Pages

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

"Students look to internet over library sources for final papers"

The Daily Free Press at Boston University explores what types of sources student writers are using in their writing. Writing tutor Eric Malczewski "notes that many of them tend to use online sources more than library sources" (12).

Zen and the Art of writing centers

The end of the semester it seems like it is particularly easy to fall into the cloudy trap of negativity in the writing center. There are so many many students with so many needs and outright demands, that the pressure one feels is palpable. I am working to keep things calm in the Student Writing Center: trying to reassure consultants who've had particularly tough sessions with students who are panicking; trying to ease the burden of session after session of non-stop writing response; trying to help student writers learn. Tension, of course, can be a good thing, but too much tension can lead to myocardial infarction. Likewise, in the WC biz we always have to be careful not to take on frustrations/tensions of the people who visit us. So while I'm working with the peer consultants to maintain their focus and positive regard for the writers who come to us, I too must find the quiet still place to make sure that it doesn't get to me either.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

NCTE

I'm going to be traveling for the next few days to attend NCTE in Pittsburgh. I haven't had a chance to glance at the program yet. Hopefully I'll do a better job of blogging the Convention than I did with IWCA!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Tutoring Disabled Students.

I had a session this past week in which I tutored a deaf student. It was a really interesting session, but I was also nervous about it; I didn't know what to expect from the student, who supposed to bring his interpreter but didn't. We spent our session typing out notes to each other on MS Word (I thought it would be easier - and I think it was - than handwriting everything we wanted to say); but I realized after our session was done that I didn't cover nearly as much as I would have with a non-deaf student. This was not particularly surprising in retrospect, but I should have stuck to a few points more than I did. I also realized that I wasn't as organized as I thought I would be; I wondered if I manage to get my message across to students who don't have learning disabilities, and what I could do differently; I had to reevaluate my effectiveness.

Each semester the director at my Writing Center encourages his tutors to either videotape or audiotape a session, listen to it (or watch it), and then reflect on it (in an e-mail to him, or the associate or assistant directors we have working with us this year). I have to admit that I'm truculent in doing this, because inwardly I'm worried about doing such a horrid job that I'll only get harsh criticism. (This is unfounded, of course.) I decided to keep the notes that my student and I typed as a means of communication, though, because of the comparative novelty of the situation. Halfway through the session I already knew what I could be doing differently, but it was difficult to shift gears so far into the session, so I decided to keep with it. The session wasn't my worst by any means, but I reflected later that I hadn't wanted to admit I wouldn't get as much "done" in the session; and that I would have to be better organized in choosing specific higher order concerns on which to focus.

I wonder if other tutors have had similar experiences, and what they've learned. And, more specifically, what those experiences actually were.

So much for good intentions

Well so much for good intentions about "Hot Topic Friday." In any case, I feel like I'm neglecting a pet with PeerCentered. Poor thing never gets fed on time and is in a world of hurt for some petting.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Hot Topic Friday

Those of your who are familiar with blogs as a genre (or are they a medium?) know that it is common practice to have a topic on fridays that is either some sort of survey of readers or a question to sollicit discussion from readers.

In that grand tradtion, I give you the first ever PeerCentered Hot Topic Friday[TM]! (It is not really TMed, but it looked funny to write that.)

Today's topic: Why don't peer writing tutors participate more in online forums (such as on writingcenters.org/boards) or in places like PeerCentered? Discuss....

Thursday, October 27, 2005

What can you blog about?

There was some discussion a week or so ago on WCENTER about blogging and writing center work. Many people were rightly worried that if we blog and describe specific sessions we have we run the risk of having the student writer encounter the description through a search and, therefore, becoming shocked an demoralized by seeing what has been blogged about them even though it had been done with complete anonymity and careful consideration that telling details would be left out. I would assume that those who are against public blogging of specific sessions don't believe that a peer tutor would openly ridicule a student writer, so it cannot be a fear of mockery that drives their opposition. I still wonder what is to hide about sessions from the people we work with? What would demoralize them so? We do work with fledgling writers and we should be very considerate of their emotional needs and strive to do no harm. Can we ever write publicly about them in an anonymous fashion?
Can we, ethically, ever share our interactions openly?

Note I was going to write about an interesting experience that one of our peer tutors here at SLCC had with a student yesterday that was relevant to another discussion going on WCENTER currently, but thought twice about it upon remembering the previous discussion.

Monday, October 24, 2005

"Spooky sessions at the Writing Center "

Just in time for Hallowe'en, a haunted writing center! Spooky sessions at the Writing Center - The University News - Culture

Victor Villanueva

During Victor Villanueva's keynote address at IWCA, I captured clips of it on my PowerBook. Here is his call to action in wav file format. (Note: I don't have the whole speech recorded and only this clip survived my recording incompetence. I place it here like one would place a quotation: it is only a clip and is acceptable under the principles of fair use.) I believe hearing the speech is important. From it you can better understand the commitment and the passion that Villanueva brings to the subject. His call to action for writing centers is greatly needed.

[Update: after discussion with Beth Boquet, I've decided to pull the clip for now.--Clint]
[Update 2: I've written to Professor Villanueva to ask his permission to use the clip. --Clint]
[Update 3: Professor Villanueva has given his permission to use the clip, so I've put it back up.]

Sunday, October 23, 2005

IWCA 2006 (mostly)

Access was not as reliable as I thought it was going to be, and I kept getting caught up in impromtu meetings. Here are some pictures for your bafflement and/or enjoyment:





Saturday, October 22, 2005

Day one notes

I've been told the folks over at Friends of the Writing Center Journal are saying that I am going to describe sessions. Now is that a gauntlet thrown down or what? Well I suppose that in a blog about Writing Center work one should actually write something as opposed to just posting pictures. So here, I'll give you an impression of several sessions all mashed together from yesterday:


1) Toys
2) Avant-garde
3) Crossing boundaries
4) Discovering boundaries
5) Comfort
6) Eyeing boundaries
7) Setting boundaries
8) Fear
9) Navigating boundaries
10) Navigating white water
11) Comfort & safety
12) Hurting the eyes
13) Exploring boundaries
14) Crayons
15) Canapé
16) Red wine
17) What's all this about comfort?
18) Photos, lots of photos
19) Sushi
20) Where is the discomfort?
21) Mississippi
22) A saxophone in hawk
23) Candyland
24) Spiders (Kidsmoke)
25) Shoulder cramp
26) Discomfort

Make of that list what you will. I suppose one could expect something more discursive. I'll try harder today.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Live from beautiful downtown Minneapolis...

Well my explorations have located several wireless hotspots, so I should be able to post at least on an irregular regular basis. I haven't spotted any WC folks as of yet, but I'm sure that will change as the day goes on.

I mentioned that I will be meeting with other Western writing center directors. We're going to discuss how we can best deal with our massive geographic region (it consists of the left half of the US plus Alaska bits of Canada.) The issue is complex, of course, since it involves IWCA Executive Board membership. As it is, however, the current arrangement is untenable due to the sheer distance that we folks in the West have to travel to even have a simple director's meeting. California and the Pacific Nortwest have already made big moves to reorganize. We had a false start with a reorganization in the Rocky Mountain Region last year. Hopefully we can do something that works within the next few years.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Calling Paul Bunyon, Mary Richards, or Laura Ingalls-Wider.

