Writing Program enjoys continued success
Featured / November 4, 2014
KPU departments jump on board.
By Tristan Johnston
“What I like to do is connect people,” says Fatima Zaidi, a Kwantlen Student Association faculty of arts representative and peer mentor, “Because I feel that different departments and different people bring together more skills and experiences.”
Zaidi is the founder and facilitator of the Kwantlen Academic Writing Program, a partnership initiative between the KPU learning centre and the KSA. The KSA provides most of the funding, and the learning centre offers resources including promotion and staff and learning strategists for more support.
“I’m a very strong believer of working as a team and working together, and utilizing what everyone has to offer,” says Zaidi.
Zaidi adds that KAWP works as a seminar taking place over several weeks “Where students, over time, improve their academic writing skills.” The program covers everything from citation to note taking, although there are also individual workshops available.
“The problem [with those] workshops is that they’re individual, so you attend, you gain a few things, you use them, sometimes you forget them,” says Zaidi. “It’s like a one time thing, so you don’t really have the opportunity to build on those skills.”
“The writing program is looking for a slightly longer commitment, once a week, for usually seven to nine weeks, so students will learn to build up on their skills.”
Presently, the program typically sees around 20 participants.
“I’d like to turn it into more of a permanent thing for the learning centre,” says Zaidi. “I feel that with smaller groups, students have a better chance to bond, and create a safer atmosphere where they can ask questions.”
Zaidi notes that the writing program is meant to “bridge the gap between high school and university.”
“In high school, you’re not taught proper academic skills, and when you come to university, you’re expected to know these. So there’s a bit of a disconnect, and the writing program is meant to fill that gap.”
The program has received a lot of positive feedback from various departments at the university, with professors emailing Zaidi requesting in-class presentations. The program is targeted at social science students, but according to Zaidi, “I don’t say no to anyone.”
“We’ve had students coming from other disciplines as well. Professors from other disciplines contact me and say ‘Hey, this is great, can you start something for us as well?’ Business professors want something like this for their students, but I don’t have the manpower to do it. So, if this were to become a regular service for the learning centre, then it would become so much easier.”
Zaidi sees herself as a facilitator of the program, making sure that everyone is feeling included and safe, in addition to doing all of the administrative work. For the program itself, she brings in experts like librarians, learning strategists, instructors and volunteers.
This year is the third time Zaidi has run the program, which is growing exponentially as word spreads. However, she notes that things didn’t always run so smoothly.
“When I started out this program, I had a little bit of push-back, about this program possibly teaching the same thing that [instructors] are teaching, to say that in the most respectful way. So, we had to do some reassuring that it’s a free service, [and] it’s to accommodate what they’re teaching so they can improve. That attitude has changed quite a bit, and all the departments are open to it, [which is] huge progress.”
“One of my sessions I’m most proud of is the one on academic honesty,” Zaidi says, which according to many instructors is a common problem with student work. “There have been a lot of concerns, especially when you look at first and second-year students who’re very new to citation. Some of the guides we have are very hard to read.”
“For students attending, it’s not like another class, it’s not graded,” says Zaidi.
“It’s a very relaxed atmosphere — a very positive, learning atmosphere.”
The Academic Writing Program runs Tuesday evenings from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.