Category Archives: Winter 2021 Issue 2

Strategies for Writing Feedback

by Chris Ervin

In the Writing Center, we provide students, faculty, staff, and alumni with feedback on all kinds of writing. As faculty and staff, we are similarly called on by our colleagues to provide feedback on writing like grant applications, reports, article drafts, letters, and emails. We all want to provide helpful and supportive feedback to our colleagues, and below I share an approach we use in the Writing Center to provide that kind of supportive feedback. This approach creates space for the writer to gain valuable information from you as a reader, while also emphasizing their agency and decision-making as the writer.

Step 1: Share Your Observations

We begin by making observations about the text. As readers, we navigate between reading to understand and reading to look for potential. You may have noticed that when meaning is clear, we continue reading without confusion. When it’s not clear, we sometimes engage in meaning-making ourselves or look for potential solutions to problems we’re experiencing.

However, in our feedback process, we focus on our observations. After all, our colleagues want us to help them see the draft in another way; they generally don’t want us to rewrite the draft for them.  Observing can be as simple as noticing in a non-evaluative way. For example, “I noticed that the report consistently uses language and technical jargon from your discipline.” Paired with the next two elements—a reader’s response and prompting questions—observation is a valuable starting point for prompting reflection on a draft.

Step 2: Respond as a Reader

The next step is giving the writer a sense of how you understand the text. In other words, respond as a reader of the text. A reader can be many things: engaged, bored, confused, surprised, and so on. This information is valuable to a writer who may want to understand how their draft is being experienced or interpreted.

An example of a reader’s response that might follow the observation above is, “As someone outside of your discipline, I had trouble understanding some of the technical jargon—particularly in the third and fourth paragraphs.” Paired with observation, the reader’s response suggests one possible experience of a reader. By itself, this response is already valuable for a writer, as they might be able to determine a next step just based on the observation and response. We also have a third step though that can prompt the writer’s thinking on next steps.

Step 3: Ask Authentic Questions

The final step is asking authentic questions that help the writer reflect on the draft. The questions can prompt a writer to think about how to shape a draft in ways that accomplish their goals—whether that’s with revision or leaving the draft as-is.

Questions that prompt reflection are typically questions you as the reader do not have the answer for. If you are asking a question you already know the answer to, you may be providing advice based on what you think the draft should be rather than creating space for the writer to imagine possibilities. For example, questions that relate to example in the last section might be “Who is the audience—or are there multiple audiences? What level of technical expertise on this topic will your reader(s) have? What familiarity would your audience(s) have with jargon and discipline-specific language?” With these questions, you as the reader are not directing the writer to change or reduce the technical jargon; instead, you’re prompting the reader to consider the audience’s needs with regard to jargon.

Facilitation vs. Direction

Following the steps outlined above can maintain a supportive stance as a reader—facilitating thinking rather than directing the draft or the writer’s decisions. This allows the writer, our colleagues, to maintain control of their work and draft while also gaining valuable information that can help them in decision-making and next steps for the document.

The Transit of Transitions; or, Before, Afterward, Sometimes, Simultaneously

by Sarah Norek

At the ASC, I coordinate the Transition Communication Campaign (TCC): a series of weekly emails that are sent over the course of a year to first year (FY) and new-to-OSU transfer (TR) students. The campaign was designed to support students through timely academic support and advising information, as well as other resources and strategies to help them navigate and succeed in the university setting.

Since taking the project on in 2019, I’ve been able to roll-over content relatively easily term-to-term. Beginning last spring, however, and throughout this year, I’ve worked to adapt messaging to reflect the current COVID-19 context and its complex and evolving impacts on student life and experience. I’ve thought a lot about how to use the TCC to support students during this unique time. Here are some key ideas I continually return to:


Nearly all TCC messages invite some kind of reflection, asking students to tap into their incredible knowledge and expertise of themselves. We are all so electric, so full of experiences, our narratives so unique to us. Self-awareness offers the opportunity to ground ourselves in our transition experience—to recognize discomfort, to uncover its roots, to work to address it, or to sit with it and progress through it, and of course, to learn what’s working for us and how. In asking students to reflect, I invite them to recognize the incredible work and energy they’re putting forth; to listen to their experience; and to be open to the potential adaptation in strategies and approaches to study, work, self-care, and more.


