By Kristina Lum, (MA 2016, SWLF) WIC GTA, and Natalie Saleh, (MA 2017, SWLF) WIC Intern

A panel of GTAs and instructors whose WIC courses involve GTAs presented on their experience with student writers at the WIC lunch on May 6. The panel provided insight into the strengths and weakness of student writing and pointed out ways that instructors can make better use of GTAs in their classrooms. Typically, GTAs are only used in WIC classes when the class size exceeds the allowed maximum of 25-30.

The presenters were …

  • Tracy Ann Robinson; Instructor; Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Maggie Anderson; GTA; Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Lauren Crandon; GTA; Chemical Engineering
  • Monica Olvera; Instructor; Human Development and Family Sciences
  • Jason Pascoe; GTA; Civil Engineering

Strengths and Areas of Improvement in Student Writing

Some strengths that GTAs recognized in student writing include:

  • Motivation to obtain job skills
  • Ability to generate interesting ideas
  • Creativity in writing assignments

The areas GTAs noticed students struggling the most were:

  • Recognizing the differences in genres in the field
  • Understanding and writing to a specific audience
  • Learning disciplinary documentation and writing styles
  • Choosing the appropriate tone

Strategies to Support GTAs

One GTA mentioned that he had never had formal training in how to grade papers. While he thinks he grades fairly, he thinks more guidance on what kinds of comments are most helpful could benefit him and his students. Such a training could focus on teaching GTAs how to give effective global feedback rather than focusing on local feedback.

Another issue that came up is that one GTA struggled with grading student papers when there was not a standardized rubric. One way to do this is by providing or allowing the GTA to create a rubric that applies to all students. A rubric can help GTAs ensure that their grading is fair and transparent, so professors can collaborate with the GTA to create a rubric.

It is also important for instructors to support and reinforce the authority of GTAs, so that students respect and address the feedback GTAs provide students. A constant flow of communication between GTAs and professors is essential.


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