Internationalization, Massifcation, and the Knowledge Economy: A Comparison of International Writing Center Trends

Tomoyo Okuda graduated with a Ph.D. in Teaching English as a Second Language from the University of British Columbia, Canada. Her research interests include second language writing, writing center studies, internationalization of higher education, and language policy.

 

Christiane Donahue (2009) once praised the writing center community as having the “strongest development in terms of exchange of teaching practice and pedagogical framing, always explored in context” (p. 222). This is evident from the fact that we can find writing centers in 63 countries, according to the St. Cloud State University’s Writing Center Directory.

I was always interested in why writing centers became so popular around the world and started collecting literature written about writing centers in different countries (as a side note, I focused on writing center development in Japan for my dissertation research, “The Writing Center as a Global Pedagogy: A Case Study of a Japanese University Seeking Internationalization”). A common topic found in international writing center literature was how the idea of the writing center needed adjustments to suit the cultural, religion, existing literacy practices of each country or institution. But I was more interested in the bigger picture—the socio-political/economic imperatives of writing center initiation, namely, the political landscape of higher education discourses and reforms fed into the decision to initiate or sustain a writing center (Salem, 2014). In this blog post, I would like to discuss three imperatives identified from my reading of international writing center literature (book chapters, articles, reports, websites).

Internationalization has become a powerful agenda for many universities around the world, and for non-English speaking countries, this means internationalizing higher education through the medium of English. Thus, we can see English-medium instruction programs (courses and programs taught in English) in what Harbord (2010) calls US-style universities: universities with “US accreditation, US charter, US-style curriculum, US grading system, a liberal arts approach, and some faculty from the US” (para. 9). Examples of US-style universities would be liberal arts colleges in Hungary, India, and Japan, and American branch universities such as in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, France, Bulgaria, where the writing center is usually managed in conjunction with first year composition courses. Another internationalization initiative for universities is scholarly publications in English and for this purpose, some writing centers in East Asia offer services to help scholars write research manuscripts in English. For instance, according to Kim (2017), the government-supported globalization initiative called ‘Brain Korea 21’, which aims to foster international scholars, led to a wave of new writing centers in South Korean universities.

The second imperative is the demands of the knowledge economy, often addressed in higher education reform plans. For example, the Bologna Process, a collective initiative to harmonize European higher education and ensure comparability of standards, appears to have been key in the promotion of writing centers. Several German writing center scholars mention that writing centers caught attention as an efficient approach to develop writing skills, promote peer learning, and individualized instruction which aligns well with the learning outcome model promoted by the Bologna Process (Bräuer, 2012; Macgilchrist & Girgensohn, 2011; Scott, 2016). Weber et al., (2014) from Qatar also talk about how the writing center at their American branch campus was established due to the nation’s shift from oil gas revenue to knowledge economy emphasizing education, research, biotechnology.

The third imperative is massifcation of higher education; in other words, higher education expansion or growth of enrollment in higher education. Universities, such as in Japan and New Zealand, are actively expanding student participation and admitting a diverse range of students, in some cases, students with insufficient academic literacy skills, which leads to a need for institutionalized writing support (Emerson, 2012; Iwamoto, 2008). Different reasons would explain higher education expansion. In Japan, the number of writing centers and writing programs increased due to an influx of incoming students without basic Japanese literacy skills said to have caused by the post-war massification of universities and universalization of higher education.

I have reviewed some of the socio-economic imperatives connected to writing center initiation around the world; internationalizing higher education (through English), responding to the demands of knowledge economy, and expanding student participation in higher education. These imperatives are connected to a growing interest in writing skills, especially English writing skills, as means to participate in the knowledge economy and global research community.

Most importantly, in searching for the bigger picture, I came to understand the powerful role of the writing center in internationalizing and Americanizing universities worldwide. How does this bigger picture impact our interactions with international writing center colleagues and define our international writing center community? I believe an analytical look at what’s happening outside our writing centers is important in reflecting on power balances in our international writing center community and realizing the “equal trade models of exchange” (Donahue, 2009, p. 231) of writing center scholarship.

 

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Bibliography

Bräuer, G. (2012). Section essay: Academic literacy development. In Writing programs worldwide: Profiles of academic writing in many places (pp. 467-484). Fort Collins, CO: The WAC Clearinghouse.

Donahue, C. (2009). “Internationalization” and composition studies: Reorienting the discourse. College Composition and Communication, 61(2), 212-243.

Emerson, L. (2012). Developing a “Kiwi” writing centre at Massey University, New Zealand. In C. Thaiss, P. Carlino, L. Ganobcsik-Williams, & A. Sinha (Eds.), Writing programs worldwide: Profiles of academic writing in many places (pp. 313-323). Fort Collins, CO: The WAC Clearinghouse.

Harbord, J. (2010). Writing in Central and Eastern Europe: Stakeholders and directions in initiating change. Across the Disciplines, 7. Retrieved from http://wac.colostate.edu/atd/articles/harbord2010.cfm

Iwamoto, T. (2008). Senpai kara Kohai e, shinshi na adobaisu ga ikiru gakushūshien [To seniors to juniors: Academic support through advising]. Daigaku to Gakusei, 50, 30–35.

