Writing Center hours/availability

Interesting post on Arizona State's writing center blog. The author goes into the reasoning behind 30-minute maximum appointments at their facility along with humorous case studies behind that reasoning. It does not state their hours...
Boise State's Center is available for 30 minute or 1 hour appointments. From my experiences and observations 12 out of 13 thirteen times these are sufficient options. That said, I've had a a couple walk-ins that went on for well over an hour. Initially I wouldn't think of this as a possible hazard. I assumed the more time you could work with a writer the better. True enough, but spending a large chunk of time on one piece can make it difficult for both the writer and consultant about what could be improved.
Has anyone else gone through a similar session, if so, what was going through your head, was the extra time beneficial?

The author for the ASU blog stated writer coming in were annoyed or upset by the "small" window of time provided for appointments. All of us at Boise State have heard similar grumbles about our consultant availability, that we're not open enough. The factors going into this are much different than those for session lengths. I think our Center's hours are pretty good considering consultant work hours, budget, etc... (We're available for more hours than the bus system here
Still, I understand other students' frustration when the schedule is full on a day you would really x 3 like to or need to have an appointment. If it was manageable and reasonable I would have my center open eight days a week, six am-midnight or later. But that's in an ideal school setting where sleep isn't an issue, writers are coming out of the woodwork, and the phrase budget concerns is unheard of.
Alas, one can still dream.


  1. I really like the idea of 30-min max sessions. I think sometimes in longer sessions I can get too wrapped up in the paper, and overstep my boundaries as a consultant. If all sessions were 30 minutes or less, the writer would be able to more easily keep ownership of the paper, and instead of doing so much in the session, more would be talked about what the writer could do when she leaves the session. I also think that a writer would be able to better retain info. chatted about in a half-hour than in an hour. Maybe this is what the ASU guy was talking about...maybe he has better reasons...but it makes sense to me :)

  2. Great use of interblogedness, ... (who are you ...?)

    I, too, was interested in Jeanne Simpson's post, and felt it confirmed a suspicion I had early on in planning the SLCC Student Writing Center sessions: they were 20 minutes long exclusively. We've since loosened up a bit and our appointments average around 30 minutes each. Some, of course, go longer, but that is dependent upon the student's needs and the tutor.

    I will note that less-experienced tutors have longer appointments. That's completely understandable, given that it takes time to develop a keen sense of response to student writers.

    On the flip side: veteran tutors need to be very careful that they are not giving pat responses to writers.

  3. The one hazard of the shorter sessions is burn out. If a consultant is working a three or four hour shift and is booked, eight back-to-back sessions can really drain a person. Granted, working with the scheduling so no one consultant is in the situation would solve the issue.

    Clint, that is an interesting point about the veterans having shorter sessions. I had suspected this was the case, but I could never really prove it.
    Any ideas of how to prevent 'pat responses?'

  4. I overlord access to our database of reports, Zach, and it tells me the average length of sessions. Veteran tutors tend to have concise sessions.

    Now as to how to avoid pat answers, I think we need to revisit the ice-breaking techniques: asking for the assignment; asking what questions the writer has; and understanding what the writer is trying to accomplish. Sometimes, however, we are so pressed for attention that the pat answers do work. I suggest, however, that we treat all sessions as unique and reflect on them equally. Did we give a pat answer for expediency? Could we have done something else?

    I guess what I am saying is that I am constantly reflecting on how I respond to writers. I think when we stop doing that we get stuck. I pulled myself out of responding to writers for that very reason. (I have that luxury, I suppose.) I'm now back at it and rather enjoying it.

  5. Anonymous10:27 AM

    Our WC doesn't take appointments (walk-ins only), so we don't have any set time-limit. Sessions usually last 20 - 40 minutes, rarely over an hour. Longer sessions are exhausting, for the tutor as well as the writer, and a major concern for me is that if we address higher order concerns first, then move on to lower order stuff, the student leaves only remembering the last points of discussion, and forgets the really important stuff.

    However, I've had some marathon sessions - usually late semester, students coming in with 15-20 page papers from our writing intensive Nursing course. Freaked out and last minute, we covered just about everything. I told the student beforehand the kinds of things we could work on, and at the end of th session, spent a few minutes reviewing ALL the points we had gone over.

  6. As a new consultant, my appointments have been set to 30 minutes. I've had a few consultations where we were done in 15 minutes or less. Even though the student told me he was comfortable with what he had to work with when we were done discussing his paper, I felt like I should have used up the full 30 minutes, like maybe we could have discussed more.

    I have yet to experience any sessions going "over time."

  7. Hm, I hadn't considered that maybe I was enjoying those longer sessions for my own comfort level rather than that of the students'. I feel safer with a long session, for sure. My own personal attention span is long; it takes me some time to get into a paper and a person. So far I've had several sessions at our BSU writing center run over their allotted times, but those were all brainstorming sessions, and it always was within my power to say "enough" since I'm also new and also given nice big breaks between consultations. Now I will think hard about ownership of the paper and my desire to cover every hornet with a bucket.

  8. Clint, Overlord of SLCC. I think you should add that to your official title.

    I agree that we need to be highly reflective of our practices. At one time I used a journal to keep track of each session and how it turned out. That has fallen to the wayside, but it worked really well.

    What methods do the rest of you use/have used?

  9. What concerns me are writers who come in for one 30 minute session, and then bring in the same writing the next day without having worked on it in between. I have had some writers want to go through book-length manuscripts that way (At the CWC). It seems like doing that is the same as offering them a 15 hour session (It is just broken up into smaller chunks).

  10. At the Writing Center where I've worked now for, oh, probably 3-4 years, we have both appointments and walk-ins. We've had to adopt policies for no-shows, and try to keep sessions at 30 minutes because many students tend to blow off their appointments or come in 15 minutes late (We have nice, strict policies, as I said, though, so they cannot continue with this behavior!). It is extremely exhausting when working several hour shifts with back-to-back appointments and I hate to admit it, but when I've had the long back-to-back appointments, sometimes the no-shows are a Godsend; I completely agree with the burn out.
    I think 30 minute sessions work, and I tend to take less than that. It always depends on the writer and their paper, however, especially when the writer is less comfortable with the assignment and their skills. Our policy for time is a half hour for 1-5 pages and a full hour for more than 5 pages. It works well!


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