Research from the Writing Center

The Wittenberg Writing Center is not only a place for students to come and experiment and revise their writing. It is also a place for the advisors to conduct research. Over the past few years, the advisors have presented dozens of times at regional and national conferences, and written a few articles. In their research, they have studied the effect of gender on writing center sessions; the use of improvisational exercises on advisor training; the impact of a writing fellows' program on student writing; the use of motivational scaffolding on writers' revisions; and many more issues. See below for a list of some of what the advisors have accomplished over the years (and see where they've traveled).

Spring 2021, 18.2

"I Believe This is What You Were Trying to Get Across Here": The Effectiveness of Asynchronous eTutoring Comments
Courtney Buck, Emily Nolan, and Jamie Spallino

This article discusses our work examining asynchronous eTutoring comments and how we determined whether tutor comments on papers submitted to our writing center were effective. Drawing from the fields of writing center theory, education, and rhetoric and composition, we define effectiveness as a combination of revision and improvement factors (Faigley and Witte; Stay; Bowden). Data collected consisted of initial and subsequent drafts of student papers submitted for eTutoring sessions, including the comments a tutor made on each paper. We categorized the comments and corresponding revisions to answer the following questions: which types of comments result in the greatest number of revision changes? And, do those comments, according to our definition, align with the types of comments we find to be the most effective? We found that frequency and effectiveness were not the only factors in determining a comment’s importance. We emphasize the necessity of instruction and scaffolding in tutor comments to potentially increase their effectiveness and student understanding.

Southeastern Writing Center Association
Virtual: February 2021

Isabella Fiorito

Are your abilities as a writer determined by your financial status? This presentation explores the topic of socioeconomic identity in the writing center: the rising number of working-class and low-income students in college settings and how the writing center must transform and adapt to accommodate this growing demographic. It examines prior research on the subject, addresses its limitations, and suggests where to go from here.

Composition Studies
Spring 2020, 48.1

"Inexperience and Innovation"
Courtney Buck, Emily Nolan, and Jamie Spallino

An overview of the collaborative experiences of the authors during their FYRA research in the Writing Center.

Celebration of Learning
Wittenberg University
May 2020

"The Write Stuff: A Writing Center Survey"
Mallory Austin, Isabel Travis, Hailey Zimmerman

The purpose of the Writing Center research project is to gather responses that allow us to understand those who utilize the Writing Center opposed to those who do not. This work builds upon recent research pertaining to scholars such as Salem (2016) who analyzed who did and did not use the writing center at Temple University.The goal was to gather responses from a variety of stakeholders (faculty and students) to better understand the experiences and values each individual sees in the Writing Center. The survey data will be used to evaluate what can be done within the Center so future visitors are better assisted. This will in turn allow advisors to adapt to any discoveries and in theory create a space that students desire to utilize.

IWCA-NCPTW Joint Conference
Columbus, OH
October 16-19, 2019

"My, What a Lovely Presentation": The Art of Complimenting
Rinn Ramcke

This presentation will study the art of the compliment, considering particularly how praise and compliments in a writing center relate to unconditional positive regard, from humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers. The session will draw from a study that examined several dozen writing center sessions over a ten-year period, noting how often praise was used in each, and how that use related to the type of session (face-to-face or email), the sex of the tutor, and the experience of the tutor.

"The Art of Undergraduate Research: Lessons and Results from a First Year Research Program"
Emily Nolan, Jamie Spallino, Courtney Buck, Katie Zebell

Given how much there is to learn as a writing center tutor, it would be ideal to have students thinking about writing center work from their first days on campus. At our school, a small liberal-arts college, we have initiated a First Year Research Award (FYRA) that allows students to do just that: they conduct a research project in their first year, before coming into the Writing Center as tutors. This presentation will give an overview of the (cost-effective) program and then present the research completed by the first two FYRA groups.>

East Central Writing Centers Association Conference
Dayton, OH
April 4-6, 2019

Look Out Below!: The Effectiveness of Email Comments
Courtney Buck, Emily Nolan, Jamie Spallino

