Toys and Transformations in Online Tutoring

The author, as illustrated by cartoonist Abby Howard.

The author, as illustrated by cartoonist Abby Howard.

By Mike A. Shapiro, @mikeshapiro.

Mike is a graduate student at UW–Madison, where he is completing a Ph.D. on the modern novel and where he is a TA in the Writing Center.

At last week’s Midwest Writing Centers Association conference, we asked the folks who attended our panel whether their centers were tutoring online. Many of them said they were toying with the idea.

What a layered metaphor that is! Compared to the careful pedagogy, scholarship, and hard work of teaching students, one by one, how to become more effective writers, online instruction can feel like a kind of toy.

Yet the superficial unseriousness and gadgetry of online instruction have given us permission to experiment online in a way we might not risk experimenting in our physical centers, and throughout the MWCA conference I heard dedicated, serious scholars speak with delight and energy about the ways they have been toying with online tutoring to reach new students and to improve the quality of all their tutoring. The improvisations of our work online force us to invite the trickster not to our table, as Geller et al. have it, but to our screens. (more…)

A Tale of Two Centers: Writing Centers and Learning Commons

last oneBy Adam Koehler, Manhattan College

When I started my position at Manhattan College, I was hired to play three roles: Assistant Professor of English, Director of Composition, and Director of the Writing Center. I was fresh out of my PhD at UW – Madison and when I got to Manhattan I was excited. Of course I knew that I was walking into a heavy administrative role (and as a junior faculty member), but – how do I say this? – I like building things. I don’t know how else to put it. And I loved that this position asked me to bring some programmatic vision. So I got to work straight away. One of the first things I did, with the help of the English department, was to externalize our Writing Center from the Academic Support Services office, where tutoring in writing was offered alongside tutoring in math, history, etc.: a one stop shop for students looking for extra help. Over the course of two years I established an independent budget, hired twice as many tutors, gained a new space on campus (far more visible and accessible to foot traffic), set up workshops, and pretty much copied everything I learned from Brad at UW – Madison. When we opened our new full-time and independent Writing Center we helped over 300 students in one semester. That was almost a three hundred percent increase.

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Lost in Translation? One Dissertator’s Experience Writing across Languages

By Chris Earle

Me

Chris Earle

Chris is a PhD candidate in Composition and Rhetoric at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  His research interests are in intercultural rhetoric and the political and ethical dimensions of rhetoric and writing.  He was a tutor in the UW-Madison Writing Center during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 academic years.

Veronica, a dissertator from the Spanish Department, and I worked in the UW-Madison Writing Center weekly during the Spring 2013 semester on her dissertation proposal and related writing.  One of the things that was so interesting about our work together was that she wrote her drafts in English but she’d ultimately translate them into Spanish for her advisor. I often found myself wondering how much of the work we did carried over to the Spanish product, or if much of it was lost in translation.  Recently, I met up with Veronica to find out more about her writing process and we had a conversation about writing between and across languages and about how every writer needs a reader. (more…)

Writing Offstage

Jessie Gurd

Jessie Gurd

By Jessie Gurd

Jessie Gurd is a fourth-year PhD student in Literary Studies and has been an instructor at the Writing Center since the Fall of 2012. Jessie studies early modern English drama; her work focuses on ecocriticism, geography, and spatial theory.

A run, whether on a lakeside path or a treadmill, is not an obvious time for writing. There’s the sweat, the awkwardness of carrying a computer or notebook, and the small problem of all the jostling that running entails. Even so, when I tie on my running shoes and fill my water bottle, I am often anticipating a writing session. Occasionally I go home with some actual words set down—sometimes I send myself a typo-riddled email from my phone—but more often all my writing is invisible. This invisible writing is critical to my future drafting and work on the current project. (more…)

Evolution of a Writing Center Tutor: Reflections and Lessons

By Anna T. Floch

Anna Floch is a third year PhD student in Composition & Rhetoric and an instructor of intermediate composition here at UW- Madison. Her research interests include the intersection of identity and literacy, collaboration, and examining affect and emotion in the writing process. She started as a writing center instructor at UW in the Fall of 2012. 

Anna Floch

Anna Floch

I recently overheard a friend and colleague as he began his first shift as a writing center tutor. Before the shift began I had spoken with him about his first appointment and he mentioned he was expectant, nervous, and excited – all very valid emotions to feel when one is stepping into a new role as a consultant in the writing center. Overhearing this moment and talking with him about it beforehand offered me a chance to reflect on my own journey as a writing center instructor (note: I will use the terms “writing center instructor” and “writing center tutor” interchangeably in this post). Up until the point when I began my role as an instructor in our writing center I had tutored in community writing programs, taught my own introduction and intermediate composition classes, and worked in a number of non-traditional educational settings, but I had never stepped foot in a writing center. I came to UW-Madison from a large private university and I (sheepishly) admit that I never utilized the writing center during my undergraduate or masters experience. Though writing centers’ core tenets of talk, collaboration, and relationship building fit deeply into my own personal pedagogy and identity as a classroom teacher, I was concerned with my own ability to navigate the challenges and demands of writing center instruction.

