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East Central Writing Centers Association

Fall 2011

East Central Writing Centers Association

Call for Engagement!


Submit content to ECWCA and keep the conversations going. There are many ways to contribute and be heard. ECWCA is a semiannual publication designed to open and extend conversations between people invested in writing center work in our geographic region. Tutors, directors, assistant directors, administrators, tutees, and more are encouraged to engage in the dialogue. Below are just some of the ways you might consider contributing. We look forward to hearing from you all and advancing the work we do.

ECWCA
Fall 2011
ARTICLES
Queer Consulting: Assessing the Degree to which Differences Affect a Writing Consultation

Fall 2011

Writing Center Data: What Do We Need and How Should We Use It?
Diane Boehm, Jacob Blumner, Mary Ann Krajnik Crawford, Sherry Wynn Perdue, and Helen Raica-Klotz
A Writing Center is always about peopletheir words, their thoughts, and their aspirations. To understand our users, to tell our story, and to present our work professionally to colleagues and administrators, however, we also need data. The data we collect and analyze depends on numerous factors: the programs and systems we use to collect the data, the questions we bring to our analysis, and the arguments we wish to make about the quality and quantity of our work. This article compares and contrasts perspectives from four different Michigan universities: Central Michigan University, Saginaw Valley State University, University of Michigan - Flint, and Oakland University. Though our centers have much in common, we also have significant differences in our perspectives, as you will see. Table 1 provides an overview of data collection in our four centers, followed by commentary written by each center. Continued on page 3

Articles

Topics: Issues relevant to writing center work. Length: 1000-2500 words. Style: APA or MLA.

Tutor Voices

Topics: Opinion pieces/reflection pieces relevant to you and your writing center work. Length: 500-750 words.

Regional Announcements Tutor Achievements Director Achievements Calls for Conversation Resources Photographs And More!

Writing Center date: What do we need and how should we use it?

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The Accidental Writing Center: Program Growth through Negotiation and Collaboration Communicating Across Borders: Consulting ESL Students Online To Game or Not to Game: The Affects of Gamifying Our Website Notes of a Fortunate Writing Center Consultant: What My Students with Learning Disabilities Have Taught Me about the Writing Process Assessing Our Success: The 2011 East Central Writing Centers Association Conference

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Center Profiles

Topics: Issues relevant to the operations of your writing center. Can include details about your center and highlight individuals, projects, or other information. Length: Varies.

Send submissions and inquiries to ecwcanewsletter@gmail.com. Submissions are accepted on a rolling basis. Newsletter issues are released in September/October and January/February.

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The deadline for the next newsletter is December 31.

This Issue: A Note from the Editor


ECWCA is a newsletter published for the benefit of its members. Reproduction of its contents is permissible only for use by those writing center professionals in our geographic region. All other reproduction requests should be made via e-mail at ecwcanewsletter@gmail.com. I am thrilled with this current issue of ECWCA. Not only should it begin to express the variety of work going on in our geographic region, it should inspire each of us to find ways to transform the how we conduct our writing center affairs. The pieces in this issue give me reason to pause and consider how data can be collected and used to document Writing Center work but also reveal Writing Center work to do. The pieces make me ask myself how I might see Writing Center spaces as collaborative spaces for personal and group growth and as zones for open dialogue and change. I am taken back to sessions Ive had to reflect on best practices and better practices in the future. And I am encouraged by the dedication directors, tutors, administrators, and community partners have to Writing Center ideas and how these stakeholders reveal their dedication through their work. I hope you will gain something from this issue and find ways to challenge the ideas here or push them to the next level. Dialogues like the ones begun here are essential to our identity and wonderful ways for us to look beyond our individual center walls and at the larger region. I look forward to seeing more of your contributions in the next issue and at our next conference! -Anthony Garrison

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ADDITIONAL CONTENT
A Letter from the President of ECWCA Tutor Voices 2012 ECWCA CFP Regional Announcement Calls for Papers 2 19 23 23 24

The Writing Lab Newsletter


The Writing Lab Newsletter (WLN) is a bi-monthly publication (September to June) for those who work in the tutorial setting of writing labs or centers (or in writing centers within learning centers). Articles focus on writing center theory, administration, and pedagogy. The website, http://writinglabnewsletter.org, contains an open archive of past volumes. Call for Papers: WLN invites articles, reviews of books relevant to writing centers, and revisions of papers presented at regional conferences. We also regularly include a Tutors' Column with essays by and for tutors. Recommended maximum length is 3000 words or less (including the Works Cited) for articles and 1500 words or less for the Tutors' Column. Please use MLA format. All submissions are peer reviewed. Send your manuscripts as attachments via e-mail to submission@writinglabnewsletter.org. For editorial questions, contact Muriel Harris (harrism@purdue.edu), editor, or Michael Mattison (mmattison@wittenberg.edu) or Janet Auten (jauten@american.edu), associate editors. Subscriptions to WLN are U.S.$25 per year for subscriptions mailed in the U.S. and U.S.$30 for subscriptions mailed to Canada. International and digital subscriptions are also available by contacting support@therichco.com. Please order WLN through our Web site: <http://writinglabnewsletter.org/index.html>.

Learning writing center methodology means learning to collaborate with others, not to assume we have all the answers, but to help others find their own; to keep broad goals in mind even as we weave the needs of others into our practice. -Jeanne Smith et al. Kent State University

East Central Writing Centers Association

Fall 2011

Letter from the President of ECWCA Jackie Grutsch McKinney


In my writing classes, I often teach ethnography. What I really like about teaching and doing ethnographies is that ethnography asks us to reconsider what is normal. The idea is for the ethnographer to immerse him or herself into a culture to such a degree that he or she can see (or at least try to see) the world from a different point of view. An ethnographer listens, observes, and participates until an unfamiliar community becomes familiar. When we gather at the ECWCA conference each year, each of us carries intimate knowledge of the writing centers where we work, research, or get writing feedback. Those writing centers are familiar and normal to us. Part of the joy of the annual conference comes by listening, observing, and participating, and thus we learn to see how our own assumptions and practices are not the norm; they are just simply familiar. As with ethnography, these sorts of discoveries at conferences have the potential to be enlightening to us. For that potential to be fulfilled, however, we have to be there and be open to new ideas. Over the years of attending the ECWCA conference, I have consciously tried to set aside my own assumptions of what a writing center is and does in order to really listen. This is easier said than done since conference pace is dizzying and the travel and such make quieting down and being present difficult. Yet, even with the busy-ness of conferences, I am always glad I attended and am surprised how long the ideas planted at conferences stick with me. Even ideas I have no means or intention of implementing in my own context are helpful in how they show me other ways of doing writing center work, for giving me a sense of the broader context in which we work. What I want to underscore is something that you all as writing center scholars, administrators, and practitioners already know: we can learn a lot from another. The annual ECWCA conference is like the tutorial writ large. It is a two-way streetI need you to be there and you need me to be there. Please join me this spring in Indianapolis for the 2012 conference by submitting a proposal (see the Call for Proposals in this newsletter) or simply by attending. Moreover, this very newsletter is another venue where we learn from one another if we all take an active role in it. To that end, share this newsletter with others you know who are interested in writing center issues in the region or submit your ideas to the newsletter editor for consideration (Anthony Garrison: ecwcanewsletter@gmail.com). I look forward to learning from you. Sincerely, Jackie Grutsch McKinney
What I want to underscore is something that you all as writing center scholars, administrators, and practitioners already know: we can learn a lot from another. The annual ECWCA conference is like the tutorial writ large. It is a two-way streetI need you to be there and you need me to be there.

Friday, March 30 - Saturday, March 31 IUPUI Campus

ECWCA Conference 2012

CALL FOR PROPOSALS


Its the End of the World As We Know It: Negotiating Change in a Writing Center Context
The Mayan calendar predicts that the world will end in 2012. Writing center work is full of endings and new beginnings. Sessions end, semesters end, only to be replaced by something new... We invite you to consider some of the ways you cope with change in your writing center. You might consider how you train and integrate new tutors, your experience as a new tutor or administrator, how you set up new spaces/rearrange old spaces, how you implement new policies or adjust existing ones to shifting circumstances, adjust to new administrative demands, try new techniques, tweak old techniques, reinterpret and apply theory, integrate technology, outreach, assessment, etc. The possibilities are endless. Proposals should include a 50-word abstract and a 500-word narrative description that comments as specifically as possible on the role of the presenters, the participation of other attendees, and the contribution the session makes to writing center studies. Proposals will be accepted beginning October 1, 2011. Deadline for proposals is November 14, 2011. Visit ecwca.org for more details.

Meet the Associate Editor

Sri Upadhyay
Sri Upadhyay is a senior majoring in Psychology and English at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. After graduating this spring, she will pursue her Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology and continue working in academia and research. She will complete her Honors thesis titled Incidental Vocabulary Acquisition in College Students and plans to bring the fields of Psychology and English together in research on language acquisition and learning processes, reading, memory, and metacognition. The most inspiring part of the tutoring experience for her is the opportunity to work with many different people on many different projects, and the chance to teach and share her passion for analysis, creativity, and love of the writing process.

Meet the Assistant Editor

Rori Hoatlin
Rori is a recent graduate of Grand Valley State University (2010) in Allendale, MI with a B.A. in Writing. She worked at the Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors for one year. She is currently attending Georgia College & State University (GCSU) to pursue her M.F.A in creative non-fiction. While at GCSU, she will be working in the writing center as Assistant to the Supervisor and reading for GCSUs literary journal Arts & Letters. Being a writing consultant has showed her just how important the words people pen truly are. She loves when she can help students communicate their ideas in the way they want towhen students are able to stop worrying about the micro-level detailsthe spelling, the punctuation, the grammarand start seeing their work in the big picture, then she feels like she has done her job.

