This week, UT sophomore Carol Logan stunned both her professor and classmates when she showed up to class with an improved draft of her essay after an appointment with the UT Writing Center.
“It certainly wasn’t what I was expecting,” rhetoric and writing professor Lillian Croft said of the paper. “Typically, students who make appointments at the Writing Center come back with an essay that either hasn’t changed or somehow lacks even more direction.”
The Writing Center is supposed to help students improve their papers, but it has a reputation of providing little to no help. Often, students leave their appointments feeling like they’ve made progress on their essay, only to realize they’ve actually only moved a few sentences around.
“We don’t tell students how to improve their writing,” says writing consultant Sarah McSummers. “We like to have them read their entire paper aloud while we listen, and by the time that’s over, there are only ten minutes left in the appointment. Of course, we know exactly how the essays can be improved, but having help freely given to you is no way to learn. In Ms. Logan’s case, she managed to pull more specific suggestions from her consultant, James, by asking questions regarding her thesis statement and sentence structure.”
“Yeah, it was weird. I went into this appointment prepared to be as minimally helpful as I could be, as I do with all appointments,” stated James, the consultant on duty that day. “But, Carol dove right into her questions before I could even suggest she read her paper out loud. I had no choice but to answer them,” he recalled of the incident while ignoring a student asking for grammar help.
Carol herself said the experience at the UT Writing Center was a pleasant surprise: “I’ll admit, I’ve heard the rumors, but James was an incredible help. He did seem a bit on-edge in the appointment, though.”
Professor Croft later said of Carol’s paper, “The essay is far from an ‘A’ but, the appointment definitely helped in moving it up a quarter of a letter grade.”
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