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11.1 (2013): SPECIAL ISSUE THE FUTURE OF WRITING CENTERS


Praxis: A Writing Center Journal • Vol 11, No 1 (2013)

FROM THE EDITORS: SPECIAL ISSUE ON THE FUTURE OF WRITING CENTERS Sarah Orem & Jacob Pietsch Managing Editors praxisuwc@gmail.com The publication of this issue of Praxis coincides with two significant anniversaries for the Undergraduate Writing Center at the University of Texas at Austin. This year, UT’s writing center celebrates its twentieth year of being open, a milestone that was commemorated by a conference on the “Future of Writing Centers” this past spring. For this issue of Praxis, we invited authors to reflect on the same theme and articulate the topics they find important to ongoing writing center work. This issue’s publication will also mark the tenth anniversary of Praxis itself. What began as an informal newsletter transformed into an online hub of writing center information and subsequently a peer-reviewed journal. These important milestones inform the work we’ve done as editors over the past months. We find ourselves looking back on what we’ve accomplished and looking forward to the future. On the theme of the “Future of Writing Centers,” many authors featured in this issue stress that writing center practitioners must stay attentive to political and social justice concerns. Timothy Ballingall, Liliana Naydan, and Alana Bitzel’s articles all foreground social justice issues and identity politics, with both Ballingall and Naydan thinking through the interrelation between politics and multiliteracy. Bitzel’s study of tutors’ in-session language recommends that subtle linguistic shifts can enable more just futures for those who work and learn in writing centers. Authors including Lamiyah Bahrainwala, Alyssa-Rae Hug, and Marc Scott forecast that future writing center work will be community-driven and dialogic. Bahrainwala, in analyzing consultants’ note-taking habits, finds that what might appear to be informal scribbles in fact reflect the ways in which consultants empathize with consultees. Hug explores the limits and benefits of what she calls “collaborative commenting,” a process of writing that puts tutors and professors into conversation with each other. Scott revisits James Kinneavy’s influential writing on karios in order to reflect on assessment, suggesting that Kinneavy’s theory might help writing center administrators have more productive conversations with colleagues in other fields and departments about the importance of writing center work. Beyond these articles, a column

and two book reviews comment on writing center practice. Jennifer Gray’s column advocates for practices that will better serve non-traditional student populations, just as Roger Austin’s review of A Synthesis of Qualitative Studies of Writing Center Tutoringforegrounds the text’s study of writing center ‘best practices’ and how to codify them. Jeremy Smyczek’s review of Peripheral Visions for Writing Centers tackles the grand narratives we tell ourselves about writing centers and opens up space for different visions of writing center futures. We couldn’t have produced this issue of Praxis without help from our editorial team and from the administrative staff of the UWC. We’d also like to thank former editors Elizabeth Goins and Coye Heard for their help transitioning into our roles as managing editors. Over the past year, Praxis has grown the size of its editorial board and continues to receive many high caliber submissions. The journal’s future looks to be auspicious; it is a future in which we are grateful to take part.


Praxis: A Writing Center Journal • Vol 11, No 1 (2013)

TRANSLATING NORMALCY: TUTORS NAVIGATING SPACES BETWEEN EXPECTATIONS AND EXPERIENCES FOR NON-TRADITIONAL STUDENTS Jennifer P. Gray College of Coastal Georgia jgray@ccga.edu Non-traditional students make up a large portion of the current college student population. Mike Rose indicates that the “non-traditional student is becoming the new norm” for higher education, and according to the National Center for Education Statistics, nontraditional students make up “almost 40%” of all students enrolled in higher education (8). This number is slippery, however, as there are different definitions of non-traditional students. The National Center for Education Statistics defines non-traditional students as students who have had at least a five-year break in their education (National). Sometimes financial independence or high school-related experiences are the guides for this label, which includes those who have a GED, were homeschooled, or have an international schooling background (Hess, National). At my institution, non-traditional students are classified as students over the age of 25, and they make up 37% of our student population. With these growing numbers of non-traditional students, writing centers need to focus on the unique needs of this student population. My essay will discuss these needs and the unique work tutors engage in as they work with non-traditional students. Writing classes have changed, especially since the 1990s, and conversations during tutoring sessions often revolve around highlighting those changes and explaining why they have occurred. In our center, tutors take time to talk to non-traditional students about student-centered pedagogies, process-based writing instruction, and writing in the digital era. We discuss how current writing classes may be quite different from a nontraditional student’s former classes. Taking the time to discuss these differences has been helpful because many classes are unfamiliar to these students. One non-traditional student in the study shared that she does not understand “these new types of writing.” This essay uses qualitative research conducted at my Southeastern institution with almost 1000 student participants. Students responded to a survey that collected data about their thoughts on writing at the college level and about the work of the writing center. For this piece, I selected a reflective excerpt from a non-traditional student, “Janet,” which is her pseudonym. This excerpt is emblematic of the