5th Annual NEOWCA Conference


Negotiating Identity and Ideology: Writing Centers as Agents of Change Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011 9:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Kent State University at Stark North Canton, OH Register online: http://www.stark.kent.edu/about/neowca.cfm

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East Central Writing Centers Association


even love explaining why I wont edit papers. Q: What advice might you give other advisors? To the new kids on the block: Enthusiasm is your greatest asset. You wont get every situation right the first time, and you certainly wont know every use of the ellipses right off the bat. Heck, I dont know all of them. There might just be one. Who knows (insert scoffing at me being an advisor)? But your attitude in the first few months is essential to smoothly adapting to the ins and outs of center protocol. A warning, though: dont mistake enthusiasm with blind ambition. Listen to everyone and everything you hear about the right way to do things. Next, filter out the egos, the academic, the absurd, and the personal, and then slowly use the things youve learned to develop who you are as a tutor/consultant/advisor/etc. To the battle-worn, overworked, wizened consultants. Take a breath and relax. Youve made it past the infatuation stage with your work. Dont yearn for that zeal the new kids have now; realize the subtle, lasting affection you have for your work which is now tempered with experience. Try something new once in a while, but dont forsake what time has proven worthy of your writers. Dont look down upon different ways of doing things as wrong, unless they are wrong, but as unique. Offer your advice where you see fit, but more useful is developing a rapport with new advisors which is conducive to them wanting to ask you questions unprompted. Q: What do you wish you would have known sooner? There is not a single learning experience that Ive had that I would erase purely for the sake of flashing (climbing term) unknown circumstances the first time through. For me, part of the joy Ive had as an advisor is developing a protean, improvisational, minimalistic, and feminist approach to my advising. An example: I couldnt have figured out most of those words without having not known them at one point, which, in a center, not knowing vocab is a laughable offense. Writers are mostly forgiving, and, odds are, they dont even realize when you are a little too dominant or a little too teachy. But it is getting to the point of seeing the things you dont like in yourself that really leads to true development. Ive fallen in sessions plenty of times, and Im sure I will again falter in the future, but I know it wont be the same things twice. Q: What skills have you acquired, from being an advisor, which you will take with you throughout life? How can I answer? Im going to avoid any sense that Ive mastered anything and list some things Ive learned to appreciate: I can only hope that I maintain a sense of interest in people. I hope I never have so much pride I write off a person simply because they have a question I had to ask once before. Humility is something Ive learned from the center, and Ive still got a long way to go before I ever consider myself humble. I hope I can be as patient as I am in the center. I hope I never forget that the best thing about my college experience was my time spent as a writing advisor. Continued form page 1
Writing Center Data Collection Instruments Data Collection Method(s) (paper/electronic/ combination)
1) 2) Combination: paper and web form data transferred to Excel Student/faculty surveys are via Survey Monkey (electronic) with paper forms available on-site Consultant observations and evaluations are paper notes, then written in WORD Electronic; use campus Learning Management System (VSpace), adapted by SVSU staff for our purposes Paper intake form transferred to electronic Session Record of tutorial sessions Electronic Tutor Evaluation surveys

Fall 2011

Rationale for Method(s)

How Data Are Used

Central Michigan University (CMU)

1) Student Sign-In Sheets (on-site) 2) Student Web form for Online 3) Student Surveys 4) Faculty Surveys 5) Consultant Observation Form 6) Graduate Assistant Evaluations

3)

Emily Standridge
- Ball State University Writing Center. - 5+ years tutoring. - English major.
Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU) 1) SVSU Writing Center Session Record 2) Writing Center Tutor evaluation 1)

The combination of methods gives speed, consistency, and convenience, while allowing us to store, sort, analyze, and report on large amounts of data. It provides good quality control over accuracy of input and immediate access to information but also accommodates multiple sites easily. The interface with the student database provides additional group data that would not be possible via other methods. Advantages: ease of record keeping, ability to sort data easily, speedy updates and changes.

1) Administrative Reports 2) Billing for service 3) Tutor Training 4) Public relations 5) Policy/program development 6) Forecasting, planning 7) Resource allocation 8) Research

2)

During the last three years, I have been a Ball State University tutor and Assistant Director as I worked on my PhD. This has been the most rewarding of all my writing center work because I have gotten to do it all: I work with students at all levels of writing, I work with tutors to improve their tutoring, and I work with faculty to learn the power of writing outside the English Department. This semester, I begin my new job as a full-fledged writing center director at a small school back in East Texas. The pure joy of helping someone as they work on a writing project remains the same after seven years of tutoring. As I approach anyone in the writing center, tutors, students, or faculty, my aim is to work with them to figure out something, anything, that will help them with their current project and will make the next one easier. If I can achieve that, I have been successful. Through this approach, I have learned many things: to tackle one thing at a time, to negotiate with others so both feel satisfied rather than let down, to let people and situations surprise me in the most positive ways. The best advice I can give anyone in the world, but especially those working in writing centers, is to trying things out. There is no single, sure-fire way to make working with other people successful. But in being open to them and in trying new things, you can figure out what works best for you. If you can find that, you will enjoy the work as much as I do.

3)

University of Michigan 1) Flint (UM - Flint) 2) Oakland University (OU)

1) UM-Flint Session Record 2) Student Evaluation 1) Session Log 2) Student Evaluation

1) Paper form transferred to computer 1) Print form from which data is collated into Excel 2) Electronic data from our online scheduler

Paper form is convenient in sessions and digital form is helpful for analysis We want an immediate record of client and consultant perception. We currently dont have a way to collate demographic data with the session log electronically

1) Staffing and hiring decisions 2) Annual Report to administrators (accompanies budget request) and colleagues 3) Program planning 4) Tutor training 5) Research and development of new initiatives (e.g., grantfunded projects, presentations, publications) See SVSU

1) Administrative Reports 2) Needs Assessment 3) Consultant Training 4) Evidence -based research for publications and for grant applications

Table 1: Data collection in our four centers

CMU: A Lesson from History


Its hard for me to imagine a writing center that wouldnt religiously keep usage data these days. Yet, that was exactly the case in 1997/98 when the Writing Center at CMU lost its funding. When I became interim director to finish out the school year, the program showed a budget and almost no evidence of services provided. Questions flew. Consultants were hired, trained, and paid, but who accessed their help? No one really knew. Apparently, some students came once, others returned, but no one knew how often. Did most students come wanting to polish grammar and punctuation, or were sessions focused on developing ideas and fostering critical thinking? Both, some said, but where was the evidence? Did students think sessions were helpful? No one had

asked. The same was true of faculty: only a few even knew the program existed. Thankfully, the CMU Writing Center was awarded a new initiative grant for fall 1998 that revitalized its life. At the heart of that grant was a promise to record and report accurate information about services and to assess the benefits to the students and campus community. The program would need to be accountable to its stakeholders: the dean, the provost, the faculty, the consultants, and, most importantly, the students. We have kept good on that grant promise, and the Center has been growing since. The Center needed to become data conscious if not exactly data driven.

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East Central Writing Centers Association


To me, there is an important difference between being data conscious and being data driven. Being data driven means seeing data as the end, a way of proving worth by doing whats required. To be data conscious means being aware of what kind of data might be available compared to what information is important, for what reasons, to whom, and at what cost. Data can be valuable, but it is never free. Gathering, inputting, sorting, and analyzing data uses resources, which require time and money. Being data conscious means thinking in cost-benefit terms about the bits and pieces of information that we collect as related to the mission of the Center. At the CMU Center, we begin collecting data on paper with sign-in session sheets and logs. These record a great deal of information: who came, for how long, from which class, whether native English speaker or ESL, the stage of a paper, what they want to work on, and, after the session, what actually was worked on. It takes time to input those bits of information to an Excel spreadsheet. Consultants sometimes ask: Isnt there a computer program to do that automatically? Our answer has consistently been: yes, and no. Yes, we know there are computer programs that could automate our data system, but it would increase the problems as well. For example, having four sites on one campus, as we do, would increase the costs and complicate access. Time would be a significant cost factor, but only if students came to every hour offered; our consultants work on data when their appointments dont show up and walk-ins are slow. More importantly, however, we continue collecting data the way we do because we value what we learn through the process. We have international consultants who bring diversity to our Center but who may not be ready to consult with native English speakers; working with the data immerses them in the life of the Center at the same time that they learn American names and the variety of writing issues and concerns that students bring. By cross-checking information, consultants gain an appreciation for accuracy and details. By inputting data, consultants see first-hand who is coming to the Center, from which classes; they begin to see patterns in the kind of issues being discussed and to identify gapswho is not coming, from which classes, about what kind of papers or issues. Consultants are also involved in the process of sorting and analyzing the data and creating the reports that we provide to the dean and that we use to maintain separate service contracts with other units on campus (off-campus programs, athletics, and the foreign language department). In doing this, consultants begin to see themselves and their work as part of a larger organizational unit and its mission within the university, and they begin to understand the multiple stakeholders to whom they and the Center are accountable. Data, like our writing centers, need to respond to the needs of our students and our campus community. If we believe that our writing center provides an indispensible service on our campus, then our data should also be indispensible and serve as evidence that supports our core values. Being data conscious has served our Center well. By tapping a variety of funding sources, CMUs Writing Center has grown into a large, well known program across campus, the place for working with writing for students and faculty alike; our evaluations, distributed regularly, have consistently garnered high praise. We now have four on-campus sites and a large online service, staffed by 55 to 60 peer consultants. In 2010-11, the Center held almost 16,000 sessions, a number that staggered even us. Thats a lot of students, a lot of sessions, and a lot of data, but its what we do and what we want to do because it helps us to help writers. Q: When you think back on your time as a writing center tutor, can you describe a high point? My favorite session occurred last winter as the semester was coming to a close and we were in our last week of finals. I had been working throughout the semester with a Japanese student who many other advisors in our center had been afraid to work with. He was very quiet, very smart, and questioned everything; he wanted to know exact grammatical rules and clear explanations for any suggestions that we made, and he was always sure to tell us when we made a suggestion that conflicted with how he was taught English. As our last session came to a close, he asked, In America, do you say Thank you so much or Thank you very much? I was shocked at his question because he was not usually one to express great satisfaction with his sessions in the Writing Center. Usually, he would let us know when we helped answer his questions, and then he would leave for class. But on this day, as he walked out of the Center to catch a plane for Japan, he turned back and in his stern, quiet voice said, Thank you very much. Q: What advice might you give other tutors/ consultants? Be friendly! Writers come in to the Center looking for different things, but I think the one thing that they have in common is that they are looking for someone who cares enough to read their writing. Being friendly and expressing interest in a writers work can make a world of difference in a session; timid writers will open up, and frustrated writers will calm down. Q: What do you wish you would have known sooner? I wish I would have known that not everyone wants to visit the Writing Center. At Wittenberg, some professors require their students to visit the Center during each semester, resulting in a few sessions that are painfully one-sided. I wish I would have known how to better engage disinterested writers so that the first few sessions I had with them wouldnt have been such a shock and so that they would have seen the benefits of having a session in the Center. Q: What skills have you acquired, from being a tutor/consultant, which you will take with you throughout life? Working as an advisor has made me more able to share trust and power and to collaborate. I have learned that writers trust me to guide them, and I have learned that I have to trust writers to take control of their own work. Sessions are about working together, each participant giving and taking and sharing, and none of that is possible without trust. Being an advisor has helped me be a leader, but it has