One goal of writing centers is to improve student writing, but we often don’t have a paper trail of the results of a session. However, email tutoring allows a record of first drafts, comments, and revisions if a student resubmits their paper. Our research is designed to tap into the potential of this record to study the overall effectiveness of email comments. In this presentation, we will discuss our work examining asynchronous email tutoring and how we determined whether tutor comments on papers emailed to our writing center were effective. In our research, we utilized papers that were submitted twice to the Writing Center, categorizing the tutor comments made on the first draft and the respective changes on the second draft using the taxonomy created by Witte and Faigley (1981). We used the taxonomy and “improvement ratio” of Stay (1983) to gauge draft improvement: how do writers respond to tutors’ comments and do papers improve overall? By examining the changes made (or not made), we can determine the comments’ effectiveness and which tutoring strategies elicit effective revisions. Our research is especially relevant to any writing center engaged in email (and face-to-face) conferencing. Ideally our study can educate writing center directors and tutors and encourage them to implement our findings in their centers, allowing writers to take flight.

National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing
South Padre Island, TX
November 1-4, 2018

Lowering Barriers: Understanding Writers’ Resistance to Feedback
Jenn Ryan and Mike Mattison (with Julia Bleakney, Elon University)

Writing center clients tend to be more open to feedback; however, they can sometimes be resistant to changing aspects of their paper or to discussing such change. This presentation details a collaboration between two writing centers helping tutors-in-training appreciate writer resistance to feedback and developing strategies to mitigate that resistance. The presenters review results of their study that includes analyses of pre- and post-reflections, plans the students made to revise their essays, and interviews that gauged their experiences and perspectives.

East Central Writing Centers Association Conference
Columbus, Ohio
March 23-25, 2018

Tutor Training Touch Ups
Clay Waidelich

The Failings of Directive and Nondirective Etymology: Rhetorical and Textual Analysis
Tyler Begg, Kailey Mau and Libby Bauman

Moments of Motivation
Katie Zebell and Mike Mattison

International Writing Centers Association Conference
Chicago, Illinois
November 10-13, 2017

Dominant Agents Meet Warm Writers: Personality Types in the Center
Zoey Wilson

Over the last several decades, writing center theorist have turned to personality psychology to address this call for more standardized measurements of consultation effectiveness. Yet, there is little to no empirical research to support our assumptions about such relationships—do gregarious advisors provide the most successful sessions? Do ambitious ones? And what do we mean by gregarious and ambitious? And if we find this evidence, what does this mean for writing center hiring practices? This presentation systematically investigates interpersonal characteristics of writing advisors at Wittenberg University, and attempts to correlate these characteristics with evaluations from freshman English students.

Eavesdropping: A Workshop on Listening
Anissa Dann, Mike Mattison

Shhhh! Be quiet; we’re listening. Or rather, we’re considering how can we encourage and promote active listening in our writing centers. Participants will study some of the recent research on listening inside and outside of writing centers (e.g. Ratcliffe 1999, Santa 2016) and then construct a spy kit of games and activities that can be utilized to further tutors’ (and directors’) abilities to listen carefully and closely to writers. The workshop will be a hands-on, ears-open interactive session.

Sleuthing and Code-Breaking in Tutor Recruitment and Interview Practices
Mike Mattison (with colleagues from Notre Dame, VMI, Coe College, Southeastern University, and WSU-Pullman)

Shhhh! Be quiet; we’re listening. Or rather, we’re considering how can we encourage and promote active listening in our writing centers. Participants will study some of the recent research on listening inside and outside of writing centers (e.g. Ratcliffe 1999, Santa 2016) and then construct a spy kit of games and activities that can be utilized to further tutors’ (and directors’) abilities to listen carefully and closely to writers. The workshop will be a hands-on, ears-open interactive session.

National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing
Hempstead, New York
October 13-15, 2017

It's Up to You: Practicing the Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback
Ryan Probst, Shane Harris, and Jenn Ryan (and colleagues from Elon University)

Of the strategies writing center tutors use to engage students in their writing, providing direct feedback is one of the most useful and the most challenging. This presentation describes an exchange between two writing centers designed to prepare tutors to deliver written feedback. What were our experiences like as readers, responders, recipients, and writers? What did we learn about receiving feedback and responding to writing that we have incorporated into our work as tutors?