Kim, M. (2012). The politics of teaching and learning writing in L1 and L2 in Korean universities: An exploration of the possibility of developing an indigenous writing program. (Unpublished PhD Dissertation). Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana.

Macgilchrist, F., & Girgensohn, K. (2011). Humboldt meets Bologna: Developments and debates in institutional writing support in Germany. Canadian Journal for Studies in Discourse and Writing, 23(1), 1-19.

Salem, L. (2014). Opportunity and transformation: How writing centers are positioned in the political landscape of higher education in the United States. Writing Center Journal, 34(1), 15-43.

Scott, A. (2016). Re-centering writing center studies: What US-based scholars can learn from their colleagues in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Zeitschrift Schreiben, Retrieved from https://zeitschrift-schreiben.eu/globalassets/zeitschrift-schreiben.eu/2016/scott_writingcenterstudies.pdf

Weber, A., Golkowska, K., Miller, I., Sharkey, R., Rishel, M., & Watts, A. (2015). The first-year writing seminar program at Weill Cornell Medical College—Qatar: Balancing tradition, culture, and innovation in transnational writing instruction. In D. S. Martins (Ed.), Transnational writing program administration (pp. 73-92). Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.

A Year and a Half Later: A Humble Reflection || St. Cloud State University’s Writing Center Administration Certificate Program

This post is a followup from Carol’s piece, Two Provosts Later: Establishing a Writing Center Administration Graduate Certificate Program, from February 2017, with reflections on the program from students. Carol Mohrbacher is a Professor of English and former Writing Center Director.

 

Carol Mohrbacher

In spring 2017, St. Cloud State University’s Writing Center Administration certificate program offered its first two courses, “Writing Center Theory and Practice” and “Issues in Writing Center Administration.” Students became bonded early on. Friendships and collaborations for research projects and conference presentations grew during that semester and continued into summer term with the final two classes, “Staffing and Training” and “Case Studies in Writing Center Administration.” Because the program is delivered entirely online, I was surprised at the strength of the community, which was much more than I’d hoped for during the 2 ½ years it took me to slog through the morass of bureaucratic speed bumps on the way to program approval. As I said in the earlier article/interview, I’d had to secure approvals from 14 different individuals and committees along the way. This was an intense, real-world lesson in discovering audience expectations, a topic we discuss throughout the WCA program in all of the courses.

The most significant challenge in designing the WCA program has been providing sources, instruction, and assignments that allow students to personalize a learning experience most beneficial to each one of them. Last year’s students represented a range of experience from zero to nine years in WC administration. Some were new MA students; some were PhD students; some were professionals in the field. They represented public and private institutions at the high school, 2-year, and 4-year college levels. One student had developed an independent writing center and had tax-exempt status and a board of directors in place. One, a high school teacher, had never worked in a writing center before and knew just a little about them, but hoped to help build one at her school. This year, there are more graduate students and fewer professionals; however, we have, for the first time, an administrator from a private high school boys’ preparatory school and also an assistant director from a writing center in China. Caswell, McKinney, and Jackson note the development and variety of non-standard writing centers in their book, The Working Lives of New Writing Center Directors, a longitudinal study of nine new writing center directors.

That our participants include writing center directors in a charter school and in a European boarding school is emblematic of the times. Writing centers have been sprouting up in secondary schools and in non-US settings at a growing rate. As this happens, we think we’ll see that more alternatives to the US university model will emerge as different though effective, ways to do writing center work. (199)       

To reflect this diversity in the WCA certificate program, course materials cover a variety of common contexts and issues pertaining to writing center administration, like navigating institutional relationships, researching the writing center, creating assessment activities and reports, grant writing, hiring, training, and other shorter units. Assignments are flexible enough so students can create individualized documents that might be included in an application portfolio or provide a model for their home institution or for the type of writing center setting they are most interested in.

Now that I am in my 2nd year, I view at the program with a perspective emerging out of a year and a half’s experience. I’ve learned that cohorts differ from year to year. The first year’s class was energetic and immediately collaborative; this year’s cohort is quieter and less bonded than the first—but they are similar in their creative energy and commitment to writing center administration studies. Continue reading “A Year and a Half Later: A Humble Reflection || St. Cloud State University’s Writing Center Administration Certificate Program”

Seminar || Academic Writing and Innovation, National University of Ireland

National University of Ireland, Galway || 17 April 2017 || Registration

Innovation is seen as a key ingredient for success in academia, but we often taken good academic writing for granted as a crucial skill in this process. We know from the work of Peter Elbow that writing is a creative and imaginative process, irrespective of the subject. Janet Giltrow has argued that ‘style is meaningful’ and impacts the development of ideas. More recently, Helen Sword has drawn attention to ‘stylish academic writing’, arguing that ‘intellectual creativity thrives best in an atmosphere of experimentation rather than conformity’. Yet the precise relationship between academic writing and innovation remains to be explored; to do so means to highlight the crucial importance of writing centres, writing instructors, and pedagogical initiatives to academia at large.