Fall 2011
also shown me that part of being a leader means that you help others learn to lead, and when everyone, who shares the trust, works together they can all benefit.

Colin Payton
- Wittenberg University Writing Center. - A little over one year tutoring. - English major. Q: How has being a writing tutor/consultant helped you in your interactions with peers, either academically or professionally? Well, to start off, I stare for minutes now every time I see tutor/consultant in a questionnaire and debate over the proper and polite way to say Im an advisor at my university while not sounding like a snob. Or dweeb. Or whatever. I guess being an advisor slows me down quite a bit in other areas, too. I stop to analyze my speech patterns and my writing to make sure it is grammatically correct, and then I stop again and wonder if, after having inevitably messed up somehow, someone is thinking it ironic that I am an advisor. That is the bad part of being slow: clearly recognizing my insecurities. The good part is that Ive learned to be very patient in my listening so as to actively participate in every conversation. After starting my love affair with the Writing Center, Ive noticed that people really like it when they can know someone is paying attention to them. Just another way to build a good relationship, I suppose. So, the Center has made me very slow. Like a turtle. Not like the bad processors on my campus computers. Q: When you think back on your time as a writing center advisor, can you describe a high point? The firsts, of course: the first time I walked away to get a drink mid-session to let a writer, well, you know, write; the first time I had a session with an ESL student or a special needs writer and my first Writing Center conference presentation. But what Ive found lately is that the small things bring greater highs out of my job than the grand situations. I love brainstorming with someone who speaks another language. I love showing the new advisors (whom I have dubbed plebes, affectionately) how to make coffee. I love the most challenging sessions of all: my fellow advisors. I

SVSU: Data in the Center


The SVSU Writing Center collects sign-in data similar to CMU. Our center is primarily a walk-in center (appointments are limited to graduate students and developmental students in an embedded tutor program). At our center, the data we consider essential is our usage data: we need to know the number of students who visit our center and the number of tutorial sessions completed every semester. This type of data collection is de rigueur for most writing centers; it is, after all, the basis for our centers funding and support from our university administration. However, our writing center studies more types of data that inform our practices: data about our students, our services, and the state of writing on our college campus. These data frame our work in the centerthey shape our tutorial sessions with students, our training of our tutors, and our (constant) conversations about writing within the larger university community. In fact, we like to think that all the practices we engage in at our center, both inside and outside these walls, are informed by data, observational or numeric. We use data to understand more about the students we serve: their race, gender, ethnicity, language of origin, major, course standing, and GPA. If we have a population of students at our university whom we do not see inside our center, we can ask: why not? We can begin to examine barriers that might prevent these students from using our services, create ways to address the barriers and, through examining later data, see if these changes made a difference.

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East Central Writing Centers Association


everything. ONE IN THREE! You absolutely NEED to talk about how this will affect the world in your Analysis section! Ill never forget her reaction. She laughed slightly, then said, Thats not really what the Analysis section is for. Its mostly just to analyze the study, what they could have done differently, and what they discovered. It lays the grounds for the next researcher. But it certainly doesnt theorize or speculate about huge ripple effects. In reality, this is only one study. One study could still be wrong. I sunk a little lower in my chair, considering what she had said. I felt almost like I had been caught in the check-out line at the grocery store, getting all worked up about an article in The National Enquirer. Science wasnt about psychoanalyzing how one study will change the world. I might as well have told her to write an anthropological response in her Analysis section. That student, along with many others, helped open my eyes to the reality that each field sees things a little differently. I came to realize that if I was open to, aware of, and capable of utilizing the information that I gained from different papers in the center, I could use that information to unearth the values and demands of each discipline. That knowledge could then allow me a special insight into each discipline that is usually only achieved by those fully engrossed in the field, and those insights could help me later that week as a tutor, later that year as a student, or later in my life as a professional. A little advice to those who have the same lessons to learn as I did: As writing consultants or tutors, we shouldnt treat each appointment as an isolated experience, but instead use every experience as a means towards become crossdiscipline jedis who can wield the power of any major and arent scared of anything, not even physics. As a tutor, my high point is anytime someone says "Thanks, that really helped," and I know that they really understood what we were working on in the paper. In one instance, a good friend of mine came into the Center and scheduled an appointment with me. The session went really well and he was very appreciative of the changes. Whats more, I got a look into what he was passionate about by reading his paper and he got the chance to see me doing what I love to do. It was a great moment that really strengthened our friendship. I think what really helps me is to think about "shelving your day." When you step into the Center, you're in the Center. You can't worry about what's for dinner or an upcoming calc test, because that distraction and stress leak into the session. You get sloppy and rushed. And more likely than not, the student will feel distracted and stressed from their day too. I liken it to rock climbing. When you're climbing, every inch of your focus is on your hold and feet positioning. If you think about falling, you're going to fall. If you think about dinner, well, you get the point. Call it Writing Center zen, call it what you will. It really helps to shelve your day. Something that being a writing advisor has forced me to confront is the fact that not everybody thinks like me. I can't always explain how to use a comma to someone the way I understand it. Honing that ability to creatively get ideas across to people has forced me to get out of my own head and, not only truly understand the concepts myself, but also to understand the student a bit better. It's always good to appreciate how different we all are. For example, based on our data collection about developmental writers at our university, we discovered that only one-third of students enrolled in English 080 (developmental writing) visited the writing center from 2006-2009. Why? After all, this was a population that could benefit from tutorial writing services, perhaps more than most other students. Through further conversations with the First Year Writing Program, we secured a university grant to imbed tutors in the 080 classrooms to provide further support for these students. This program, which began in fall 2010, has already demonstrated an increase in the number of writing center visits for these studentsa 45% increase for AY 2010-11--not to mention the direct assistance given by the tutors while in the classroom. This change has affected both students success and our universitys awareness ofand commitment todevelopmental writers on our campus. And these changes may not have been possible without first knowing which students were visiting our centerand which were not. We also collect information evaluating the tutoring services we provide, assessing what our tutors do well, and not so well, through student surveys completed after tutorial sessions. Based on this data, we noted that some Nursing students felt the tutors did not have a strong knowledge of APA. Two of our tutors had worked with the Nursing Department to create a series of presentations on APA, and this presentation was adapted for a staff meeting, where the tutors learned more about APA format, specific to the Nursing Program. While a minor example, this too demonstrates how the data we collect from student surveys inform and shape our practice, allowing us to work with the students and the university as a whole.

Fall 2011
their friends and other students. I admit that we havent done all we can with data collection; many institutions are doing much more meaningful and thorough collection than we do. And we are working to collect more and different data that can better help us work with students and faculty on writing, speaking, and reading needs. Data are a vital tool to ensuring success in our and any writing center. But this short narrative is really a short cautionary about data, and I would like to offer considerations when selecting and using data. First, the data that administrators want or request may not be the most valuable data for them or your center. Administrators often want to things to be quantifiable or they may simply not know the kinds of information that would best report on a writing centers activities. Its important for writing center administrators to educate other administrators, faculty, and students about what a writing center does and what kinds of data show how it is benefiting writers and the larger campus community. For example, one of our deans asks us for usage data how many appointment slots are filled with one-on-one meetings with students. Through meetings, I have been able to show him that, though usage is something to track, it shows only part of the story. Our tutors visit classes and meet with faculty; they do research, work on professional development, and produce marketing materials. Those things dont show up on usage statistics focused on oneon-one appointments. The second caution I would like to forward is that by collecting and studying certain kinds of data, other data are inherently neglected. Ultimately, as SVSUs narrative demonstrates, we regularly need to ask, Are we asking the right questions? Finally, I would encourage readers to remember the power of storytelling. At every meeting, our staff members debrief on positive and negative experiences in the writing center, and collectively we praise, commiserate, console, and problem-solve to create a better writing center for writers and staff. Some may not consider storytelling data, and it is difficult to fit stories into a quantifiable box that appeases some administrators demands, but it is a vital way to make meaning and meaningful change in a writing center.

Leigh Hastings
- Wittenberg University Writing Center - One year being a tutor. - English major. Q: How has being a writing tutor/consultant helped you in your interactions with peers, either academically or professionally? Working as an advisor has helped me in my interactions with peers as I have learned to benefit from them as resources in the Writing Center. Just as writers come in to the Center to work with me, I have gone to the Center as a writer to work with other advisors. Sharing my work with others has helped me gain a greater sense of respect for those who work in the Center and an appreciation for their genuine interest in collaborating with writers.