National Conference on Undergraduate Research
Memphis, Tennessee
April 3-5, 2017

An Analysis of the Writing Center Grand Narrative: How Diverse Institutions Have Expanded
Sophie Hulen

The purpose of this thesis research is to provide primary source material for my final project, which examines the ways that writing centers in differently made-up institutions follow and diverge from the writing center grand narrative. This narrative has been a part of writing center pedagogy for several decades, and it shapes the understandings of people who work in writing centers. As part of a community, we strive to find similarities and common ground with which we can build our history and identity, but it is also possible that these similarities, forged by the grand narrative, can erase some of our differences (McKinney). In my senior thesis, I hope to examine the ways that writing centers have conformed to this narrative, and ways they have diversified based on their own unique backgrounds. I do not believe that this grand narrative can be erased - nor should it be - but I do think it is important to examine our individual stories as well. In this project, I hope to examine writing center identity, special function, and the roles and functions of the writing center advisor. The four institutions I will visit are different in many ways, but I will specifically focus on size and gender make-up.

Interpersonal Styles and Writing Centers
Zoey Wilson

Since writing centers became a feature on college campuses in the 1970s, directors and advisors have attempted to understand what interpersonal styles of an advisor works best with a given writer. Yet, there is little to no empirical research to support given writing center assumptions, like the common trend toward a non-directive approach. This honors research thesis explores and systematically evaluates how interpersonal styles of both a writer and advisor effect the perceived outcome both parties have on a writing center session. For this research, I gathered information on the different personality types of both advisors and writers, seeing how they came together and produced either a successful or unsuccessful interaction. To measure these responses, participants (students from English 101 and writing center advisors of 18 years or older) completed a version of the Interpersonal Circumplex (IPC) for personality differences. Later, after completion of the writing center session, participants were sent an evaluation questionnaire to assess the successfulness of their interaction. Some sessions will be recorded for descriptive data collection. As has been suggested in previous research on the IPC by Fournier et al. (2011), I hypothesize that complementary personality types will produce more perceived successful interactions among writing advisors and writers.

The Failings of Directive and Nondirective Etimology
Tyler Begg

Jeff Brooks's work focuses on the nondirective approach to tutoring, which entails helping writers learn to better their writing through a hands off approach. Advisors accomplish this by asking the student more questions that will eventually lead to the answer to their question. However, there are many flaws to this method including the fact that this method only functions under the assumptions that students actually know the answer to their own questions, a student's work is not important in sessions, and this method can be applied to any situation. Yet these assumptions are not always met, so this tutoring method does not hold up in writing centers. Linda Shamoon and Deborah Burns push the directive approach to tutoring. This approach focuses on giving students answers to specific errors, encouraging students to extrapolate these principles to future works. Yet, there are flaws to this ideology, such as that not all students will use these newfound principles in their work, students have to have a paper to receive help from the writing center, and this method cannot be applied to all situations. Because these flaws run rampant in writing centers and the directive approach to tutoring often carries a negative connotation, new terminology should be utilized to alleviate these issues. Peter Carino's demonstrates why this terminology is important. Carino talks about the importance of remaining on a spectrum, rather than being at either of the polar points previously stated. Therefore, to be effective tutors, we should strive to find a balance between these two ideologies; however, this is not always easy, particularly when the methods are not inclusive to all situations. One may think that getting rid of the terminology would solve the problem, yet the fact of the matter is that if there are no polar opposites there is no middle.

East Central Writing Centers Association Conference
Dowagiac, Michigan
March 23-25, 2017

Reconstructing the Writing Center Grand Narrative: Embracing Sex Politics and Demanding Our Worth
Sophie Hulen

This presentation will address how the way in which we frame what Writing Centers do and, more importantly, what we choose to leave out of that frame, impacts how we perceive our own value and how our value is perceived by others. The construction of our perceived value contributes to the oppression of writing centers within the Academy. Presenter will address a correlation between women, Liberal Arts Majors, and Writing Centers in that each operates within the feminization narrative and discuss how, though, the feminization narrative shapes perceptions of the Center and codes Writing Center professionals as inferior, its feminity functions as a strength within the patriarchal and product-driven Academy. By embracing our sex politics and ceasing self-deprecating rhetoric, the Writing Center can break the cycle caused by the current Writing Center grand narrative and come to a place where it can demand the value it is worth

Connecting Tutor to Tutor: (Relation)Ship Building in the Center
Meaghan Summers and Maria Symons

In our Writing Center at Wittenberg, a small liberal arts college, tutor relationships propel the success of the Center, and are the heart of the welcoming and comfortable environment. We believe tutors' capabilities should complement each other, inspire innovation, and increase morale, and this presentation will provide ideas and suggestions for increasing a sense of community for tutors.