Of course I left off Sinclair Lewis, F. Scott Fitzgerald or even Prince in my title for my starting entry to the IWCA 2005 Conference here in Minneapolis. I'm just going for a 70s TV vibe, I think (does anyone else remember Disney producing Paul Bunyon stories in the 70s? Maybe it was just my distorted view based on my elementary school teacher showing us Paul Bunyon and Johnny Appleseed movies).

I've arrived a day early to get over to the U of M to do a little research and just visit with some friends I haven't seen in a while, as well as just to give myself a little room to breath from traveling before I start in on all the various meetings planned for the week. After my research time tomorrow, I'm meeting with folks from the West of the USA to figure out what in the heck is up with our vast region.

I haven't really even looked at the program other than for my own sessions. Oy. Well I'll do that tomorrow.

Friday, October 14, 2005

IWCA Conference 2006

I'll be attending & blogging the IWCA conference next week in Minneapolis.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Reflecting on sessions...

I got a very nice compliment from the director of my Writing Center a few weeks ago: He wrote me a lovely e-mail (which I'm considering framing) telling me what a good job I was doing when I wrote up the Conference Reports each tutor fills out at the end of each session; they're sociologically designed to get us thinking about the session we'd just had, and to reflect upon it. And he asked me a very interesting question:

What was going through my head when I was writing each Conference Report?

It took me a couple hours in really thinking about this, because up to this point, I wasn't sure I'd been thinking anything specifically; I was often just trying to remember what I'd done well or badly in that particular session. I wasn't concerned with how I was phrasing my experience. But then I got to thinking about last semester.

Last semester I was inundated with reflection. I was doing so much of it - between my Methods class and tutoring (which my director always highly encouraged us to do, from the moment of being hired), between having to really look at what I was writing and analyze my thinking and rationale about what I felt was everything under the sun - that I was coming to a few realizations about myself that I had been trying not to see. (Or maybe, as I'm nearing 30, I'm finally allowing myself to see.) And I felt that something clicked in my head last semester: I was finally putting together some practical experience in relation to some pedagogical practices that both my director and my Methods professor had been teaching. In essence, a lot fell in to place, and a lot started to make sense. (Especially when I heard the same strategies from both professors!) I was able to see a more direct correlation between what I said and the student's response, and I was able to shift gears much more easily if I saw that something wasn't working.

At the beginning of this semester, my sixth as a tutor, I came in with a different appreciation for tutoring: all this reflecting that I had to do, all that I had to see in terms of my own writing and how my mindset and thinking was so innately connected to how and what I wrote, made me be able to appreciate my tutoring sessions so much more. I now knew from experience how painful reflecting could be, and how writing exposed one's own thinking to the world. Writing for me has always been such a closely tied connection to how I think that I really understand why many people are so protective of their writing. I look to see the way my student responds in the session: her posture, her facial expressions and mannerisms, how close she sits to me, how willing she is to answer questions, how closely she peers over her paper as we read through it together. These clues, as much as anything else, makes me stop to think about how that student, in that one session, feels about her own writing, and makes me really think about what I did in that session, what worked, and what I need to do to become better. I can then process what happened and (I hope) write about the session in such a way that's clear, concise, and readable.

If nothing else, this job is preparing me remarkably for the day that New York State gives me that teaching certification.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Fall miscellany

Well I've fallen behind in my blogging about peer tutoring/writing center issues what with the new school year and all sorts of things going on in the WC world. I will note, however, that International Writing Centers Week 2006 (IWCW2006) is being planned by the community over at http://writingcenters.org/board. Folks are coming up with some great plans so far, but there is always room for more ideas.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Cluster Grouping - Gifted Education

In Cluster Grouping - Gifted Education Carolyn Chambers Clark askes "Don't We Need Gifted Students in All Classes So They Can Help Others Learn Through Cooperative Learning, Peer Tutoring, and Other Collaborative Models?"

Clark continues: "When gifted students are placed in mixed-ability groups for cooperative learning, they frequently become tutors. Other students in these groups may rely on the gifted to do most of the work and may actually learn less than when the gifted students are not in their groups. When gifted students work in their own cooperative learning groups from time to time on appropriately challenging tasks, they are more likely to develop positive attitudes about cooperative learning. At the same time, other students learn to become more active learners because they are not able to rely so heavily on the gifted students. When the learning task focuses on content some students already know, those students should be learning how to cooperate in their own groups on extension tasks that are difficult enough to require cooperation. When the cooperative task is open-ended and requires critical or divergent thinking, it is acceptable to include the gifted students in heterogeneous cooperative learning groups."

WAC and the Writing Center

The Montgommery Advertiser reports that "College educators like Dacus have noted that high school graduates increasingly are unprepared for the college classroom. To that end, ASU [Alabama State Univeristy] already has a writing center that helps students improve their writing skills through tutoring, computer programs and group lab sessions. Writing Across the Curriculum will enhance those efforts, Dacus said, adding ASU wants to be known as a 'writing university.'"

Summer Institute Photos/Round-up


Photos

I've posted some pictures from the 2005 Summer Institute here. Institute attendee Susan Mueller has posted some here.
Peer Tutoring Issues

While the Institute is generally aimed at issues for writing center directors/professionals, we did focus on several issues relevant to peer tutoring. Carol Severino and I lead a discussion of developing staff education curriculum. Even though staff at writing centers are more broadly-based than just peer tutors, we had participants consider more fully the needs of their audience in regards to staff education. This, of course, differed markedly from peer tutors to, say, faculty tutors, and we discussed approaches and methodologies that could be used for each group.

Frankie Condon and Harry Denny then discussed on-going staff education emphasizing the need for an activist agenda in the WC. Michael Pemberton and Carol Severino later discussed writing fellows programs, and, finally, we heard from a group of KU tutors who discussed their perceptions of writing center work.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Busy!

The busy nature of the SI made it nearly impossible for me to keep up regular posting, and now I come back to several problems to solve. I hope to write up a SI summary soon.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Summer Institute--Day one

1) Anne Geller and Michael Pemberton lead us this morning this morning in a chance to share our writing center designs. Folks had some great posters showing what their writing centers looked like. I was feeling a bit artsy so I made an iMovie. I didn’t like it in the long run since it lacked a coherence that the others had with their elaborate pictures and plans. My theme, if you will, was making the writing center a space for us all. I used Ben Harper’s “Fight for you Mind” as the sound track.
2) Beth Boquet and Ben Rafoth next gave the group a primer on writing center theory.
3) Carol Severino and I then lead the group in a discussion of development of curriculum for staff education. It is a big subject and Carol and I decided that we should focus on needs assessment of the audience. We let the groups discuss the various issues of whom they were training. There was some amount of resistance to separating by difference. I can see why, but I think it is important to focus on difference in order to determine what the education needs are for our writing center staff. I wish we had more time to talk about methodologies one could employ for training. We probably should have cut down the discussion a bit, but then the great ideas people had would not have been expressed. Hmm. Anyway the idea is that we provided a place to start from. Maybe we should have conducted more of a round table to talk about curriculum issues and ways of helping folks to learn about WC work.
4) We’re writing now. I started brainstorming about the piece I want to create about CC writing centers. It is slow going. I’m not even sure what questions to ask at this point, realy.
5) There were various SIGS last night, and folks are getting used to long days of WC conversation in July.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Pre-Institute Workshop

The Pre-Institute Workshop was designed for folks who are very new to writing center. Anne and Michele planned an interactive session which combined a sort of mixer with exploratory writing. Basically the attendees got to share their most important questions and then interview us group leaders to discover answers. This was also our opportunity as leaders to see where folks were coming from and allow us to start pulling threads together for the conference. Most folks were interested in publicity, training, and theory.