This seminar will examine the connection between academic writing and innovation from a variety of perspectives, including the use of the Project Based Learning (PBL) and other innovative methodologies, the switch from assessing to improving student writing, the role of writing centres in academia, the ideology of writing spaces, and new ways to support librarians on the path towards publication.

Confirmed Speakers
Tom Deans, University of Connecticut
Steven Engel, University of Michigan
Hellen Fallon, Maynooth University
Adrian Frazier, NUI Galway
Megan Jewel, Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio
Ann Nowak, Touro Law Center
Laura McLoughlin, NUI Galway

Registration

Creating a Writing Center in Salvador-Bahia, Brazil

Fernanda Queirós Campbell is a postdoctoral research assistant in the Health Sciences Institute of the Federal University of Bahia, Brazil; Katia Nunes Sá is an associate professor and coordinator of the Scientific Communication Center at the Bahiana School of Medicine and Public Health, Brazil; Abrahão Fontes Baptista is an associate professor at the Center for Mathematics, Computation, and Cognition at the Federal University of ABC, Brazil; Gigi Taylor is the Senior English Language Specialist in the Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

At the 2015 IWCA Conference, we presented “Creating a Writing Center in Brazil: Revolutionizing the Unknown” (p. 25) in an ignite session. This blog post summarizes the evolution of the project and the exciting results our effort to establish a writing center in Salvador-Bahia, Brazil.

When Fernanda Queirós was pursuing a PhD in Maternal & Child Health from UNC Chapel Hill, she was an avid user of writing center resources, including individual tutoring, English language support programs, and dissertation boot camp. Throughout her time there, she worked closely with Gigi Taylor, the Writing Center’s Senior English Language Specialist. Upon returning to Brazil in a postdoctoral position, Fernanda realized that many of the students who expected to graduate in three months were behind on writing their theses. When she described her experience at UNC, her lead professor, Abrahão Baptista, asked if she would be willing to develop similar writing support for graduate students at Universidade Federal da Bahia (UFBA).

Fernanda had plenty of experience as a writing center user but had no training as a teacher of writing. Nonetheless, she accepted the challenge and committed to starting a group in two weeks because she was convinced that even limited support would be better than nothing. Abrahão enlisted Prof. Kátia Sá of the Escola Bahiana de Medicina e Saúde Pública (EBMSP) and the Catholic University of Salvador (UCSal). While Abrahão and Kátia shared a deep interest in writing, neither of them knew anything about writing centers and could offer no specific help.

Unable to find information online about writing centers in Brazil, Fernanda reached out to Gigi at the UNC Writing Center. They had a long skype conversation about things to consider, how to set student expectations, how get them accustomed to writing center pedagogy, and about the wealth of resources available through the IWCA. Continue reading “Creating a Writing Center in Salvador-Bahia, Brazil”

“Creating ‘click bait’ and sound bites to incite controversy”: A response to the CHE piece, “What’s Wrong With Writing Centers”

Julia Bleakney is Director of the Writing Center, Elon University.

 

There are many statements in “What’s Wrong with Writing Centers,” an interview with Lori Salem in the Feb 5, 2018 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education, that highlight bad practice for writing centers. The interview presents Dr. Salem as a maverick writing center director, unique in the writing center field for using statistical and quantitative research and whose ideas are radical and forward–thinking in a field of status-seeking writing centers using outdated strategies that don’t serve working class or minority students or those for whom English is not a first language. The interview, conducted by Rose Jacobs, suggests that writing centers cater to privileged students who don’t need them, lest centers be considered remedial, and that writing center policies that have consultants focusing on higher-order concerns or using non-directive strategies is time-wasting and ineffective for students who need more direction.

If writing centers adopted this “one size fits all” approach to working one-to-one with the privileged students they supposedly prefer, and if they shunned empirical research methods in favor of lore, we should be alarmed. But the fact is that most of the claims made in this interview are simply not true—not true of the majority of writing centers in the U.S. and certainly not true of the Writing Center at Elon University. Many writing centers, including Elon’s, train their undergraduate student consultants based on current writing education scholarship; at Elon, for instance, the students in ENG319, Writing Center Workshop, prepare to become writing center consultants not by following lore about how to work with students on their writing but by learning about contemporary research in educational scaffolding, transfer of learning in writing instruction, and working with diverse learners. While there are a range of research approaches used by writing centers, for the last ten to fifteen years, as a field we have not shunned statistical or quantitative research and instead use empirical evidence to test and support claims about the value and impact of writing center sessions on students’ writing knowledge and confidence. In more recent years, writing center scholars have begun several large-scale, multi-site, and longitudinal studies on writing centers and their impact on student writers.

