IDC Herzliya Writing Center: The story behind Israel’s first academic writing center.

Editor’s note: As part of our ongoing work to gain a broader appreciation of the vital work our colleagues around the world are doing, I asked Dr. Miriam Symon and Ms. Sharone Kravez to share the story of their center in Israel.

The Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, located in the central Sharon region of Israel, not far from the Mediterranean coastline, has changed the face of Israeli academia, with its interdisciplinary approach and strong social commitment. It offers innovative and dynamic academic programs in law, business, government, computer science, communications, psychology, economics and sustainability. Approximately 25% of IDC’s 6,500 students study in the Raphael Recanati International School (RRIS), which has students from over 80 countries who come to Israel to study their degree in English-medium instruction (EMI).

IDC’s Writing Center is currently in its third year of operation. For years, the EFL Unit sought to establish a writing center, and students cooperated with the unit in seeking to promote this objective. We were successful, when it was recognized that students need support in the growing trend of EMI courses for Israeli and international students.

Dr. Miriam Symon, Head of IDC’s EFL Unit reports:

We built a model whereby the center could start functioning with minimal budget and space to begin realizing our vision. Students who successfully pass the recruitment process, agree to participate in the training workshops and volunteer 60 academic hours, in return for 2 academic credits. IDC enables its students to earn up to 2 academic credits in community service programs. Our first year we started with 8 tutors, and this year we’ve built up to 18 tutors and 3 managing tutors. Tutors who successfully complete a year of volunteering, can then become managing tutors, overseeing the new tutors. Students are recruited from the different schools, so that they are familiar with the specific needs of their discipline, although due to the interdisciplinary nature of IDC, students are also required to take courses from other disciplines, and are therefore often able to assist any student. Although we do not yet have a fixed physical home, we do have the use of a classroom three times a week for a drop-in clinic, and students have the option to schedule with any tutor at a time and place of mutual convenience, using the online appointment system. Students can find out more through our website or Facebook page.

Following on from Orly Lael-Netzer and Dr. Leor Cohen’s successful coordination in the first two years, this year Sharone Kravez has taken over the reins as coordinator of the tutors.

Sharone Kravez reports:

This year I have the honor to be the Writing Center’s coordinator. I bring with my teaching experience as well as my academic background in the field of TESOL. The tutors, who pass the test and interview application process, undergo an extensive 3-week workshop before the start of the academic semester, in which they receive guidance on how to carry out tutorial sessions. The tutors take part in simulations, and various activities in order to prepare them for their encounter with students. I felt it was very useful that the managing tutors also came to part of the training sessions; they answered questions which the tutors had and shared with us their positive experiences as well as difficulties which may arise. That kind of practical advice was very important, not only for the the tutors, but for me as well. When the academic semester starts, the tutors go through 2 shadowing sessions, in which a managing tutor guides them through their first sessions. I’ve also set up a Whatsapp group which is very useful for communicating, especially when it gets busy or tutors need someone to substitute for them.

One of our senior managing tutors, Shine Shaham reports on the challenges and opportunities she feels the Writing Center has encountered over the last two years:

The first year brought about the challenge of proper marketing and advertising of the center. The second year brought about a great collaboration between the Writing Center and all the English Teachers at IDC. For many assignments, they required students visit the Writing Center. This opportunity brought an influx of students lining up at the Writing Center, and tutors’ schedules were booked for weeks. By the end of that year, things leveled out, and both sides knew how to handle the situation better, as well as manage appointments.

This is the Writing Center’s third year and it is already well-known throughout the campus. Students are aware of the wide range of assistance they can receive from the tutors.The Writing Center is composed of two parts: Walk-in Free Clinics, and private appointments, which are also free. The walk-in free clinic takes place 3 days a week in one of the seminar rooms at the IDC campus. Sometimes the room is packed and noisy with students, and sometimes quieter, with only a few students coming in. For each clinic session there are several tutors and one managing tutor, who overviews the session. The tutors at the Writing Center are either from the Israeli or international program. They come from various countries, including English-speaking countries such as the U.S.A, Canada and the UK., as well as countries where English is not their native language such as Israel, Sweden, Germany and Turkey, creating a diverse and professional team. Many speak Hebrew and English and code-switching is common during the sessions.

Since the students are requested to fill out a survey after each tutoring session ( although this doesn’t always happen),we have collected data from these surveys which has helped us to find ways to improve the Writing Center’s services.

Students’ comments include:

  • “C. is wonderful, she is very nice and kind and she helped me find (and fix) my errors in the paper.”
  • “Could have been better if the Writing Center will fit the tutor to the student. Tutor from the same major would be a more effective one.”
  • “D. was very nice and smart. Because he study law he helped us on the material also. Very good center thank you.”

Feedback indicates that matching the student with a tutor studying the same major seems to be more effective.

Currently, there are only two academic writing centers in Israel, at IDC Herzliya and Tel Aviv University. In a sense we feel like pioneers in this field and hope that there will be more writing centers in higher education institutions in Israel.

Have a question or some advice for Sharone Kravez and Miriam Symon? Comment below!

2 thoughts on “IDC Herzliya Writing Center: The story behind Israel’s first academic writing center.

  1. Your writing center is really impressive, especially since you seem to have built such a successful one in so short a time and with little funding! I was interested in all that you wrote, but I’m especially interested in knowing how the Free Clinic operates. Do students still meet individually with a tutor? Is the difference between the Free Clinic and the Writing Center the fact that students don’t need to make appointments?

    One more question: Students must especially enjoy meeting in places that are convenient for them, and I suspect that means a lot of tutoring sessions go on in coffee shops. But in the U.S. , most writing centers don’t allow this for reasons of safety for the tutors. In Israel, you are no doubt even more concerned about this than elsewhere, so how do you define limits?

    Thanks for your post about your impressive writing center and all it has accomplished in so little time.

  2. The Clinic is part of the Writing center. The clinic operates three times a week. The students still meet there with a tutor individually. As you wrote, the only difference is that the students don’t need to make an appointment at the Clinic, they can just drop by. Another point to keep in mind, by scheduling an appointment the student knows the tutor can devote a full session, 45 minutes or 1.5 hours. When it gets busy, and a student doesn’t schedule a meeting in advance, the tutors may not necessarily have a lot of time to sit with them.

    Most tutors meet with the students on campus; at the library, coffee shop etc. Not many students meet outside of campus. It is possible, but no so common since it’s most convenient to meet on campus.

    I hope that was helpful.

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