responses collected from other non-traditional students in the larger study. Examining reflective writing from non-traditional students can provide researchers with a window into the students’ worlds. My main method of analysis will be a close reading that will examine Janet’s thoughts about her college writing and the writing center. Paying attention to Janet’s language choices can provide researchers with insight into her conscious and unconscious thoughts about writing and being a writer. Writing centers can then use this information to improve session success. Linguist James Paul Gee explains the function of a close-reading analysis: What is language for? Many people think language exists so that we can ‘say things’ in the sense of communicating information. However, language serves a great many functions in our lives. Giving and getting information is by no means the only one. Language does, of course, allow us to inform each other. But it also allows us to do things and to be things. In fact, saying things in language never goes without also doing things and being things. (Introduction 2) Looking at student language illustrates not only what the student is communicating but also what the student is doing, what position the student is taking, what relationship the student is advancing with her subject, and how the student values what she is discussing. According to Gee, we take on the role of a “designer” when we use language (211). We make a decision to speak and/or write in a certain manner, and those choices highlight our perception of reality and what we value and see as important. I will use Gee’s theories of analysis to examine Janet’s 113-word piece of writing. This selection was written by hand in 10 minutes, and I have kept her original spelling, agreement, word, and punctuation choices. I am not a big fan of writing, but writing about new worldly things are interesting. Researching and keeping up with the times. Many classes are redesigning essay research papers. Professors are changing the way they want us to write papers & it can be difficult. I don’t enjoy writing. I do it because it is a must to do a Bachelor degree. I get


Translating Normalcy • 2 confused with what is right and wrong and I’m very intimated. Sometimes I feel like professors bog you down with papers just for busy work, though. The writing center is a place where I can find my person to help and encourage my writing in a ‘proper way.’ I will focus my analysis on three points. The first focuses on Janet’s position in the sentences in her excerpt: how she talks about herself reveals whether she sees herself as an actor or whether she is passive in what she experiences. The second point examines Janet’s specific thoughts on not being a writer. The final point highlights the potential that is just beneath the surface of Janet’s thoughts as she struggles with control and ownership over her writing.

Point One: Janet’s active position in the sentence is predominantly negative. Applying Gee’s theories to this excerpt reveals that Janet is doing the action described in her sentences. She is an active participant who plays a role in the named action. Active positions often appear with the word “I” as the subject, or actor, in the sentence. The actor has agency over the action being completed. Janet uses an active “I” construction seven times; and in six cases, this construction portrays writing negatively.1 She owns these statements; for Janet, writing is very much about doing what she must, in a confusing, unenjoyable manner that is, ultimately, a waste of time. Writing is “done” for the purpose of completing a degree (a degree that the writer did not write out correctly but that still is a “must” to “do”). These are not the descriptors I want students to use when they think about writing or about their college experience. People “do” dishes or “do” laundry. When students use the term “do” to describe a class’ writing, the work is often cursory and ultimately just a performance of something considered “just busy work.”