The most alarming claims in this interview are the ideas that writing center consulting strategies adopted as policy discriminate against minorities, multilingual learners, or working-class students and that transformative learning is not happening in writing centers. When Dr. Salem spoke with the Chronicle, she assumed she was speaking to a colleague who would respect a field’s need to continually self-assess and improve, not a writer intent on creating “click bait” sound bites to incite controversy. What the interview gets wrong, in fact, and what we know from empirical studies of writing center practice (for instance, Mackiewicz and Thompson, 2015), is what’s right about writing centers: that consultants, especially peers, do an excellent job identifying, through dialogue, each student’s unique needs at that moment and then tailoring feedback to suit that need. Ask any writing center consultant, at Elon or elsewhere, and they will tell you that it’s simply not possible to use the same technique with every student and that adjusting to each student’s learning style is one of the most important aspects of writing center work; consultants will also tell you that students will receive help with whatever they need, whether it’s organization, punctuation, or understanding an assignment’s purpose. What the interview gets right is the invitation to think carefully and continuously about how we can serve each and every student in our writing center; how our practices might intentionally or unintentionally exclude or discriminate; and about the evidence we collect and disseminate that shows the value of our service to students. While we have work to do, as does any academic program, individualized learning is at the heart of writing center practice.

_________

Read Lori Salem’s response to the CHE article. (Editor)

 

加入写作中心在中国起步的浪潮 (宋凌珊) (Part 2 of 5, Writing Centers in China)

宋凌珊是密西西比学院写作中心的副主任。她也教授写作课与学生辅导的训练课程。凌珊的研究领域包括写作中心理论与实践、ESL辅导、文化研究与国际合作。她目前的研究项目致力于写作中心在中国的推广与建立。凌珊还同时兼任美国东南部写作中心协会的外事协调员、写作中心基督徒协会的TESOL代表、密西西比写作中心协会秘书、以及2018中国高校英文写作中心国际学术研讨会策划委员会成员。

[Joining the Momentum of Writing Center Establishment in China]

写作中心在美国的学术界已经有长远的历史并具有规模,然而在中国情况却有所不同。在中国的高校中,“写作中心”是过去十余年才开始引进的概念。在过去12年,从2006-2017年,有一小撮中国高校走在了建立写作中心的前沿,开始提供针对于英文写作的辅导。2017年6月9-11日,位于中国苏州的一所中英合办大学­­—西安交通利物浦大学举办了有史以来第一次的中国写作中心会议,这对于在中国的写作中心具有里程碑意义。

宋凌珊

写作中心在中国的建立进程是令人振奋的,可是迄今为止还没有学术研究专门针对中国现有的写作中心,也未开始探讨这些写作中心能够建立起来的关键促成因素。换言之,这些写作中心是如何开始的?关键因素有哪些?2017年9月-11月我开始了一项初始研究,致力于研究在中国内地现有的写作中心:这些写作中心存在哪些共性?考虑了哪些国情和本土因素?这些共性是否可以为将来其他写作中心的建立提供可参照的模型?

尽管每个写作中心有自己的特色,但我发现过去十年中美高校之间合作的蓬勃开展给写作中心在中国的建立提供了历史性的契机。“全球化”、“使中国高等教育与世界接轨”的概念深入人心,敦促中国高校与海外的大学开展两种形式的合作:1)与海外的大学合作成立交换学生项目;2)鼓励教师出国到合作院校访学。

例如,中国第一个写作中心(成立于2006年)就是得益于西安外国语大学与位于美国俄亥俄州的鲍林格林州立大学之间一个长期合作的交换项目。在西安外国语大学教授吴丹的一篇文章中,她介绍了中国第一所写作中心的建立并且强调说“西安外国语大学写作中心是借鉴了鲍林格林州立大学写作中心的模型,但是拥有自身的特色”(139)。另外,根据吴丹教授的研究,“这种模型【借鉴美国写作中心但是针对中国国情和地方特色作出调整】已经开始在全国的范围内被采纳。”北京师范大学珠海分校写作中心也借鉴了同样的模型。这个于2016年9月建立的写作中心就借鉴了几所海外大学的经验,包括波斯顿学院。 Continue reading “加入写作中心在中国起步的浪潮 (宋凌珊) (Part 2 of 5, Writing Centers in China)”

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. Continue reading “Joining the Momentum of Writing Center Establishment in China (Part 2 of 5, Writing Centers in China)”

“Writing-Center Researcher Says Views Were Mischaracterized” || Lori Salem’s response to CHE’s “What’s Wrong With Writing Centers”

Below is Lori Salem’s response to her interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education in What’s Wrong With Writing Centers.

The letter below was originally published in the Chronicle of Higher Education on February 9, 2018. It is presented here unedited and with Salem’s permission.

Lori Salem is the Assistant Vice Provost and director of the Student Success Center and Writing Center at Temple University in Philadelphia.

 

To the Editor:

I am the scholar who was profiled in a Chronicle interview that was given the title, “What’s Wrong With Writing Centers” (The Chronicle, February 5).

While I am grateful to The Chronicle for showcasing my article, I must object to how the interview was framed and edited. I am described as “something of a heretic” in the field for advocating that writing centers adopt new pedagogies, and that description is used to set up a me-against-the-field narrative.

This characterization is simply false. What makes my work new is its quantitative methodology, not my arguments about pedagogy. This is from the conclusion to my article: “I am not the first writing center researcher to observe problems with orthodox writing center pedagogies, nor the first to call for changes. My goal here is to add my voice to that growing chorus, as well as to provide some empirical backing for the argument.”

