Writing Center Tutors and Composition and Applied Linguistics Doctoral Students Present at International Writing Center Association Conference

Posted on 11/7/2019 8:25:52 AM

The International Writing Center Conference took place October 17–19, 2019, in Columbus, Ohio. Writing center practitioners from around the world meet and share research on writing center practices, pedagogy, and strategies.  Nine representatives from IUP attended, including Jones White Writing Center tutors, the Writing Center director, the Writing Center assistant director, and Composition and Applied Linguistics graduate students. 

In addition to the presentations, the IWCA community, including many IUP alumni, hosted a celebration for Ben Rafoth, who is retiring this year and who stepped down after more than 30 years of directing the Jones White Writing Center.

Of the event, Ben said, “I was very moved by the many IUP students, alumni, and friends of IUP who attended the reception in Columbus. They recalled moments from their time at IUP that have had big impacts on their lives and careers, and I will remember their kind words forever. Teaching in the Graduate Program in Composition and Applied Linguistics has been a major force in my life, too, and I will miss my many colleagues and friends when I retire in May.” 

IUP students and faculty presented seven different presentations or workshops. These contributions continue the long tradition of IUP offering strong research-supported practices and contributing to the field of writing center studies. 

Here are the abstracts of all presentations: 

“Grammarly vs. Face-to-face Tutoring at the Writing Center: ESL Student Writers’ Perceptions”

Jing Zhang (CAL doctoral student) and Havva Ozer (CAL doctoral student)

This study investigated how English as a Second Language (ESL) writers perceive their use of Grammarly, an online grammar checker, in relation to face-to-face tutoring at the writing center. Forty-three (N= 43) international ESL writers studying at universities in the United States participated in an anonymous online survey. Mixed methods were employed to examine participants’ perceptions of Grammarly and face-to-face tutoring at the writing center respectively as well as their perceptions of Grammarly in relation to face-to-face tutoring. Results rendered from descriptive analysis of the data revealed:

  1. participants perceived both services with advantages and limitations;
  2. participants were found to use Grammarly more frequently than visiting the writing center, while they used face-to-face tutoring for a wider variety of purposes compared to Grammarly;
  3. participants reported a both/and approach toward these two writing resources and used them to meet different needs in different contexts.

Implications were offered for ESL writers, writing center tutors, and Grammarly program developers.

“Freedom to Debate: Encouraging Dissent to Maximize Writers’ Creative Thinking”

Krista Sarraf (CAL doctoral student and assistant Writing Center director 2018–19)

Creativity has been a topic of interest to writing centers for some time (Dvorak & Bruce, 2008; Lerner, 2009; Lunsford & Ede, 2011; Rafoth, 2016). Yet, within the contexts of brainstorming and generating ideas, dissent—expressions of disagreement, debate, or criticism—is an area sometimes overlooked. However, recent group creativity research points to the advantages of dissent and freedom to debate, and holds key implications for tutors and writers (Feinberg & Nemeth, 2008; Nemeth, 2017). But what does it feel like to experience dissent when generating ideas? This interactive workshop engages participants in this question through group brainstorming activities. Participants will challenge assumptions about brainstorming, practice novel approaches to idea generation, and map out practical applications for their writing centers.

“Visible and Invisible Transfer: Using Longitudinal Transfer Research to Support Tutoring Practices”

Dana Driscoll (Writing Center director, CAL faculty) and Wenqi Cui (Writing Center tutor and CAL student)

Central to supporting transfer in writing center settings is the use, adaptation, and uptake of prior knowledge. Broader transfer theories, such as the work of Perkins and Salomon (2012) posit that most transfer occurs “automatically” without conscious effort.  This is supported by Nowacek  (2011), who notes that while she observed students transferring between courses in her study, transfer was not always “visible” to those students. Schieber (2016) likewise examined the writing transfer of business majors enrolled in an advanced business writing course and found that students frequently engaged in “invisible” transfer.  Our present study explores this “invisible” transfer for 13 students over a five-year period, examining how students writing knowledge, strategies, and skills transferred mostly “invisibly”—or not at all. In our study, less than 25 percent of all transfer we tracked was “visible” to our student participants, and yet, it was often happening. Further,  our findings indicate a transfer was more likely to occur for writing knowledge that was expanded and reinforced beyond initial learning contexts. Through this longitudinal, mixed-methods exploration of transfer, we explore a number of implications for writing center practice and tutoring strategies including: making the “invisible” more visible, meaningful, and salient; working on expanding and reinforcing previously learned material; and tutoring with successful metaphors that teach students about their learning. We consider these results in light of  Marback’s (2009) “wicked problems” framework, where wicked problems are ambiguous, contingent, recursive, and must to be solved again and again because they involve multiple actors and artifacts as well as the relationship between them is dynamic. 

“Tutoring Creative Writers: Addressing Tutors’ Concerns”

Havva Ozer, CAL doctoral student

The current study examines writing center tutors’ concerns with tutoring creative writers. Twenty-eight (N=28) tutors participated in an anonymous online survey. Tutors responded to an open-ended question regarding their concerns with tutoring creative writers and reported demographic data. The data were analyzed through thematic coding. The majority of the tutors reported that they had experience in tutoring a variety of creative writing genres in the writing centers. The analysis of the tutors’ responses revealed that tutors’ concerns with tutoring creative writers emerged from discipline specific and tutoring-related issues. Implications were drawn for addressing tutors’ concerns.  

“The Neurodiverse Artist: Confronting Neurotypical Ableism in the Writing Center

Cat Williams-Monardes, CAL doctoral student

How do we construct the anti-ableist writing center, one that is inclusive of neurodiverse tutors and writers? Grounding our discussion in disability studies scholarship, we will share strategies designed to combat neurotypical privilege in the writing center. Audience members will learn how to recruit, train, and support tutors with (dis)abilities as we challenge everyone to push the boundaries of the structure and content of the traditional session. We must stop striving to help neurodiverse tutors and writers meet existing expectations. We must instead evolve expectations to encompass every student and every work of art.