Point Two: Janet is not a writer At the beginning of the excerpt, Janet muses twice about writing. These two musings stand out; however, she is not active in them. She says that “Writing about new worldly things are interesting,” but it is not clear that she is the writer. She mentions “Researching and keeping up with the times,” but there is no actor in this sentence. She knows of these activities, but she does not connect herself directly to them. She could easily have written, “I like” researching and keeping up with the times, but she did not. The next two sentences are also missing Janet. Classes and professors are in charge of writing; Janet

indicates that “Classes are redesigning essay research papers” and “professors are changing the way they want us to write papers.” The classes and the professors are the subjects, and Janet is missing. Presumably, there is no place for her to contribute to “essay research paper” design or to converse with professors about how to write papers her way. Finally, her language choices reveal a clear split between student and professor, as represented by the use of “us.” She could have said that professors are changing the way they want her to write papers; however, she selects the word “us” instead of naming herself directly. Perhaps she finds strength in numbers. The classroom community has a strict divide between professor and students, and only students “do” the writing. This strict divide is reminiscent of nonstudent-centered classrooms, common in pre-2000 first-year writing classes.

Point Three: Two possibilities for control and ownership in Janet’s writing In the final sentence, Janet exhibits a sign that she might take control over her writing at some point. This shift means there is a possibility that she may feel ownership over her writing. In the last sentence of the excerpt, the subject is the writing center, and the center functions as a place where Janet can find her “person” that will “help and encourage” her writing. Her use of “my” is promising because it is the only time in the excerpt that she takes ownership of her writing. She uses “my” twice, once in reference to her writing, and once in reference to her “person.” Prior to this sentence, she represented writing as designed or controlled by the professors or the classes. Janet is still offering some control over the writing to the writing center person, supposedly the master of the proper way, but her use of “my” shows promise of some agency. It is meaningful and exciting to me as a writing center director that the only use of “my” occurs when she is talking about the writing center. It is disheartening to think she might not feel such ownership in her writing classes. I would rather have a student take ownership of her writing; we can work on the problematic concept of “proper” later. Curiously, this last sentence, which focuses on the writing center, is the longest sentence out of the nine presented. The average sentence length in the excerpt is 12.5 words, and this last sentence has 22 words. The second sign of Janet’s possible growth as a writer revolves around the use of “but” in the first sentence of the excerpt. This sign is less obvious than the previous one, but still worth mentioning. Janet begins the excerpt by saying that she is not a “big fan”

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Translating Normalcy • 3 of writing. However, she goes on to say that writing about new worldly things can be interesting. She combines the thought “I am not a big fan” of writing with the thought that writing can be interesting. She combines these thoughts with the word “but.” The use of “but” in the sentence cancels out whatever material came before. For example, we might say, “I am really tired, but I am going to go to class.” Ultimately, we are going to class; the later half of the sentence is the meat of the sentence in that case. This is the same effect the first sentence in Janet’s excerpt has. Writing is interesting at times. She may not be the biggest fan of the activity, and she may not be the one doing the actual writing about the worldly things, but there is potential: writing can be interesting. The mere potential for interest suggests that her views about writing have broadened. As a writing center director, I take this potential for growth as a charge to make my writing center sessions interesting to the student. Janet expresses that control of the writing (designing and changing) is in the faculty’s domain. Perhaps if Janet felt more in control of her writing, she would become more involved and interested.

Options for Change at Writing Centers Based on the research data collected, our writing center has made several changes in the areas of document collection and conversations on campus. We have altered two well-used documents: our student-satisfaction survey and our presentationreflection documents. For our student-satisfaction survey, we have added a checkbox for students to indicate if they are non-traditional, and a space to describe why they believe they belong to that category. This allows us to sort the surveys based on this classification, and doing so may add to the multiple definitions of “non-traditional student.” Our next research project will involve sorting the data to see if patterns are present, such as the prevalence of a particular discipline or a similar point of struggle. We also added more space for qualitative open-ended questions to collect information about what students think about their current assignment. As Janet indicated, she can “get confused with what is right and wrong” with her writing assignments. Having the space required for Janet to explain her understanding of an assignment can highlight whether she is confused or not, and whether she might need to take an active role in her learning and return for another tutoring session. As a bonus, the writing center can also anonymously share these insights with professors on campus, which could be helpful if many students are confused.

