Consultation as teaching space: lessons learned from the Writing Center

For the last two years, some of my librarian colleagues have served as Writing Center fellows, including completing the semester-long course and apprenticeship and serving as tutors for a year.  Here are some findings from the project thus far:

  • As Writing Center fellow, got to see more assignments, class work, and product
  • Students sign up and fill out form describing details, such as topic, issues they think they have, etc., and tutor sees that
  • Tutors also have access to see other report forms, debrief forms from all previous consults student has had in the Center
  • WConline software used for appointment management and was created by writing centers
  • For students, Writing Center consults are a “Show your work” opportunity
  • For us in the Sciences, the latest edition of the Writing Center’s newsletter notes that 41% of UWC appointments by Major is Science – http://www.jmu.edu/uwc/site_images/newsletter/uwc_mar_apr13.pdf
  • Prof recommendation is highest rate of reason for attending Writing Center, but some spikes in usage after Writing Center tutor comes for in-class presentation
  • Writing 346 class (tutor training course)
    • background theory about tutoring, write, research, revise
    • students have to go in and get tutored
    • apprenticeship to current tutor
    • students do research on their own within this area
    • guest speakers from overlapping services
    • this class does a good job deploying peer leaders and mentors
  • What does the Writing Center think of plagiarism detection tools?
    • Not super useful since they are usually after submission – no time to engage learning
    • Tutors are not seeing the SafeAssign reports come in to consultation sessions
    • Discuss flipping that model of plagiarism detection tool usage, as noted in ILI listserv discussion.  In short, students can use TurnItIn to get feedback, especially since it now offers grammar highlight support, prior to final submission, giving them time to reflect on their writing or consult with a professor or tutor to understand what was wrong
    • Writing studies is doing work on how students use and don’t use sources – something we share co-curricular space/transdisciplinary space
  • Writing Center has done a writing design workshop but they are only getting new faculty – have downloadable 14 point guidelines available on site about this
  • Personal statements and job application essays are some of the more challenging writing assignments, but also more freeing outside of the grading model
  • The Writing Ctr has a lot of writing in groups come for consultations
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