Launching Graduate Student Writing Groups: Developing A Context-Specific Plan

  • Tetyana Bychkovska George Mason University
  • Susan Lawrence George Mason University


Location: Dewberry Hall

Advanced academic writing can be a challenging, laborious, and lonely activity, especially for graduate students who are still learning the norms of their academic communities, but at the same time are expected to write skillfully and extensively in their programs. Lack of confidence and productivity in writing may play a role in extending time to degree or hindering degree completion (Council of Graduate Schools, 2007).
One source for supporting graduate student writers outside of the classroom is writing groups. Motivated by theories of situated learning (Lave & Wenger, 1991) and peer collaboration (Ferris & Hedgecock, 2005; Liu & Hansen, 2002), writing groups provide opportunities for discussing and practicing disciplinary conventions, providing and receiving productive feedback, and engaging in informal mentoring (Simpson, 2019). In addition to professional development opportunities, groups can also improve students’ motivation, help them deal with procrastination, and provide psychological peer support (Hixson et al., 2016; Starke-Meyerring, 2014). These advantages in turn can lead to a greater academic success and the sense of belonging in an academic community. While graduate writing groups have been extensively sponsored by writing centers across the country, including Mason’s Writing Center, student-led writing groups also provide a strong model for enhancing productivity, developing professional skills, and supporting degree completion. Faculty advisors can be instrumental, however, in initiating and launching such groups among their students and advisees (Hixson et al., 2016).
The purpose of this poster presentation is to provide faculty, including advisors and program directors, with resources for establishing writing groups among their students and advisees. After introducing different types of groups, including accountability, feedback, and write-together groups, we will discuss the stages of initiating a writing group. These stages include 1) deciding on the format most suitable, given student priorities; 2) planning logistics (e.g., time, space, basic rules) and determining the role that the faculty will play initially; and 3) determining how to position students to take the lead as they move forward. Each stage will include a set of heuristic questions for the faculty to consider in order to create a specific plan for establishing groups in their contexts. While this poster presentation presumes an audience of graduate advisors, graduate writers themselves, as well as faculty who oversee undergraduate research projects, may also find this presentation relevant. Participants will be able to select an appropriate model for a writing group, specific to their context, and begin developing a plan for launching and sustaining such a group.

Author Biographies

Tetyana Bychkovska, George Mason University

Tetyana Bychkovska serves as English as a Second Language (ESL) Specialist at the George Mason University's Writing Center. She coordinates and facilitates ESL disciplinary and interdisciplinary graduate writing groups.

Susan Lawrence , George Mason University

Susan Lawrence is Director of George Mason University's Writing Center, which serves undergraduate and graduate students across the university. Her current projects focus on graduate student writers in the disciplines and examine the role of theory in empirical studies of writing.

4:15pm-5:30pm POSTER SESSION (Group B- 4:45-5:15pm)