The writing center uses the second document, the presentation-reflection document, during in-class presentations in first-year writing classes. These presentations range in topic from MLA/APA/Chicago documentation, to Avoiding Plagiarism, to Writing Literature Reviews; and they are led by the tutors and the Center’s director. After a presentation, the writing center collects information from the student audience via the presentationreflection document to ascertain their knowledge going into the presentation, and how that might have changed after the presentation. Janet’s comment about professors “redesigning essay research papers” reminds us that each presentation presents an opportunity to demystify the college writing experience for a student. While the presentationreflection document helps to “prove” the effectiveness of instruction to the administration, it more importantly helps the writing center revise presentations based on students’ needs. If students do not understand a concept or if that concept is completely foreign (as it may be for many nontraditional students), we receive immediate formative assessments. The document invites students to take an active role in helping the writing center reassess its presentations. Our most senior tutors compile and analyze these reflective documents at the end of each month. They present the information at staff meetings, and these presentations represent the early stages of data collection for sections of SACS or annual reports. We have also altered conversations at our center. These conversations often revolve around why writing classes have changed over time; students must work to make sense of what it means to be a writer at college in 2013. We encourage students to think of themselves as writers, and we call them writers to reinforce this identity (for example: “As a writer, why did you make this choice?”). We have held impromptu and informal focus groups of non-traditional students currently using the writing center, and we talk to them about their struggles or successes. Some specific topics include animated discussions of what is normal behavior in a classroom, why teachers might be assigning what they are assigning, and how to increase confidence in writing. In one focus group, a nontraditional student said she had not had a writing class in five years, and she wondered why her current writing teacher was not focused on correcting her paper “grammatically.” Another student wanted to know why the teachers did not provide models or share examples. Another student remarked, “Literacy narrative? What the heck is that? Isn’t this an English class?” We took some of this informal data to their

Praxis: A Writing Center Journal • Vol 11, No 1 (2013) www.praxis.uwc.utexas.edu!

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Translating Normalcy • 4 teachers, anonymously of course, and collected assignment samples to keep in the writing center for future sessions. We even invited Writing-Across-theCurriculum teachers to writing center staff meetings and open-house events to talk about their assignments. Finally, our campus is fortunate enough to have a nontraditional student club, and we are frequent attendees and impromptu presenters at the club meetings. All of the examples listed above represent our effort to include non-traditional students’ perspectives into our conversations about writing on campus, while encouraging active participation with a positive spirit for growth as writers. In Back to School, Mike Rose urges faculty to see non-traditional students as what they could be, not just as what they were or what they have been. He says that “to respond fully and well” to non-traditional students, we have to “know them better” and that we need to move “beyond the ready-made labels and explanations” and understand why they are in our classroom and what is important to them (97). Listening to non-traditional students reflect on their experiences and thoughts about writing can provide directors, teachers, and tutors with a way into a discussion about writing successfully in college and beyond. As James Paul Gee reminds us, “when we choose words and build phrases and sentences with grammar, we are giving clues … to listeners about how to construct a picture in their heads” (71). I urge us all to be better listeners who work to see the pictures our students create. Notes 1. The six cases: not being “a big fan,” “not enjoy[ing] writing,” “doing” what she “must” in order “to do” her degree, getting “confused,” being “very intimated,” and feeling bogged down by professors assigning “busy work.” Works Cited Bell, Steven. “Nontraditional Students Are the New Majority.” New York Times. 8 Mar 2012. Print. Gee, James Paul. How to Do Discourse Analysis: A Toolkit. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print. –. Introduction to Critical Discourse Analysis: Theory and Method. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print. Hess, Frederick. “Old School: College’s Most Important Trend is the Rise of the Adult Student.” The Atlantic. 28 Sept. 2011. Web. 26 Feb 2013. National Center for Education Statistics. “Definitions and Data.” 2013. Web. 26 Feb 2013. Rose, Mike. Back to School: Why Everyone Deserves a Second Chance at Education. New York: The New Press, 2012. Print.