Eric Werner
- Wittenberg University Writing Center. - One year as writing advisor. - English and French major with a minor in Creative Writing. I like to use my work in the Center as a jumping board into getting to know people. Wittenberg is a small campus, so when you have a session with a student, it's very likely you'll see that student again either in a class or in the lunch line or what have you. I already know something about that student and it's much easier to start a conversation. It's nice to have something in common right off the bat with people I wouldn't normally know.

UM Flint: What Data Wont Tell You


For years the University of Michigan-Flint Writing Center has collected limited data similar to what many writing centers collect: course, instructor name, department, and what was worked on in the appointment. Intermittently, we have done student satisfaction surveys. The data we collected has traditionally been the kind that convinces administrators we are a valuable service to students and they should continue to fund us, but that data provided little meaningful information about what was happening in tutoring sessions. We used the data to target departments and instructors who referred or didnt refer students to us. We also looked at the data about what students and tutors worked on in sessions as well as satisfaction surveys. Generally, students who use our services are satisfied and will recommend our services to

OU: Evidence-based Practice


Two years ago I gained a new colleague with whom I share a passion for writing centers and a disappointment with writing center research. She was planning the first iteration of WRT 320: Peer Tutoring in Composition, the

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course from which I hire new writing consultants (although Ive been fortunate to snag two seasoned ones from Jacob at UM-Flint), and I was creating an embedded tutor program. We longed to demonstrate to her students, my consultants, and our nondepartmental peers that the fields best practices were based upon evidence-based practice or what Richard Haswell calls RAD: replicable, aggregable, and datasupported research. The majority of what we found, however, could be classified only as theory and lore (important precursors to evidence but not themselves evidence). This kinship has led to a rewarding research and publishing partnership through which we have worked to create the studies we previously sought. More importantly, it has encouraged me to rethink the rhetorical purpose and audience of writing center data. Initially, I employed data to justify writing center funding to my direct supervisors, the Dean of Arts and Sciences and the Provost. I have not found this type of data difficult to assemble or to frame. To be brutally honest, the higher ups are usually appeased by growing numbers, something I have been fortunate to experience. When I can connect growing numbers to retention, even in a loose manner, I have been able to pry open the institutional purse. While I still collect demographic data and evaluations to ensure the survival of my center, I am now in the practice of creating surveys and interviews tailored to specific needs and to diverse constituents, and I conduct textual comparisons of writing consultant and client session feedback to answer specific questions about our services. When I think I see a trend, I seek collaborators who are willing to look at the same issues in their centers or classrooms, and/or I compare my findings to those of OUs Office of Institutional Research. By doing so, I hope to challenge or validate the lens through which I view my findings, to determine if our writing center programs are organic to OU student needs, etc. Today, I collect data for my consultants, my colleagues, and myself. Collectively, we need to know that our practices have efficacy beyond a large number of clients, a colleagues recommendation, or a theory. To argue for more data is not to neglect the importance of the narrative that frames the data and the questions that inspire its collection in the first place. In my view, evidence-based practice is an important but oft neglected part of the writing center story that we tell. benefits of externally mandated assessment identified by Isabelle Thompson (33): Externally mandated assessment can make our effectiveness visible to administrators and, hence, increase our power and prestige on campus Assessment involves our centers in a constant process of data collection and analysis and, hence, can enhance writing center research The on-going collection and analysis of data increases the opportunities for reflective practice and brings reflection to the forefront of daily activities Routine assessment is the intelligent, professional, and ethical thing to do. In the end, what data collection means for writing centers is that as we gain insight into the state of writing on our campus, we become agents of change, one of the basic tenets of most writing centers missions. When we understand more about our practice, we can more effectively assist students in tutorial sessions. We can become a resource for faculty who have questions, seek guidance, or wish to try new approaches to writing. We can more effectively advocate for university programs to help develop and support student writing on campus. Clearly, it is not the data, but what we do with the data-how we read, analyze, and communicate the information we know--that makes a difference. And it is a difference worth making. Thus, from our collective perspectives, its useful for every Writing Center to ask central questions about data: What data are essential to have? Why? What data are useful to have? Why? What purposes do our data serve? How are our data used for assessment of our work? The answers to these questions allow us to make comparisons with the past, keep our fingers on the pulse of current practices, and project the directions we wish our writing centers to take in the future. Works Cited Haswell, Richard. NCTE/CCCs Recent War on Scholarship. Written Communication 22.2 (2005): 198-223. Thompson, Isabelle. Writing Center Assessment: Why and a Little How. The Writing Center Journal 26.1 (2006): 33-61.
-Diane Boehm has been Director of the University Writing Program at Saginaw Valley State University since 1995. She founded and directs the SVSU Writing Center, which conducts some 5,000 individual

Fall 2011

Tutor Voices
worry about how a different consultant would respond or what a professor will think (to a degree, of course). Leader of the Year, March 2011 Respond as an honest reader and your feedback will be better than anything you say if you second guess - Grand Valley State University, yourself. This sort of answers the question below as well, Fred Meijer Center for Writing but I was so afraid of messing up during my first and Michigan Authors. couple of months as a writing consultant that I would - Three years experience, lead freeze. Once I learned to trust myself and my natural consultant for two of those three responses to the writing, I improved as a writing years. - English Language and Literature consultant a thousand times over. major with a minor in Classics. Q: What skills have you acquired, from being a tutor/consultant, which you will take with you Q: How has being a writing tutor/consultant helped you throughout life? in your interactions with peers, either academically or professionally? Being a writing consultant improved my communication skills in every waylistening, speaking, observing body Writing consultants discuss very personal issues with language, all of it. But listening is probably the most students, often by asking questions about the writings subject matter, but also by discussing writing itself. I have important. Being a great listener is a rare and very valuable skill. The writing center taught me how to listen, never met someone who is truly detached from his or her writing, so part of the job of a consultant is to gain the trust to have confidence, and to never underestimate how of students and be encouraging while still being honest. A much I can help someone or brighten a persons day. good writing consultant tries to get to know a person quicklyby asking questions, noticing body language, and making other observationsand uses what she/he learns Allie Oosta to help the student become a better, more confident writer. Tutor of Year, March of 2011 These are skills that are useful in every sort of interaction academically, professionally, and personally. - Grand Valley State University, Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Q: When you think back on your time as a writing center Michigan Authors. tutor, can you describe a high point? - Two years experience. - Writing major. I have many favorite memories from my time as a writing As a writing major, I navely consultant, but this is one that sticks out in my mind. I was believed that my writing skills could be useful to any working with a nontraditional nursing student who was kind of student but only to a certain extent. A physics finishing her degree after taking twenty years off to be a stay at home mother. She was two days away from turning or nursing major would sometimes enter the center and request to work with a tutor whose major was sciencein her first paper in twenty years, and she was terrified. based. As a younger consultant, I respected those Because she was so afraid of failing, she had spent an students, and even thanked them, because physics is incredible amount of time doing research, writing, and revising her paper, and it showed. After she read the paper scary! Only later on in my career did I realize the magic of writing centers where cross-discipline ideas hang thick aloud, I explained the things she had done right and used the positives to show her the areas that she could improve. in the air and tutors can learn from the students. She was so excited that she hadnt screwed up her first paper that I spent the rest of the day with a smile because I One specific afternoon, I worked with a nursing student. I remember that her report was on the study of some could not get hers out of my mind. Its the great disease, and the results were shocking. The study consultations I always remember. unveiled that one in three women were at risk for Q: What advice might you give other tutors/ consultants? developing this crazy paralysis that could lead to the inability to have children. I remember looking at the nursing student and saying, WOW! Can you believe Though consultants should always strive to improve, I this? I cant believe this! This could completely change think the most important thing is to trust yourself. Dont

Jen Torreano

Reflections and Perspectives


Though our assessments have evolved in response to the needs of our centers, they also align with the four

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accreditation processes, which was titled, Lessons Learned: Reflections on the Future. Three dinner keynote speakers took turns helping conference participants consider shared concerns about writing center assessment in a talk titled, Its Like a Consultation: Writing Center Assessment as a Means of Reflection and Revision. These speakers included Ellen Schendel, director of the Fred Meijer Center for Writing & Michigan Authors at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI; William Macauley, Director of Writing at the College of Wooster in Wooster, OH; and Brian Huot, former director of the Writing Center at the University of Louisville in Louisville, KY, and current faculty member in the Department of English at Kent State University in Kent, OH. In addition, the publisher provided 250 copies of The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors, 5th ed., which were given to all conference participants who wanted a copy. A table full of Bedford books was on prominent display, and conference participants could submit requests to have materials mailed to them.
tutorial sessions each year. She is also the director of the Saginaw Bay Writing Project, a site of the National Writing Project. She teaches writing courses, including both first-year composition and upper level professional writing courses. -Jacob Blumner is the Director of the Marian E. Wright Writing Center and Associate Professor of English at the University of Michigan-Flint. He teaches writing classes that range from firstyear writing to graduate writing courses. His research focuses on writing centers and writing across the curriculum. -Mary Ann Krajnik Crawford has been director of the Writing Center since 1998 and is Professor of English at Central Michigan University. She teaches graduate and undergraduate classes in composition and linguistics. Her research areas include writing centers, writing across the curriculum, ESL writing, and discourse issues.

Fall 2011
-Sherry Wynn Perdue is the Director of the Oakland University Writing Center (OUWC), Joan Rosen Writing Studio, where staff provided 6,500 writing consultations to undergraduate students, graduate researchers, faculty, and staff last year. Her innovations include Dissertation 101: A Research and Writing Intervention for Education Graduate Students, a program she co-piloted with Kresge Librarian Anne Switzer and which is described in the summer 2011 issue of Educational Libraries. -Helen Raica-Klotz is the current SVSU Writing Center coordinator, a position she has held for five years. She is a Lecturer in the English Department, teaching composition and general education literature courses.