Tonight we're having the openning BBQ in the Bob Dole Political Institute.

Writing Center Summer Institute

So here I am in Lawrence, Kansas waiting in the lobbby of the Holiday Inn (I'll be moving to the much more historic and apparantly haunted Eldridge Hotel this afternoon) with Michael Pemberton, Harry Denny, and Ben Rafoth--"the guys" as Michele Eodice calls us. Michael and I are absorbed in your computers (me typing this, Michael reading something attentively) and Harry and Ben are discussing one of the sessions they will be leading.

I had a long trip in from Salt Lake City: my plane was delayed and eventually cancelled because of bad weather over Denver. Luckilly my airline could get me on another flight directly to Kansas City. I arrived at 1:30 am. Not bad, but not exactly the height of the social hour and all food service at said Holiday Inn was closed. I spent a hungry night reading.

Today we meet as institute leaders and then have a social with the participants.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

IWCA Summer Institude

I'm headed out for the IWCA Summer Institute in a couple of days. I am hoping to have a slew of posts from there, and, I hope, some extra-special guest bloggers.

Hopefully this will also jar me to get off my PeerCentered vacation and post some entries. (Ah summer!)

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Strategies for Writing Studio Consultants


We'd like to share this handout by our Director Dr. Kathryn Evans.

Dani
Graduate Assistant
BSC Writing Studio


Strategies for Writing Studio Consultants
By Kathryn Evans, Bridegwater State College

Many consultants find that the following six strategies—when done before, during, and after the “meat” of the discussion—can help students learn significantly more.

BEFORE

1. Start with self-assessment. Ask writers to

· use the professor’s evaluation criteria to self-assess their work
· tell you what specifically they would like feedback on

Beginning the session like this helps you target your feedback to the writer’s needs.

2. Identify and prioritize patterns. When you read the writer’s work, look for (and encourage writers to look for) patterns of issues instead of individual issues. After you’ve identified several patterns, prioritize:

Which patterns are more serious? Do some patterns undermine the writer’s credibility more than others? render an argument less persuasive?

Note that if you give feedback intermittently as the work is being read, it’s harder to identify patterns and next to impossible to prioritize them. Instead, try taking notes on the work while you are reading it and save the discussion until after you’ve read the entire paper.

DURING

3. Favor depth over breadth. Just as readers are less persuaded by writing that crams many brief points into one argument, so too can students be less persuaded by feedback that rushes through superficial coverage of many points. Compare:

“Here you have a fragment. In this next sentence there is singular-plural mismatch. Here is a comma splice. This next paragraph could use more evidence. Here’s a fragment. This paragraph could also use more evidence. I wasn’t sure what you meant by this word? Here is another fragment. Your last paragraph could also use more evidence. Don’t forget to include the page number when you quote, just like you did in your other paragraphs.”

“There are a couple of issues that I think you’ll want to look at. First, let’s talk about your evidence. [In-depth discussion of how the writer might add more evidence.] Great, now that we’ve tackled evidence, let’s talk about fragments. [In-depth discussion of fragments.]”

Note that to favor depth over breadth, you’ll generally want the session to be organized around the limitations of the work rather than the chronology of the reading (e.g., “let’s talk about X and Y problem” rather than “let’s look at your first paragraph and talk about it; then let’s look at your second paragraph and talk about it.” Students will learn more when you favor depth over breadth, and issues that aren’t in scope can be addressed in future sessions. (At the end of the session, briefly mention the remaining issues and encourage the writer to sign up for another session.)

4. Respond as a reader rather than an objective judge. Compare:

“This paragraph could use some more evidence.” [objective judge]

“You might want to add more evidence here.” [implied objective judge]

“When I was reading this, I felt like you were making good points but that I couldn’t be fully persuaded without more evidence.” [an unpersuaded reader]

“Readerly” response helps students see the reasons underlying revisions. (“Why should I add more evidence?” While the first two scenarios don’t answer this question, the third one does: “I should add more evidence so that my readers can be persuaded.”) When students understand the reasons underlying revisions, they are more likely to remember those revision strategies in the future.

5. Ask students to solve problems. To leverage the “comprehension checking” advantages of oral feedback, consider having writers do on-the-spot revisions to solve particular problems. You might, for example, do the following:

· Point writers to contrasting examples and ask them which one they think is more effective and why. You could say, for instance, “Look at the paragraph on the bottom of p. 2 and compare it to the one on the top of p. 4. Which one do you think offers more evidence to support the claim?” You can then have the writer revise the less effective example to make it better approximate the effective example. This approach offers two benefits. First, students have a chance to apply—and thus reinforce—the targeted writing strategy. Second, students’ on-the-spot revisions allow you to engage in comprehension checking—to gauge how well the writer has understood the targeted writing strategy. This knowledge is key, since it tells you whether you need to spend more time on a concept or whether it’s okay to move on.

· If no contrasting example can be found, try modeling what a possible revision would look like and explaining why you think it is more effective. You could then ask the writer to choose another sentence or passage with the same issue and revise it. This offers the same benefits described above—if the writer’s revision is effective, you know to move on to the next point; if not, you know you need to spend more time on the same issue.

AFTER

6. Ask students to summarize. When students are asked to summarize the discussion, they are more likely to remember it. Encourage writers to frame their summaries in terms of their future writing rather than in terms of the specific paper. Compare:

· "I have X and Y problems in this paper."
· "In my future writing, I should focus on improving X and Y."

Framing the summary in terms of future writing can often make the feedback seem more relevant and important. Students' summaries also provide a final comprehension check, giving you one last opportunity to influence what they focus on in their future writing.
Revised 2-5-05



------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Talk abt. the option to read silently (probably in #2).

Being encouraged to write down a solution is both a morale-booster and a memory aid.



Your body paragraphs could be more explicitly related to your thesis.

You might want to more explicitly link your body paragraphs to your thesis.

When I was reading the body paragraphs, I kept getting confused about how they related to your thesis.

· rather than overwhelming a writer by pointing out ten different errors, you could note that there are only two or three patterns.


FAQ?