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Praxis: A Writing Center Journal • Vol 11, No 1 (2013)

A HYBRID DISCUSSION OF MULTILITERACY AND IDENTITY POLITICS Timothy Ballingall West Chester University tb769355@wcupa.edu Much discussion has taken place in composition and writing center studies regarding “multi-”s: multimedia, multiliteracy, multimodality, even multiwriting. The “multi-” that has received the most attention in writing center studies specifically is multiliteracy. This attention has manifested in some scholars calling for the writing center’s evolution to a multiliteracy center, or MLC (Trimbur; Sheridan, “Introduction”; Sheridan, “Words, Images, Sounds”; McKinney; Balester et al.). This call is contemporaneous with but virtually distinct from another important discussion in writing center studies. I am talking here about the politics of identity. The major questions in this discussion have been: What are the ways we can put into pedagogical practice a theory of identity that is based on discursive practices and intersectionality as opposed to one based on fixed, isolated definitions? Additionally, how can we ensure that this kind of pedagogy provides the grounds for subverting and resisting hegemonic discourses (Cooper; Bawarshi and Pelkowski; Grimm; Denny, “Queering the Writing Center”; Denny, Facing the Center)? While I do not propose here a comprehensive cultural studies pedagogy nor a comprehensive multiliteracy pedagogy, I do see an opportunity for consultant training in making these discussions talk to one another. A largely unacknowledged similarity and even interdependence exists between identity politics and multiliteracy. Moreover, asking consultants—in the training course or during staff meetings—to discuss and critically reflect on this similarity and interdependence will produce for them greater awareness of, and richer insight into, both topics. This hybrid discussion will not only provide consultants with a broader understanding of diversity and privilege, of multiplicity and hegemony. It will also provide writing center administrators with a practical and effective way of introducing consultants to the concept of multiliteracy as well as its social, cultural, and political valences. The final section of this article includes a reflection on my experience facilitating such a discussion as the assistant director of the writing center at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. The kind of hybrid discussion I am proposing has particular relevance for writing center studies. For

instance, the first collection of essays about multiliteracy in the writing center—David M. Sheridan and James A. Inman’s Multiliteracy Centers: Writing Center Work, New Media, and Multimodal Rhetoric—does not account for identity politics whatsoever, when the point of multiliteracy (which I will discuss in greater detail below) is as much about access, difference, and rhetorical agency as it is about text forms. In a review of Multiliteracy Centers, Catherine Gabor calls attention to the lack of discussion of gender, race, or class— they go virtually unmentioned. Given the vexed history of literacy, technology, and gender/race/class, one might expect the editors to have sought a chapter that explicitly addresses how multiliteracy centers can serve historically marginalized students. (Gabor) Furthermore, Harry C. Denny’s Facing the Center: Toward an Identity Politics of One-to-One Mentoring, published the same year as Multiliteracy Centers, makes no mention of the social justice aims of multiliteracy despite Denny’s having written elsewhere that what’s at stake in any discussion of multiliteracy are “the social justice needs of our lifetime” (“Introduction” 85). Finally, the themes of two recent issues of Praxis are multiliteracy and diversity, respectively. I do not elicit all these publications in critique, but rather to show the close proximity yet distinct separateness of these two conversations.1 In general, I believe writing center folks are ready to bring these conversations together, to talk about the similarity and interdependence of multiliteracy and identity politics. However, I am not making just a theoretical argument. Little has been written about the practical and inexpensive ways of incorporating multiliteracy into consultant training. After first defining exactly what I mean by multiliteracy, I will argue that much of the existing scholarship on MLCs is based on a narrow interpretation of multiliteracy, resulting in a detriment to the work of writing centers. The idea of multiliteracy comes from the 1996 article “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures.” The ten authors—some of whom include Norman Fairclough, James Gee, and Gunther Kress—congregated in New London, New Hampshire, for a week in 1994. Coming from varying