Lighter Loads: Anchoring Writers in an Ocean of Academic Pressure
Vivian Overholt and Amanda Wampler

The "publish or die" mentality that dominates academia today impacts not only the professors struggling to manage full teaching loads and multiple research avenues, but also trickles into the university classroom. This atmosphere affects academic writing and expectations for writing. As writing centers, what role do we play in all of this? Should we take the light-hearted side, helping students lower their stress levels and take a little bit of the pressure off their work? This could be dangerous, as humor is risky - but a center without laughter also seems like a risk (Sherwood, 1993). However, humor is not the only way to alleviate pressure. A humane approach that helps students "re-center" themselves while still becoming better writers seems ideal. So what is the balance and how do we find it? This roundtable will allow participants to address/examine that question, considering the affective and academic aspects of writing center work.

Rising Tides, Making Strides: Crafting a Hiring Process That Prioritizes Diversity
Madelyn DeVore

Hiring a diverse writing center staff creates a more universally accessible writing center. Hiring writing advisors with (for example) varied cultural identities and experience with different languages and dialects subsequently allows us to better help writers from similarly diverse backgrounds. This roundtable will demonstrate the efforts the presenter's writing center has made to appeal to different campus demographics - specifically, the steps its hiring committee took in the past semester to encourage diverse applicant to apply. There will also be open discussion for everyone to share their own experiences in crafting more inclusive application and interview processes.

Blinded by the Light: The Curse of Knowledge in Writing Center Sessions
Colin Payton '13

Writing advisors face an odd conundrum: on grammar and composition strategies, we often strive to be experts, but on writers' essay topics, we are often ignorant. Math? Sciences? Economics? We see these fields in the center. Our ignorance, however, has value to writers: we represent the general reader and the public audience. A common issue within academic writing is what Steven Pinker calls “the curse of knowledge," or when writers happen to be fluent in a topic and cannot imagine what it is like not to know it. In the academy, this curse can go unnoticed as professors speak/impart the same argot (specialized language) to their students. But students graduate. Students become convoluted email-senders, fine-print giveaway composers, incomprehensible pundits, and you-called-my-cold-a-what? medical professionals.? Let writing centers no longer be blinded by the lights our writers shine - maybe they are barreling towards every car behind us with their high-beams on.

National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing
Tacoma, Washington
November 3-6, 2016

A Bigger Table: Group Sessions in the Writing Center
Meaghan Summers and Maria Symons

We are researching group writing center sessions (i.e. two or more writers led by one writing center advisor). We will be conduct our research using surveys and interviews. We hope to uncover the benefit(s) of having multiple writers in a session and to find the best way to manage group sessions in the space of a writing center.

Don't Sign Me Up for Email: Are Email Sessions Exclusive?
Libby Bauman

Email sessions allow advisors to communicate through writing, and they eliminate some of the anxieties of face-to-face sessions, so it would seem that every advisor would enjoy them. However, although every advisor in our writing center may choose to conduct them, some do not. What elements of email sessions might drive advisors away? Do some advisors feel excluded by them? Do any writers feel excluded by them, as well?

A "Swampy Lowlands" ExplorationTeam: Redefining Success and Celebrating Its Diversity in the Writing Center
Amanda Wampler

Sometimes, tutoring is like strolling with writers through a garden, trimming hedges along the way and stopping to smell the roses. Other times, tutoring is more like putting on waders on the edge of a swampy lowland and exploring the wilderness waist-­deep. Using Schön's (1983) theory of critical reflection and sharing her personal experiences, the presenter will invite everyone involved with writing centers to see themselves as members of a swampy lowlands exploration team.

