Karen Gabrielle Johnson is an Associate Professor and Director of the Writing Studio at Shippensburg University. Ted Roggenbuck is an Associate Professor and Director of the Writing and Literacy Engagement Studio at Bloomsburg University.
WLN Blog: This new WLN resource will be very helpful. What is the progenitor of the project?
Karen: The Digital Edited Collection (DEC) developed over a two-year span in response to our call for proposals for a WLN special issue on tutor education. This project began in the spring of 2016 when I responded to an email sent by Mickey Harris through the WCenter listserv. In her email, Mickey invited colleagues to contact her if they were interested in serving as guest editors for a WLN special issue. I conversed electronically with Mickey about the logistics of serving as a guest editor for a special issue on tutor education, noting Mickey’s prediction that this topic might generate a great number of responses that could possibly result in a monograph.
Excited about a tutor education special issue and a possible follow-up project, I contacted Ted Roggenbuck to join me. Ted and I had previously collaborated on several projects, conference presentations, and joint tutor education seminars, so I was hoping he’d agree to join me on this particular project. I’m so glad he did. My natural inclination leans toward collaborative professional projects rather than solitary ventures, and Ted’s energy, fresh perspectives, and organizational skills made the work enjoyable and invigorating.
Mickey was correct; we received an overwhelming number of viable proposals for special issue articles, making the selections for one special issue incredibly difficult. We began to consider two special issues and entertained the idea of a monograph. Yet, when we began to research the possibility of publishing a WLN monograph that laid the groundwork for future monographs to follow, we encountered a number of challenges that included high printing costs and complications in disseminating the monograph. These roadblocks seemed to impede sharing of the exceptional scholarship we found in the proposals we received. But because we believed the authors had such good research, praxis, and resources to share, we felt compelled to identify alternative forms of publication. Through many conversations, informed by our belief that scholarship should be free and available to the public, we decided to pursue an open-access publication that is digitally available and could take advantage of digital affordances. After identifying how such a collection of research could be published, we contacted Richard Hay who graciously offered to support us as we worked to create an online, multimodal publication that offered numerous possibilities for engaging readers, sharing resources, and incorporating visual and audible elements on the WLN website. As we worked with authors, we collectively imagined how to transform largely text-based chapters into multimodal ones. During this process when we realized our technical skills were not sufficient to match our idealized vision for a multimodal publication, we contacted Crystal Conzo, who agreed to become the Design Editor and make our ideas become reality.
WLN Blog: Who are the users you were thinking of who might use the resources of the space?
Ted: Our understanding of that has shifted as the DEC has come together. From the start we wanted to create a resource that could help directors build or reconsider aspects of their tutor education programs and one that could be readily accessed by those outside the US (we’ve received thank you emails from Denmark, Slovakia, and Germany, so far). As the chapters began to take shape, we recognized that in addition to a wealth of resources writing center professionals use in their centers, our authors were offering detailed artifacts that might also provide examples of approaches to research (links to survey instruments or detailed descriptions of data and methods of analysis). As the project evolved, we recognized this might also be valuable for graduate courses or for emerging Writing Center Professionals hitting the job market.
WLN Blog: What’s currently there, and what is planned for this new digital space?
Ted: Our DEC has 18 chapters from more than 30 authors talking about multiple aspects of how to educate tutors. They share the resources they use, artifacts from their center, videos they use in tutor education or when working with writers, their experiences with new initiatives, etc.
It may be too early to talk about future DECs because we’re still fairly early in the process, but there is another one well underway, and third prospective DEC in its beginning stages. So far, our DEC and the other DECs in progress are all coming out of guest-edited special issues. There could be other ways that DECs come about, but we haven’t really discussed what those may be. And Mickey continues to invite anyone interested in guest editing a WLN special issue to contact her to discuss their ideas.
Also available on the “Digital Resources” tab of the WLN website are a series of webinars recorded by Julie Prebel, Sohui Lee, and Elizabeth Kleinfeld that aim at helping writers gain confidence and understand how to approach writing for publication, especially in WLN. Currently there are two such webinars, “Introduction to Publishing in WLN,” and “WCA as Hero: A Scholar’s Journey to Publication.” Both are excellent resources. Julie, Sohui, and Elizabeth are currently working on a third webinar. When it’s ready, they’ll send an invitation to participate live, and will also post the recording on this space. A lot of us get intimidated or overwhelmed at the prospect of publishing, and these webinars are an excellent resource for anyone who might feel that way.
