First-Year Preceptorial

Faculty FAQs

How much reading should I assign?

Instructors tend to assign between 40-70 pages of reading per class for most Precept texts. For lighter reading, more may be assigned; for more difficult texts, less may be assigned.

How many essays should I assign?

Most Precept instructors assign 3 or 4 essays during the term, ranging from 4-8 pages. Some assign 7 papers of 3 pages each; others assign two or three short papers and one longer one.

What about revisions?

Precept instructors should require students to revise at least one written assignment. Some instructors ask students to revise all their papers. Revising helps students improve their writing. To ensure that students learn from revision, provide clear guidelines of areas to improve. Comments like "I'm confused here," for example, point out the importance of clear communication. Avoid correcting all errors since students tend to copy corrections without thinking about why the changes are needed, and they may learn little. To elicit thoughtful revision, see the following guidelines for responding to writing.

What about other assigned writing?

Some instructors assign microthemes, short structured essays, in addition to longer papers. Others ask students to respond to assigned readings or to explore their ideas in informal papers before composing a longer paper. See Teaching Resources for other ideas.

What questions can I ask to encourage more critical reading by students?

See suggestions for Critical Reading Questions.

Is there a recommended style manual?

No. Some instructors use Diana Hacker's Pocket Style Manual, which provides information on clarity, grammar and usage, punctuation, mechanics, and documentation for the three most commonly used style manuals (MLA, APA, and Chicago). Other instructors require their own preferred handbook or style guide.

What about students with special needs?

If you have a student who is not fluent in English or one who has unusual problems with writing, contact Mary Mar, Director of Writing Services, who can assist you in working with such students or arrange for individual help for the student.

How can I use the Writing Center?

The Writing Center is a free resource for students in all courses at Union. Tutors are trained to help a student writer improve the thinking, organization, and editing of a paper without doing the work themselves. Some instructors require all their students to come to the Center at least once during the term; others require certain students to seek help with particular problems. When students read their papers aloud with a tutor, they nearly always see ways to improve the writing before submitting it for a grade.