Announcement | #wcchat 9/14/17 | Join our bi-weekly chats!

Join our bi-weekly chats!

South Haven Writing Center

The start of the academic year is one of the most important times for institutions, including writing centers. Training, routines, and center management become focal points; effective practices in these areas helps foster growth and efficient operations for the center. It’s an important, and sometimes stressful, time for centers, making it a vital topic for discussion for writing center professionals. For this week’s chat, we’ll focus on the role that training takes in starting our academic years, discussing specifically what we do, why we do those things, and what we struggle with in training. Through discussion, we will be able to share ideas for what works for our own centers, as well as offer ideas for others.

~ Kyle Boswell @boskm

Chat norms:

  • Follow the moderator (@boskm).
  • Questions are tweeted out with “Q” and question number.
  • Respond with “A” and corresponding question number at the front of your tweet.
  • Don’t forget the hashtag! #wcchat
  • Use an app that allows you to follow more than one stream. Set a column for #wcchat
  • Favorite tools include Tweetdeck and HootSuite
  • Follow those you connected with and/or learned from to grow your PLN.
  • Be respectful of others.
  • Focus on quality responses and questions that generate discussions that focus on our writing center practices.

Questions:

  • Q1: Describe the training consultants go through at the beginning of the year.
  • Q2: If you use journal articles for training, what articles do you find most useful? If you don’t, why don’t you use journal articles for training?
  • Q3: What are your biggest concerns during the initial training process? Why?
  • Q4: Describe your strategies for teaching consultation basics.
  • Q5: What initial struggles are most typical for consultants in your center? Why?
  • Q6: What is your favorite training activity? Why is it necessary?
  • Q7: What is your least favorite aspect of training? (Comment ideas for others that might spice up their training methods.)

Tech in the Center: Beyond The Basics

When I speak with another writing center administrators, I’m fascinated by the patchwork of apps, programs, and social media platforms in use to connect with students and clients. In addition to the standards–such as WCOnline and Google Docs–we’d love to hear from you and share with our community:

  • What’s your best and most innovative technological discovery?
  • What program or app helps you organize the flow of people, information, and events?
  • What interesting or new things are you doing with well-known technologies?
  • What website or service could you no longer live without?

We’d like to post a series short testimonials on what works best for you. Please e-mail Amy Hansen at hansenae@appstate.edu with your answers. Include as much information as you can: links, photos of the technology in action, of you, your staff, or your writing center, and most importantly, a short (300-400 word) description of the technology, how you use it in your writing center, and what logistical or communicative need it meets.

Semicolons Like Superglue! And Other “Stickable” Things

Editor’s note: Abby Shantzis and Lena Stypeck are tutors at the University of Maryland Writing Center and have developed some exciting strategies for using analogies as a tool in tutoring sessions. Timely advice as we start the fall semester!

Analogies in the Writing Center

lena and abby
Abby and Lena

Over the past three years, Lena has been especially interested in how students best retain information. As a University of Maryland Writing Center (UMD WC) tutor and now high school English teacher, she’s constantly worried that her efforts are for nothing–what’s the point of explaining something if your client is just going to forget the second they leave you? The issue of retention came to her attention when one of her regulars returned making the exact same mistakes as before, completely oblivious to their previous sessions’ discussions. Lena began to question her own tutoring abilities: If this client had forgotten everything they’d talked about, did her other clients forget, too? How bad of a tutor was she if her clients weren’t learning anything? Was she actually fulfilling the UMD WC’s mission to make better writers, if writers were coming back with the same mistakes? These terrifying–and potentially self-destructive–questions paved the way for research on analogies, which she used to combat student retention issues.

Continue reading “Semicolons Like Superglue! And Other “Stickable” Things”

Making Pronouns Inclusive By Making Them Plural

Faculty members’ ideas vary on this, and our Writer’s Web page about pronoun usage provides the canny advice to ask a professor.

The author of this post is far from “politically correct” in many areas, but it has always made good rhetorical sense to avoid gendering language when an audience includes men and women.

In a pinch, I can rewrite any sentence to keep it both grammatically correct and inclusive. Every summer, we edit our handbook for Writing Consultants, and I am surprised that three female editors still kept in sentences like this one:

“Have the writer identify his main point by asking…” when it is easily broadened to “Have writers identify main points by asking.” This revision has the virtue of brevity. Using “his or her” seems awkward.

I invite readers to come up with a sentence that cannot be revised by making it plural, save when an obvious gender-specific reference must be made.

Spinning the Plates in a Writing Center

Like Spinning Plates

Image credit: used under rights permitted by Jameson Gagnepain at Flickr

This post began as a reply to Jared Odd, the Writing Center Director at Lindsey Wilson College. Professor Odd wrote to the national e-list for Writing Across the Curriculum, asking for advice about managing a Fellows-based program at small colleges. At times, such as our current semester, I feel like one of the performers who keeps about 30 fragile plates spinning on the ends of skinny poles.