· More than one sol’n to a problem; have s’s pick the sol’n that fits their intent.
· Positive feedback (not just once but intermittently). PE a part of this
· Read aloud once then silently
· What does s do if consultant reads silently
· Don’t be afraid of silence
· Ask s’s to re-read and / or you re-read
· Can have s’s make an outline of the paper
· When focus is a problem, 90% of the time evidence is a problem too
· When both focus and evidence are a problem, generally better to deal w/ focus first

Good example: one paper (Amanda Clay’s) said early on that Zinsser describes four types of pressure in college: economic, parental, peer, and self-inflicted, but s went on to only discuss economic and parental. Problem: reader expects paper to deal w/ all four. One consultant pointed to problem: I’m expecting all four to be treated equally, but they aren’t…the student (me in role play) said, Oh, I just wanted to talk abt. two pressures…and we figured out how to solve the problem: omit reference to all four pressures [student decided to start first body para. with “Zinsser over exaggerates this point…Economical pressure has always….”]) and change thesis to read “…Zinsser is correct when he states that there is pressure in college yet his essay is a vast over-exaggeration of the pressures facing the everyday college student, especially parental and economic pressure” [student added part in italics]. Another consultant, however, told me that I needed to discuss all four pressures equally. My choice taken away.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

WRITER’S CAFÉ – Creative Sharing

The Bridgewater State College Writing Studio provided a unique forum for clients this past semester. Professor Lee Torda and Writing Studio Director Kathy Evans created the concept of Writer’s Café. The Writer’s Café was successfully presented in the Spring Semester of 2005. The event provided a supportive atmosphere for Writing Studio clients who were interested in sharing their writing with an audience.

The Writing Studio consultants encouraged students to submit their work in a drop-box at the Studio. Consultants took turns reviewing the submitted pieces and chose several of them for presentation at the Writer’s Café. Students were welcome to submit either works of fiction, poetry or essays.

The Writer’s Café was a great success, and many clients read their pieces to a receptive and eager audience. We provided food and beverages to help create a more relaxed and comfortable environment. The positive atmosphere of the Writer’s Café prompted enthusiastic feedback from both faculty and students.

We believe the Writer’s Café added an enjoyable, stimulating aspect to our Writing Studio. The Café offered an outlet for those clients who wanted to share their writing, and allowed for a new level of consultant/client interaction.

Due to the excellent response we received, the Writer’s Café will be held once per semester.

Dani
Graduate Assistant
Bridgewater State College Writing Studio
http://www.bridgew.edu/WritingStudio/WC/

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Thanks WWU!

Thanks again to the folks from Western Washington for guest-blogging last week.

If you are interested in guest-blogging on PeerCentered, contact me at Clint.Gardner@slcc.edu.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Ah Technology

It has been beautiful and sunny this week here at WWU, making it hard to stay inside to do homework. Days like this make me realize how much our academic lives, both in and out of the Writing Center, are tied to these darn computers! After all, I can take my book outside with me to read if I like, but when it comes time to write that five page paper I wind up back at my desk staring at my little screen. Even this blog requires me to be in front of the computer in order to read or contribute to this community.

So why then, with all this emphasis on computers and technology, do Writing Centers still struggle with our computers? It seems as though we tolerate them as a necessary evil - a tool for creating legible drafts and a requirement for quality final drafts - rather than embracing the opportunities they give us both as tutors and as writers ourselves.

It seems that by far the most common discussion related to technology in Writing Centers surrounds the issue of Online Writing Labs (OWLs) and whether or not a face-to-face pedagogy is translatable to the online setting. I'm not sure this is the right question to ask, because like it or not, the computers are not going anywhere. Online drafts are the wave of the future and being prepared to meet that demand (as well as the challenges that go along with it) seems vital to the continued success of Writing Centers.

Unfortunately, Writing Centers' dislike of computers does not stop at OWLing. The majority of training for tutors in my Writing Center focuses on hands-on, verbal, or otherwise very low tech strategies for working with writers. Personally, I am thrilled by this practice because it means I don't have to think of my writing as being tied to a keyboard and desk! And yet, we have all these beautiful computers in our Center, all equipped with software that could take some of the pencil and paper strategies and give them a whole new dimension of usefulness, that are just sitting idle for most of the day.

Perhaps one motive behind our discomfort is that maybe we don't all know how to use the computers as well as we think we should. I have discovered that many of the questions related to footnoting that come into our Writing Center also require an explanation of how to physically create a footnote in a document, but when I asked other tutors if they know how to do it themselves the majority had to admit that they do not. And I know that I don't make use of some of the editing and brainstorming software in our Center because I don't know how to use it well enough to teach someone else. Is it possible that even growing up with technology has not prepared us to use it effectively in this setting? How much work would it take to make the computers as useful a tool as the highlighters and scratch paper we have all come to know and love?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

STRATA in the Center

I’m stealing my idea for my blog from a fellow Learning Assistant(LA) in my writing center because she raised an interesting discussion that has been on my mind all week (thanks Shelly!). She posted an online blurb about STRATA students, a term I’d never heard before yesterday. STRATA is one of those lovely acronyms that stands for STudents Returning After Time Away (from school). These are nontraditional students who are returning to school after being away for five or more years. Often these students are still working part time, may have families, and going to school. Whew! That seems to be a lot of pressure and juggling to me.

My experience so far with STRATA students has been very positive. Often when I begin conferencing with these students I’m initially intimidated (since they’re older than me- I wonder if I really can give them valid feedback). It’s just the notion that wisdom is in age and it somehow intimidates me in the beginning. Most of the students are eager to get back into school but are often apprehensive about getting back into writing. Particularly, most STRATA students come in with grammar fears, citing woes and are worried about meeting the expectations of their professors. Like one LA pointed out, sometimes a session with a STRATA student can feel more like a “therapy session” once you’re through. Often with these students once we get through talking about their LOC’s they are more than ready to dive into talking about ideas in their paper. I’ve had some of my most interesting conversations with these types of students, and sometimes the conversations are more geared towards being back in school, dealing with life pressures and having a balance than about their paper. It is because of those added pressures that STRATA students have, that I wonder what writing centers can do to help them outside of conferencing (or holding therapy) with them.

Most writing centers pedagogies strive to be all inclusive and diverse- but what about the diversity of ages? Do we take time in our writing center classes and training to discuss how to work with writers of differing ages? I wonder if STRATA students could benefit from more specific resources tailored to their needs. One LA is collecting data about this but I wondered if this topic has been addressed at other schools and if there are any tactics to dealing with STRATA students or resources. It all comes down to the fact that, STRATA, ESL, ELL, LD, any student, or LA at the conference table- we’re all just people trying to better our writing but I’m curious to see if there’s been any research done about STRATA students and about making their transition easier back into school through the writing center. If you have any ideas or experiences- please share!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Waxing Academic

After attending a few writing center conferences (both at the national and regional level), I see a startling trend. It seems writing centers have abandoned our pedagogy. Let me explain.
Think for a moment of the cornerstone values of writing centers: peer to peer interaction, discussion based learning, lots of probing questions, etc. Now, recall how many writing center conference sessions are run: lecture. Case in point: at the last conference I attended, three of the five the sessions I attended we lecture (one of them even consisted of the presented just reading from her work). If 60 percent of the sessions I attended we lecture, that means half the sessions had NO interactive learning in them. Clearly, these sessions are a stark departure from writing center pedagogy. Just imagine if we worked with students the same way we work with each other at conferences, never letting the writer speak and dictating all the answers!

