Online Tutor. Classroom Teacher. How Written Feedback Shifts

By Matthew Fledderjohann

Matthew is a PhD student at UW-Madison studying composition pedagogy, revision theory, and apocalyptic rhetoric. He is currently serving as the Online Writing Center Coordinator for the UW-Madison writing center.  He has been a writing center tutor at Purdue University Northwest and DePaul University.

Matthew

Whether I’m responding to a piece of writing as a composition teacher or as a writing center tutor, my comments look similar. I plug in Microsoft Word’s two-toned comment bubbles and write things like, “Hmm . . . I’m not sure how this sentence connects to the purpose of the paragraph. Could you make that connection clearer, cut this sentence, or fit it into the next paragraph?” I use different colors to highlight lower-level error patterns. I compose a summative note about my overall impressions of the piece and recommendations for revision.  I email the commented-on document back to the writer.

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Sharing Your Most Cherished View: A New Metaphor for Dissertation Writing

By Hyonbin Choi

Hyonbin is a Ph.D. candidate in Literary Studies at UW-Madison, writing her dissertation on modernist long poems. She has been a Writing Center instructor since 2013, and currently serves as a TA co-coordinator. She also moonlights as a translator of children’s and YA literature from English to Korean.

Writing your dissertation—or any long research project—is mostly a lonely affair. One dissertator once said to me that it feels like you’re stranded on an island trying to survive, while an occasional surveillance aircraft flies over to check on you. Or even worse, not even that.

Hyonbin

As Rick Ness pointed out in a previous blog post, metaphors of dissertation writing are often associated with survival, climbing mountains, or pulling through a grueling boot camp. These metaphors of perilous adventures or life-threatening situations have the danger of intimidating and overwhelming dissertators. And yes, parts of dissertation writing are strenuous and even conditioned with fear. I mean, who can say they haven’t run for cover when the hum of a surveillance craft sounds from afar? (more…)

Empirical Research in the Writing Center – What’s so RAD about it?

By Angela Zito

Angela Zito has worked as a tutor with the UW-Madison Writing Center since 2013 and currently serves as a TA Co-Coordinator. She is a PhD candidate in English Literary Studies working on a dissertation titled “Student Learning and Public Purpose: Accounting for the Introductory Literature Course.” 

Angela, the author

This past fall I led an ongoing education seminar for seven of our graduate writing tutors called “Empirical Research in the Writing Center – What’s so RAD about it?” I cringe at the punny question every time I write it, but I find the implications of the interrogative alluring…curiosity, skepticism, maybe derision…and I appreciate how functional its readiest answers are:

What’s “RAD” about it is that it’s replicable, aggregable, and data-supported research.

What’s “RAD” about it is that empirical research is making its presence known as some hip new thing in writing center studies.

What’s “RAD” about it is that it seems radical to position empirical research within this discipline. (more…)

Reading Out Loud in the Writing Center: Reflections and Questions

By Neil Simpkins

Neil is the current TA Assistant Director at the UW-Madison Writing Center. He previously worked at the Agnes Scott College writing center as a tutor and coordinator. He is in the Composition and Rhetoric Ph.D. program at UW-Madison.

picture of neil staring at the camera wearing glasses

Neil Simpkins

Prior to attending UW-Madison, I tutored at the Agnes Scott College Center for Writing and Speaking. At Agnes, tutors generally read and annotated drafts of the paper quietly while the student read to herself, got a cup of tea, or relaxed in the center. When I moved to UW-Madison, one of the biggest changes in practice that I adapted to was asking students to read drafts out loud. It felt like such a big question to ask, especially for students new to the Writing Center! As a practice I had never used, having the student read aloud also felt strange to me. But reading aloud also externalized the piece, gave the writer a fresh perspective, and fit well with the constraints of our business-like space of separated cubicles. Ever since that shift I have had a lot of questions about this practice. How does reading out loud—or not reading out loud—shape the space of the writing center, student experiences of tutorials, and the learning that happens in our sessions? (more…)

Expanding our Repertoire of Responses: CARM in Tutor Education

By Mike Haen

Mike Haen is a first-year tutor at the UW-Madison Writing Center and a second-year PhD student in Composition and Rhetoric. He teaches English 100 and has worked as a writing center tutor at UW-Milwaukee and Marquette University.

Five years ago, I was an undergraduate tutor-in-training at Marquette University. All prospective tutors at the Ott Memorial Writing Center are required to complete a semester-long training course, in which undergraduates familiarize themselves with writing center pedagogy and reflect on their writing processes. For me, the most memorable moments in that class required us to attend closely to tutoring interactions. We did this by (1) observing experienced tutors in sessions, (2) role-playing imagined interactions with classmates, and (3) transcribing a few minutes of tutoring talk.

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A Peace Corps-Writing Center Partnership at UW-Madison

By Micah Kloppenburg

Micah Kloppenburg

Micah Kloppenburg

Micah Kloppenburg is a graduate student in Landscape Architecture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was the university’s campus recruiter for the Peace Corps in 2015-16.

