Instructors Communicating Effectively

Communicating with the Writing Program

In general, communications with members of the writing program are informal, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t take our work, your well-being, and student learning seriously. If you are having a problem with your class, or with specific students (or a student) you should feel free to contact any member of the writing program. We’re glad to have all kinds of informal conversations about how your class is going, what you might do to deal with problem students, or to share your excitement about an activity that went particularly well. However, when more serious student behavior issues or complaints are involved, you’ll almost certainly be talking with the Writing Program Director (Joyce Walker). Here are some of the basic kinds of communications you might want (or need) to have during the semester, and the WP person who might be best suited to help you:

  • Problems with technology, or ideas about using technology, or questions about resources for teaching with technology: The Technology Coordinator (
  • Problems with or ideas about ENG 101: The ENG 101 Coordinator ( However, any of the writing program team members can help you with issues or questions you might have. In particular, if you feel you have a potentially serious behavioral problem with a student, it’s always a good idea to let the Director ( know about it, even if you just send an email.
  • Problems with or ideas about ENG 101.10: The ENG 101.10 Coordinator ( Again, if you feel you have a potentially serious behavioral problem, it’s always a good idea to let the Director ( know about it, even if you just send an email.
  • Problems with or ideas about ENG 145 courses. The ENG 145 Coordinator ( Again, serious behavioral issues should be communicated to the Director (
  • Ideas or questions about the Grassroots Writing Research Journal. The Grassroots Associate Editor (
  • Questions or ideas about professional development events: The Professional Development Coordinator (
  • Questions about plagiarism can be communicated to Program Director ( Joyce Walker or to the Program Coordinator, Maegan Gaddis (

See Staff page for the names of the current WP person in these positions.

A Guide for Communicating Effectively with Students

We developed this guide for instructors to use as a tool to think about how they communicate with students. It’s not the end-of-the-discussion (i.e., it’s not rules for communicating) but it does offer some important information about how you can think about the ways you communicate with students, especially in difficult situations.


Student Complaints

Occasionally, students will register a complaint about an instructor (usually about grading, but it can be about other issues as well). Although our policy (see program policies section) is that students must first make every effort to contact the instructor to resolve issues that occur, we also are required to consider carefully all student complaints. So if one of your students contacts the Writing Program to complain, you’ll probably be asked to come in (first) for a brief meeting with Joyce and we’ll discuss the student(s) in question and their complaints. Most of the time these meetings are simply a way for us to learn more about the situation from your perspective. If no immediate answer to the problems occurs to any/all of us, then we might decide to have a mediated meeting, where Joyce the student(s) and instructor all attend. In general, we’ve been really successful at resolving student/instructor issues. However, it’s critical that instructors remember that the role of the Writing Program is to resolve these issues fairly. We always want to support our instructors – and we do. But we are also charged with making sure that students have a supportive learning environment. Which means that even if you (and perhaps we) think the student complaint is inaccurate or faulty, we still need to make sure the student feels like the complaint is being addressed in fair way. So it’s important for instructors to work with the program to figure out where the problem lies and what (if anything) can be done to resolve it. If the instructor maintains a professional attitude, and remembers to see the Writing Program members as partners, it can make the process a great deal easier. These situations can be stressful for everyone involved, but always know that you can let us know if you are feeling unsupported or intimidated by the process. We’ll do our best to handle things in a way that works for everyone.


Communicating with Parents

It’s not at all common for parents to contact instructors directly. However, should this happen to you, you must (in the politest terms possible) let the parent know that we are not allowed to communicate with anyone (parents or others) about student performance in our courses unless students have given us written permission. If a parent (or student) wants to initiate this process of granting access to a third party, you should communicate immediately with Joyce Walker or Nancy McKinney, and we’ll help you with the necessary procedures.


Communicating with Student Disabilities, the Dean of Students, or the Student Athletic Program

Again, it’s not common for these agencies to contact Writing Program instructors directly. Usually students will discuss issues with you and you’ll (in the appropriate situation) initiate contact or help the student to do so. However, if you are contacted by someone from the University about a particular student in your class you should let either the Writing Program Director or the Program Coordinator know about the situation. In many cases, its appropriate for you to deal directly with individuals who might contact you, but we also want to make sure you are supported if you have questions or need help in these situations.