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A Student’s Perspective: Building Confidence in Student Writers

Mon Jan 15, 2024 at 07:30 AM

Building a students’ confidence about their writing skills can help them develop a positive attitude along with the skills necessary for college-level writing. While students can take the necessary steps to maximize their successes in basic writing courses, professors play a key role in building students’ confidence across any course by providing resources, offering support, and giving feedback.

I was on the receiving end of these strategies in my first-year writing class, and they helped me gain enough confidence to bypass the first-year writing course requirement (WRT 1050) through writing a placement essay. As students begin to feel supported in their writing courses, they start to see themselves as capable writers and can use their powerful writing voices to express what they are passionate about.

Embedding Strategies to Improve Writing Skills

By prioritizing critical analysis skills and ideas over mechanics, validating students' stories, encouraging reflection on writing processes, reevaluating grading methods, and offering praise on students’ writing as much as possible, professors can help students improve attitudes about writing. I experienced this myself in Professor Cathy Rorai’s WRT 1020 class. Making students aware of the following aspects can make them successful writers not only in your class but in others as well:  

Identify Strengths and Weaknesses

Helping students identify their strengths and weaknesses is essential. This awareness helps them pinpoint areas of improvement and seek help. Some students may need more support in first order concerns, others in second order concerns, and some may need constant validation as they grow more in confidence. 

Encourage Students to Use Resources 

Encouraging students to use resources at OU can help them get extra help. One advantage of being in a basic writing course is the level of additional support and resources available. For example, student employees who are TAs can provide tutoring and extra class time for one-on-one help. The Oakland University Writing Center is always a great resource for students to seek more help as it’s one-on-one focused. Once students utilize the resources available, they begin to feel comfortable and supported, especially if they struggle with writing anxiety. 

Tell Students to be Proactive 

While all college students should be proactive in their studies, students in basic writing courses should be encouraged to participate in class discussions, ask questions, and seek clarification and resources to hone their skills. By being more proactive and engaged in class, students gain a level of self advocacy, networking skills, and agency. These are all essential skills to successfully navigate any college course.

Make Writing Connections 

One of the challenges students face is finding relevance and importance in their writing as they often deem their professor as not a “real” audience. By connecting with personal connections and experiences, students can gain a sense of representation by bringing themselves or communities into their writing. This level of agency they get to have over their writing can affirm the importance of their writing voice– building their writing confidence. 

Embrace Writing style and Identity  

The concept of academic writing can be overwhelming for students as they think they are incapable of using such language. Afterall, writing is heavily shaped by personal, educational, and cultural backgrounds. As a result, they feel the urge to code switch and sound “professional,” and abandon their authentic voices. By embracing their writing style, they can begin to find their authentic writing voice.

References and Resources 

 "Not-so Basic-Writers'' is a Podcast series (submitted for publication) composed by Mena Hannakachl, Lucy Dannewitz, Cas Podgorski, and Ashley Mason-Troutman in Podcasting, WRT 3071 with Dr. Crystal VanKooten during winter 2023, dedicated to highlighting the stories of WRT 1020 students.

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About the Author

Mena Hannakachl is a senior majoring in Professional and Digital Writing. She was the 2023 recipient of the Keeper of the Dream award. Her academic work explores DEI related topics within writing. On campus, she serves as an Embedded Writing Specialist, peer mentor, and an admissions ambassador. Mena is also a published author, with her recently published memoir essay, titled “What Chaldean Girls Are.” After graduation, she plans to attend law school. Mena enjoys traveling, playing tennis, and practicing makeup artistry.

Edited and designed by Rachel Smydra, Faculty Fellow in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Oakland University. Others may share and adapt under Creative Commons License CC BY-NC. Follow these tips and more on Facebook, and LinkedIn.