Information for Faculty

Our Mission

The mission of the RISD Writing Center is to support RISD’s undergraduate and graduate students in the process of writing through one-to-one peer tutoring, to provide resources for students and faculty on learning and teaching writing, and to advocate for writing as a method and record of critical thinking and expression in all disciplines, including art and design. Tutoring is a collaborative process focused on clarifying intent, activating strategies, and building confidence. Tutors — RISD students who are trained in writing center theory and practice — consult on any topic, from sentence structure to strength
of argument, and on any kind of writing, from academic papers to grant applications. While an individual piece of writing is generally the focus of a tutoring session, our ultimate goal is to help students become actively engaged in developing writing skills over time.

What We Do with Students

The RISD Writing Center is a community of students and faculty who value writing in all disciplines as an essential form of critical thinking, expression, and citizenship and appreciate its significance in the context of art and design. Our primary service is offering free, one-to-one peer tutoring in writing to all RISD students.

Meeting with a tutor is a collaborative process that helps students develop their writing skills in an environment of respect for each individual’s voice, experience, and intention. Trained graduate and undergraduate tutors who are strong writers, readers, and listeners consult on everything from outlining to clarity of argument. All stages and all kinds of writing—from academic to personal to professional—are welcome.

We value the process of writing as well as the process of learning, and this comes through in our pedagogy. In alignment with our values, the Writing Center does not proofread. There are often many other “global” issues (weak argument, unclear organization, etc.) that prevent effective communication of ideas, and we’re working on those as much or more than “local” issues in grammar. Most importantly, proofreading doesn’t help a student learn; it just fixes errors in that one paper.

What we do offer in regard to grammar and mechanics (local issues) is to focus on one or two habitual, repeated errors per appointment: we explain the rule around it, help the student to fix it, and provide a handout or other resources on it. This way, the student learns something and incrementally builds knowledge and fluency to carry forward.

This kind of patient support is especially important for non-native English speakers. Learning to write according to American/Western academic standards and to sound “native” in writing is a very long process—as long and often incomplete as sounding “native” in speaking. With this in mind, we focus our feedback on appropriate priorities and reasonable expectations for all students.

What We Do with Faculty

The Writing Center values collaboration with faculty in multiple ways. We rely on faculty to help us spread the word to students who could benefit from peer tutoring in writing, and we believe that all writers—strong, struggling, aspiring, reluctant—can make their own writing more effective with support from a “second set of eyes.”

For general referrals, we highly appreciate a note on your syllabus (and verbal repetition) to this effect: “I strongly encourage you to reach out to the RISD Writing Center as part of your writing process. The Writing Center is an outstanding resource for all RISD students, staffed by skilled peer tutors. The benefit of having another set of eyes on your writing cannot be underestimated.”

If particular students are in need of extra support in writing for any reason (language proficiency, learning differences, strong interest in developing writing skills), please ask them to write directly to Jen Liese, or contact us yourself and let us know the nature of your concern. A direct introduction is much more effective than simply saying “go to the Writing Center”—it makes them accountable and puts them on our radar. For these students, we often suggest regular weekly or biweekly appointments with the same tutor, make recommendations to outside resources, and do all we can to get to know their goals and help them make consistent progress.

At the same time, we discourage “required” visits to the Writing Center for two reasons: students who come voluntarily are more apt to benefit from tutoring; and we can’t guarantee open appointments during busy weeks, especially when a whole class is required to visit at once. That said, if any of your students are having extraordinary challenges with writing or you would like to involve us in class writing projects, please e-mail Jen Liese to discuss options.

We invite professors to provide us with their current syllabi and assignment sheets for tutors and students to reference. Our handouts on grammar, rhetoric, and documentation are available from our handouts page, and we’ve collected links to recommended articles on teaching writing, listed under “For Faculty,” “Recommended Readings and Resources.” Finally, we consult with faculty on both their writing pedagogy and their own writing. We welcome faculty to visit us and learn more.

We also visit classes to present on a growing selection of writing-specific topics, or to introduce students to our services. Check out our In-Class Workshops page, which outlines some possible topics that can be adapted as appropriate for the course. We’re also happy to collaborate on any other topic that comes up in your courses. Contact us for more information and to schedule a visit.

Recommended Readings and Resources

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