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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Using Weblogs in Your Writing Center"

In the latest issue of The Writing Lab Newsletter Melinda Baer writes about using blogs in the center and kindly mentions PeerCentered. The Writing Center at Northern Illinois University where Baer works has been using a private, in-house blog for a while now. Consultants post twice a week and use those posts as fodder for later discussion in staff meetings.

I am curious how other places are using blogs. Perhaps I should whip up a survey?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Peer Writing Tutor Makes Good

A St. John's University student who will be moving on to study archaeology at Kings College Cambridge has kind words about his experience working in a writing center:

Calling his senior-year role as tutor for the Writing Center “my other truly formative experience at St. John’s,” Van Hoy recalls the impact it had on his academic growth.

"The time I spent in the Writing Center was invaluable. It became my home away from home,” he recalls. “It allowed me to improve my own writing skills and realize that knowledge is useless without the ability to express it in a coherent and compelling manner.” The Cambridge scholar then reflects on his one-on-one work with the many St. John’s students whose primary language was not English. “The University prides itself on an amazingly diverse enrollment, so it felt good to help these [ethnic] students in a meaningful way,” he says. (St. John's University -- Academics & Schools -- St. John’s Graduate Takes on Archaeological Challenges at Cambridge)

I've been tracking where peer tutors who worked in the SLCC Student Writing Center over the years and am pleased to report that all have gone on to very successful and diverse carreers. Contrary to what one might expect, peer writing tutors do not all go on to be writers or teachers (although some do). Several people who have worked here have gone to to business carreers, and several others into social service carreers. There are also, of course, those folks who do go into writing and teaching. We have our fair share of successful journalists and teachers in the pack.

Now, of course, it might seem that there is no connection between working in a writing center and later success, but that is not what the former SWC writing advisors think. The folks I have spoken to report that the SWC experience was highly influential in their desire to continue on with their education and motivated them to consider the various possibilities out there.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

"Write Now!"

Utah State University Writing Center newsletter Write Now! is aimed at student writers from across their campus:

"Hi. Welcome to the Writing Center!” This is hopefully one of the first comments you will hear as you begin your session at the USU Writing Center. Nervous? Don’t be. The Writing Center is a friendly and inviting place full of people that want to help you.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Peer Tutors and the Community College

This entry is not exactly about peer writing tutoring in that I am in attendance at the TYCA-West conference in Park City, Utah. My colleague Tiffany Rousculp (of the Salt Lake Community College Community Writing Center) and I will be conducting a roundtable discussion tomorrow about writing center and writing center work. I want to emphasize the importance of having peer writing tutors work in a community college. There are difficulties that peer tutoring staffs present to community college writing center directors, but the benefits far outweigh the deficiences. For example, some might argue that the high turnover rate of peer tutors at community college writing centers is a problem. I used to worry about the turn over rate myself, but have since come to a seperate peace with it. I prefer now to see the turn over rate as invigorating in that many new students get involved in the center over time and I have the opportunity to conduct a continual staff education program.

One troubling attitude about peer tutors at community colleges I wish to address as well is that CC students are not able to work as peer writing tutors. I have keep myself from becoming angry when I encounter such beliefs. When I do I usually spend time talking about the benefits of peer tutoring, the theory behind it as well as how having peer tutors is not "education on the cheap" but represent sound pedagogical practice. I also use the opportunity to emphasize that students who have the opportunity to work in the writing center learn quite a lot themselves.

It should be a good session and I'm really interested in hearing from other 2 year college wrting center folks and learning from their practice.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

St. John's University -- Campus Life -- St. John’s University’s Staten Island Campus Celebrates 35th Anniversary

PeerCentered friend Harry Denny from St. John's University gets a mention on the St. John's web site:

St. John's University -- Campus Life -- St. John’s University’s Staten Island Campus Celebrates 35th Anniversary: "Most recently, an exciting new Staten Island Writing Center was constructed as part of St. John’s Institute for Writing Studies initiative. This latest advance in the University’s pursuit of academic excellence is intended to “instill and improve students’ critical thinking skills and broaden their writing proficiency,” said Upton.

The writing center, directed by Harry Denny, Ph.D., former Director of the Writing Center, Program in Writing and Rhetoric at SUNY Stony Brook, is located in Mahoney Hall on the Staten Island Campus."

Another new writing center! That's always great news.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Enquirer - Ryle footballers help out

The (Cincinati) Enquirer ("Ryle footballers help out") has a nice piece about a peer tutoring program at Ryle Highschool in Cincinnati:
"Scott, a tailback and safety, is in his first year in Ryle's peer tutoring program. Vince, a fullback and linebacker, is in his second year.

'Everybody thinks football players are big meatheads who just like to go out and hit people, but we're not like that at all,' said Scott."
and further

Deb Janowiecki runs the peer tutoring program and said the tutors also learn how similar they are to the kids they're helping.

"They learn that they like the same kind of social things, have the same emotions, go through the same stages and want the same things out of life," said Janowiecki.

Jennifer's father, Mark Staggs, said his daughter feels a strong bond with Scott and Vince and that they've helped her feel more connected to the school.


There is usually a great deal of focus when discussing peer tutoring programs on what the tutee gains out of the experience. It is good to see a newspaper with a broad audience explore the benefits provided to the tutors.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Good to go! Good to go!

Well the first PeerCentered podcast is officially in the can. It is all about the upcoming National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing 2006 (NCPTW). You can find the page link at http://bessie.englab.slcc.edu/pc/podcast/ . If you click on the podcast you will find a page that will either let you listen to the individual podcast on your computer or you can subscribe via RSS with iTunes or your favorite podcasting software. I'm hoping I can get the RSS feed to work properly.

Please spread the podcast around, as well. It is completely under a Creative Commons license.

The phone interview was interesting--it is not the best sound quality, but I have to live with the best that Radio Shack and the U.S. phone system can provide.

It would be great to have some podcast episodes that come from NCPTW 2006. If you can do better, please put something together and contact me at the email address above.

Nearly there!

Today I had the opportunity to talk to Tien-Huei Tsu and George Cooper from the Sweetland Writing Center at the University of Michigan about the upcoming National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing (NCPTW). I recorded the conversation and it will become, within the next couple of days, our first official PeerCentered podcast.

Now, of course, this brings to mind the original idea of PeerCentered all the way back when (1995?) which was to get as many peer writing tutors invovled in a conversation about peer writing tutoring. I certainly hope the podcast will spur some interest and that there will be folks who want to produce "episodes."

Once again, if you are interested in participating in the podcast, contact me at the above email address. You won't need to host the podcast files, and I can do final production on the stuff.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

University of North Carolina Outreach to Middle and High School Writers

The Durham News | Library workshop gives students the write stuff:
"The goal of the program -- operated by UNC's Writing Center -- is to make students more confident writers. After receiving a grant from the school last summer, officials wanted to operate in Durham because of the success of similar programs in urban environments, said Julie Wilson, a teaching assistant at the center."
and
"Students published their writings in the first workshop, which concluded in May, and are now working on the mechanics of writing, such as grammar, developing an argument and introductory paragraphs. The seven-week program champions itself as a writers' group that uses tutors as writing coaches, said Kristal Moore, a writing center teaching assistant."
I have particular interest in programs like this as my colleague Tiffany Rousculp of the Salt Lake Community College Community Writing Center (SLCC CWC) has been one of the leaders in community outreach for writing centers. The SLCC CWC is currently conducting a similar workshop for high school students. Such community work is of great interest to those in the academic WC community. It is going to be interesting to see where it goes.