Joining the Momentum of Writing Center Establishment in China (Part 2 of 5, Writing Centers in China)

Lingshan Song is the Assistant Director of the Writing Center at Mississippi College (MC). She also teaches freshmen composition courses and the tutor training course at MC. Her research interests include writing center theory and practice, ESL tutoring, cultural studies, and international collaboration. Her ongoing research projects involve advocating for writing centers in China and supporting writing center establishment there. Lingshan also serves as Outreach Coordinator on the Southeastern Writing Center Association (SWCA) board, TESOL Representative for the Association of Christians in Writing Centers (ACWC), Secretary of Mississippi Writing Centers Association, and Member for the International Symposium of English Writing Center in Chinese Universities planning committee.

[加入写作中心在中国起步的浪潮]

While writing centers have a long history in American academia and are well established in the U.S., in the past decade, writing centers have just started revealing their values to higher education institutions in China. In the past twelve years, from 2006-2017, a batch of Chinese higher institutions have started writing centers to provide tutoring for English writing. Another important step in writing center development was the inaugural conference of Writing Center Association of China, held from June 9-11, 2017 in the Sino-British university, Xi’an Jiaotong Liverpool University, located in Suzhou, China.

Lingshan Song

With the exciting progress of building writing centers in China, there is yet to be a study about existing writing centers in China and their contributing elements commonly observed. In other words, how did these writing centers get started? What elements are essential to their establishment? I conducted preliminary research from September to November 2017, aiming to investigate existing writing centers in mainland China and discover commonalities among them and explore possible models for future writing center establishments in China, considering local adaptations.

Despite local adaptations, I found that as international partnerships prosper between U.S. universities and Chinese universities in the past decade, it has created a historical timing for writing center establishment in China. The “globalization” concept, bringing China’s education more in line with international practice, urges Chinese higher institutions to form international partnerships with oversea universities in two forms: 1) by developing exchange student programs with partner universities; 2) sending faculty to partner universities as visiting scholars.

For instance, the first writing center in China (established in 2006) was “largely due to a long-standing exchange program between Xi’an International Studies University (XISU) in China and Bowling Green State University (BGSU) in Ohio, US” (Wu, 141). In Dan Wu’s article introducing the establishment of the first writing center in China, she highlights that the XISU Writing Center “was built on the American model used by BGSU, but with its own characteristics” (139). Furthermore, based on Wu’s research, “this model [American model with characteristics based on China’s national context and the university’s local context] has begun to be adopted by a number of other institutions nationwide.” Beijing Normal University, Zhuhai Branch Campus Writing Center, benefits from the same model as well. As a newly launched writing center in September 2016, they started by borrowing some ideas from several overseas universities, including Boston College.

WCAC Conference, 2017

Visiting scholars have been another essential contribution to the establishment of writing centers in mainland China. For instance, the Writing Center Director at Zhejiang University of Media and Communications, Yan Li, started a writing center at her institution in 2014 after she studied as a visiting scholar at the Kansas University. Danqing Tang, currently a visiting scholar at Mississippi College (MC), is interested in starting a writing center at her home institution, Jimei University in China. When asked about her motivation of travelling far away across the sea and her goal of spending one year at MC, she admitted that the massive workload of teaching college writing spurred her to come all the way here. She taught Business English writing courses, each session with over 50 students. While it seems impossible to give enough attention to individual students in class, she was also overwhelmed by correcting students’ writing assignments after class. After studying writing center pedagogies and attending the 1st WCAC conference, she realized that editing students’ writing assignments should not be the ultimate goal of writing support provided to students. Danqing added that she was worried about her students’ passive learning style; instead of revising their own essays, students just waited for comments from teachers and completely embraced teachers’ feedback without critical thinking. From Danqing’s perspective, this passive way of learning inhibits students’ enthusiasm for developing their own critical thinking skills and writing abilities. On the other hand, the idea of establishing writing centers in Chinese universities introduces a collaborative and peer-based learning strategy to hopefully break the teacher-centered learning environment. Based on Danqing’s observations, interactive discussions in writing center sessions motivate students to take ownership of the revising process and inspire them to self-review their writing, which will gradually pave the way for students to become better writers down the road.

Not only is the momentum historic for writing center establishment in China, it also creates an exciting opportunity for U.S. writing centers for international collaboration. To support writing center establishment in China, you are strongly encouraged to host visiting scholars from China and/or attend the 2018 International Symposium of English Writing Center in Chinese Universities hosted by a leading university in China on June 1-3. At the conference, we’re hoping to study a variety of writing center models in China and around the world to analyze adaptations taken for diverse local contexts. Come join the conversation and interact with writing center scholars from China and around the world!

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2018 International Symposium of English Writing Center in Chinese Universities: Research and Practice of English Writing Center || Call for Proposals: due February 28

Conference details:

  • Hosting University: Zhejiang University, School of International Studies
  • Where: International Campus of Zhejiang University in Haining, Zhejiang, China
  • When: June 1-3, 2018
  • Theme: Research and Practice of English Writing Center
  • Keynote: Jackie Grutsch McKinney
  • Call for Proposals请参考附件
  • Proposals due: February 28, 2018
  • Proposal submissions: send an email with the proposal as attach
  • All applicants will be notified of results by March 10, 2018
  • Conference registration due: April 2, 2018
  • Conference registration: for a form, email zjuewritingcenter@163.com
  • For special reasons, if you need deadline extension for proposal submission or conference registration, please send an email to Lingshan Song (song00@mc.edu).

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