Being an ivory-billed woodpecker in a flock of crows: The specialist vs. generalist dilemma
Anna Aylor

This presentation will address generalist vs. specialist tutoring in a small Midwestern university Writing Center. The focus will be on biology advisors and writers in this specific Writing Center. It will add to the conversation by looking at what biology professors prefer, what writers prefer, and how biology advisors approach sessions when they are the specialist as opposed to when they are the generalist.

From Kirk to Janeway: Celebrating Tutor Individuality Through the Lens of Star Trek
Madelyn DeVore

This presentation seeks to create a "personality quiz" wherein tutors can learn which Star Trek captain they most resemble. The actual purpose of this quiz is to celebrate the unique style of every tutor, and to not sacrifice that individuality for the sake of being a flexible tutor. We believe that a balance can be struck between being prepared for all sessions and having a preferred methodology.

East Central Writing Center Association Conference
Alliance, Ohio--University of Mount Union
March 4-5, 2016

Consulting and Teaching: Drawing the Line
Courtney Rae Long

This presentation will examine the line between teacher and student, as well as consider what it means to be a teaching candidate while also a writing advisor. In both roles, one must be literate in ways that James Gee (1998) describes - thinking, talking, and behaving. One approach found in education literature that can prove helpful in the writing center is the LAFF strategy - a method of listening and relating to others.

National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing
Salt Lake City, Utah
November 5-8, 2015

Breaking Bubbles: Building Better Bridges to the Broader Community
Zoey Wilson and Vivian Overholt

In our writing center, we have tested and rejected the assumption that the writing center exists as a fix-it shop. However, we have not yet tested the assumption that writing centers cannot be involved in community service without over extending themselves. This presentation will explore our center's involvement with a middle school, a high school, and a prison in a quest to understand what it means to be a center engaged in service.

Vivian received a Burkean Parlor Grant for this conference, one of four awarded nationally.

Assumption Junction: What's a Writing Center Course's Function?
Emily Rayens and Mike Mattison

This presentation gives voice to incoming writing center staff as they undergo what Kail (2003) termed "a powerful and transforming rite of educational passage," a writing center training course. Do they believe they have grown as writers, as tutors, or in thinking about interactions with writers and texts? How did they grow? Relying on both video and written interviews, the session will highlight the thoughts of those most affected by writing center education: the tutors.

Emily received a registration grant for this conference, one of ten awarded nationally.

East Central Writing Centers Association Conference
South Bend, Indiana (Notre Dame University)
April 10-11, 2015

Stealing Flow: The Ethical Approach to Optimal Experience
Maggie Kramer

Richard Leahy (1995) has described "flow" for the writer as the opposite of writer's block- a state in which the writer feels challenged and engrossed but also in control and pleased with his or her progress. As writers, many of us can identify with this state at different stages of our writing process. Similarly, as writing advisors, we can probably identify with this feeling within sessions. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the author who coined the term "flow," also calls it the "optimal experience." How, then, do we ethically enter the "flow" state? This presentation will look to address that question and examine the ethical and unethical entrances into "flow" such that we can produce the optimal session for ourselves and the writer.

Eth(nopoet)ic Notation: Negotiating Identity through Rhythm and Rhyme
Anna Aylor, Madelyn DeVore, Karina Kowalski, Kailey Mau, Mike Mattison

This workshop will allow participants to consider our writing center work through the practice of ethnopoetic notation. Participants will have the opportunity to take samples of writing center transcripts and turn them into poetry. We will draw upon our aesthetic sensibilities to create line breaks and spacing, to play with capitalization and punctuation, to reorder and revise as we think best. Then, in small groups, we will consider the poems and what they might say about the exchange between writer and advisor. And, the whole group will consider what such work might tell us about our conversations with writers overall.

The National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing
Orlando, FL
October 30-November 1, 2014

Sh(r)edding Gender Roles in the Center: From Snow White to Rapunzel
Anna Moore and Emily Rayens

How do Disney princesses connect with writing center advisors? This session will examine the gender roles in our writing center by analyzing our sessions (talk time and body position) and through a tutor survey. We want to know whether our advisors are more like Rapunzel, taking charge of situations but still remaining helpful, or like Snow White, quietly accepting the student's authority as the writer and taking a more nondirective approach.

