Each semester, instructors at the UW-Madison Writing Center sign up to participate in one of several “ongoing education” meetings on a topic they find interesting or pertinent to their professional development. As an extension of Katie’s ongoing education last semester on the history of writing centers, Melissa and I recently co-facilitated an ongoing education on (cue scary music) the future of writing centers (cue menacing laughter). The topic—and parenthetical remarks—were inspired by Terrance Riley’s (1994) “The Unpromising Future of Writing Centers,” which we read along with Christina Murphy’s (2006) “On Not ‘Bowling Alone’ in the Writing Center, or Why Peer Tutoring Is an Essential Community for Writers and for Higher Education.”
On February 12, the Writing Fellows Program hosted its annual Joint Writing Center/Writing Fellows Staff Meeting. The meeting focused on grammar and how Writing Center instructors and Writing Fellows can and should address students’ concerns about grammar in their sessions. This year, our staff of 50 undergraduate Writing Fellows, close to 50 graduate WC instructors, and numerous academic staff was joined by writing center tutors from Edgewood College and UW-Waukesha. The addition of tutors from other institutions created wonderful opportunities for exchanges of experience and knowledge.
The Community Writing Assistance Program—the branch of the Writing Center that offers free help with writing of all kinds to local community members—is expanding its services! In the next few months, thanks to a generous grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Division for Libraries, Technology and Community Learning, CWA will start offering instruction at two new locations: the Hawthorne Branch Library and the Meadowridge Branch Library (dates and times to be determined). Assistance at these branch libraries—and at the central branch of the Madison Public Library, where drop-in appointments currently are available on Mondays from 1:00-4:00—will focus on back-to-work writing: resumes, cover letters, and more.
Meanwhile, thanks to a grant from the Evjue Foundation, CWA instructors Michael Dimmick and Rob McAlear continue to help with all kinds of writing—job-related, academic, personal, and practical—at the bustling South Madison Branch Library on Monday evenings from 5:00-7:30 and on Saturday afternoons from 1:30-4:00.
Last October the Writing Center held an open house to celebrate the Center’s 40th birthday. Well over 100 students and colleagues came from across campus to—
- chat with our staff
- peruse posters about our programs
- sample our podcasts and our online consultations and videos of in-person consultations
- nibble on birthday cake from Lane’s Bakery
- and hear short presentations reflecting on the Writing Center’s history and its impact across campus and beyond
Happy New Year from the UW-Madison Writing Center! Our semester has gotten off to a busy start—already, we’ve added extra shifts to our regular schedule. And last Friday, we kicked off 2010 with our first staff meeting. The topic of the meeting was social justice and Writing Center work, which will be the subject of this week’s blog.
Mount Holyoke College
From the 6th through the 8th of November, four of the University Writing Fellows—Nick, Rebecca, Eamon and Jennifer—attended the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing, held this year on the beautiful Mount Holyoke College campus. This year’s theme was “Leadership and Peer Tutoring: Hope, Vision, Collaboration, Action.” Nick, Rebecca and Eamon presented original research that they conducted last year in English 316, the course on writing theory and practice taken by all new Fellows. Their panel, “Questioning Authority: Exploring Traditional Institutional Boundaries in Peer Tutoring,” dealt with power dynamics and how institutions, predetermined ideas about student writers, and the doctrines of Composition and Rhetoric pedagogy are complicated, productively, by the sometimes unpredictable outcomes of the tutoring situation. Jennifer had modified her research into a workshop presentation titled “Collaborating with Campus Communities: Peer Revision in Students’ Social Settings”; in it, she asked session participants to consider the ways Writing Center resources could be mobilized in service of bringing peer revision strategies to students in the residential, social, extra-curricular, or non-curricular environments they inhabit.
I’m the Assistant Director of the Writing Fellows Program, that branch of the Writing Center that focuses most explicitly on undergraduate learning, teaching and writing. The Writing Fellows, undergrads who come from across the university, are assigned to writing intensive courses. They read and critique drafts of two formal papers, providing both marginal and end comments to help students identify strengths as well as areas for possible revision. The Fellows then meet with students individually to discuss options and strategies for revision. Each Fellow also conducts an original research project that examines through quantitative and qualitative analysis a problem or issue in peer tutoring or Writing Center practice.
The bulk of my job is spent working with the Fellows as they develop their skills as researchers, peer tutors and writing specialists. On occasion, however, I get to leave HC White and go on trips. Later this week, four Fellows and I will travel to Mount Holyoke College for the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing. (We will post about our travels for your delectation on November 16.) This year’s conference theme is “Leadership and Peer Tutoring: Hope, Vision, Collaboration, Action,” and each of the Fellows will be presenting aspects of their formal research.
This year I am the Coordinator of Writing Center Outreach, so it may come as a surprise that I’m going to talk about online writing instruction (OWI). But it’s a topic of importance to how I see myself as a writing teacher and researcher because I have a passion for studying and teaching writing in online environments. Last year, I was fortunate enough to serve as the Coordinator of the Online Writing Center (OWC), and I had the opportunity to seriously consider differences among face-to-face (f2f), synchronous “chat,” and asynchronous “email” instruction.
When I began the training for my colleagues working on the Online Writing Center last year, I started by stating that online writing instruction differs from f2f, yet “good teaching, good learning, and good writing can emerge from networked spaces” (Harrington, Rickly, & Day, 2000). Online writing instruction is also a topic that I’ve seen on the wcenter list-serv, as writing center directors/coordinators explore the possibility of starting OWCs on their campuses and seek out best practices, so I hope to explain in the extremely limited scope of this post a few of these differences and address concerns about the effectiveness of OWI. At the end, I’ll provide a couple resources for online writing instruction.
One of my responsibilities as the Writing Center’s office administrator is to publicize its services and programs across the UW campus. As anyone in marketing will tell you, it’s important to determine a target audience in the communication process. What I’ve found at the Writing Center, however, is that everyone here at the university is in our target audience.