Other Donated Conference Items


To eliminate the cost of conference bags and swag, WMU Writing Center representatives solicited donations from WMU departments and Discover Kalamazoo, a local tourist office, which also negotiated the reduced rates offered at the conference hotels listed on the conference website. Various WMU departments provided pencils and magnets, and Discover Kalamazoo provided maps and coupon books to local restaurants. The WMU bookstore provided 350 plastic bags that we used to distribute the conference programs, pencils, magnets, city maps, and coupon books.

Other Conference Business


In addition to the professional presentations and shared conversations, the conference also featured six other important activities: (1) a Silent Auction to support 2012 tutor travel awards, which were suspended in 2011 due to budget concerns; (2) presentations, tables of information, and free materials from eight vendors; (3) an Ideas Exchange that allowed participants to share copies of favorite consulting strategies; (4) the announcement and presentation of ECWCA Tutor Awards (Jen Torreano, Tutor Leadership Award and Allie Oosta, Outstanding Tutor of the Year, both of Grand Valley State University); (5) the announcement and distribution of the first ECWCA Newsletter, which has been developed and edited by Anthony Garrison of Kent State University; and (6) the announcement of the results of the Board of Directors election (Kim Ballard of Western Michigan University and Ashley Ellison of Ball State University). The ECWCA Silent Auction earned the association $545 thanks to a number of generous vendors and conference participants. RichCo donated $200 to the auction; Bedford-St. Martins contributed two $50 gift cards to Panera and ten $5 gift cards to Biggbys Coffee as well as a number of textbooks; Utah State University Press provided more than a dozen books, and Chef Arne of Solvang, CA, provided 12 Danish Cookbooks. Various ECWCA participants and WMU departments provided a wealth of items that ranged from a basket of Michigan State University paraphernalia and WMU College of Education and Human Development coffee mugs to copies of her latest poetry book from Julia Moore, director of the Writing Center at Cedarville University. Bedford-St. Martins also contributed $400 to our conference to cover the majority of the expenses for our breakfast snacks and coffee both Friday and Saturday.

Queer consulting: Assessing the degree to which differences affect a writing consultation
Curtis Dickerson & Jonathan Rylander In our discussion at the 2011 ECWCA conference, Queer Consulting: Assessing the Degree to which Differences Affect a Writing Consultation, we hoped to add to conversations surrounding issues of difference and nonnormative/queer moments in the writing center. Through a combination of our own experiences, interviews with other consultants who identify as LGBTQ, and the experiences of attendees to our panel, we hoped to provide new insight on one essential question: How does a consultant react to discovered differences in a writing consultation? To us, focusing purely on student needs during a consultation is dangerous. Or, perhaps better said, the student writer and his or her development is certainly still important, but equally as significant is the consultant who has inherent rights in a workplace, namely for our discussion, to operate in a space free of discrimination or perceived discrimination. For individuals with queer identities, a discussion-based occupation can seem like a daily minefield of taboo topics and insensitive, off-hand comments. How can a queer consultant, or a consultant who perceives a queer student, possibly navigate such a potentially explosive landscape? No consultation is neutraleach one is full of identity assumptions and the political biases of both consultants and writers. Yet, should the inherently unstable and often explosive situations that we confront alter our practice as consultants? Although we do not know the answer to this question, we have noticed moments in writing centers

Measuring Conference Success


While conference participants suggested the event included many successes, from launching the careers of first-time presenters and starting new friendships to sharing useful ideas and providing citations for future works about writing centers, perhaps the best way to consider the value of the conference is by reflecting on what participants took with them in terms of a better understanding of writing centers, heightened awareness of writing center assessment and strategies for use in writing center activities, and germs of ideas about future publications and presentations. Those things will extend the 2011 ECWCA for years to come, and I, for one, hope participants will consider turning their presentations into articles for journals devoted to writing center theory and pedagogy, such as The Writing Lab Newsletter, The Dangling Modifier, Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, and The Writing Center Journal, as well as to other publications devoted to writing instruction, mentoring, higher education, assessment, and tutoring.

that seem to disrupt notions of what might be perceived as normal approaches to working with student writers. Take, for example, Curtis reflection on a consultation that was suddenly thrown off track by a student-writers comment: As one student read his work aloud, he paused for a few seconds mid-sentence. I was looking at his computer, unsure whether he was stuck on a word or thinking about the phrasing of the sentence. As I looked up, he was staring off into another part of the library. Sorry, he said, Hot chick. I laughed politely, and tried to get back to the paper. But he wouldnt let it go. Do you think shes hot? he asked me directly. This was a problematic question for me as a gay man. I laughed again, but as a consultant new to the job, I was not comfortable with outing myself at that moment. Though I doubt my face showed it, there was an intense war happening behind the scenes. A split second calculation of the pros and cons. Even if I did choose to out myself, how would I phrase it? Besides, what would have been the point of overtly outing myself? The paper the student brought had nothing to do with LGBTQ individuals. This was less of a queer moment and more of just an awkward moment, yet one that still placed me in the position of deciding what parts of my life I could and could not share in a professional setting. Since that moment happened two years ago, Ive often wondered whether there was an added level of complexity to the situation. The students question was so far removed from the subject at hand, I cant help but wonder if he placed me in that position intentionally. Perhaps he already sensed that I was gay, and this was his clumsy attempt to confront me on the matter.

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In the end, I ignored the question completely. I didnt see any benefit to the consultation, so I let it drop. What is most interesting about this students direct and heterosexist questionwhich perpetuates not only gender stereotypes but sexist thinkingis that it takes the focus off of the writing project and seems to force Curtis queer identity into the spotlight. But should a consultant, when confronted by a queer moment like this, try to challenge the students (possibly misguided) normative worldview, or is that not the consultants responsibility? Does the inherent discussion-based nature of a consultation put the consultant in an activist role, when confronted by perceived narrow-minded or backwards thinking? During our panel in March, one audience member asked whether we thought it was asking too much of consultants to become activists and disrupt the kinds of normative and stereotypical thinking that could potentially harm certain groups especially when these comments are not in the students actual piece of writing but made during the broader discussion. As we reflected more deeply on this question, both of us began to disagree on the extent to which consultants should become activists. On the one hand, Jon argues that we should view the writing center as an activist space. In talking about research that he conducted in relation to LGBTQ consultants, he shared the following reflection to address his point: When talking with other LGBTQ consultants, I was surprised to find that Aloysiusa consultant I interviewed talk about ways in which his writing center supported his activist actions on campus. He said, And while in working at the writing studio, well, it was kind of strange because during my senior year at [my undergraduate university], several others and I were also trying to create a group for gay and lesbian students on campus. And [the writing center director] was part of the effort for that, she was really into it and thought it was just so wonderful so she would cut out articles from the newspaper and post them in the writing studio and things like that. As I heard Aloysius say this I was immediately taken aback. Whenever I had thought about queer issues and LGBTQ identity, specifically, in the writing center, I often thought about the negative or less desirable scenarios, such as how to respond to a students homophobic piece of writing. I thus did not expect to hear a consultant describe his writing center as a space that helped him launch an on-campus activist group. Yet since the interviews, this particular response has led me to think about the potential of consultants to become activists in ways that go beyond helping students become better writers. On the other hand, Curtis finds that the consultant is first and foremost a worker, an individual who was hired to increase the quality of writing on a campus one student at a time. He argues that asking consultants to engage in activities or discussion beyond what is relevant to the textsuch as supporting the rights of LGBTQ people on campusis better left in the hands of student organizations and support resources for queeridentifying individuals. Yet this is not to say that he believes employees should be indifferent or unsympathetic. Ideally, all institutional employees would be strong advocates for non-normative identifying peoples, but he also thinks that asking a consultant to view himself or herself as an activist, when the vast majority of employees are not expected to have this mentality, is unfair. For him, either all employees within an institution should be charged with combating backwards worldviews, or none should. The consultants position has clearly stated goals, but forcing consultants to view themselves as an instrument of change in the social and political climate of an institution is an unreasonable request for a part time employee, and potentially disruptive to the consultation. If authors within a collaborative article disagree, then surely an easy answer will not be found. The debate is particularly muddled when a consultant is expected to be an activist, but does not feel comfortable promoting the social and political direction that the writing center director seems to be advocating. We merely pose these questions for consideration and discussion, in the hopes that a consensus can eventually be reached. More study is certainly necessary, but the issue remains a current and important one, particularly for queer identifying consultants.
-This piece is an extension of a group presentation. We would like to thank Chelsea Milligan and Lucy Manley for contributing to our presentation and discussion in Kalamazoo, MI. Curtis Dickerson is pursuing his bachelors degree in English Education at Miami University. He has been employed at the Howe Center for Writing Excellence at Miami for two years. He can be reached at dickercr@muohio.edu. Jonathan Rylander recently completed his M.A. in Composition and Rhetoric at Miami University. He worked at the Howe Center for Writing Excellence at Miami during the spring of 2009 and fall of 2010 school years. He can be reached at rylandjj@muohio.edu.

Fall 2011

Assessing Our Success: The 2011 East Central Writing Centers Association Conference
Kim Ballard, kim.ballard@wmich.edu, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI
The 2011 East Central Writing Centers Association Conference included a number of firsts for our association as well as a number of successes. Held at Western Michigan University (WMU) in Kalamazoo, MI, from March 3 through 5, our associations 2011 annual conference occurred earlier in the spring than any other conference; drew participants from far outside of our conference area (California, Nevada, Florida, etc.); involved the largest number of high school consultant presenters (26) ever at our conference; and was structured by a Call for Proposals (CFP) focused on one current writing center topic assessmentalthough slightly more sessions on topics not related to assessment were presented. The conference was attended by 310 high school, undergraduate, graduate, and professional consultants/tutors, writing center directors/coordinators, writing center associate/assistant directors, faculty members, administrators, librarians, and students. Forty-seven institutions from two countries (South Korea and the US) and eight states (MI, OH, IN, IL, PA, CA, NV, and FL) were represented in 88 sessions that lasted 75 minutes each for a total of 110 hours of sessions. Sixtyseven single topic workshops and talks were presented by ECWCA members, including one workshop led by the vendor RichCo; fifteen sessions that combined twenty-nine presentations into multiple part panels were offered; and three double-session workshops (150 minutes each) were presented during back-toback sessions.
administrators, parents, and taxpayers. Weve often answered those demands with arguments based on program assessment, but another type of assessment has also always functioned at the heart of writing center consultations, as consultant and writer collaborate to assess the writers needs, a focus that encourages conversation and insights . . . As the first regional conference devoted to assessment of our work, we seek to center writing center assessment discussion, in several connotations of the verb. Through quality panel discussions, round tables, workshops, and poster sessions we hope conference participants will focus, equalize, highlight, and pinpoint writing center assessment theory, practices, issues, and ideas.