Moreover, my colleagues have embraced my research — they gave it an award, for heaven’s sake! — and they don’t deserve the implicit slam that came along with the article.

I hope that readers of this interview will be able to see past these mischaracterizations to a more balanced view of writing-center work. In my view, our field does powerful work, and we could still do better. We have come a long way, and we can still go further. The best way to understand my research is as a contribution to a field that is engaged in healthy debate.

To be clear, I don’t believe that there is anything fundamentally “wrong” with writing centers.

Lori Salem
Assistant Vice Provost
Director, Student Success Center and Writing Center
Temple University
Philadelphia

Call for proposals || 2018 Canadian Writing Centres Association Call for Proposals >> due Monday, January 15, 2018

The CWCA/ACCR conference committee invites you to submit proposals for our 2018 conference.

 

Submit your proposals by 11:59pm (EST), Monday, January 15, 2018.
Please note that this is a firm deadline, and will not be extended.

All submissions are to be made online.


Conference details:

Where: University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon

When: May 24-25, 2018

Keynote: Dr. Sheelah McLean

Plenary: Jack Saddleback

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

In Canada, a recent focus on reconciliation and Indigenization are revitalizing conversations around anti-oppression pedagogy (Kumashiro, 2000), a series of approaches which focus on how traditional educational systems and practices reinforce existing hierarchies and contribute to the disenfranchisement of marginalized students. Nationally and internationally, post-secondary institutions are seeing students affected by the rising tide of extremist right-wing politics and dubious news sources, calling for renewed attention to social justice and literacy-building.

An International Writing Centres Association (IWCA) position statement states that writing centres are particularly well positioned to “uphold students’ rights, as we work in the everyday-ness of literacy” (as cited in Godbee & Olson, 2014). As Nancy Grimm (2009) said in her IWCA keynote, “Although some might claim that the work of a writing center is ‘just’ to teach writing, the teaching of writing is never a neutral endeavor; it is never devoid of political motivations or outcomes.”

At the 2018 CWCA conference, we invite you to join us to exchange knowledge, share challenges, and ask questions about the ways our teaching and tutoring can and should engage in anti-oppressive educational practices.

Keynote speaker Dr. Sheelah McLean — a founder of the Idle No More movement and recipient of the Carol Gellar Human Rights Award (2013) — will discuss anti-racist, anti-oppressive educational practices. Closing plenary speaker Jack Saddleback will discuss the topic of resilience, drawing on his personal experiences with mental health activism, student politics, and gender and sexual diversity. Continue reading “Call for proposals || 2018 Canadian Writing Centres Association Call for Proposals >> due Monday, January 15, 2018”

Save the Date >> Canadian Writing Centres Association Annual Conference || May 24-25, 2018



Save the date! Mark your calendars!

Please join us May 24-25, 2018 at the University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon)


Conference Theme: Resilience, Resistance, Reconciliation
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Sheelah McLean (USask), co-founder, Idle No More

Call for Proposals expected: Monday, October 30, 2017
Deadline for Submissions: Monday, January 8, 2018, 11:59pm (firm)

For conference-related inquiries, please contact Sarah King sking@utsc.utoronto.ca

 

Executive Function and Writing: What Does It Mean for Writing Centres? – An Open Discussion

Amanda M Marshall, CTESL, M.Ed., is the Writing Centre Project Coordinator for the Nova Scotia Community College.

I have often joked that I have three fantasy careers: an astronaut, a neuroscientist, and a brew-master. While my career trajectory has not led me in those directions, I do have a keen interest in brain-based learning and in how to help students. When thinking about my role as Writing Centre Project Coordinator one evening, possibly over a pint, my inner neuroscientist and prior learning got me thinking, and I started to do some research into Executive Function (EF) skills. EF skills, which include “cognitive processes such as reasoning, planning, and judgement” (Bradley-Ruder, 2008), reside in the frontal lobe/prefrontal cortex of the brain. Interestingly, “the prefrontal cortex is one of the last regions of the brain to reach maturation…[and] is not complete until near the age of 25” (Arain et al., 2013, p. 435). Whilst delving more into EF skills, I began to see a significant connection between EF skills development and the development and deployment of writing skills. I would like to explore more of these connections in this blog, as well as make room for discussion on the topic. I hope you will all join in on the conversation.

Amanda Marshall

First, let’s explore Executive Function a bit more. As mentioned, EF includes the ability to develop and reach goals, process and evaluate information, understand cause and effect, and make reasonable inferences (Bradley-Ruder 2008). Residing in the frontal lobe, we also know that this part of the brain is responsible for logic, strategy, working memory, planning, problem-solving, and reasoning skills (Schwaighofer, Buhner, & Fischer, 2017). When a learner faces difficulty in these areas and with these skills, they will likely encounter challenges parsing, sequencing, remembering, evaluating, organizing, manipulating, planning, self-regulating, and with general task follow-through (Zumbrunn, Tadlock, & Roberts, 2011). This can affect both the learner’s interaction within their learning environment(s), as well as with specific program expectations and activities/tasks.

