Why Do You Ask? Questioning the Question in the Writing Center

Matthew Capdevielle, Director of the Writing Center, University of Notre Dame

Matthew Capdevielle, Director of the Writing Center, University of Notre Dame

By Matthew Capdevielle, Director of the Writing Center, University of Notre Dame

“So, what are you working on today?”
“When is your paper due?”
“Are you concerned about anything in particular in this draft?”

In the writing center that I direct at the University of Notre Dame, we spend a good deal of time asking questions.  We pose questions about practical parameters of assignments—length, due date, assignment requirements, etc.  We pose questions about writers’ goals, their concerns, and their hopes for their work.  Most importantly, we pose questions with writers to help them discover and articulate their own ideas. (more…)

Directed Learning Activities–”Just in Time” for the Basic Skills Writer

David Charbonneau

David Charbonneau


By David Charbonneau, Director, Writing Center, Mt. San Antonio College.

 

When I first came to my current position at Mt. San Antonio College, the largest single-campus community college in California, my experience in Writing Centers had been entirely in the four-year context, both at UW-Madison as a graduate assistant and then at a four year liberal arts school as a faculty director. My ideas about Writing Centers had been shaped by these experiences. Similarly, my pedagogy was largely shaped by my own personal trinity of scholars: Stephen North, Peter Elbow, and David Bartholomae. I felt that Elbow freed up the creative impulse in each writer and Bartholomae helped us learn where and how to direct it in the academic context, while North gave us a blueprint for how the Writing Center could contribute to each student’s experience of “inventing [or, hopefully, reinventing] the university.” While the truths of these seminal thinkers in our field still held in the community college context, I found that there were many issues that I had not anticipated. (more…)

The Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium

madison_wc_colloquium_photos_smaller1I’ve long argued that writing centers at research universities should prepare interested doctoral students to lead strong, innovative writing centers and WAC programs when they move into their faculty careers.  And that we should do this in systematic and sustained ways.  Being a dedicated, successful, experienced writing tutor is of course a necessary part of that preparation, but that alone is not sufficient.  Professional development for future writing center directors is something our Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison takes seriously—my colleagues and I are proud that this past year, in 2011 alone, seven more of our PhD alums, at various stages of their careers, were offered positions as writing center directors or assistant directors around the country, joining many other distinguished UW-Madison alums who direct writing centers.

This question—of how research universities can prepare graduate students to become writing center directors as part of their faculty careers—has been an important topic of discussion when the writing center directors from the universities in the Big 10 conference meet once a year (I’m always hoping that some athletic competition will break out during meetings of Big 10 writing center directors, but, alas, none yet).  We’ve talked several times about what we can do—intentionally and systematically–to prepare our grad students to lead strong writing center and WAC programs.  As an outgrowth of these discussions, at the 2010 IWCA conference in Baltimore, several members of the Big 10 group spoke about the opportunities we have and the challenges we face as we prepare graduate students to be future writing center directors.

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Practicing — and Reading — Revision in Tutor Education Courses

Tisha Turk is Associate Professor of English and Writing Center Director at the University of Minnesota, Morris, and a 2005 graduate of UW-Madison (PhD, English), where she served for two years as Assistant Director of the Writing Fellows Program.

Tisha Turk is Associate Professor of English and Writing Center Director at the University of Minnesota, Morris, and a 2005 graduate of UW-Madison (PhD, English), where she served for two years as Assistant Director of the Writing Fellows Program.

This semester, I’ve been thinking a lot about revision. Well, okay, I always think a lot about revision; it’s essential to my writing center work, my classroom teaching, and my own writing (I am the queen of Shitty First Drafts, as described in the second chapter of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird). But lately I’ve been thinking about it even more than usual. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about how important it is to ask writing consultants — tutors, writing fellows, writing center instructors, even teachers — to do, on a regular basis, the kinds of things we ask writers to do: to share and revise our own work.

I mean, let’s face it: writing is hard, and sharing writing is hard, and accepting comments on writing is really hard, and revising… you get the picture. But these are the things that we ask writers to do all the time. And while I think there is value in normalizing those activities (“Of course I’m asking you to read your paper out loud, everybody does that here, it’s no big deal”), I also think there is value in remembering that for a lot of writers this stuff is difficult and intimidating and counterintuitive, because remembering that will make us more sympathetic and generous in our comments and interactions, and it will also allow us to speak with the conviction of personal experience when we say “Look, I know this revision thing sucks, but it is so worth it.”

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Move Over Charlie Brown . . . It’s Writing Center Halloween

Mary Lou Odom is the Director of the Writing Center at Kennesaw State University and a 2004 UW-Madison graduate (Ph.D., English - Rhetoric and Composition.) She was the first Lead TA in the UW-Madison Writing Center.

Mary Lou Odom is the Director of the Writing Center at Kennesaw State University and a 2004 UW-Madison graduate (Ph.D., English - Rhetoric and Composition.) She was the first Lead TA in the UW-Madison Writing Center.

Madison residents and UW students know that Halloween can be a big deal. In fact, as a Wisconsin alum, some of my fondest memories of my time in Madison are of Halloween-related activities. So perhaps it is only natural that my love of this funny, freakish holiday followed me to my new home in suburban Atlanta and Kennesaw State University. And while today my writing center at KSU hosts its biggest and most successful student event on Halloween, I can’t take much credit for it. Why, you ask? That, like the lesson of the Great Pumpkin, is the story about what Halloween taught me about the value of trust and a little blind faith – writing center style.

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Join Us “On the Isthmus” at the 2011 MWCA Biennial Conference!

By Rebecca Lorimer and Elisabeth Miller.

Memorial Union Terrace on Lake Mendota, UW-Madison

Memorial Union Terrace on Lake Mendota, UW-Madison

The 2011 Midwest Writing Centers Association Biennial Conference will take place here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison October 20th-22nd. This year’s theme, “On the Isthmus,” gestures quite literally to the conference’s location, but also to the quality that makes this conference unique: just as writing centers bridge disciplines, locations, and widely diverse writers, so does this conference connect writing studies professionals across institutions, interests, and multiple points of view.

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From Visitors to Exiles to Tutors: The Changing Face of the Writing Center

By Paula Gillespie.

Paula and Buster.  Paula Gillespie got her start in writing centers at UW Madison, under the directorship of Joyce Steward, 1977-1980.

Paula and Buster. Paula Gillespie got her start in writing centers at UW Madison, under the directorship of Joyce Steward, 1977-1980.

South Florida is full of surprises. A troop of macaws, probably freed from a zoo or pet store during a hurricane, descends into the trees down the street and spends the morning there, squabbling about which one gets to sit where. Burmese pythons, once pets that are now too large to keep around, roam Miami’s streets and thrive in the Everglades, just west of our school. And orchids grow on trees.

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