I spotlight resources in each TCC for two reasons (and more): 1) to help students become familiar with their many resource options early in their time at OSU, and 2) to impart the value of help help-seeking and asking questions—especially when navigating the transition to university-level learning (and all the subsequent transitions from course to course, discipline to discipline, etc.). As many of this year’s new students transition into OSU remotely, accessing resources can be even more important. Support, connection, and community are especially crucial to well-being these days and when making a remote transition into the university.


Transition can be consuming; it can be a whirlwind. This means sometimes pertinent information—no matter how helpful—might not land after a single introduction. Sometimes we need repetition and the opportunity to encounter and explore information a few times before it sticks. Whether it’s a university process, encouragement to meet with an advisor, or a reminder to be generous with themselves—repetition may help students encounter the important information when they are ready to explore or act on that information. We use repetition not just for important dates or reminders, but also for acknowledging and validating what students are experiencing. I want students to hear and internalize that the OSU community cares about who and how they are.

Looking Ahead

What’s funny to me is that, in all of this transition messaging, the fact that spring term will be our year anniversary of remote operations didn’t really hit me until quite recently. Like, quite. I’ve carved out very little time to consider my own transition(s) over the past year. Adapting the TCC to fit students’ current needs offers, in retrospect, an opportunity for me to reflect on my own experience and needs, too. Just as I hope students will engage in reflection and tap into self-awareness, I too can benefit from contemplating what kind of spring I want to create, what I can offer, how I’ll show up and for whom, and what I can hold onto—in terms of mindset, productivity, strategies—or else cut loose.

In the process of drafting this, it was pointed out to me that repetition is a form of support—a way of allowing ourselves grace as we navigate an ever-changing landscape. It’s okay, and important, to keep repeating the questions, returning to the thinking, listening and trying to make this reflective practice routine. As for resources, I can take the TCC’s advice and actively seek them out, too. These days, my colleagues and teammates are my core resources. It’s surprisingly easy to work in isolation, and surprisingly (for me, an introvert) lonely. I’ve been trying to reimagine and create new shared spaces, while considering boundaries and vulnerability, hungry to feed these connections while not furthering anyone’s fatigue.

Whether you’re contemplating your own experience with transitions, or providing support for others as they navigate transitions, I offer these thoughts not as a prescriptive route through the work but because I hope they present opportunities for our individual experiences to be explored, supported, and validated along the way.

Preparing for Mentorship: Building a Successful Relationship

By Anika Lautenbach

The CEOAS Academic Mentoring Program (AMP), co-coordinated by Robert Allan and Erin Lieuallen, provides opportunities for undergraduate mentees to work with graduate mentors. Graduate students volunteer to mentor undergraduate students and provide support and guidance as they navigate topics like their area of study, graduate programs, and career planning.

Over the past couple years, Clare and I have facilitated a foundational training that prompts mentors to think about what they can do to support their mentee and have a successful relationship. This year, Robert and Erin wanted to provide space for mentees to prepare for mentorship as well. This was a great opportunity to think collaboratively with mentors and mentees about what it means to create an effective mentoring relationship.

We liked the idea of creating more intentionality around the mentorship process and helping others think about the type of mentoring relationship they wanted. Ultimately that became the common thread for in both training sessions: how can we support mentors and mentees in preparing for their work together so the approach to the mentorship relationship can be intentional and individualized?

Preparation for Mentors

When we first connected with Robert, he was interested in providing mentor training that would equip mentors with a “toolkit” of skills to use in their work with mentees. He observed that while “many understand the idea of mentoring and believe it is important…most have not had any formal training that provides a foundation of knowledge to guide their support.” In training mentors, our goal was to name and validate foundational skills they use in other contexts and build off those existing skills and knowledge. We also wanted to help mentors individualize their approach to the specific student and situation.

To prepare CEOAS mentors for their roles, Robert asked them to first complete Unit 1 of the Peer Educator Training. This unit provides the foundational elements for working with someone, including listening and being present, asking questions and prompting thinking, seeking clarification, validating others, and building self-awareness. We built on this foundation with additional training.