The Architecture of Insight: (Un)Wonderful Conversations
Meaghan Summers and Mike Mattison

This session considers the "who" or "aha" moments that have been recorded at one center over the past five years. When do writers make judgments and how do they make them? When do tutors? The goal is not to articulate a pattern of verbal moves that would lead to such a moment, but rather to notice them as they happen and examine the linguistic architecture at these sites.

The National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing
Tampa, FL
Nov. 1-3, 2013

Branding the Writing Center: How Tutor and Tutee Identities on Campus Affect a Writing Center's Image
Rebecca Petrilli

Sessions with tutees are an important part of Writing Center work; another important aspect of Writing Center work is the image that individual tutors portray when not in the center. How can this be used as a way to create a more positive image of a Writing Center on campus?

Rebecca received a national grant (registration) for this conference.

A Voice for the Masses, A Voice for the Self: Conversations of Style in Writing Centers
Elizabeth Boyer

This presentation will discuss how to alleviate the tensions that accompany the desire to fit into an academic setting while also developing an element to writing that feels unique. This presentation will also feature writing samples that showcase a spectrum of styles, and a discussion on those various styles will focus on what elements make a style what it is.

The Midwest Writing Centers Association Conference
Chicago, IL
Oct. 17-19th, 2013

Putting the "L" Back in the Liberal Arts
Sean McCullough

One of the enduring concerns for writing center staffs is that of disciplinary writing: how do we address the gap between different styles of writing? Inter-disciplinary relations among writing tutors and students has been a difficult topic of conversation for many years. There have been many approaches to bridging this gap, arguments about generalist and specialist tutors. Should we have tutors who can talk about any topic? Should we have tutors who specialize in a particular discipline?

The National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing
Chicago, IL
Nov. 2-4, 2012

Dressing Up, Stripping Down: The Bare Essentials of a Writing Center Session and How to Tailor Your Tutoring Style for Each Writer
Rebecca Petrilli and Adrienne Stout

This hands-on workshop asks tutors to consider their own tutoring style. Shows such as What
Not to Wear look to match a person's individual sense of style and body shape with clothing and outfits that present the best appearance. How can we do the same with our advising?

Scribes and Scribblers: A Shift in Tutor Identity
Kelsey Mazur and Rebecca Price

This workshop will ask participants to consider the roles of scribe and scribbler in a writing center session. How and when can we transcribe a writer's words in helpful ways? How and when can we turn to drawings and diagrams to explain ideas and further writing? How do we do both effectively?

The Proof is in the Writing: Searching for our Effectiveness as Tutors
Devoni Murphy

What is a tutor's impact upon a student's writing? That question lies at the heart of our work, and in this presentation we will examine consecutive drafts of a student's paper - before and after writing center sessions - and note how the revisions made reflect the conversations between writer and tutor.

Becoming a Hybrid Advisor: How Writing Fellows Negotiate the Literal and Liminal Space between Advisor and Professor
Leigh Hastings

The presenter will draw on three semesters of experience as a writing fellow for English 101 courses to explore how an advisor's role shifts between what Soliday (1995) terms "teacherly and tutorly" identities within different classrooms and how these roles can redefine what it means to be a writing advisor.

East Central Writing Centers Association Conference
Indianapolis, IN
March 3-5th, 2012

Bogeymen in the Writing Center: Facing Writers' Fears Using Competencies from Other Resource Centers
Tyler Hall, Jordan Hildebrandt, Rebecca Price

What's that hiding under the bed? Monsters? Ghosts? A Paper Assignment? Oftentimes, writers enter our centers with anxieties and uncertainties that may not be immediately discernible from across the table. They may lack confidence in their basic grammar skills. They might be unsure of their own abilities to form a logical argument. Or they wonder, "Why am I writing this paper again? What's the point?" As three advisors who work in Wittenberg University's four major academic resource centers, we bring unique insights into how our speaking, mathematics, and foreign language practices connect with tutoring the written word. Participants will have a chance to share their own "ghost stories" about writing as well as discuss options for confronting fears about writing.

Collaborating with Constant Chaos: Evaluating the Effects of Disorder in the Writing Center
Leigh Hastings and Kali Almdale

Each factor of a writing center session contributes a degree of chaos, and balancing these contributions determines the effectiveness of writing center work. This presentation will focus on the relationship between chaos and productivity, giving the audience an opportunity to hear recorded sessions and explore how chaos affects work in the center.

