphree

  • Face-to-face course (meets three times per week: MWF)
  • 45 students enrolled in course
  • One consultant (Emily Brennan) attends Friday class meetings, with additional face-to-face consultation hours available both in the University Writing Center and after class on Wednesdays.

POS 2041 (American National Government): Kerstin Hamann

  • Online course
  • 300 students enrolled in course
  • Two consultants (Nathaniel King III and Aubrey Marks) are embedded within Canvas Webcourses system for online appointments, with face-to-face consultations available in the University Writing Center

NUR 3165 (Nursing Research): Victoria Loerzel

  • Online course
  • 35 students enrolled in course
  • Two consultants (Vicki League and Nicolette Clement) are embedded within Canvas Webcourses system for online queries and consultation appointments
Requesting a DWC for Your Course or Department

We are interested in expanding our Disciplinary Writing Consultant program. If your department is interested in exploring the possibility of preparing an DWC for one or several courses in your program, please contact us. We typically ask that departments identify and recommend to us students who might be good candidates to become effective writing tutors.