Understanding that the frontal lobe/prefrontal cortex takes a significant amount of time to fully develop, and knowing that EF skills are not innate, post-secondary education is faced with some unique challenges. Much of what we require of our students depends on their ability to organize, critique, remember, reflect, evaluate, plan, and reason (Graham, Karris, & Olinghouse, 2007). If students are coming to us beginning at the age of 18, for example, not only are they still approximately 7 years from having a fully, physiologically-developed frontal lobe, they may also not have had enough exposure and EF training to be fully successful on their own. “Poor executive functioning leads to difficulty with planning, attention, using feedback, and mental inflexibility” (Johnson, Blum, Geidd, 2009, p. 219), which are all critical skills for post-secondary success and employability. With this in mind, it seems increasingly incumbent on adult educators to direct focus, time, and specific practice to help our students engage in and strengthen their EF skills. When discussing EF skills as they relate to adolescents and young adults, Harvard’s Centre for the Developing Child states that “…executive function skills are not yet at adult levels, but the demands placed on these skills often are” (Harvard’s Centre for the Developing Child, 2017). Further, Weinberger, Elvevåg, and Geidd (2005) remind us that while adolescents and young adults are “full of promise, often energetic and caring, capable of making many contributions to their communities, and able to make remarkable spurts in intellectual development and learning…neurologically, they are not [yet] adults. They are…a work in progress” (2005, p. 19) and require support to continue learning and developing the skills required for post-secondary success. Continue reading “Executive Function and Writing: What Does It Mean for Writing Centres? – An Open Discussion”

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.

Middle East and North Africa Writing Center Alliance conference: Transfer and Transform

Elizabeth Whitehouse (Ewhitehouse@uaeu.ac.ae) is the Executive Secretary of the Middle East and North Africa Writing Center Alliance (MENAWCA) and the Supervisor of the Student Academic Success Program (SASP) Writing Centers at United Arab Emirates University.

Following up on our first post about MENAWCA in 2015, Elizabeth Whitehouse provides an update here and talks about their 6th biennial conference in February 2018, Transfer and Transform.

WLN Blog: Tell us about MENAWCA. What does it stand for? How did it begin?  How do you communicate with each other?
Elizabeth: MENAWCA stands for the Middle East and North Africa Writing Center Alliance; we are a regional affiliate of the IWCA. The alliance was established by some teachers at my own institution, UAEU, in 2007. They saw a need for a network to connect writing center directors, tutors and staff in the Middle East and North Africa region. Since then, MENAWCA has worked to foster best practice in MENA writing centers, provide professional development and networking opportunities, raise awareness of the value of writing centers as an educational resource and promote research into MENA writing center activities. We pursue these goals in various ways, such as our website, newsletters, listserve and social media (Facebook; Twitter) but most importantly, we hold biennial conferences for our membership and the wider community.

WLN Blog: You are organizing an upcoming conference. Does the conference have a theme? What do you hope participants will get out of the experience and what do you hope to achieve by organizing this conference?
Elizabeth: Yes, work is underway for our 6th biennial conference, which we are convening in collaboration with the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU). The conference will be held in the beautiful, historic oasis town of Al Ain, in the UAE, in February 2018. Our conference theme is ‘Transfer and Transform,’ which we hope will act as a springboard for engaging discussions and critical reflections on our work with student writers in the Arab world.  Participants will have an opportunity to share insights, raise questions, hopefully get some answers, and leave with refreshing new ideas and perspectives that will help them advance the work of their centers.  We are particularly excited to be welcoming Dr. Chris Anson, Distinguished University Professor and Director of the Campus Writing and Speaking Program at North Carolina State University, as our keynote speaker; his wide-ranging scholarly expertise encompasses areas of key importance to our work with student writers (http://www.ansonica.net/).

WLN Blog: Can you tell us about opportunities and challenges you see for the MENAWCA and for writing centers in the region?
Elizabeth: MENAWCA is in a position to offer professional development opportunities for anyone involved in writing center work in the region. Whether someone attends our conferences, reads our newsletters, uses our website, or seeks advice by posting a question on our listserve, MENAWCA should help them get an answer to a writing center related question. It is not uncommon for teachers in the region (such as myself) to find themselves tasked with starting or managing a writing center, with little or possibly no prior writing center experience. Being able to visit an established center or link up with a more experienced peer can be a great help. I see a lot of potential for MENAWCA to expand its work, particularly in encouraging discussion about the work of writing centers in ESOL academic communities. That brings us directly to the challenges!  While institutions in the region often use higher education models established in the US, the academic support services that go with those models are not always in place, or secure. Center directors can find themselves expending a lot of time and effort explaining and justifying their work, and trying to secure appropriate resources. Of course, this challenge is not unique to our region. Continue reading “Middle East and North Africa Writing Center Alliance conference: Transfer and Transform”

CWCAB: Creative/Writing Center Note

Amy Hansen, staff writer, introduces our special creative writing feature to wrap up the spring ’17 semester! To read individual pieces, click the pull quotes below, or scroll through the creative writing section of the blog. 

I had no idea what we’d receive when we put out the call for creative writing about writing center work, but I was banking on the obsessive devotion both fields require to produce good results. We read so many good submissions from all over the world — from South Africa to Hawai’i to Canada (and beyond!) — and gradually, as these things do, a theme began to emerge.