I would think that our pedagogy ought to be reflected in how we run our conferences, which means I believe writing center conferences should be highly interactive: work shops, small group discussions, chances to challenge the ideas shared. One thing that struck me about the last conference I attended was how quite it was, which means no one was talking. If anything, writing center conferences, if they are displaying writing center pedagogy, should be one of the loudest places in town due to all the conversation!

So why do writing centers abandon our pedagogy when we get together at conferences? A good friend of mine thinks it is because writing centers, traditionally marginalized by academia, are attempting to appear more “scholarly” in the eyes of the university, and thus adopt academic rhetoric in the form of lectures. I offer a challenge to writing centers; instead of waxing academic, I propose we stick to our pedagogical guns. Studies consistently show lectures are one of the least effective learning environments; why not run our conferences in a way that best fosters learning – in interactive sessions?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Gender in the Center

Although it says that my name is Peter, this is actually Jo from the Western Washington University writing center.

To echo Jen in the last post, I too have recently participated in a writing center conference. Unlike Jen, however, who is a seasoned veteran at leading conference sessions, I was a newbie. I was working with two fellow writing assistants (tutors), and our conference was on gendered communication in the writing center.

I must admit that to me, gender dynamics, like Hamlet, are everywhere in our lives. Not everyone agrees with me, however. Many people participating in our conference thought that gender had absolutely no effect on their practice as members of the writing center community. Most people pre-conference felt that both their own gender and the gender of the person they were working with didn't really matter when it came to writing and tutoring.

At the Western Washington University writing center, however, we found some pretty interesting numbers involving our own staff and the demographic of people who use our writing center. Although our campus is 55% female and 45% male (pretty standard around the nation), we found that 72% of writers using the center were female. Interestingly, almost 70% of our staff is female as well, and on a larger scale, national writing center Directors are 80% female.

Why do we experience this disparity? Is it because writing center pedagody is geared towards a type of communication that is more stereotypically associated with women? Are women more willing to ask for help on their writing? Is it that writing centers in general are targeted for the humanities rather than the sciences, where women typically make up the majority? What other factors play in here?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Recent conference experiences

I don’t know about you, but each time I prepare for a conference, I’m initially excited, then apprehensive about even attending. Of course, I never tell anyone else at my writing center (now the word’s out!), but typically I just want to disappear the day before. I mean, don’t conferences sound stuffy and formal? Yet as soon as I arrive, I see all the tutors and directors chatting and eating, and I’m excited for the day.

While I certainly gain tremendously from all the sessions I attend, I find myself blown away by how much facilitating teaches me. With the recent conference being the third under my belt, I have come to learn what works for me, and what I really need to improve upon. At my first conference, I had already spent a year practicing giving directions as a student coordinator, and found I could do this fairly well in my session. But I had difficulty drawing the participants’ attention and dealing with unexpected comments. An issue of presence, I came to think of it, and have since worked on how to develop my skills as one presence more energetic than the group! I took these lessons to the national conference, where I presented the same workshop, and found huge improvements.

At this year’ regional conference, I facilitated a workshop with two other writing assistants (our name for tutors). Because our session was on using play at the conference table, we wore extravagant hats and goofy accessories to lighten the mood. And it worked on many levels: the audience felt encouraged to play, and I felt my presence take on a fun spirit rather than remaining forced and stunted. For me, learning how to create a presence as leader in a group is crucial because I want to teach. And when trying to facilitate a class, nothing works better than a professor with an engaging presence.

So my main plug is to encourage any tutors out there, undergraduates especially, to try out facilitating a conference session. Just going to a conference is fabulous, but I realize now that allowing tutors a venue to facilitate is one of the greatest opportunities a conference can offer.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Mi Familia, Mi Futuro

Along with others, the University of Kansas Writing Center is participating in a program to encourage the Western Kansas latino population to consider higher eduction:

"Those offices include the Academic Achievement and Access Center, the office of the dean of students, the department of student housing, the Freshman-Sophomore Advising Center and the KU Writing Center. Others include the Office of Admissions and Scholarships, the Office of Student Financial Aid, the Student Involvement and Leadership Center, and the KU Career Center.

'The objectives are to educate the Latino population in western Kansas of the importance of college, encourage students to consider the University of Kansas as a transfer student, and answer questions in Spanish regarding higher education, with a family perspective in mind,' Pena said." (DodgeCity.com: Dodge Globe: Local News: Stories)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

And now a few scenes from next week's PeerCentered!

Next week the folks at Western Washington University Writing Center (WWUWC) will be guest blogging here on PeerCentered. Roberta Kjesrud, WWUWC describes tells me that
Three of the five have just returned from presenting at the PNWCA [Pacific Northwest Writing Center Association] conference last weekend. Four of the five are currently student coordinators or will be next year.... They are all really fabulous tutors and human beings!
Looks like it will be a great week! Join in, by commenting. If you or your writing center compatriots want to guest blog, let me know.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Peer Tutoring used to Teach Jamaican Troubled Teens

In St. Ann, Jamaica the Positive Behaviour Support Centre is using peer tutoring for kids who have dropped out of highschool:
"'We encourage peer tutoring - studies with people of the same age group, sitting down together and saying, 'let me show you how to do this', and so on,' [Clifford] Senior explained" (Support for St Ann youth - JAMAICAOBSERVER.COM, 11).

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Craig Crist-Evans

The Detroit News has a fine obituary for poet Craig Crist-Evans who passed away last week at the young age of 51. Crist-Evans was a great friend of many writing center folks, and he directed a writing center of his own at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania. Linda Wright, president of the literacy program Breakfast Serials which Crist-Evans was an ardent contributer notes:

"It's a tremendous loss -- Craig had a wonderful voice...president of Breakfast Serials, a literacy-boosting program whose original, serialized stories are delivered to young readers through the nation's newspapers. "He took on difficult subjects and his poetry was able to cut right through everything to the reality of what he was writing about. The public really responded with deep emotion." (link 4)


IWCA President Jon Olson recalls a happy meeting with Crist-Evans at last November's NCTE:

Consider the inscription Craig wrote when I bought a copy of his book.... What he wrote is a toast to writing centers, to all of us who work in them as he did. In memory of Craig, please join me in raising a glass, literally if you have one by your screen as you read this or figuratively. This is from Craig: "Here's to all the words and all the fun we have in Writing Centers!" (personal correspondence)

Monday, April 11, 2005

ESL and weather

Two ideas here: ESL and weather. (Not related other than by the fact that they’re on my mind today.)

