To better serve Walden University’s growing international student body, our writing center has begun an initiative to assess the needs of our international and multilingual students, support faculty in working with these students, and develop our own resources and services to better meet the needs of these students. While Walden is based in the United States, our students are from around the globe, and many are seeking their Walden education while still residing in their home countries.

As an online, asynchronous center, we must cope with a variety of pragmatic, technological, cultural, linguistic, and academic barriers in student outreach, communication, and support. As we continue to seek student and faculty cooperation and consider the options and direction for this initiative, we would love to learn from writing center directors and staff working in international contexts–or indeed from anyone who has ideas about or experience in working with international students.

To start the conversation, we’ve compiled a list of initial questions; please feel free to chime in on any or all of these, or to bring up any issues that we’re overlooking.

  1. Do you use the traditional American writing lab model for tutoring (e.g., tutor as coach rather than editor, focusing on higher-level concerns rather than line edits)? If so, how successful have you found this model to be? How receptive have your students been to this model? And have you adapted this model at all to fit your academic or cultural context?
  2. What would you say are the three top challenges or frustrations you’ve faced in working with students? In working with faculty?
  3. Do you work chiefly with undergraduate or with graduate writers? If both, do you take a different approach based on the students’ level of education?
  4. Does your staff consist of students? Of professionals? Are your tutors native or nonnative English speakers?
  5. What services do you offer? Do you offer, for example, workshops, writing groups, or instruction beyond one-on-one consultation? If so, how are these services structured (e.g., in class or outside of class)?
  6. Where in your university are you housed? For example, are you part of the English department or an academic skills center?
  7. Do you actively promote yourself to students and if so, how? And how successful have you found your outreach to be?
  8. Are your services face-to-face, online, or a combination?

We look forward to hearing about successes, challenges, ideas, and tips to help us develop our services. Thanks!

2 Comments

  1. ajknott June 3, 2012 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    2.What would you say are the three top challenges or frustrations you’ve faced in working with faculty?

    making teaching and learning of literacies, such as writing, and formative assessment practices, visible in modularised and “already crowded, content-driven” curricula (Mitchell, 2010, p. 140).

    Not having access to processes of curiculum design in order to integrate literacies, such as writing in and across curricula and to make “epistemic, cognitive and discourse demands of … disciplines explicit” and open to questioning (South African Council for Higher Education. 2004. Improving Teaching and Learning Resource, No. 4, p. 112) .

    non-responsive teachers in a context in which ‘reponsiveness’ is a principle of transformation in South African higher education policies.

  2. Carl June 6, 2012 at 11:19 pm - Reply

    Here are some short replies from Chalmers Open Communication Studio (CHOCS) at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden. Here we meet both Swedish and international students, primarily writing in English, but also in Swedish (for practical reasons I’ll focus on the “English” tutorials).

    1. Yes, we focus on “better writers” (not texts) and try to prioritize higher-order concerns. This is appreciated by the writers, even if it wasn’t what they expected at first. The adaptation mainly concerns the fact that most writers write in a non-native language (English) within a Swedish academic context to teachers who mainly teach in a non-native language (English). Both students and teachers, as well as WC tutors, come from many different cultural and language backgrounds.
    2. We see surprisingly little frustration. Most of the time it has to do with clarifying the purpose and of our work and the methodology we use – writers and faculty appreciate this. Sometimes frustration can come from a “narrow interpretation” of what is said and what is actually meant – writers (and teachers) may not have the meta-language we use and it turns out that “I need help with proof-reading” most often means “I want to discuss my text in order to be a better writer”…
    3. Both – we don’t treat the writers differently, but then all writers are treated differently as individuals 😉
    4. All our tutors are student peer tutors. They are a mix of native speakers of English, Swedish, Mandarin, Farsi, Shona, German, Latvian etc.
    5. We mainly offer one-on-one consultations, but there are many projects that students are involved in, so much writing at our university is collaborative – so there are quite a lot of group consultations.
    6. We have two campuses and on both we’re located in or near the library.
    7. Yes, this is something we do more and more of now. We use posters across campus, information screens, hand-outs, take part in the welcoming of new students etc. We have also written an article in the Student Union magazine (where we’ll also try to get some ads). We’re also in the initial stages of social media presence.
    8. A vast majority of our consultations are face-to-face, but we have also had some (successful) sessions using Skype when students have been far away from campus.

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