Soliciting Feedback - NIU - Writing Across the Curriculum


The NIU Writing Consultants Handbook

Soliciting Feedback

Consultant should engage in two different types of feedback. On the one hand, faculty in the hosting department require information about how their students are using the consulting service; on the other hand, consultants require information about how well the service is helping the hosting department.

Providing feedback on student writing is a fairly straightforward process that is illustrated by the following example. A student in the hosting department meets with the consultant, and during the session suggestions for improvement are written on a preprinted form (with a title such as "Writing Consultant Suggestions: Biology") that is signed and dated by the consultant. This form is then stapled to the student's final draft when it is submitted, and thus faculty have a way of estimating the effectiveness and frequency of the service.

In addition, immediately following the consulting session a dated notification slip can be sent to the student's instructor briefly describing the purpose for the visit. This slip helps the instructor better understand what percentage of his or her students are in need of writing assistance or are concerned about the quality of their writing.

A peripheral benefit of suggestion forms and notification slips is that they are forms of positive advertising. The instructor is reminded of the presence of the writing consultant and hopefully will remind students that specialized help is available.

How consultants obtains feedback from the hosting department is another matter. While the hosting departments have committed to the goal of improving student writing, the workload of faculty must be respected. This means that lengthy surveys and questionnaires should be a last resort; they are time consuming to write and distribute, and there is no guarantee that the responses will be commensurate with the effort put into them.

As an alternative, consultants can schedule informal discussions with faculty members and make writing the focus of the conversation. Such discussions can be quite productive for a number of reasons. Since the consultants extend the offer for dialogue, informal discussions promote a sense of goodwill; they provide a forum for discussing past writing assignments and future objectives; and they reinforce the consultants' presence within the hosting departments. Finally, the coordinator of WAC will visit each consultant and department chair to get more extensive information about the development of the consulting position.

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