In order to better support students with topics of academic writing, different interventions are used. Here are some ideas that are worth exploring and considering if these might be applicable at your university.
- Peer consultants. Some centers have trained students on how to give one-on-one consultations to other students. Analyzing the text together with somebody who has more experience with writing, approaching the tasks usually given at the university, and is a good communicator has proved useful to many people. Peer consultants can give consultations free of charge, some universities are able to pay for these services. In some cases, teaching staff members could also give consultations to students. One-on-one and case-specific meetings have proven useful for students suffering from writer's block, little experience and fear of talking about their problems.
- Thesis writing bootcamps. Near the thesis writing period, students benefit from a few days of non-stop writing. The environment of everybody working at the same time is helpful. In addition to some workshops on academic writing related topics, students also benefit from discussions from each other and some hours that are solely intended for writing.
- Writing retreats. This is a step forward from thesis writing bootcamps, where people go out of their usual university or library setting and get down to writing. Private down-time together with discussions and workshops has given great results.
- Night library. During exam sessions, the library is the hotspot for students anyway. What if the library were open for longer to support students learning and writing? What if there was a booth/table/corner where students could go to get help with writing assignments while they were in the process of writing? The advice would then literally be at an arm's length for students.
Tips for starting a writing centre (courtesy of Baldur Sigurdsson):
1. Find the most interested and natural allies within your institution, high and low.
2. Link your activity as high up in the institutional hierarchy as possible (the university rector if possible).
3. Do not try to include the whole university, concentrate on the division you know best, and where your allies are, and let the reputation work for you in the other divisions. (Teachers and students will hear about you, and they find their way).
4. Your website is vital; make it „The website“ for academic writing at your institution or in your country.
5. Your location is vital: Do NOT locate your WC under the same roof as study councellors, psychologists, nurses or others that help students with problems. Locate your activity where you find the regular students or the most engaged students (and staff), e.g. in the library – and be visible there!
6. Make your colleagues offers that they can not refuse, offers that make their work easier (a win-win relationship).
7. Link your activity to the long-term goals of the university (most universities have goals about better and more academic writing for students and staff).
8. Hiring students as peer-tutors is a key issue for many reasons, and in underfunded institutions like universities that is a great way to get things going. There are some good handbooks (e.g. the Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors) that will help you to analyse the possibilities and get the system started.