Conference Theme
The ECWCA Board approved a conference Call for Proposals (CFP) different from any CFP in ECWCA history. Although the 2011 ECWCA Conference CFP, titled Centering Assessment: Roles, Relationships, Respect, Resistance, clearly indicated any writing center topic would be considered for inclusion in the conference program, the CFP also focused on writing center assessment and, as the excerpt below shows, explored the purpose of attempting to structure a writing center conference on that topic:
. . . [W]riting centers have always faced demands to prove their worth to students, faculty, staff,

Of the 104 individual and panel talks and workshops offered during the two-day conference, 48 addressed writing center assessment. Among other topics, sessions devoted to assessment considered program assessment (including Assessing High School Writing Centers: What We Can Do and How We Can Do It, Assessing (and Advocating for) What We Value: Documenting Our Contributions to Students Learning Processes in College Writing Programs and Writing Centers, and A Fall for Fellows: Creating and Assessing a Writing Fellows Program); assessment theory (including Evaluation Capacity Building in Writing Center Assessment and What Writing Centers Really Value: Applying Dynamic Criteria Mapping to Writing Center Work); assessment strategies within tutorials (including Assessment of How to Begin Sessions Through Inquiry: The Practical Application of VARK and The SOAP Note: A Cleaner Approach to the Assessment of Writing) and assessment politics (including Using Assessment for Sustainability: Strategies for Staying Effective in a Volatile Economic Environment, Writing Center Data: What Do We Need and How Should We Use It? and Self-Assessment: The Dangers and the Challenges.) In addition, luncheon keynote speaker, Dr. Eileen Evans, former WMU Writing Center director and ECWCA Conference host and current WMU Vice Provost for Institutional Effectiveness, offered a talk about writing centers roles in institutional assessment and

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accredited four-year college in the United States-- just in different ways. As frequently lamented in writing centers, we are not editors. But we are consultants, and we have the responsibility to be responsive to our students. Robinson (2009) argues we must encourage our students to build intrinsic motivation and help them view the Writing Center not as a grammarchecking station, but as an eye-opener to the use of language in college. Robinsons idea is realized at Beacon College. In fact, with 5,106 visits in the 2010/2011 academic year from a population of 150 students, the Robert & Jane Weiner Writing Center, staffed with only one Director, one full-time Writing Consultant, and two part-time Peer Writing Consultants, it was more than apparent we did not have time to pick at grammar. What we did was pay attention to our students individual needs. Our students, motivated by the companionship we offered as they navigated the writing process, and responded accordingly: 5,106 times. Writing is a terribly frustrating process. It is long, arduous, requires many times of being told you are wrong, to do it again so you can be less wrong, and try it one more time - but in MLA format. Our students need us to stick it out with them when the going gets tough, when they feel like they have absolutely nothing else to give. Many writing centers require papers be pre-typed and printed out before a writing consultation. However, this practice seems to encourage the wide misperception of the writing center as a final editing service. This requirement also suggests consultants will not watch you eek out a first paragraph; they have too many other students to see; this is not in their job description; it is too agonizingly mind-numbing for them; the writing center does not want to deal with you if youve got nothing. But what if you really feel like youve got nothing? What if youve got dysgraphia? I consider myself fortunate to work with students with learning disabilities, students for whom the very act of transferring a single thought to paper seems an impossible task. I am honored with the invitation of a blank page because that is an invitation for a journey together. The Robert & Jane Weiner Writing Center is a place of active writing. Students at various stages of the writing process sit at computers or tables, whichever they prefer, and the writing consultant(s) provides constructive inquiry, suggests an outlining or technology aid, and addresses concerns as they arise. The students stay for as long as they wish, talk to each other about their writing, always have access to help, and most importantly, are never just another session. Because of this consultation style, I am privy to many adventures at once. Writing centers at universities with student populations in the tens of thousands may scoff at the idea of an open and highly-individualized writing center. Anything can be done with only 150 students to handle, they may retort. I am not suggesting all writing centers adopt this approach and be trampled by their students. Instead, I challenge my fellow writing center consultant to show the student seeking your expertise that even if time is limited to thirty minutes, during that time the student will not be alone. It is time you will spend showing the student not what you know, but uncovering what she knows. You will help one find the treasure he didnt know he had. And who can resist an adventure like that? References North, Stephen M. (1984). The idea of a writing center. College English, 46(5), 433-446. Robinson, Heather M. (2009). Writing center philosophy and the end of basic writing: Motivation at the site of remediation and discovery. Journal of Basic Writing, 28(2), 70-92.

Fall 2011

The Accidental Writing Center: Program Growth through Negotiation and Collaboration
Jeanne R. Smith, Doug Sheldon, Heather Kaley Will McSuley, Allison Machnicki, and Joe Greenwell - Kent State University We did not begin with the aim of creating a high school writing center, but with the more modest goal of improving our tutor training program. In the process of working toward that goal, we reached for opportunities, joined with various partners, and journeyed through a process of negotiation. Our university writing center, the university administration, our service-learning office, our English department, the incoming tutors, various community partners, and the different constituencies of the high school each came to the project with differing agendas. Managing this potential conflict and remaining flexible resulted in much more than we ever set out to do: we created a new writing center, improved our tutor training program, enhanced the university writing centers reputation, and established a service-learning program. Negotiating the Agenda Part 1: The Writing Center, The University, and The Community Our writing center had always wanted a 3-credit hour preservice training course but had never been able to launch one, so we settled for a 1-credit hour course during a tutors first semester of employment. A new opportunity, however, presented itself. In response to a grant offered by the universitys new service learning office, we proposed The Writing Center Project. It would be a way for our preservice tutors to learn writing center theory in a 3-credit hour course, while serving as volunteer tutors in established literacy programs in the community. The service learning grant opportunity allowed faculty to re-envision any course as a service-learning experience leading to significant opportunities for undergraduates to participate in disciplinary research. Because writing center work and tutor professional development have always dovetailed with service learning and undergraduate research, the grant represented an opportunity to formalize and recognize the tutors experiential learning as central to our universitys undergraduate teaching and research missions. We solicited community partners who would accept our prospective tutors into their programs: adult literacy programs, programs for immigrants learning English, university bridge programs. Some prospective community partners had had negative experiences with service learning programs and needed to be persuaded that we would not release untrained, unsupervised students into their organizations, creating substantial additional work for

them. Other community partners needed to be shown that service learning is not the same as free labor, that the service is a learning experience woven into the course content. Conspicuously absent from the list or partners, though, were the area high schools--perhaps because university entities often do not want to be perceived as large outsiders imposing agendas on area schools. Offering a new course outside the normal channels for proposing and vetting a new course at the university posed substantial logistical issues for our English department, and made the course difficult to fill. These difficulties ensured that the only students who enrolled were very committed to service and less concerned about degree credit requirements. From this group of students, one proposed developing his own community partner site and program: starting a writing center at the local high school. The rest of the class elected to take on the high school as our sole community partner for our first semester. And our project began. Negotiating the Agenda Part 2: Starting Over with a Single Community Partner Our initial meeting with school officials revealed that they had wanted a writing center for years but had never been able to start one. While the English department Chair was eager to host our students, neither she nor any of her teaching staff would have time to coordinate the center. The Principal expressed concern over how we would sustain the writing center, not wanting to see his building come to rely on it, only to have it evaporate after a semester. We offered to fill the high school site first, before offering future students other community partner site choices, and the project earned the very enthusiastic support of the Chair and Principal. The school viewed the university students as not only tutors supplementing classroom instruction, but also as mentors and role models for the students. For our project to function, one student tutor (Doug) served as the liaison between the university and community partner. Before beginning the project, he provided the high school with a list of our services. Tutoring sessions would provide distance from the classroom teacher but also create a bridge between the student and the educator. The student would witness a mentor performing writing tasks and providing a model of writing-in-action, demonstrating that writing is a craft learned through practice, revision, and mentoring. If the state of Ohio requires a student to ...[c]ompose writings that convey a clear message and include well-chosen details, (English

