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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.

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!

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…

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....

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…

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.]

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:





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.

Folks I ran into...

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.

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.

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 …

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.

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 thei…

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 perce…

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 d…

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.

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 persuasi…

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 fac…

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 Lab…

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…

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…

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 o…

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, a…

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)

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.

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).

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 …

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 ma…

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 c…

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 …

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 …

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 stude…

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 t…

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 Wr…

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 …

"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…

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?

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.

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).

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.

"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.

"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 wr…

"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)


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.

"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.