Needless to say, when I started in the writing center last fall, I felt as though I was peering into a big deep canyon (see above): it loomed large, felt thrilling, and was a little bit terrifying. The last year has been a lesson for me in what happens when we close the gap between instructor and student, when we discuss disciplines we do not immediately understand, when we interface with new students from around the campus on a daily basis, and when we take time to really listen to the needs of the writers we work with. In short, my experience in the writing center has made me a better writer, student, and teacher. In that spirit, and as many students and tutors across the country are returning to their work in the writing center, I want to take time to reflect on the key lessons that I have learned over the last year which I hope are useful to both new and returning writing center tutors. (more…)

Somewhere beyond the lake: Writing across our curriculum and beyond

by Stephanie White

Stephanie White just completed her two-year term as Assistant Director of the program in Writing Across the Curriculum at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Stephanie White, former Assistant Director of Writing Across the Curriculum

Stephanie White, former Assistant Director of Writing Across the Curriculum

 

Last semester, the Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) program here at UW–Madison was thrilled to continue building our partnership with the university’s Delta program. Delta’s mission is to encourage and support graduate students’ and faculty’s development as teachers in STEM and Social and Behavioral Science fields, and so, this past spring, the WAC program offered a new semester-long class on teaching with writing in a range of disciplines. As the Assistant Director of our WAC program at the time, I had the privilege of designing and teaching this non-credit course. And as I got to know the smart, critical, thoughtful graduate students who enrolled, I was thrilled to watch these future faculty members make deep connections between teaching and writing.

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Three Awesome Things to Do when Training Peer Writing Tutors

Lauri Dietz, right, and Matthew Pearson, left, wrote what you're now reading.

Lauri Dietz, left, and Matthew Pearson, right.

By Matthew Pearson and Lauri Dietz, DePaul University.
Matthew Pearson, a UW-Madison Writing Center alum, is the director of the Writing Fellow Program and Faculty Development at the University Center for Writing-based Learning (UCWbL) at DePaul University in Chicago, IL. Lauri Dietz directs the UCWbL and is part of the UW-Madison coaching tree thanks to the invaluable mentoring Stuart Greene and John Duffy provided her while a graduate student at Notre Dame.

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A Tale of Two Hats: Teachers Become Writers

By Jessie Reeder.

Jessie was an instructor in the UW-Madison Writing Center from 2010-2013. Last year (2012-2013) she served as TA Assistant Director. She can’t wait to return to work in the Writing Center soon, but this semester she’s fortunate to be on a research fellowship as she finishes her dissertation (!!!).

This is not what our staff meetings typically look like.

Andrew Kay, Dominique Bourg Hacker, and lots of other Writing Center TAs at our staff meeting in April 2103.

Andrew Kay, Dominique Bourg Hacker, and other Writing Center TAs huddle over their writing projects at our April 2013 staff meeting.

In this photo our Writing Center tutors (all Ph.D. students, mostly in English) are huddled over their own writing projects, faces taut with expressions of deep concentration. It’s a Friday afternoon in April. Light pours in from (more…)

Chasing the Sun: What’s New in the UW-Madison Writing Center

By Brad Hughes.

Brad Hughes is the director of the Writing Center and director of Writing Across the Curriculum at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is delighted to be starting his 30th year directing the Writing Center.

Alumni Park and Memorial Union Terrace construction, with Helen C. White Hall in the background. Photo by Jeff Miller, University Communications.

Alumni Park and Memorial Union Terrace construction, with Helen C. White Hall in the background. Photo by Jeff Miller, University Communications.

Welcome to a new academic year at UW-Madison’s Writing Center! With contributions from my wonderful colleagues, I’d like to celebrate some of our program’s accomplishments during the summer of 2013 and share some of our plans for the fall.

Summer in Madison always means construction on campus. The historic Memorial Union—one of two student unions on campus, right next door to our Writing Center’s home in Helen C. White Hall on the shore of Lake Mendota—is in the midst of an exciting (but seemingly endless) multi-year remodeling and reconstruction project. Because of that construction, Helen C. White Hall looks as if it’s under siege, encircled by road detours and fenced-off sidewalks. But student-writers have still been finding their way to us all summer long. And our staff have been busy collaborating and venturing out—as always—to offer instruction across our campus and around the city of Madison. Here are a few highlights of what we were up to during the summer and what we’re looking forward to this fall . . . (more…)

The Social Center: Why Writing Centers Need Twitter

Mike Shapiro (front, beard) pictured with the UW–Madison Writing Center’s email instruction team. Photo by Jessie Reeder.

Mike Shapiro (front, beard) pictured with the UW–Madison Writing Center’s email instruction team. Photo by Jessie Reeder.

By Mike Shapiro, a graduate student and the online coordinator of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Writing Center.

At its best, Twitter looks like the perfect tool for promoting any writing center’s goals: it privileges writing, supports lively conversations, and develops long-term relationships between writers and readers. Twitter can remind students, faculty, and administrators, every day, of the center’s services. At the same time, Twitter can help writing centers around the world stay in touch, sharing new programming and approaches.

For our Writing Center at UW–Madison, the reality of how we use Twitter falls short of this ideal. This spring, I got the chance to work with a team of instructors who turned their critical eyes on our Twitter feed. We compared our tweets to those coming from other centers, and to tweets coming from campus programs that use Twitter to build strong relationships with students. This exploration confirmed for us that Twitter is not merely a powerful vehicle but a necessary one for our Writing Center, a tool that gives us one more way to work directly with our students and to help them see themselves as writers. (more…)