Showing posts from April, 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 La

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 w

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

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." ( 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 to

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 w

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 ( ). 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: ). Last Friday, I was part of an East Central Writing Center Association (ECWCA: ) 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, a

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!

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