(Just Like) Starting Over (and Over Again): Relationships in the Writing Center
Colin Payton, Kelsey Mazur

Many sessions in a writing center offer a chance for a new beginning - a writer and advisor meet for the first time. Yet these meetings are often highly charged. The two parties need to sum each other up, and decisions and judgments are made in the blink of an eye, or with what Malcolm Gladwell might call "rapid cognition." But then again, are first impressions everything? This panel examines how we initially form (or don't form) our relationships with writers, and to what extent those relationships can be changed or manipulated throughout the rest of our time together.

The National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing
Miami, FL
Nov. 3-6, 2011

Navigating the Bermuda Triangle: How the Voices of the Student, Advisor, and Professor Set the Course of a Writing Center Session
Devoni Murphy, Leigh Hastings, Catie Stipe

Although the writer and the advisor play the main roles in writing center sessions, the professor often maintains an invisible presence that guides the session and its goals. This presentation will consider how the professor's presence, what Auten and Pasterkiewicz (2007) call "the third voice," influences the work done in sessions. The presenters will explore the role of the advisor as a mediator/interpreter and will examine the ways in which the professor's voice affects one-time sessions as well as how the voice might change when a writer visits multiple times.

Using their own experience with recurring sessions and their experience as writing fellows in the spring semester of 2011, the presenters will analyze how the professor's voice, both written and verbal, impacts the relationship between writer and advisor as well as the relationship between the advisor and professor. In addition, they will examine the professor's role in assigning grades and question whether these grades should serve as a reflection of the work accomplished in a writing center session. Participants will have a chance to read, decipher, and interpret professors' written comments and judge for themselves how such comments might map the course of a writing center session.

Two of these advisors - Catie Stipe and Leigh Hastings - received travel awards from the national organization, and another - Devoni Murphy - received a Burkean Parlor Grant, given to only four students from around the country.

A Mathematician Reads the Paper
Jordan Hildebrandt

"Does this make sense?" Without logic, no. Thus, building a persuasive logical argument is fundamental to communication.  Understanding the discipline of mathematics, the root of logic, will therefore aid in constructing those arguments. And that is what writing center advisors can gain from their math-workshop-tutor peers - a more thorough comprehension of what functions logically in both writing and advising.

Nonfiction essays with logical coherence demonstrate greater proficiency with the subject matter.  Anybody with a pen can make brash generalizations - and 75% of the time these completely unfounded claims are strung together in a horrendous non sequitur that leaves the audience confused and turnip. But it is not just expository writing that benefits from a more mathematical approach. Notably, in "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses," Mark Twain rails on Cooper's disregard of detail, observing how a stream in "The Deerslayer" appears to conveniently change dimensions. While novelists speak of the "temporary suspension of disbelief," a story is still less credible if too many logical fallacies and inconsistencies are present.

Ergo, writing center advisors can profit from some of the strategies used in math workshops, though the fields are traditionally partitioned. This presentation will show how one math tutor has imported his logic into writing center sessions.

East Central Writing Centers Association Conference
Western Michigan University Writing Center
Kalamazoo, MI
March 3-5th, 2011

Two Centers, One Goal: Advising in the Written and Spoken Word
Tyler Hall

Drawing in part from the recent work of Sheridan and Inman (2010), this session will analyze the work and roles of a writing advisor and a speaking consultant alongside one another.  What differences are there between working with the media of each sector (i.e., sitting around a paper versus looking over a PowerPoint slide show)? What interactional nuances identify each setting (multiple advisors in common room vs. one advisor for a conference room)? What concerns typically surface in each type of session? What range of projects is brought in to each environment? These elements and more will be explored as they differ between advising students in their writing and speaking assignments

Ready? Using Our First Sessions for Self-Assessment
Rebecca Price

There's a first time for everything. Whether it's your first day of school or your first time leaving home for college, you'll keep that first time in your memories forever. When I put holding my first session in a writing center next to these life-altering events, it may seem to be of little significance. However, this moment was indeed important to me: So many things I had learned about advising, so many things I had practiced snapped into place. I really understood what it meant to be an advisor. And, this first session has served as a means of assessing my future sessions. What worked well? What do I wish I had changed? This session will reflect on that first conversation and consider how it can serve as a measuring stick for others; the audience members will also be encouraged to write their own reflective pieces.