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Language Arts Academic Content Standards) then the tutors duty is to create an environment that will nurture a students ability to create competent writing and sustain that competency in future writing. Student writing must also exhibit . . . [proper] grammatical structures in written work, (English Language Arts Academic Content Standards). The school librarian worked with us to develop a work space in a section of the school library exclusively for our tutoring center, providing storage space for tutors belongings and access to the schools wireless internet. The school library is the optimum choice for the development of a writing center because the location is well known and accessible to all students, faculty and staff. Initially, we involved only the Principal and the English Department faculty members. Over time, the scope of the project widened, involving the participation of other departments. The teaching staff was made aware of our presence because it is considered a courtesy to all departments that the faculty be made aware of outside tutors in contact with their students. Making these connections let the school know that our tutors would be able to meet the needs of not only English students, but also of students from any class that required academic writing. As a result, we received many students from disciplines outside of English. Our tutors were also expected to be ambassadors to the school faculty. If a faculty members question could not be answered by a tutor, the liaison would be readily available to meet with that teacher. Our overall approach to the high school was to provide service. We were responsible for meeting the demands of the community partner with not only skilled tutoring, but also with the professionalism needed to sustain a relationship with the school. To better communicate with a community partner, the liaison must be familiar with all rules and regulations demanded by state standards. If we encountered a serious disciplinary problem, we needed the full cooperation of the administrative staff. The liaison needs knowledge of the state and local regulations to ensure a productive working relationship between school and university. We followed the proper chain of command to handle discipline, and followed state regulations. If a problem could not be solved by the tutor, the librarian would contact the schools vice principals (who are charged with the schools disciplinary responsibilities). The location of school administrative offices was made known to all tutors and which administrator to contact in case of an emergency. Each tutor carried a criminal background check because all persons working with high school students must have both federal and state background checks before they can set foot on the school premises (Background Check FAQ). All administrators (from vice-principals to administrative secretaries) were informed of our incoming tutors. Negotiating the Agenda Part 3: If You Build It, Will They Come? We quickly learned that faculty buy-in does not necessarily equal student buy-in. After the rush of excitement of starting the writing center, lack of student traffic came as a harsh dose of reality. Even with the unwavering support of the English Chair and the Principal, we were not reaching the volume of students we had expected. We had to find ways to provide service, whether the students seemed to want us or not. The Chair arranged for us to participate in a workshop day with her classes, in order to publicize the writing center and to introduce the students to the tutors. Each of the tutors (Will, Heather and Doug) worked with several students from the high school. Our morale boosted by our first student contact. We became a semi-permanent fixture of the high school library, and that stability sent an important message to students and faculty: we werent going anywhere. To bide our time in the library, and to show the students that we worked hard too, we researched differences between university and high school tutoring. We adopted the problem of student reluctance to approach our tutors as our collaborative research problem for the semester. We read scholarship on high school writing centers and used what we found in conjunction with what we learned from observation in our workshops. We concluded that the tutoring objectives were similar in high schools and universities, but that high school tutoring required a more firm style and greater confidence than university tutoring. Having not yet tutored fellow college students -- let alone high school students who expected us to have all the answers -- we jumped into the project feeling ill-prepared. However, as we continued, we collected experiences and knowledge, and learned a little with every step. First Lesson: We Really Dont Have All the Answers Being pioneers, we did not realize the troubles we would face attempting to create the high school writing center. We failed to understand what our presence communicated unintentionally. We had support from the Principal and the chair of the English department; however, it seemed that much of the school viewed us with suspicion, our presence communicating that we young college students thought we 21). Our experiment with the writing center explorations website, using these definitions, did not meet the requirements of play because students had to post at least once a week. This was not voluntary participation; the students did not willingly accept these goals or rules. The students did not have any other means by which they could fulfill this grade requirement, so their only choices were to blog, lose those points toward a 4.0, or drop the class. Forced play is not play at all. Conclusion: While we have not given up on the concept of gaming and gamification, we believe that we need to proceed with caution and trepidation. We take Bogost (2011) seriously when he asserts that game developers and players have critiqued gamification on the grounds that it gets games wrong, mistaking incidental properties like points and levels for primary features like interactions with behavioral complexity (para. 11). Furthermore, gamification is not a quick fix; adding points will not save a website or instantly create interest. Gamification works when it is well thought out, the mechanics heavily consider the audience that you are trying to work with, and most importantly the people want to participate. In our writing centers case, this was our latest of numerous attempts to motivate content creators to provide resources for our campus and community, but it wont be our last. Despite lackluster statistical results, this study succeeded by reminding us that fun, motivation, and work are a tricky formula, and that understanding audience is always the most important part of our work. References: Bogost, I. (2011, August 8). Gamification is bullshit: My position statement at the Wharton symposium [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://bogo.st/wm.

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Carse, J. P. (1987). Finite and infinite games: A vision of life as play and possibility. New York, NY: Ballantine. McGonical, J. (2011). Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world. New York, NY: Penguin. McGonical, J. (2011). Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world. New York, NY: Penguin. Thompson, C. (2011, March). Clive Thompson on how games make work seem like play. Wired, 19(3). Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/02/st_tho mpson_living_games/
John Lauckner, is a Masters student in Digital Rhetoric and Professional Writing at MSU and a TA and Graduate Writing Consultant at Writing Center at MSU. His research interests focuses on alternative learning spaces, videogames, beer, and learning. Dianna Baldwin, PhD is the Associate Director of the Writing Center at MSU. Her research interests primarily focus on technology in education in many forms, including gamification, virtual worlds, and social media. She also dabbles in blogging and studying comics.

Notes of a Fortunate Writing Center Consultant: What My Students with Learning Disabilities Have Taught Me about the Writing Process
Caroline Le, M.A. In the Robert & Jane Weiner Writing Center at Beacon College, the only accredited four-year college in the country exclusively for students with learning disabilities, Michael likes to use Kurzweil, a program which allows him to listen to his assignments, his textbooks, and his own writing, aloud; David prefers I personally read articles for U.S. Government class to him, and Tom uses Word Q, a box of word suggestions which follows as he types. Once we are finished with our one-on-one writing consultations, I know they will continue to have questions as they edit, so I keep myself available to answer them, long after I have

officially signed off on his visit. I must be as familiar with my students needs as I am with the writing skills I am trying to show them. I need to meet my students where they are--not wait for them to find me. According to Stephen North (2004), Writing centers attempt to produce better writers, not better writing, through a student-centered process-oriented approach, which chiefly means talking to writers about writing. Because of their learning disabilities, my students leave me with no option but to deal with all of these elements. I am extremely fortunate to frequently encounter the anxiety and frustration of not being understood; I am forced to create individualized dialogue and struggle, my students same struggles, with dissecting the communication process. The fundamentals of college-level writing are taught at Beacon College just as they are at any other

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second language. Retrieved from http://www.dartmouth.edu/~writing/mate rials/tutor/problems/esl.shtml Harris, M., & Silva, T. (1993). Tutoring ESL students: Issues and options. College Composition and Communication, 44(4), 525-537. Powers, J.K. (1993). Rethinking writing center conferencing strategies for the ESL writer. The Writing Center Journal, 13 (2), 39-47. Rafoth, B. (2009). Responding online. In S. Bruce, & B. Rafoth (Eds.), ESL writers: A guide for writing center tutors (pp. 149-159). Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/ Cook Publishers. Shin, S. J. (2002).Understanding ESL writers: Second language writing by composition instructors. Teaching English in the Two-Year College, 30 (1), 6875. knew it all. We started by visiting classrooms to work with the students and to explain what we do. We never planned to go against what their teachers had wanted them to do or criticize them. In fact, our objective was the exact opposite. We wanted to work alongside the teachers and give their students extra help with their writing. The teacher has only so much time to work with each student, and yet there is always insufficient time to get everything done. Our objective was to give the teachers a little breather and help them and their students. Though some teachers were on board, some saw us as an overreaching university and did not want anything to do with us at first. We needed to better understand the needs and concerns of the faculty and students. Adapting and improvising are important skills in any tutoring session. We realized we needed to adapt to our situation and learn from our mistakes. Our first missteps were assuming enthusiastic support from all faculty and assuming student motivation to write. High school students do not see writing as cool or fun. They want to fit in socially, and fitting in does not include academic writing and research. This social pressure to avoid academic writing did not seem real to us until we experienced it. Dealing with the maturity level of high school students presented us with another challenge we had not considered carefully until experiencing it. We were used to college students, who despite their difficulties want to be there, on some level. We experienced a huge culture shock dealing with the maturity level of the high school students. For example, it was a great shock to see the unwillingness to cooperate with the teacher to write a simple paragraph. Overall, it might seem that jumping right into a high school without much experience would be a bad idea. However, we found it to be a good experience. We took a chance, made mistakes, and got messy. We improvised, and we learned. We are more confident university tutors because of the experience of being leaders at the high school and creating something new in the face of unexpected challenges. Collaborative Learning: Drawing Deeper Lessons from Tutoring and Service One regular user of our new writing center had a learning disability. Over the course of many sessions, her tutor (Allison) implemented different aspects of theories she had studied for her required course project, and she tried to determine which methods worked well. Outlines and word webs worked extremely well for the student, but that pictorial diagrams did not. Learning to help this

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student demonstrated classic tutoring lessons: slowing down, listening to the learner, isolating single concerns, blending directive and non-directive methods, and using multiple modalities. Working on multiple types of grammatical errors at one time became confusing to the student and she began to guess at an answer. Narrowing down the scope of the lesson to one or two types of errors helped, but the student was still inclined to guess at answers and had trouble slowing down to think about an answer before she said it. Reading sentences with errors aloud to the student helped her think about the writing and catch errors. The student read her writing aloud and read examples from custom worksheets. She repeated passages, especially when dealing with editing concerns, so that she heard the sentence before and after she made edits. The tutor always first asked what the student would like to work on, or why she thought a certain usage error needed to be addressed, but the tutor would sometimes step in and make suggestions, explain, and make the correction with her. These skills were easier to practice in the high school setting, where we needed to set aside our university writing center ideals and address the needs of the high school community partner. The tutor developed skills for working with students with learning disabilities and gained experience in lesson planning and general tutoring. Another tutor (Joe) chose to investigate the underlying reasons for high school students reluctance to engage in school-sponsored writing. His project investigated the teacher-student relationship, and response to student writing. In his project, Writing is Communicating: Responding to Student Writing, he argued that to encourage student writing, teachers should emphasize the message, voice, and content of the writing over the grammar and usage. By recognizing and responding to students ideas, students will feel heard and not judged, and, consequently, proud of their writing voice and more willing to invest time in revision. Naturally they will be more inclined to nurture their voice, including editing for usage. This route seems more natural than learning writing through studying grammar, an approach sometimes emphasized in our schools. The Writing Center Project experience challenged his notions of tutoring and writing. He says, What I thought would be as simple as imparting my writing knowledge to others became a semester of questioning the relationships of student writers to writing, and peers and teachers to student writing. Assessment and Renegotiation: Moving the Project Forward After listening to feedback from the high school and the tutors, we are ready to move into a long-term relationship with the high school. Our tutor training