WLN Blog: Are you looking for contributors to the space? What kinds of projects would you like to see?
Ted: Yes. Absolutely. We’re currently not planning to continue to add to our own existing DEC because we conceive of it as a completed online collection. However, we really hope that others will propose to guest-edit special issues of WLN with the understanding that, if they get a healthy response and several viable proposals, rather than having to select only a few of them to develop into articles, they can work with several authors to develop a robust digital collection.
There are so many possibilities for DECs that it’s tough to identify what projects might look like, and we don’t have prescribed areas of focus for DECs. They could focus on working with particular populations of writers, or on particular aspects of writing center work like workshops or Fellows programs, or on particular types of empirical research or theoretical scholarship, or writing center labor, or so many other areas.
For me, the process of working on this DEC has been extremely rewarding, and I encourage anyone who would like to see an area of focus made available to a wide audience to just get started. Reach out to one of the WLN editors to start a conversation about your ideas. That’s exactly how we started.
WLN Blog: The first resource, How We Teach Writing Tutors, was edited by both of you. What can writing center professionals and practitioners find there that will be a help?
Karen: The many chapters, along with their comprehensive content, would require substantial space to adequately describe them; as well, each chapter includes robust research, resources, and practical suggestions for praxis. The best way to describe what is included in the collection is to summarize the themes, research, and praxis:
- Essential theoretical frameworks for designing tutor education programs
- Empirical research studies
- Guidance for getting started as a new Writing Center Director
- Practical strategies for enhancing undergraduate and graduate tutor professionalism
- Tutor education models for undergraduate and graduate programs
- Assessment models, informed by theory, to guide assessment practices for writing center programs and courses
- Practical strategies and resources for ongoing tutor education workshops and activities that include topics such as online tutoring, anti-racism, new media tutoring, and cross-tutor training for writing and speaking centers
Readers can browse short abstracts of chapters on our table of contents page by moving their cursor over the link to the chapter. These brief descriptions of chapters can help readers find what fits their interest and needs.
WLN Blog: Because the WLN blog focuses on breaking down borders (metaphorical and geographical), the voices in this space are mainly from the US–any plans to reach out to other writing centre practitioners outside the US for content and participation?
Karen: We invite international voices to propose special editions, which have the potential to become DECs. Issues and concerns affecting international writing centers are important to the writing center community at large and need to be shared in a multimodal, accessible form. By taking advantage of these affordances, such scholarship can help international writing centers share pedagogy, theory, and praxis, ultimately building communities of practice and conceptual foundations. We are always ready to work with individuals to help them through the proposal and development process. When we started the process that led to our DEC, we had misgivings and concerns, but the editors were available and supportive throughout, which was essential for us. We hope to be able to offer similar support for others, whoever they are or wherever they may be starting from.
WLN Blog: Why is it important that this is open access?
Karen: My interactions with the international writing center community and directors with limited budgets have impacted my beliefs about the costs professionals incur to obtain scholarly research and practical strategies for improving our professional work. When possible (obviously, costs for print publications will limit publishers’ ability to provide free materials), we believe that such knowledge should be cost-free and accessible to all. Digital publications can offer open-access when housed on organizational websites that agree to support the free dissemination of knowledge. We are fortunate to have Richard Hay at WLN and the WAC Clearinghouse support these publications by hosting the DEC on their websites, ensuring stabilized access for this DEC and future ones. Finally, digitized open-access publications offer more opportunities for sharing information because resources can be embedded within a publication, and authors can be easily contacted through the email addresses provided at the end of each chapter. Through these open-access sites, we hope to encourage communication between readers and authors, which could result in continued learning and research opportunities that have the potential to extend beyond each DEC.
WLB blog: Thanks for this. This resource will be a great help to so many!
Karen and Ted: Thank you. And thank you for giving us the opportunity to share how this DEC developed and what it has to offer! We have learned so much from working with the authors and are implementing some of their strategies and resources into our own centers. We believe that others in the writing center community will also find value in this resource for their own centers.