CFP: Sharing Common Ground? Writing Centers and Learning Commons

Guest Editors: Hillory Oakes and Steven J. Corbett for the WLN Journal

As schools look to develop students as sophisticated communicators across disciplines and media, more and more writing centers are becoming—or considering becoming—part of multiliteracy-focused learning commons enterprises (Koehler; Deans and Roby). In fact, the success of writing center programming has on many campuses contributed to the emergence of the learning commons model. Writing center directors and tutors have a wealth of knowledge to bring to these endeavors: we are natural collaborators and have developed skills and practices that put us in a perfect position to lead conversations about the learning commons at our institutions (Harris, “Preparing”; Lunsford and Ede).

11800171_902887463119022_7738110525106617949_nStill, the history of our field has taught us that we must pay attention to names and titles, definitions of purpose and mission statements, institutional hierarchies and physical locations (Macauley and Mauriello; Mauriello, Macauley, and Koch; McKinney; Salem). These are not niceties but necessities for developing successful programs. Just as defining what a writing center is and is not has historically been problematic (Boquet and Lerner; Lerner; McKinney; Corbett), the definition of “learning commons” currently varies widely between institutions (Oblinger) and at times revisits all-too-familiar territory. For example, writing centers have long rejected being cast as “fix-it shops,” yet now it is common for the learning commons to be touted as a place for “one-stop shopping.”

How might we draw on our past and present attention to writing center studies to help shape the future of the learning commons? In many ways, tough questions about what a writing center can or should be and where it belongs in university structures come down to the all-important sentiment recently expressed by Muriel Harris: “empowering students” (“Afterword,” 287). If we (writers, tutors, staff, faculty, administrators) are all “students” of the writing-and-communication game, can a learning-commons model help or hinder our efforts to empower each other?

We invite proposals for articles up to 3000 words that stake out the role of writing tutoring in the learning commons. We also invite proposals for a “Tutor’s Column” that will feature a 1500-word contribution from writing tutors who have worked in a learning commons environment. We welcome essays that explore the topic from any of numerous angles—such as institutional, programmatic, or pedagogical—and we seek both data-driven and experiential essays.

Possible Starting Points

  •  What do writing centers gain by affiliating themselves with a learning commons? What might be drawbacks of doing so?
  • How might we ensure that learning commons endeavors have sound pedagogical foundations that mesh with writing center philosophies (rather than just being convenient cost-cutting consolidations)?
  • What institutional factors affect the success of a learning commons, such as budgets, resource allocation, and reporting structures? How should we communicate our knowledge of best practices to faculty and administrators?
  • What skills and pedagogies can writing center professionals capitalize on to be effective partners and co-teachers in a learning commons?
  • How have our own approaches to tutor training, programming, faculty development, and other practices evolved or altered through affiliation with a learning commons?
  • What are pros and cons of the learning commons model for student learning and engagement, particularly students from multilingual, at-risk, or nontraditional backgrounds?

Proposal Format
Please submit a 250-400 word proposal electronically (in MS Word format) that includes your focus, the theoretical and research base from which you will draw, and your plans for structuring a 3000-word article or a 1500-word essay for a Tutor’s Column (Works Cited included in the word count). Send the proposal to Hillory Oakes at and Steven Corbett at Please provide full contact information with your submission.

Publication Schedule
Send article and Tutor Column proposals to Hillory Oakes at and Steven Corbett at by January 15, 2016.

Invitation to submit full articles will be issued by March 31, 2016.

Manuscripts will be due by July 1, 2016 to leave time for revisions.

All article revisions should be completed by September 25, 2016.

Final publication in the October/November issue of WLN.

Works Cited

  • Boquet, Elizabeth H. and Neal Lerner. “Reconsiderations: After ‘The Idea of a Writing Center.’” College English 71.2 (Nov. 2008): 170-89. Print.
  • Corbett, Steven J. Beyond Dichotomy: Synergizing Writing Center and Classroom Pedagogies. Fort Collins, CO: The WAC Clearinghouse and Parlor Press, 2015. Print.
  • Deans, Tom and Tom Roby. “Learning in the Commons.” Inside Higher Ed, 16 Nov. 2009. Web 1 Sept. 2015.
  • Grutsch McKinney, Jackie. Peripheral Visions for Writing Centers. Logan: Utah State UP, 2013. Print.
  • Harris, Muriel. “Afterword: A Non-Coda: Including Writing Centered Student Perspectives for Peer Review.” Peer Pressure, Peer Power: Theory and Practice in Peer Review and Response for the Writing Classroom. Ed. Steven J. Corbett, Michelle LaFrance, and Teagan Decker. Southlake, TX: Fountainhead Press, 2014. 277-88. Print.
  • —. “Preparing to Sit at the Head Table: Maintaining Writing Center Viability in the Twenty-First Century.” The Writing Center Journal 20.2 (2000): 12-22. Print.
  • Macauley, William J. Jr., and Nicholas Mauriello, eds. Marginal Words, Marginal Work? Tutoring the Academy in the Work of Writing Centers. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton, 2007. Print.
  • Mauriello, Nicholas, William J. Macauley, Jr., and Robert T. Koch, Jr., eds. Before and After the Tutorial: Writing Centers and Institutional Relationships. New York: Hampton, 2011. Print.
    Koehler, Adam. “A Tale of Two Centers: Writing Centers and Learning Commons.” Another Word: From the Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, 21 Oct. 2013. Web. 1 Sept. 2015.
  • Lerner, Neal. The Idea of a Writing Laboratory. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2009. Print.
  • Lunsford, Andrea A., and Lisa Ede. “Reflections on Contemporary Currents in Writing Center Work.” The Writing Center Journal 31.1 (2011): 11-24. Print.
  • Oblinger, Diana G., ed. Learning Spaces. Washington, DC: Educause, 2006. Print.
  • Salem, Lori. “Opportunity and Transformation: How Writing Centers are Positioned in the Political Landscape of Higher Education in the United States.” The Writing Center Journal 34.1 (2014): 15-43. Print.

1 thought on “CFP: Sharing Common Ground? Writing Centers and Learning Commons

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

17 + twenty =