To Game or Not to Game: The Affects of Gamifying Our Website


John Lauckner and Dianna Baldwin, PhD Introduction: Games are everywhere. They are on our TVs, on our cell phones, part of credit card companies point systems, and slowly they are creeping into schools. So, recently when our writing centers website was having trouble with content creation, we began thinking of ways to motivate people to create content, and we landed on games, or more specifically gamification. And it was with gamification that we thought our content problems would be solved. Or would they? Description of our site: From a technical standpoint our writing centers website has two main functions. First, and foremost, clients access our scheduling system for individual appointments and workshops. Second, it serves as a place for writing resources such as writing help and discussions about what we do in the center, which is all user generated. User generated content typically means contributors feel passionate about a topic and write without much prompting, but this is usually infrequent and unscheduled. The latter seems to be truer with our site and hence the site suffers from stale content. Enter . . . gamification. Gamification/Our Study: Gamification at its core uses games or game mechanics to affect the motivation of the people using a product or service, which in our case is a website. In this way, we see gamification as giving users points or badges for performing tasks. Prominent examples of gamification already exist, such as credit cards which award miles, the REPLAY watch by Switch2Health that awards points for physical activity, or the UKs Guardian newspaper which got readers involved in a game that helped uncover bogus personal expenses by

government officials (Thompson, 2011). So whether it is using a credit card instead of other forms of payment, increasing physical activity, or uncovering bogus government spending, gamification exists to impact the way people act or the task at hand. Our first thoughts on gamifiying centered on incorporating some type of gamification into our main site at writing.msu.edu. However, we realized the difficulties it might present to people unfamiliar with our research, so we opted to experiment with a newly developed site-writingcenterexplorations.org--being used for two writing center theory based classes. Both instructors required students to blog on a weekly basis, so fresh content was not an issue. Instead, we hoped to determine whether or not associating points with both blog posts and comments would increase the frequency of these. We decided that logging in would be worth 1 point, a post 5 points, and a comment 3 points. These values are based on the importance of the tasks to be completed. The leader board displays prominently on the home page and lists the top 5 point-scorers for that week. Each Sunday night, we reset the leader board, or Users who Rock, and kept track of the results. Our Findings: At the time of our presentation at ECWCA, posts and comments, primarily comments, showed a significant increase. We attributed some of the increase to the novelty of the idea, but how much could be contributed to the newness factor was impossible to know. By the end of the semester, however, it became evident that the numbers had declined, and that the effect of gamifying in an attempt to increase content was a short lived success. After further consideration and research, we learned that this outcome was not surprising. According to Carse (1987), one of the key ingredients to play is that it be voluntary; otherwise it is not play. McGonigal (2011) echoes this concept when she argues that voluntary participation requires that everyone who is playing the game knowingly and willingly accepts the goal, the rules, and the feedback (p.

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outcomes have been encouraging. Because of our involvement with the high school, we have new programs for professional development in the university writing center: tutors create workshops for the high school classroom in a new adopt-a-classroom project. The end of semester projects are some of the best we have seen. The students learned the purpose of a writing center by being in real leadership roles, solving real problems; their inquiry projects were all genuine searches for solutions to real life issues in their practice, and lead to deeper questions about the nature of tutoring -outcomes we all hope for in our tutor-training classes. The materials produced by the tutors in their projects will be used in training future tutors in the university writing center. The inquiry and research the students began in the course have become the base for presentations, publications, and -- most importantly continued research and professional development. The new tutor training program has a bright future. Additional community partners have come forward, including more high schools. Our university recently passed an experiential learning requirement for graduation, increasing demand for the course. Finally, the university continues to increase its support for the university writing center, ensuring a continual need for more tutors and more capacity to accommodate tutor trainees. Conclusion: Challenges or Opportunities? Build the Path as You Walk It Our meandering path to a successful new writing center illustrates the value of the writing center approach to challenges and opportunities: an approach that continuously negotiates agendas, builds collaborative relationships, and allows surprising new developments to emerge in the process. Learning writing center methodology means learning to collaborate with others, not to assume we have all the answers, but to help others find their own; to keep broad goals in mind even as we weave the needs of others into our practice. Writing center administrators can learn from our story to practice what they teach in their tutor training courses by becoming better collaborative role models for their tutors. Tutors can see that negotiation and collaboration are useful far beyond the tutoring session. They are the skills that build partnerships and programs. References Background Check FAQ. Ohio Department of Education. 09 Jun. 2010. Web. 12 Aug. 2011. English Language Arts Academic Content Standards. Ohio Department of Education, 09 Jun 2010. Web. 12 Aug. 2011. is less fluid than in a face-to-face session; consultants review drafts and rely on the clarity of the language used in comments to convey suggestions. Miscommunication between a consultant and an ESL student in online sessions can be disastrous in that ambiguous feedback might impact the students confidence in their writing and also leave them at a loss as to how to improve on what they have written. This, of course, goes against everything writing centers are designed to do: improve a students writing and increase his or her willingness to engage in the writing process. A number of factors must be considered in order to better address the concerns of ESL students. Our presentation at the 2011 ECWCA conference focused on some of the best practices for consulting ESL students online; in this regard, we collaborated with both native and non-native consultants regarding what kinds of comments/suggestions they felt are more beneficial for ESL students while working online and also conducted a literature review to round out best practices. In their response to the question of how consultants should respond to ESL texts, Rafoth (2009) and Gocsik (2004) emphasized the importance of understanding cultural difference. Along with the difficulties in the language itself, ESL students might not be familiar with American academic writing conventions and its rhetorical patterns such as a direct statement of topic and linear way of thinking. Thus, consultants should be aware of the cultural and stylistic differences existing in an ESL students text and be prepared to explain how to approach different academic conventions. Additionally, ESL students often struggle with English grammatical conventions. This means that before addressing the issue in developing a paragraph, consultants might have to help ESL writers better understand what the problem s/he has with sentence structure and what specific issues exist in her or his writing. Thus, consultants often need to play the role of an informant of both the language and culture (Powers, 1993, p. 45). Furthermore, many beginning ESL students have difficulty communicating with the consultant due to their language proficiency. Discussing all of the concerns that ESL writers have with their writing, in regards to both surface and global issues, might be neither possible nor ideal. Too many comments on an ESL writers paper can intimidate the student (Raforth, 2009; Gocsik, 2004; Harris & Silva, 1993). Ultimately, a consultant should decide what is most important and focus on the students priorities. In addition to a review of relevant literature, we conducted a study based on our experiences working with ESL writers and determined what was effective in ESL sessions online. To assess best practices, we selected two sample ESL papers; these contained some common problems found in ESL writers papers, for example, subject-verb agreement problems, grammatical awkwardness, ambiguity in meaning, etc. Two non-native consultants then reviewed the drafts and provided comments. The drafts reviewed by the two consultants were distributed among all the consultants of the Writing Center for their opinions and views on which comments worked well and why. Through an open discussion, the consultants collaborated to discern what feedback is more beneficial for ESL writers online; interestingly, most of their opinions matched the views represented in the literature review. Results included: Use short, direct, and simple sentences. Instead of using wordy and tedious explanations, direct, and simple comments are ideal (Gocsik, 2004). For example, in response to a grammatically incorrect expression, Freedom Comes with

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Responsible, a comment like Grammatical issue: Preposition+ noun = with+ responsibility can be more understandable and helpful for a non-native writer because of its clear and simplified reference to grammatical terms. This same comment, however, may be confusing or ambiguous for a native writer. Keep comments on global issues separate from those on surface level issues. If consultants mix up the focus on global and surface issues, students tend to focus only on surface level corrections like grammar and punctuation; they might not comprehend the importance of global issues like a thesis, organization, and development (Rafoth, 2009). In fact, consultants should emphasize meaning (global issues) when working with students and should help students clearly express their ideas (Rafoth, 2009; Shin, 2002; Harris & Silva, 1993). Do not fix the sentence(s). Fixing sentences encourages the ESL writer to depend on the consultant. A consultant should not be a proofreader, but rather a guide who helps the writer understand his or her difficulties in writing (Harris & Silva, 1993; Gocsik, 2004). While making comments on a grammatical error in an ESL script, consultants should explain the grammar rules in addition to modeling the correct sentence. Consultants suggestions should be clear and confident. Consultants should deliver a consistent message and reinforce it throughout the paper so that the writer can see how important it is (Rafoth, 2009, p.158). When working with an ESL writer, consultants should be as direct and assured as possible; they should avoid expressions like I think, It seems, Probably. Doing so allows the ESL writer to feel more confident in their revisions. Consultants should first focus on what has been done well in the paper, acknowledge that, and go from there (Harris & Silva, 1993, p. 526). An effective comment might be: As a reader, I really like the way this paper is organized. Youve condensed material into specific sections and allow each section to build on one another.

Communicating Across Borders: Consulting ESL Students Online


Alexander F. Grabski, Bo Ram Lee, and Tamanna Mostafa (Central Michigan University) Working with ESL students presents very specific challenges for writing centers. ESL students often experience difficulty working with grammar, learning the parameters of a particular assignment, or adjusting their writing styles to best suit the task at hand. In order to best work with ESL students, an awareness of communication in writing center sessions is essential. No one session is ever the same, and this is particularly true when working with ESL students; as such, the approaches writing center consultants take in a session must be flexible. This is very much apparent in an asynchronous online writing center session. While scholars have published much regarding the preferred approaches for interacting with ESL students in the classroom and in face-to-face sessions, little has been published in the way of communicating with ESL students online. Asynchronous online sessions pose a particular challenge to consultants in that communication

Awareness of cultural differences is especially key; understanding that American rhetorical patterns can be baffling to the ESL student is also key. Keeping these results in mind, a consultant working with and ESL student in an online session can become an attainable and very beneficial task. The ESL student can gain skills and confidence in his or her writing ability. References Gocsik, K. (2004). Addressing specific problems: English as a

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