Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) and Writing in the Disciplines (WID) work often coincides with the work of writing center staffers. WAC is field within composition studies that addresses the needs of writing in courses outside of the traditional composition curriculum. WID is the study of how writing is done in various fields within the academy. In this month’s “Dear CWCAB,” I’ll share resources and better practices for tutor training and collaborations in WAC and WID.
WAC/WID work can be intimidating for writing center staffers; no one can be an expert on the writing conventions, expectations, and practices of every field within the academy. My first long-term tutoring assignment was with a PhD student in Microbiology. I was finishing my Master’s degree in English. I wasn’t sure I could help him.
In our first appointment, we set a schedule for how we would work through his dissertation over three summer months of once per week appointments. I knew how to set a schedule. In Week 2, though, I was down right scared to see him come back. After he read the first few paragraphs of his introduction to me so that I could understand the style better, I was honest with him and started asking questions.
- What is your main argument?
- What are your supporting arguments?
- Is your dissertation intended for an academic audience who knows all of the terms, vocabulary, and jargon you are using?
- What are your program’s expectations around organization?
- Do you have a list of program expectations, and if so, will you share it with me?
- Can we spend today talking about all of this … and reverse outlining?
For months after–at every session, my client would say how much this conversation helped him. By explaining to me what the expectations were and what he thought he was accomplishing, he was able to reevaluate what he knew and what he needed to learn. I gained confidence; he gained a better understanding.
I hope I also helped him with the writing (he thanked me in his acknowledgements!), but I know that this conversation ABOUT WRITING was equally important to the work we did within his writing. That’s the value of a writing center. Our strengths are in our training, our conversation, and our ability to ask questions.
Sometimes situations where a tutor is unfamiliar with the disciplinary conventions doesn’t go as well. I was lucky to work with a mature writer who chose to come to the center and who wanted help. However, confidence in yourself as a tutor can help, and we can build the self-confidence of our staffers by providing resources and training in WAC/WID. Below is a list of the most common strategies and some helpful resources.
Most Common Strategies
- Use the WAC Clearinghouse (https://wac.colostate.edu/)! It houses excellent information about writing strategies across disciplines and specifically includes work within writing and learning centers. (See multimedia resources list below.)
- Look back to “Dear CWCAB” Question 2 from April 2022. Building partnerships with faculty and staff across disciplines expands your resources from training, to budgeting, to marketing.
- Look back to “Dear CWCAB” Question 1 from March 2022. Tutor training resources often include information on WAC/WID resources.
- Allow your staff from various disciplines to help in professional development opportunities. Who knows better than the people who are doing the work?
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. Many resources exist on HOW writing happens in various disciplines.
- Market to the disciplines. What assignments are happening consistently in disciplines across your campus, organization, or community? Find out, and offer your assistance.
- Share your resources with faculty across campus or members of your community to make sure your advice is accurate!
A CURATED LIST OF RESOURCES
Beth Carroll: ““At our institution, we designed a professional development activity for our consultants/tutors to help them learn about unfamiliar WID genres and conventions. We asked them to research writing in a particular discipline/major/field of study that’s unfamiliar to them, and then, based on what they learned, to create a resource for novice writers in that discipline. Then we shared that draft with our WAC staff and with a WID teacher in that field, who offered suggestions for revision. Once a draft was finalized, we put that resource on our website. We now have 60+ of these short disciplinary Writing About Guidelines (WAGs) for majors and disciplines across campus. Now, when our consultants work with someone in an unfamiliar discipline, they use these guides in their tutoring sessions. What started as a professional development activity has become a set of resources for tutoring. I would think this could be adapted for any institutional setting.”
WCenter Searchable Archives
- Writing Centers And Writing Across The Curriculum Programs. Robert W. Barnett and Jacob S. Blummer. 1999.
The Book Chapters
- “Can the Writing Center Be a Liberatory Center When It’s Also a WAC Center?” Kathy Evertz, The Writing Lab Newsletter. 23.5 (1999). 1-4.
- “Dealing with Multimodal Assignments in Writing Centers.” Arlene Archer. Writing Lab Newsletter 35.9-10, 10-13.
- “Online Tutoring: A Symbiotic Relationship With Writing Across The Curriculum Initiatives.” Judy Arzt, Kristine E. Barnett, and Jessyka Scoppetta. Across the Disciplines. (2009).
- “Oops!: The Unexpected Effects of a WAC program on the Writing Center.” Nicole Bailey. The Writing Center Journal. (Oct. 10, 2016).
- “Special Issue: Reading.” Ellen C. Carillo. The Writing Lab Newsletter. 41.7-8. (2017).
- “Rethinking the WAC/Writing Center Connection.” Michael A. Pemberton. The Writing Center Journal, 15:2 (SPRING 1995), 116-133
- “Can They Tutor Science? Using Faculty Input, Genre, and WAC-WID to Introduce Tutors to Scientific Realities.” Liberty L. Kohn. Composition Forum, 29 (Spring 2014)
The Multimedia Resources
- IWCA (The International Writing Center Association)
- ACTLA (The Association of Colleges for Tutoring and Learning Assistance)
What Have I Missed? What are concerns in your LOCAL contexts? Where should we be looking? Please share in the comments!
About the Author
Dr. Stacia Moroski-Rigney is the new Director of Accreditation, Program Review, and Assessment at Michigan State University. She is also an affiliate graduate faculty member in Writing, Rhetoric, and Cultures (WRAC). Stacia co-authored The Pop Culture Zone: Writing about Popular Culture (1st ed.), contributed a chapter to COMPbiblio: Leaders and Influences in Composition Theory and Practice, and published articles in WLN and in SDC: A Journal of Multiliteracy and Innovation. She is a former President of SWCA, a former co-chair of the IWCA Summer Institute, and a former writing center administrator at Middle Tennessee State University and Lipscomb University. Stacia also works as a consultant for universities in first-year experience, writing programs, assessment, and writing centers.
About “Dear CWCAB”
We, in the writing center community, come from a variety of academic backgrounds, and the writing we tutor, the tutors who staff our centers, and the faculty who send their students are also from disciplines across the campus, the school, and the community. “Dear CWCAB” provides answers and updates to perennially asked questions. The author searches WCenter archives, journal articles, and Facebook groups and reaches out to “experts” to give brief answers and provide further resources. Over time, we look forward to the blog becoming a clearinghouse, centralizing a curated list of answers and resources for new WC administrators and for those starting new projects.