Conference (n): The action of conferring or taking counsel, now always on an important or serious subject or affair

IWCA 2012 San Diego

I apologize for neglecting to blog in September and this isn’t much for October… needless to say it’s been a very busy semester. I’ve been writing up a revised and researched version of the “nonce genre” idea, and my colleague, John Boyd, and I have been busy writing up our talk/workshop for this week’s IWCA (not to mention the daily work of running our Writing Center).

If you are a writing center person and are attending IWCA this week, we encourage you to attend our workshop. We’ll be offering a rationale for our revised seminar and asking for participants to consider how we should, or might, shift the focus of our tutor training to accommodate recent longitudinal studies in writing studies scholarship. We believe that writing centers must take their place as active participants in learning instruction, and see this as a way to do so. Here is our abstract and presentation details. We hope to see you there!

Shifting Focus: Addressing the Knowledge Domains of Writing Expertise in a
Peer Tutoring Seminar

John Boyd (Washington College), Moriah Purdy (Washington College)
Thursday, October 25, 2012 1:30-2:45
Session: 4C Room: 1360A
Recent longitudinal studies of undergraduate development offer a challenging and, in some ways, unsettling perspective for writing centers and writing programs. Investigations like those conducted at Harvard and the University of Washington suggest that the gains students make in writing during the college years are inseparably tied to disciplinary practice and rarely, if ever, depend on generalized strategies and transparent “skills.”

If this is true, then writing centers will need to rethink some of their assumptions about how peer tutoring contributes to student writing development and what kind of preparation will help tutors function successfully in a variety of contexts. In this interactive workshop, we report on how we restructured our peer tutoring seminar based on the five knowledge domains of writing expertise outlined in Anne Beaufort’s study, College Writing and Beyond. By rooting our seminar in both theoretical and practical knowledge related to process, subject matter, rhetorical context, genres, and discourse communities, we aimed to shift our tutors’ focus away from the problematic binaries often emphasized in writing center literature (such as directive/non-directive strategies and higher/lower-order concerns) and toward a framework for interacting with other writers that accounts for differing contexts and disciplinary practices.

In our workshop, we present what we found to be the benefits and challenges of our revised focus, and we ask participants to consider how they might account for Beaufort’s knowledge domains in their own tutor preparation efforts. Together, we will draw some conclusions about the value of knowledge about writing development and explore strategies for incorporating that knowledge into tutor instruction. Ultimately, we pose the following questions: What kind of course is a peer tutoring seminar? What kind of course should it be?

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