From 2009 to 2011, I served as a Peace Corps Agriculture Volunteer in northern Nicaragua. I lived in a small, idyllic village of 100 farming families at the foot of the climbing cerros called El Carbón. Here, I learned about and worked in the field of community food security. I thought everything I had done to become an aware, educated, and experienced individual had prepared me for this work as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

The following two years of service and their challenges and tribulations helped me understand the gap between individual preparation and what community work truly requires. My friends, my host-family–our community–helped me understand an important life-lesson in community work; that hubris is an individual quality best transformed into humility with learning and laughter. Though seemingly simple, this is a lesson that I believe is a critical step to becoming an engaged global citizen. And, as the UW-Madison Campus Peace Corps Recruiter in 2015, this was the underlying lesson I shared with students through stories, workshops, and presentations on what it means to grow from student to global citizen as a Peace Corps Volunteer. (more…)

Shelter Stories: Homelessness, Human Rights, and Community Writing Centers

By John Tiedemann

John Tiedemann is a Teaching Associate Professor at the University of Denver, where he teaches in the University Writing Program and directs the Social Justice Living & Learning Community. He is a cofounder of the DU Community Writing Center, located in the Saint Francis Center and The Gathering Place, two daytime shelters for the homeless in downtown Denver. Before coming to Denver, John taught in the UW-Madison Writing Center and served as the Assistant Director of the Writing Fellows Program.

Stories without Homes

“Are you writing the real story here?” the man at the door asked.

Traveling home.

A homeless man in Denver seeks help returning to Texas for Thanksgiving. (Photo by John Tiedemann.)

I didn’t realize at first that the question was addressed to me. I was sitting at a little plastic folding table at the entrance to the Saint Francis Center, Denver’s largest daytime homeless shelter, where each Monday and Friday the DU Community Writing Center sets up shop. Beside me sat a woman writing a letter of apology to a staff member at another shelter, a condition of her readmittance after having shouted at him the week before. Behind us sat another woman, not writing but resting, after I’d helped her apply Bactine and a Band-Aid to the cut she suffered when she fell down outside the shelter doors. Across the table sat Mairead, a graduate teaching assistant who’d started working at the Community Writing Center just that day; she listened intently as John, a homeless Navy veteran and one of our regulars, outlined the chapters of a book he’d been working on all year. Nearby stood another fellow, who intervened intermittently to explain that he was the true author of the lyrics to Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

And so, preoccupied as I was with the several simultaneous conversations at our table, and surrounded by the ambient noise of the shelter, where a hundred and fifty, maybe two hundred people filled a space of about a thousand square feet, talking in groups around long tables or sitting alone in scattered chairs, I didn’t realize that the man at the door was addressing me until he repeated his question:

“I said, are you writing the real story here?”

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Tutor Session Reports—Narratives We Build Together

By Angela Zito

Angela Zito has worked as a tutor with the UW-Madison Writing Center since 2013 and currently serves as a Co-Coordinator for the Center. She is a PhD candidate in English Literary Studies.

Angela, the author

The author, Angela.

This past summer, I had the good fortune to step from the familiar position of tutoring at the UW-Madison Writing Center into two roles new to me: administration as co-coordinator at the Writing Center, and instruction with Madison Writing Assistance (MWA), our center’s community-based arm. While each of these positions has me thinking about the work of the Writing Center, its tutors, and its writers in many new ways, I’ve found myself thinking quite a bit about the documentation for all these MWA and writing center tutoring sessions—that is, their records. (more…)

Our Blog Receives the John Lovas Award from Kairos!

By Bradley Hughes

Brad Hughes is director of the Writing Center and Director of Writing Across the Curriculum at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and he is the editor of Another Word, the UW-Madison Writing Center’s blog.

Two of the nominators--Professor Kate Vieira (left), University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Professor Annette Vee, University of Pittsburgh.

Two of the nominators–Professor Kate Vieira (left), University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Professor Annette Vee, University of Pittsburgh.

In May of 2016, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Writing Center staff was thrilled to learn that our blog, Another Word, which you’re reading now, received the 2016 John Lovas Award, a major national award. This award honors the best use of blogs and other open-publishing tools of the Internet for knowledge-creation and community-building in rhetoric and composition. The award is given each year by the journal Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, which is the longest running e-journal in rhetoric and composition and one of the top journals in digital rhetoric.

The UW-Madison Writing Center’s blog, which began in 2009, features weekly posts about writing center theory, research, and practice, collaboratively written by current members of the Writing Center’s staff, including undergraduate and graduate students, and by alumni and friends of the Writing Center. In a typical month, the blog draws over 58,000 page views from around the world. The nomination for this award came from 39 PhD alumni from our department (led by Annette Vee, who is on the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh) and by other friends of our blog from around the country.

At the risk of seeming self-congratulatory, we thought our blog readers might enjoy reading the letter nominating our blog for this prestigious award. We also thought this would give us a chance to thank Kairos, our nominators, Rik Hunter who played a key role in designing and launching our blog in 2009, and the many, many authors and commenters who have contributed to our blog over the past seven years. Thank you all! (more…)

Play and the Writing Center—From Kindergarten to College

By Erica Kanesaka Kalnay

bio-photoErica Kanesaka Kalnay has been a Writing Center tutor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison since 2015. She is also a PhD candidate in Literary Studies, with a focus on Victorian literature, children’s literature, and literature and psychology. A former early childhood teacher, she studies intersections between reading and play.

When I taught kindergarten in an urban public school in Milwaukee, my “writing center” was a real plastic mailbox I purchased at the hardware store. The mailbox was satisfyingly large and had a bright red flag that the children could flip up and down to announce the arrival of the mail. When I called center time, the children at the writing center would move the mailbox to a table and reach deep inside it to unearth its contents: pencils, papers, envelopes, child-sized clipboards, stickers, and other surprises. (more…)