A Fall for Fellows: Creating and Assessing a Writing Fellows Program
Mike Mattison, Tyler Hall, Elizabeth Keri, Laura McLaughlin

In the fall of 2010, the Wittenberg Writing Center instituted a writing fellows program for six sections of English 101. Modeled in part after Tori Haring-Smith's (1992) version of such a program at Brown University, the fellows program at Wittenberg was in part a response to the perceived "bi-modal" nature of the school's incoming class: a mix between students who were reasonably well prepared for college writing and those who were not at all ready. Each writing fellow was expected to meet at least once with every student in the class during the drafting process, but after that first meeting, the program was designed so that each fellow and instructor could fashion the program in a manner that would best meet the needs of the class.

This session will explain and analyze the writing fellows program, detailing the goals we had for at the beginning of the semester and then assessing how well we met those goals. The session will draw on written responses from the participating faculty members and from anonymous surveys from the students in the sections of English 101. Mostly, however, the session will allow the fellows themselves to speak about their experiences.

The Theatrics of the Writing Center
Laura Kay

This workshop will first ask participants to engage in improvisation exercises in order to examine how they might play into writing center work. Being able to "perform" in front of fellow advisors is an important skill to acquire, and would ultimately benefit everyone by creating an environment that is filled with dialogue geared toward helping one another become better at our jobs. Several questions will drive the following conversation: If a writer has stage fright, how does this influence the session as well as the advisor's attitude? Conversely, if an advisor has stage fright, how does that influence the session? How important is rehearsal (i.e. classes, research, preparation) in writing center work? How much does the atmosphere of the writing center influence a writer's performance anxiety, and how much does pressure from professors influence this? Participants in the workshop will get a chance to step onto the stage and then question how such an experience can help them as writing advisors.

As Time Goes On: Working with Writers Again and Again
Catherine Stipe, Leigh Hastings, and Devoni Murphy

One of the most rewarding experiences for an advisor is to note the change in a student's writing; that is what we are working towards every session. So, one of the benefits of recurring sessions with a student is being familiar with her writing and seeing the progress in her work. But, how does the relationship between writer and advisor change when the two meet for several sessions instead of only one? What are the levels of responsibility for each –who decides what to work on? What role does the professor (or her comments) play in such sessions, given the extended time frame? Should we asses these sessions differently than our one-time sessions? This presentation will explore those questions, building upon the experiences of the presenters with recurring sessions.

Students and Space: Athletes and Others Inside and Outside of a Writing Center
Colin Payton and Eric Werner (and Anna DeZarn)

A writing center is about people, not necessarily space. The writing center is, essentially, defined by the advisors who offer consultation regarding writing, and the writers who utilize this help. Students who take initiative to enter a center are able to take advantage of this writing assistance. However, not all students do so, and writing centers sometimes look to move outside of their normal boundaries. This session will focus on particular student populations (such as athletes) and their relationship to the "space" of a writing center consultation.

The International Writing Centers Association Joined Conference with the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing
Baltimore, Maryland
November 4-6, 2010

Foucault Visits the Wittenberg Writing Center: (Mis)perceptions from the Past in Present Contexts
Laura McLaughlin

In our everyday interactions, we often find the present to be informed by the past. For this session, the presenter considers how the past affects the present at the institutional level by conducting a genealogy of her own writing center. Employing a Foucauldian genealogical approach, this session illustrates how the mediating position of a writing center can be both disciplinary and liberating. Finding the Wittenberg Writing Center still haunted by its remedial past, the presenter will demonstrate how current ethical questions - about collaboration, student-advisor relationships and proofreading - are largely begotten from writing centers' shared historical roots, as institutional initiatives to "fix" students who did not fit into the status quo (see for example Boquet 1990 and Lerner 2007). This presentation will also ask participants to consider their own centers' histories through a Foucauldian lens in order to better understand the possibilities that writing centers possess as spaces of learning. An underlying question will guide the session: how can writing centers navigate between the hierarchical linear model of higher education and an alternative context of learning, characterized by collaboration with peers?

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