Like our writers, all of whom identify as creative writers and writing center folks, each piece we chose features a space between the creative and the academic, between self and other, between prescriptivist and descriptivist, between music and poetry, and between play and form.

This makes sense to me! As writing center tutors and administrators, our work requires us to shift rapidly in and out of discourse communities and interpersonal roles. So why wouldn’t that same tension translate thematically and stylistically to our creative writing?

Continue reading “CWCAB: Creative/Writing Center Note”

Two Provosts Later: Establishing a Writing Center Administration Graduate Certificate Program

Carol Mohrbacher

Carol Mohrbacher is a Professor of English and former Writing Center Director (the Write Place) at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. Carol, using her many years of experience, advice and input from colleagues, as well as research in writing center practice, theory, and pedagogy, planned, developed, and launched a new Writing Center Administration graduate certificate in the Fall of this year. Below is our e-mail interview with Carol.

WLN Blog: What was the progenitor of your idea to set up this program?
Carol:
About seven or eight years ago, it occurred to me that I was supervising too many independent studies on the topic of writing center administration and tutor training. Some of our writing center alums who had completed these independent studies were finding jobs as writing center professionals. In 2009, there was a call from our Provost for the development of ideas that might appeal to the local and state community. Funding would be involved. So, never one to overlook an opportunity for funding, I proposed a course on writing center administration. The proposal almost immediately fell into a black hole, as the Provost moved on to another position at another institution, and the initiative disappeared—a situation that anyone who has been in academia for any length of time will recognize.

In 2012-13, a few years and more independent studies—and two Provosts—later, a new Provost called for innovative certificate programs. Simultaneously, administration pushed for more online offerings. I saw this as an opportunity to develop a valuable program—something that would contribute to the international writing center community, as well as to my own institution. My efforts in 2009 had resulted in a syllabus, and a sort of plan for future topics courses in writing center administration. I decided to build off of that early nugget.

WLN Blog: What were the processes and obstacles to developing and implementing the program?
Carol:
The first thing I needed was some direction on what a certificate program looked like. No one seemed to know, so I did my research, looking at programs in IT and Education. One note: generally, this kind of project is the result of group or committee efforts. I was on my own, except for the feedback and editing help of my friend, Tim Fountaine.

What I did not expect were the many levels of scrutiny and research that would be required of me from groups and individuals at all levels—the English Department, College of Liberal Arts, SCSU administration, IT, and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities administrative body. Two years later, after 14 levels (I counted them) of permissions and approvals, and after much research and one survey that resulted in 260+ respondents, the program was a go.

The next step was to create the courses that I had proposed and outlined for the various committees and individuals. This semester, I have begun teaching the first 2 courses—Writing Center Theories and Practice, and Issues in Writing Center Administration. So far, so good. I have students from 7 states. They are MA and PhD students and writing center professionals from various institutions from high school to R-1 universities. The engagement and enthusiasm are infectious. I am having a great time working with them.

The final two 2-credit courses for this 10-credit certificate program will be offered at the beginning of summer semester in a 5-week session. They are titled, “Staffing and Training” and “Cases Studies in Writing Center Administration.” Continue reading “Two Provosts Later: Establishing a Writing Center Administration Graduate Certificate Program”

Listserv Misgivings and the WcORD

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 8.25.38 AMThis blog post is courtesy of Patrick Hargon, the Associate Director of the Learning Commons at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. 

If you haven’t checked out the Writing Center Online Research Database, enter a term in the search field at this link. It is like a micro-Google just for writing centers. You can find annotated exchanges from WCenter, links to writing center websites with all of the handouts and videos and resources so many have created, links to journal articles, blogs, podcasts, etc.

Perhaps its most useful function, for me, is that it offers a new site to check whenever I get the feeling that I want to post a question to the WCenter listserv.

Last Friday, as UNK’s Learning Commons neared closing time, I pulled one of our writing tutors aside and asked her to tutor me. She said she would, but I couldn’t judge her. “That’s got to go both ways,” I said, knowing that I was about to drag her into a house of mirrors: I wanted to send a question to the WCenter listserv, and I just needed to verbally release, like static electric discharge, all of the misgivings I cycle through beforehand. Should I this, should I that? Should I not? No, I should not. Okay, just do the thing. Hit send.

I’ve never been browbeaten on a listserv, I’ve never sent a message and lost sleep over it (I haven’t hit “Reply-all” by accident yet), and I’ve never come up with a single rational reason to go through the anxious protocol of searching the archives, writing, deleting, searching the archives again, rewriting, thinking, overthinking, finishing, almost sending, rethinking, etc., before simply hitting send. Furthermore, WCenter has an admirable record for polite responses to questions that have been asked many times before.

The tutor and I looked over recent posts to assess the tone of the salutations, to look at folks’ preferred sign-offs, to just get a feel for the different intonations of queries. We didn’t come up with a coding or classification system or anything, so I have nothing to report from our findings. But it was fun.

After that, she asked, “What are you worried about?”