I had a brilliant moment in one of my tutorials today. Too bad it didn’t come from me. A master’s student came in to discuss part of her thesis and she seemed nervous from the very beginning. She explained to me that English is her second language and that her paper seemed so great to her before she came into the Writing Center, but as soon as she sat down with a tutor she started realizing all the mistakes she had made. She is a regular here, and the way she was talking made it seem like coming in for a tutorial was a form of self-flagellation. I did all I could to assure her that many tutees (ESL or not) have that realization when they come in for tutorial, that we were here to help her improve rather than criticize her writing, and that everyone (even me! even tutors!) makes mistakes in their writing. She laughed a bit, but I wasn’t sure she believed me, and I continued to try to make her at ease and make the tutorial enjoyable.

In the course of our tutorial, another regular came in to peruse our bookshelves for instructions on how to write a letter to the editor. He was reading close by, and when he stood up to leave, he leaned in to our area to tell my tutee that he struggled with the same writing issues that she did. While their cultural backgrounds are rather different—he is Puerto Rican, she is Korean—both of them seemed visibly relieved to realize that there was someone else out there struggling much the same way. They chatted for a few minutes, he went on his merry way, and she turned her attention back to our tutorial—with a much more relaxed attitude and increased comfort as we discussed her paper. It dawned on me that neither of them seemed to realize that tons of students walk through our door every day with the same problems with articles, progressives, and translating from their first language—even though we tutors are certainly aware of that fact. The experience got me thinking about how to ensure that all of our students—ESL, ELL, EFL, 1.5s, native speakers, learning disabled, etc. etc.–are aware that they are certainly not alone and don’t need to get down on themselves. In particular, I want to make sure that the power hierarchy between tutor and tutee is disrupted in these situations. Have any of you out there had luck with group tutoring for ESL students? Or does anyone have further insight about non-native tutors? I realize that there are not simple answers to my questions or concern (as discussed in other blogs, some students self-identify, others don’t, some like my student appreciated the chance to talk with another ESL, others would want to distance themselves from other ESLs), but I am open to ideas about making tutoring a positive experience for everyone involved.

Another topic on my mind is weather. It’s somewhat of a joke around here, but weather has a large—and sometimes just plain shocking—impact on the number of students who show up for tutorials. If it’s snowing or raining, we have tons of cancellations and no-shows. If it’s sunny and warm (especially after a mid-west-esque cold spell), we have tons of cancellations and no-shows. This might seem like an issue of far less gravity than some of the others brought up by my colleagues, but having people miss their appointments means that we are simply not able to do our job. Does anyone out there have similar problems? What are the cancellation/no-show policies for other tutoring centers? Is anyone having any luck with theirs?
--Elizabeth Zimmerman

Sunday, April 10, 2005

How to tutor rich media projects?

I’ve recently returned to the writing center after an extended absence during which I taught a lot of composition, literature, and worked as a staff member at Ohio State’s DMP. My experiences at the DMP as well as the on-going work there to push the boundaries of what it means to teach composition by introducing rich media projects has gotten me thinking. Specifically I’m wondering how do writing centers and tutors that have extensive experience with print texts cope with rich media texts. What happens if a student comes in with an audio or video project? Or a Macromedia Flash or even a web site-based project? Another thing to think about is the question of resources. That is, does the writing center have the technological resources to allow the tutor and client to even access the client’s text? While in the short term the instructors assigning these rich media composition projects might be the best resource for their students, we can’t presume that every student in every class will comfortable getting feedback and advice from their instructors. Or they may even want a second or third opinion. Writing centers and tutors would be well-advised to start thinking about how to approach rich media projects and work with instructors to develop a set of best-practices.

In some preliminary conversations I’ve had with folks here at Ohio State we’ve come to the very tentative conclusion that early intervention in rich media projects is essential. This is primarily because the technological learning curve is so steep and the investment in terms of time is so great that traditional revision practices are to some degree not possible. That being said, there is still a lot of work to be done in helping clients winnow down hours of audio records, interviews, or video footage into a compelling project. It is at this level that tutors can the most help.

Scott Banville

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Reflections of an assistant director/tutor

Maren here. Along with Cat, I serve as the Assistant Coordinator of the OSU Writing Center. Although I majored in English and psychology as an undergraduate, I am currently a nurse studying at OSU for my master’s degree in women’s health. I’m one of those people that tend to enjoy almost everything, and don’t like the idea of settling down on one course. I enjoy biking, hiking, long walks in the park . . . oh wait, this is a blog, not a personals ad. I’m new to this. Sorry.

Anyway, my point is that sometimes I wonder how, with my current course of study, I ended up getting this job (besides being the only one to apply for it), and what I actually bring to the WC. Regardless of how I ended up here, I know that I’m excited about my position and look forward to coming into work more days than not. I like the different hats I get to wear around the WC– tutor, friend, mini-manager, etc., and I think this position has allowed me to think about some of the larger WC issues in addition to the day-to-day operations.

Something that’s been on my mind recently is this ultra-American idea that “bigger is better.” In the business world, it seems that you have been growing to be considered successful and productive. But does that notion necessarily hold true for writing centers? Should we be striving to “supersize” writing centers? What do we have to gain? To lose?

It seems to me that having more members of the university community come to the WC does have a positive connotation – more people interested in their writing, exploring the writing process, working through their thoughts and improving their ability to communicate with others. But there’s also a flip side. In only the two years I’ve worked here, there have been some subtle, but significant, changes. For starters, we are happily growing. The number of tutors working at the WC has increased, we now serve clients online as well as face-to-face, and we have an online system of scheduling appointments and logging employees’ tutoring hours. While all of this is commendable, I do think growth, if not properly planned for and accommodated, can lead to a more sterile and business-like environment, which is something I’ve always found refuge from at the WC.

Right now I’m working through some of these ideas and don’t have any clear answers or even suggestions. I know that I look forward to our weekly staff meetings where all of the tutors get to sit around and chat about their experiences and thoughts. We’ve also started having WC potlucks and meeting out for dinner and drinks after work sometimes. That helps, but I’m wondering if there is more I can do with the daily operations of the WC to help us maintain some of the comfortable, laid-back, open feel that I believe is an integral part of the WC environment. For now, that’s my larger focus. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Generation 1.5 students in the writing center

I recently conducted a study on Generation 1.5 students in the writing center. “Generation 1.5” refers to immigrant students who have permanent resident/citizenship status and have completed a significant amount of time (typically, at least high school) American schools before entering an American university/college. One of my guiding research questions was whether or not tutors seek to identify a student’s socio-cultural background in typical tutorials and how does this knowledge (or lack of) help shape the tutorials. Interestingly, none of the tutors in my study considered this socio-cultural background important to their tutorials, although the participating student population was quite unique and diverse, and thus, did not broach the topic with their students. Without critizing my colleagues, this does seem to imply that writing center tutorials have little to no elements of Socioliterate pedagogy. Are the students we work with then being under-serviced, or is it not possible for writing centers take a socioliterate perspective (that is, is it not possible or appropriate for tutors to engage in socioliterate practices)? It seems the writing centers often give explicit instruction on certain genres of writing. If we are practicing this, don’t we owe it to the students to step out of our comfort zones and discuss socio-cultural backgrounds as a means of further helping students?
-Eve R. (tutor and master's student)