Richmond’s program for what we now call “Writing Consultants” now enters its 21st year. How we have managed has become a little more daunting recently, with only 3,200 undergraduates and the need to staff 50+ sections with Writing Consultants while keeping a Writing Center open. My post covers a few bedrock principles and recent challenges.

  • The Training Class Must Be Strong: We don’t shortchange Consultant training at Richmond. All of them must complete a semester-long course, Eng. 383, that is by invitation of our faculty. I could rush through 100 new Consultants in a couple of weeks of basic training, but I fear they’d be unethical editors, fixing writers’ problems but not making them better writers. Faculty would consider the help intellectually lacking, and I’m not about to dumb-down our commitment to fundamental ideas of peer work, long established in the field and tested well in our program. I find that recruiting my 36 new Consultants each year, 18 trained each semester, can staff the program. This has worked well at the similar-sized program at Swarthmore, long a model for WAC at Richmond. Except…
  • The Busy Student Body Must Notice Us: It is hip to be stressed out and over-committed on this campus. Strike one for staying on student radar, as a program or potential employer. Study abroad, a wonderful opportunity that I want every student to experience, has gradually become nigh universal for our first-semester juniors. Strike Two. Then there are internships, independent study, summer research, the hum of non-academic but seemingly essential social obligations…Strike Three. For these reasons, over time, more and more students delayed taking Eng. 383 until their third or even fourth years. Having sown this wind for a few years, in May 2013 I reaped the whirlwind, finding about 20 of our trained Consultants walking across the stage in their caps and gowns. Then, this term, another 15 went abroad. Thus we are scrambling to staff 50+ sections and keep the Writing Center open with 37 Consultants. Usually, I employ 50.
  • The Director Must Appeal to Potential Consultants Early and in the Right Way: My doubling-down on recruitment began early this semester. I notified faculty teaching first-year seminars that a crisis was at hand; I would depend upon them to bring me more first-and-second-year recruits. So far, a few are drifting in, but I will appeal as well to the students directly. Paying Consultants well helps, but students want more than a job today. Students at Richmond want a path to a post-collegiate career or graduate school. Working as a Consultant here means a better chance of landing a graduate assistantship or job with a communications focus. I count EBSCO, Penguin, and The National Archives among the employers of recently graduated Consultants.
  • Faculty in all Fields Must Become Partners: I have never felt that putting a writing program in a “silo” works well. First of all, writing has historically been under-staffed and under-underfunded. Susan Miller’s “sad woman in the basement” was more than a brilliant metaphor in her book Textual Carnivals. It was the fact on the ground (and beneath the ground) for a long time. Now that the Humanities themselves are in national crisis, writing programs cannot necessarily count on English departments with diminishing institutional clout for support. Program directors will need to sit down with Mathematicians and Economists and Sociologists, too, to determine local needs, priorities, and resources. These faculty will also serve as recruiters for those new student employees to keep WAC efforts vital.

I remain convinced, after more than two decades doing this work (with some very pleasant side trips into educational technology, the design of simulations, and more) that writing programs will thrive because our colleagues and administrators share our concern, if not necessarily our values, about writing instruction. The Director’s job, as the public face of writing on campus, is to be certain that the “center remains in the Center,” or wherever else writing instruction is housed currently. My greatest fear is that other units of a college or university, hungry for influence and budget, could gobble up WAC and Writing Centers.

We should not let that happen, since with merger may come a pedagogy we have worked so hard to avoid in our teaching and tutoring.

Three Professors In English Discuss Effective Writing

We just uploaded interviews with three professors in our English Department:

http://writing2.richmond.edu/writing/wweb/english/  (see left hand menu for links to videos).

Our Writing Consultants conducted these interviews. They may load slowly, as they are locally hosted. We have about 30 more in various fields. See the handbooks linked from this page:

http://writing2.richmond.edu/writing/wweb/disciplines.html

Our long-term goal is to compile interviews for each handbook, as well as sample papers with commentary by the professors and writers (including some reflective “what if” remarks).

Informal writing centers?

Dear friends,
Greetings from Japan. I’ve been managing an informal writing center at my university for ten years now, and I wonder if there are others who have informal WCs.
In my center I have the following guidelines:

  1. For WC service, clients must have completed at least one of my 2 semester long academic writing courses.
  2. Clients must have at least one paper which is a near fit to their own topic and which is well-written (vetted earlier by me).
  3. Clients must be ready for multiple iterations of 2 page chunks of the paper, with coded feedback. If they are not interested in my mentoring, I refer them to satisfactory local editors (relatively cheap and fast).

So, are there some other informal WCs out there?
cheers
Lawrie Hunter
Kochi University of Technology
http://www.core.kochi-tech.ac.jp/hunter/
lawrie@ace.ocn.ne.jp

Writing and Communication Center at the New Economic School, Moscow

My name is Kara Bollinger, and I am the Assistant Director of the Writing and Communication Center at the New Economic School (NES) in Moscow, Russia. Our writing center is just now turning one-year-old and is one of only two writing centers in Russia. So, the Director of the WCC, Olga Aksakalova, and I are excited to join the conversation on CWCAB. We’re sure to have questions (and hopefully insights) in the coming months, but for now we want to say “hey.”