“Well, creating an international wave of eyerolls throughout higher education,” I said.

She said, “Seriously, what’s the worst thing that could happen?”
Continue reading “Listserv Misgivings and the WcORD”

Fee-Driven Centers

Editor’s note: I was very intrigued by a recent WCenter listserv discussion about writing centers that are funded by student fees. It’s an interesting counterpoint to recent posts on here (“A Story of Volunteers,” “Volunteer Tutors,” etc) about volunteer-driven tutoring. I asked a few directors and coordinators to share their experiences; three responses are below:

JEFFEAGANJEFF EAGAN, California State University

The funding model and institutional organization for academic support at California State University, Bakersfield has changed over the course of my tenure from writing tutor to coordinator for all tutoring on campus. In 2008, the tutoring for all subjects (including writing) was centered in one location on campus and was funded through a Title V grant. After a couple years, NSME tutoring moved from our location and was primarily funded through various grants. In 2011, our campus decentralized tutoring, and each school housed a specific tutoring center(s) in various locations around campus. The thinking behind this was to offer hubs in each school wherein advising and tutoring were available for students belonging to each school; the campus also had a one-stop academic advising center for undeclared students. Our writing center, the Writing Resource Center (WRC) remained in the same location. During this time, I was a first year graduate student working in the writing center as lead tutor.

athletes1As the grant ran out, administration, staff, and faculty started exploring ways to keep the academic support funded, and they decided to assess a student fee to fund the academic support including some support to advising centers. On our campus, all proposals for new student fees must go through a fee committee made up of students. The proposal for the student fee (a portion of the fee funds the writing center and another portion funds the content-driven disciplines) was put forward and approved by the committee and then the president. The fee is assessed quarterly and is used to fund the writing center and other campus tutoring centers. As with any campus, we always aim to engage students through outreach efforts about the resources available to them and the benefits of individualized and group tutoring. During class visits, we are transparent with students about what resources are available to them (academic and non-academic) through their student fees and encourage them to utilize the writing and tutoring centers. I am interested to see how this funding model will hold as we increase our presence and usage on campus.

Continue reading “Fee-Driven Centers”

Meet MENAWCA

Editor’s note: I was excited when Kelly Wilson of the Texas A&M University in Qatar agreed to share more with us about the Middle East – North Africa Writing Centers Alliance. Read about their valuable work below!

2014 MENAWCA Conference
2014 MENAWCA Conference

MENAWCA (Middle East – North Africa Writing Centers Alliance) was founded in 2007 to foster communication among existing writing centers in the region and to promote the work/practice/pedagogy of WCs in hopes that other institutions would be interested in starting them. Currently, our board has nine members.

I serve as President. My term began in May 2015 when the president at the time learned that she would be leaving the region. The expat world can be quite transient and some of us come and go without much notice. But, I was happy to take the role on as I love writing center work and I see it as an opportunity not only to serve the field, but to learn and develop new skills. My term will end in March 2017.

I have worked at Texas A&M University at Qatar (TAMUQ) for 5 years, both as a writing consultant and now as the Program Coordinator of Tutorial Services in our Academic Success Center. I oversee the training and supervision of tutors for writing as well as some math and sciene courses. TAMUQ is an engineering college – we offer bachelor’s degrees in mechanical, electrical and computing, petroleum and chemical engineering. We also offer an MEng or MS in chemical engineering.

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 8.25.36 AM

The remainder of the members on the MENAWCA Executive Board are as follows:

  • Vice President: Maimoonah Al Khalil (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)
  • Past President: Molly McHarg (Washington DC)
  • Secretary: Elizabeth Whitehouse (Al Ain, UAE)
  • Treasurer/IWCA Representative: Sherry Ward (Doha, Qatar)
  • Public Relations Officer: Paula Habre (Beirut, Lebanon)
  • Conference Co-Chairs: Ryan McDonald and Susan Finlay (Muscat, Oman)
  • Webmaster: Amy Zenger (Beirut, Lebanon)
  • Member at Large: Jodi Lefort (Muscat, Oman)

Continue reading “Meet MENAWCA”

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.”

Continue reading “CFP: Sharing Common Ground? Writing Centers and Learning Commons”

A Preview of International Writing Centers Week

Editor’s note: I asked Amber Slater, a former tutor of mine now studying Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse at DePaul University, to talk about how their Writing Center is preparing for International Writing Centers Week.

IMG_2201[1]International Writing Centers Week, running from February 8th-14th, is almost upon us! At DePaul’s University Center for Writing-based Learning (UCWbL), this means a flurry of programming, celebration, and the annual release of the highly coveted UCWbL t-shirt.

The UCWbL is home not only to DePaul’s Writing Center, but also many other writing-related initiatives such as Writing Fellows, Writing Groups, and Workshops, which is the team that I work with directly as a Graduate Assistant. Our team traditionally produces and facilitates in-class workshops at the request of professors on topics ranging from group work to personal statements. During this year’s International Writing Centers Week, though, we are expanding our team’s efforts and offering voluntary, in-house workshops for all DePaul writers.

Continue reading “A Preview of International Writing Centers Week”