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

One Tutor's Thoughts on Group Tutoring

Last year our Writing Center took on the task of placing several tutors for one hour per week in each “remedial” writing classroom. The program was terminated last quarter, for various reasons, but as a tutor in these classes I became interested in the dynamics of tutoring in a group.
Group tutoring is fundamentally different, I think, than a doctoral (or master’s) writing group. With such a “workshopping” model, each member is considered equal, and there tend to be fairly specific do’s and don’t’s designed to protect this equality. However, the tutor in a writing classroom (remedial or otherwise) is automatically imbued with a sense of authority, whether or not it is desired. The tutor is positioned (culturally, phenomenologically) as a sort of “sub-” or “pseudo-” instructor – that is, as “between” the instructor, who has the ability to evaluate (i.e. “grade”), and the students. The tutor is considered a writing “expert,” with the knowledge to advise and, in fact, influence the student (and his/her writing).
This is, of course, not much different than many of the situations we find ourselves in when tutoring one-on-one. Much of our time thinking about the writing center is spent considering the ways to “de-politicize” (even “de-colonize”) the tutor/tutee relationship – to eliminate the power dynamics inherent in “teaching” (at least the Western conception of it). In a group tutoring environment like the one our tutors found themselves in, this proved to be nearly impossible (at least for me): the roles and expectations had already been established and the students seemed unwilling to take control, or even participate. Indeed, the primary complaint among the tutors, at least anecdotally, was that the students “don’t do anything. They don’t seem to care.”
I believe there are real benefits to utilizing these predetermined power dynamics and adopting at specific times a moderately directive philosophy. It can be advantageous, first of all, for the tutor to use his/her authority to get the students involved. The tutor can do this by outlining an agenda, exercising control of the group discussion (by selecting a topic or merely guiding the conversation through direct questioning), or by assigning specific writing tasks to complete within the tutoring time. Tutors can also rely on “talking,” instead of merely asking. Talking, I think, can take two forms, both important. Tutors can provide tools students can use and general information about writing (generally how do writers research or deal with theses, transitions, or organization); tutors can also serve as a model for good peer input. The tutor does not merely model good discussion, but also “how to do school,” immensely important in the remedial writing classroom.
It is important to not concede to the extreme. The group tutor must also use the group – that is, discussion should not be one-one-one. The tutor can counter this by posing questions to the group as a whole, or, when one student has a problem, turn to the group for solutions. In general, tutors should ask open-ended questions. I found it best when I asked questions that I didn’t necessarily have an answer for; this allowed me to become one of the group, instead of a teacher searching for “the” correct answer.
Interestingly enough, I found that this combination modeling good peer participation and non-directive but “powerful” (recognizing and using, when appropriate or useful, your inherent authority) tutoring can actually inspire students to take control of the group. After a few sessions with a pre-arranged agenda, the students and I together began to prepare for the next session at the end of the hour. Although they still at times turned to me, more and more often they answered each others’ questions. As they become more involved, and more familiarized to the college environment and its expectations, the students took control of their writing, and of their participation in the writing group. Unexpectedly, I had moved to the periphery of the group.
--Taylor Nelms

Monday, April 04, 2005

First Post From Ohio State

Hello,
The Ohio State University Writing Center will be Guest Blogging for this week. My name is Doug Dangler and I run the Online Writing Center at OSU (www.cstw.org). I tutor online via a synchronous system a few hours a week, and more during the weeks before midterms and finals. I’m always fascinated by the theorietical aspects of writing center communications and how the work done there gets interpreted in a variety of ways. (For example, online writing center issues frequently surface on the writing center listserv, wcenter: http://listserv.tamu.edu/cgi/wa?SUBED1=wcenter-l&A=1). Last Friday, I was part of an East Central Writing Center Association (ECWCA: http://www.sienahts.edu/~eng/ecwca/ecwca.htm) panel discussing online tutoring and the influence of the language used to describe it, especially metaphors. Tom Savas, a graduate tutor at OSU, talked about the impact that electronic technologies have had on Andrea Lunsford’s metaphors of the Garret, the Storehouse, and the Burkean Parlor. For my at bat, I talked about why I’d like to see the OWL acronym altered to something more descriptive of online writing center work. And the final presenter, Kay Halasek, the Writing Center Faculty Coordinator at OSU, discussed administrative issues associated with online writing centers. All in all, provocative ideas were presented and a good discussion followed, demonstrating once again that conferences can be great places to question long-held assumptions and practices.

Guest blogging this week on PeerCentered

The staff from Ohio State Univeristy Writing Cetner will be taking over PeerCentered this week in the first of our series guest bloggers. Welcome, OSU folks!

Friday, April 01, 2005

Student Work and the Writing Center

Lisa Schultz of the Notre Dame Observer writes of the efficacy of student work on campus and how students snap up any open position: "'As soon as we post a new position [on the board], it's gone,' [Joyce Yates, the assistant student employment coordinator for the Office of Student Employment] said" (link 2). Rather than attributing the rush for jobs to endemic student poverty, Schultz sides with the optomists and ascribes it to students' desire for work:
Students at Notre Dame are known for their hard work and dedication in the classroom. However, the University also recognizes them as hard workers outside of class - in on-campus jobs ranging from secretary to sandwich artist. (1)

Writing Center tutor Curtis Leighton states that
"I have one of the best jobs on campus.... Flexible hours, human interaction and good pay' are all positives for working at the Writing Center..." (17).
As a person who worked in a writing center as a student, and as a Writing Center Director I would tend to agree with Leighton. While working in the Writing Center as a student I found myself actively engaged in the job not only as a tutor, but as a learner. I come to look on those days as a crucial time in my life when I decided really what I wanted to do. I kept that writing center job as long as I could (and you might say since I have always directed a writing center that I never really left it.) As a director I have seen student peer tutors/consultants do the same thing. Writing center work seems to keep people around. I think the shortest period that someone worked for a writing center I have been involved with was 2 weeks and that was simply because the person had to move out of state. Most of the folks stick around for at least two years (I am at a community college) if not for three or four.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Threats?

I woke up this morning to the linked story and wrote immediately to WCENTER:

I was just looking through Google news (news.google.com) and a disturbing story out of Texas A&M popped up (link).

In a nutshell a candidate for student body president is proposing doing away with fees paid to services such as their Writing Center since it is "not used by all students" and "could be changed to being paid for based on usage instead of a blanket fee for all students." When I went to the A&N WC web site, I discovered that students fees for the service for everyone is $8.00 per semester. So all undergraduate students are paying $16.00 per year to pay to keep the Writing Center open. Now granted this person has not won election and (as we all know) student body officers cannot necessarily make such sweeping decisions on their own (but I'm not familar at all with how it works at A&M), but it does sound an alarm to me that attitudes like this can affect the work we do.

I am curious if others have faced such a situation as the folks at A&M are now apparently facing, and how you dealt with it. Is this a problem with using student fees for funding services like the writing center rather than having a straight-line budget from the institution itself?