During the training, we asked mentors to consider their experiences being supported by another person and what worked about that relationship. This gave them a chance to hear from each other about the range of experiences and how relationships look different depending on the needs and strengths of people in that partnership. This was important for shifting thinking from a default position about mentorship toward a position of learning about their mentee and what will work for them. We also normalized taking time to build trust and encouraged mentors and mentees to have conversations about the mentoring relationship and their expectations.

While those talking points are fairly common in trainings that we have done with mentors, we don’t usually have the chance to talk with mentees as well.

Preparation for Mentees

This dual-training approach of working with mentors and mentees gave us an opportunity to synchronize expectations and communication practices. Erin described a key aspect of the training: “mentees benefited from having a clearer set of expectations for the program as well as the opportunity for guided or self-reflection of what they would like to gain from mentorship.”

In the session, we wanted to hear what “mentorship” meant to mentees and what they hoped to get out of their experience. Just as we had with mentors, we acknowledged that there was no “one-size-fits-all approach” to mentorship—establishing the expectation of mentors and mentees building the relationship together. Clare and I shared our experiences with mentorship, including the great support and tools mentorship can offer, as well as limitations of that support. Through this session, we helped mentees see that mentors are just one piece of their support network.

Toward the end of our session, we asked mentees to prepare for their first meeting, reflect on questions they had for mentors, and consider what to share about themselves. We were excited to see the range of topics within the Zoom chat. This mentee-focused session gave mentees their own set of tools for working with their mentor and sharing the type of support they were looking for in that relationship.

Looking Forward

It’s been a great opportunity working with CEOAS and thinking about the mentoring relationship. We’ve especially appreciated Robert and Erin’s focus on being intentional and building the conversational skills for successful mentoring. We’re looking forward to learning how these skill sessions impact the mentorship currently taking place in the AMP program.

Staff Picks: Technology Tips

Working remotely, our team is often share technology tips, tricks, and shortcuts with each other. Sometimes these are found through careful research when “there must be a faster way…” Other times, we find these gems completely by accident. Here, we offer up some of our favorites—both old friends and recent discoveries.


With two screens and a lot of open tabs and windows, I’m often trying to stay organized and find what I’m working on during a conversation (particularly when sharing my screen!). I’ve been improving my use of the Windows + keyboard shortcuts. There are a range of these described on this webpage, but I’ll recommend my two favorites: Windows+P which allows you to change your display/presentation mode quickly without going into settings and Windows+Left arrow or right arrow to use the “side-by-side docking” options for two different windows.


I love shortcuts! Here are a few of my favorites and/or most-used shortcuts.

  • Ctrl+L: Locking the screen. Be the shield!
  • Ctrl+D: Accessing my desktop.
  • Shift+F3: Selecting text, then using this shortcut to switch between lower case, UPPER CASE, and Title Case.
  • Ctrl+Shift+F9: Selecting text, then using this shortcut to remove hyperlinks


I often use several programs at once, so I love using the Alt+Tab shortcut (Command + Tab on Mac) to quickly toggle between windows. To use this shortcut, hold Alt continuously while pressing Tab until the window you want is outlined. Then simply release the keys to access that window. You can also use Alt+Tab to quickly close multiple windows, which is what I do to maintain a decluttered workspace and stay organized.

Chris G.

My unsung tech hero is Ctrl+F. Many of us have used it in word processing to find specific words, which often moves us to the chapter/section we are looking for, but this shortcut also works for more common situations like internet browsing, .pdfs, and even entire e-books! (though Acrobat reader still has some difficulty at times). Paired with excel, Ctrl+F helps me easily navigate between spreadsheets and workbooks. Now if I could only Ctrl+F for my keys and wallet… and sometimes my shoes.


I don’t feel particularly tech savvy, but I used to get a lot of NAs when I used VLOOKUP and have been able to solve that problem by applying F4 after I’ve selected my table array; this makes it so that the column and the row reference can’t change. Very satisfying. I’ve also been using the TRIM option to help convert ONIDs to IDs in Core; first, in Excel, I apply the TRIM formula to remove any extra spaces; then, in CORE, I receive a more complete list of IDs.