Students at our school are enrolled in one of three programs: Bachelor’s in Economics (a joint program with the Higher School of Economics), Master’s in Economics, and Master’s in Finance. Students write and give presentations in both English and Russian. The WCC offers one-on-one writing consultations in both English and Russian. We also hold workshops on a variety of writing and communication topics (again some workshops are in English and some are in Russian). Our students read in English, attend courses in English, and listen to presentations in English, but they often want more practice speaking; because of this, we also offer one-on-one English conversation sessions.  In addition to Olga and me, the WCC employs four part-time professional consultants who work with students.

Though most of our time is dedicated to students, we also work with faculty. First, we are active collaborators with the English department in helping develop curriculum and providing guidance on aspects of courses like writing assignments, rubrics, and peer review questions. Second, we are beginning to work with Economics faculty on effectively teaching and incorporating writing in their courses.

As a recent transplant to Moscow (I’ve been here for a little over a month) what I’ve noticed most (in the WCC, that is) is that the writing pedagogy and the writing center theory that are commonplace in the US are new ideas here. Though students come to the WCC expecting help with their writing or speaking, they often show up for a session, sit down at the table and say “So, what is this place?” It’s quite rewarding to explain the writing center to students and makes the goal-setting portion of the session crucial. In the future, Olga hopes to write more about her experiences starting the WCC here last year, which illustrate the idea of Rhet/Comp being new in Russia.

Note boardOne way we’re working to increase our school’s understanding of the WCC is through Open Houses. The WCC got a new home this year, so we hope that once students actually visit the space, we can say “Okay—here’s what we do here.” To help root our writing center, our Open Houses include a discussion of other writing centers. We hope this will help students understand the context in which the WCC exists. Additionally, we want students to feel like the WCC is “theirs.” So, we’re encouraging them to provide artwork, photos, creative writing, and/or favorite quotes to decorate the WCC. To start, we’ve asked students to write their writing and/or communication goals for the year on a Post-It note and to post those goals in the WCC. So far, the Open Houses seem to be working. Students have been active in engaging us with questions about the WCC and excited about continuing to participate.

That’s all for now. We look forward to sharing and collaborating with you all soon.

 

The C.L.E. Writing Retreat 2012 by Andrea Raiker & David Mathew, Centre for Learning Excellence, University of Bedfordshire, UK

This year’s residential Writing Retreat, the fourth in consecutive years, took place between the 11-13th of April at The Priory in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. The Writing Retreat process began in 2009 when the first retreat was held at Streatley, Oxfordshire. This retreat and that held at Highgate Hall in Northants in 2010 were organised by the University’s Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning to produce two internally published books charting different departmental perspectives on the significant curriculum changes introduced during that time.

The 2011 and 2012 writing retreats had a different purpose: to produce individually authored articles for externally published academic journals. So the overall aim of these events was for each participant, including us, to finish an academic paper, the first draft of which had been submitted to the CLE for editorial review as part of the application process several months earlier. The objective was for all authors to submit their papers electronically at the end of the three days. This objective formed part of the Centre for Learning Excellence’s strategy to support the University’s ethos of scholarship by encouraging academic writing for publication. Writing Retreats are the final event of a process that includes our Writing for Publication seminars and the establishment of the Journal of Pedagogic Development. Having gained experience of writing and publishing in this process, Writing Retreats allow delegates the opportunity to dedicate time and concentration to a specific piece of writing with the support of their colleagues. By taking the delegate away from his or her more customary work patterns and rhythms of the working week, the Writing Retreat provided space to focus and for the words to flow. Although the three days were busy with activities, workshops and tasks, the focus was very much on completing the paper in question, or getting as close to completion as possible.

In attendance at this year’s event with the two of us were ten delegates from the University, all from different departments. This wasn’t regarded as a problem. One delegate noted this: ‘If we are all from one discipline there would be differences of opinion of content or subject, but that hasn’t got in the way at all…’. We also had an invited Guest Editor, Professor Hilary Constable. We invited Hilary to the retreat because we believe that is important for the authors to have the experience and perspective from an external authority in research scholarship focussed on their work. Six of the ten participants had never been on a writing retreat before. Naturally, there was an air of anxiety when we first assembled. Not only was there concern about writing at the perceived standard and finishing; there were the other delegates. Would everyone ‘get on’?

Continue reading “The C.L.E. Writing Retreat 2012 by Andrea Raiker & David Mathew, Centre for Learning Excellence, University of Bedfordshire, UK”

Tips from Hanyang University Center for Teaching and Learning English Writing Lab

Our center in Korea has a number of links to resources for engineering and science writing particularly for international graduate students. The materials were designed for Korean students but most tips are not language specific.

QUICK TIP

When working with engineering and science English learners who have difficulty explaining science concepts during a tutorial, I have often found it useful to bring out the scrap paper and have them draw out the relationship on paper or use simple algebra-like equations: Do you mean (a + b) + (c + d) OR (a) + (b + C)  + (D) to show which words, phrases or clauses go together in a sentence, particularly complex lists.