--Clint

I didn't want to sound alarmist, but I wanted to start a discussion of funding sources and whether using student fees really works well. Aren't students always going to say "I don't use that" therefore it should be a pay-as-you-go service?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

"Librarians on Location"

In collaboration with their library, Sam Houston State Writing Center has created a program to bring librarians into the Writing Center. The program combines both writing center work with developing writing and the librarians research expertise. As an outreach program, this effort goes both ways: the library can reach out to make folks aware of their services to help people learn about research and the Writing Center can make contact with colleagues across the campus:

"This outreach program (Librarians on Location) is one of the most visible ways our librarians demonstrate their commitment to providing access to information resources to SHSU students," said Ann Holder, director of library services.

"We have sent librarians to a number of locations this past year and the Writing Center has proven to be our most successful venue; it is an obvious pairing and we encourage library use while demonstrating that the Newton Gresham Library, its resources, and librarians, are primary sources of information." (link , 3-4)

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Extra-Special Co-Guest-Star

Neal Lerner over at Friends of the Writing Center Journal (q.v.) gave me a great idea that they have been using over there since they started: guest bloggers. Basically what would happen is that PeerCentered would be "turned over" to a writing center for a week for them to do what they will. I've had one bite so far, and hopefully we can generate some more interest. Guest-star blogging might just do the trick. Hey it worked for Johnny Carson for years, didn't it?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Spree

I think I might go on one more recruiting spree to see if anyone else is really interested in writing on PeerCentered. I don't mind blogging about writing-center- or peer-tutoring-related things I find on the internet, but it does seem to be a little distant from the idea of sharing ideas/experience that we originally were working from.

Hmm.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Magnetic Lit

The folks at the University of Connecticut Writing Center have found a pretty cool way to advertise their center: an interactive magnetic poetry display. The display takes poems from famous authors in magnetic poetry form and then let's passers-by make any changes they want. As Laurie Cella, co-director of the UConn Writing Center says "The biggest goal...is publicizing the Writing Center..." (5).

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Searching

While on the plane I searched through the PDF version of the CCCC I downloaded previously. There are quite a few sessions devoted to writing center work this year. I can’t say it with any kind of statistical confidence, but the number of writing-center-related sessions seems to be up from previous CCCC. I suppose I could dig through old programs, but that seems quite a lot of work for very little pay off. Then again someone might find the statistics interest or useful. (Put that in the side-project pile.) There are fewer presentations devoted to peer tutoring, but after removing “peer” and “ing” from my search of the program, I did locate more.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

4C

I'll be at CCCC in San Francisco for the rest of the week. I'll make note of any peer-tutoring-related presentations if I can get access.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

"Celebration of Writing"

Stanford University Writing Center has an interesting way to get involved in their University's annual Parents' Weekend:

“The students speak in their own voices and you get a real feel for their interests and concerns,” [Writing Center Assistant Director Wendy] Goldberg said. “You get a real cross-section of students and interests.”

The "Celebration of Writing" sounds like a great way for a writing center to reach out to its community.

"Friends to all!"

There is something about how this article about writing fellows at the University of Wisconsin--Madison starts:

They are a rare breed who love the complex process of thesis development, the endless variety of sentence structure and the art of the perfect transition. Their majors range anywhere from psychology to women's studies. They feel no student should conquer writer's block alone, and their lust for writing has put drive and passion back in UW students' pens. They are the writing fellows.

'Sometimes, students are more comfortable coming to someone who is on a peer level"

Austin Peay State University has started up a new writing center staffed exclusively by peer tutors.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

"Tutor's Column"

In the latest Writing Lab Newsletter "Tutor's Column" (February, 2005; Volume 29, Number 6), Paula Braun, Courtney Patterson, and Sarah Abst of the University of Toledo write about their experience "post-processing" a session they lead at the last NCPTW/IWCA conference entitled "Talking back to Training Manuals: Real Tutoring in a Post-Process Writing Cetner." The trio's main question of concern was "'How do you determine the line between directivenes and non-directiveness? When do you cross it'" (10)? The answers participants in the workshop provide are frank and explore the problems that non-directive theory can present in a writing center setting. Braun, Patterson, and Abst in presenting the explorations from their workshop hope that it sparks "as lively an exploration in your setting" (10).

In a bonus "Tutor's Column," Kelly Wisecup of the College of the Ozarks reports on an interesting experiment in writing center outreach. The program, entitled "Tutors in the Classroom" (TIC) (11), allowed the tutors to work with students in their classroom setting. The program not only allowed Wisecup to learn about instructor expectations but seemed to allow the tutors to model the benefits of individual consultations to the instructor.

"The Write Stuff"

NBC 25 out of Hagerstown, Maryland (USA) has an oblique success-story reference to a writing center in a recent news report aimed at high school student preparing for college:

College sophomore Sammy Magzoub spends a couple of hours a week in the writing help lab at his university. Before he got to college, Sammy didn’t realize that English isn’t the only class where a good paper can mean the difference between passing and failing. (Sinclair, Carla. "The Write Stuff", 2)

and then

Back in the college writing lab, Sammy says it wasn’t too difficult to improve his writing.

Magzoub said, "it didn’t take me long to realize that if you even change a word in your sentence, it could make a huge difference, or if you even change the order of the words, it makes a huge difference." (12-13)


Thursday, February 10, 2005

Raison d'etre

I've been thinking a bit about PeerCentered since the exchange below about why it is not working, and have decided that it might be a good thing to expand on the mission by making it not just a response/reflection kind of journal but also a "regulation" blog that links to (and perhaps comments on) news or other just items found on the Internet that relate directly to peer tutoring specifically and writing centers in general. That is the reason behind the post about Chaffey College's difficulties.

Over the next while I will also be paring down the contributers list to those who actually post items. I know this will change over time, so I'm arbitrarily assigning a six month rule: if a contributer doesn't post in a six month time span, they may be deleted from the role.
I feel a bit silly making such pronouncements since PeerCentered is so stagnant, but I am going to start advertising on WCENTER again the opportunity that we have to share our ideas with others.

So the modified purpose/mission is posted above.

Monday, February 07, 2005

"State Cuts May Doom Campus Success Centers"

The Chaffey Breeze of Chaffey College in Cucamonga, California reports a potentially disturbing action (free registration required to access story) by their state's funding agencies:
The state recently cut all funding starting next semester for the hours that students were spending in the Success Centers on campus.

According to the Vice President of Instruction, Dr. Linda Howdyshell, the cut came because the state was questioning the idea that students were getting "something for nothing" from the success centers and labs. (Cangialosi, Mark. "State Cuts May Doom Campus Success Centers", 3-4)
Apparantly the Success Centers include writing centers on campus as the story later offers a quotation by Robert Rundquist, Writing Center Instructional Specialist:
"'The college is very committed to the centers....I have no concern about it'" (20). Students at Chaffey, however, don't seem to share Rundquist's optimism.
Our friends at Writing Center Journal have started a blog: http://writingcenterjournal.blogspot.com/