A Hybrid Discussion • 2 disciplines and areas of specialization, they sought to collectively rethink and expand the scope of literacy pedagogy in light of “our culturally and linguistically diverse and increasingly globalized societies” as well as “the burgeoning variety of text forms associated with information and multimedia technologies” (New London Group 61). These text forms, the authors write, involve the multiplicity and interplay of different communicative modes, be they linguistic, visual, aural, gestural, or spatial (65). Communication that combines two or more of these modes is multimodal, while reception of this communication depends on the receiver’s multiliteracy (63-5). The New London Group’s inclusive attention to text forms relates to their social justice telos in that the proliferation of communicative modes and technologies “supports and extends cultural and subcultural diversity” (61). The purpose of multiliteracy pedagogy is to enable students and educators to become “active participants in social change” (64). In summary, the multiliteracy project has as much to do with access, difference, and rhetorical agency in students’ private, public, and professional lives as it has to do with text forms. Despite the sweeping social justice aspirations of the New London Group’s multiliteracy project, writing center scholars espousing the writing center’s evolution to an MLC have largely over-emphasized the importance of purchasing sophisticated digital technology and hiring and training multimodal specialists. Jackie Grutsch McKinney lists the financial burdens should a writing center administrator desire to move toward what McKinney calls the All in One model: The estimated cost to equip three consulting stations with the necessary hardware, software, and the accompanying security measures would exceed $15,000, not including costs of software upgrades and maintenance; foregoing these costs by requiring writers to already own the equipment precludes the possibility of training consultants on the equipment; finally, if these consultants are being trained more, they should be paid more (McKinney 212-214). Certainly, to the extent that we define the MLC in these terms, the MLC appears to be an impractical aspiration for most writing centers. But if writing center administrators value multiliteracy education in whatever form it takes, digital or not, more than they value the “necessity” of sophisticated technology and specialized consultants, then the decision writing centers seem to face—between either becoming obsolete or transforming into glorified computer labs—is an either/or fallacy. McKinney makes this very point (219) and so, too, does Sheridan (“Introduction” 8).

However, there is a second axis on which to evaluate multiliteracy education in the writing center. By this, I mean an MLC’s consideration of text forms and social justice. The hyper-technological All in One model, which thus far has been predominantly the field’s solution to the multiliteracy problem, places unbalanced emphasis on text forms, contradicting the New London Group’s balanced emphasis on text forms and social justice. The tendency not to observe this balanced emphasis results in a gap in the scholarship and a limited range of options for multiliteracy education in most writing centers. A more balanced approach can be accomplished if we remember that multiliteracy is intended to serve as a broadened, more inclusive idea of literacy, not as a discipline unto itself. Much of the emphasis on purchasing sophisticated digital technology and hiring and training multimodal specialists comes from a reading of multiliteracy as if it were an academic discipline—as if only students studying, for example, film and digital media can benefit from an awareness of multiliteracy. Transforming the writing center into the All in One MLC, however incrementally, and generalist consultants into multimodal specialists are not the only ways of incorporating multiliteracy into writing center pedagogy. Moreover, the vast majority of writing centers cannot afford to purchase sophisticated technology or to be staffed by specialists. If all writers deserve to benefit from an awareness of multiliteracy, then all writing centers should have practical, effective, and inexpensive ways of enabling consultants to talk with writers about their writing— linguistic or multimodal—in a multiliterate way. The question is not: How can we turn the writing center into a technological utopia with fully trained multimodal specialists? Rather, the question is: What is the minimum that all writing centers can afford and accomplish in the way of making writing center work multiliteracy work? I propose that writing center administrators, during a staff meeting or in the training course, facilitate a group discussion that 1) gives generalist consultants awareness and understanding of the concept of multiliteracy and 2) is informed by recent scholarship on culture and identity. One theoretical component of this hybrid discussion is an analogy that brings together multiliteracy and identity politics. The analogy goes like this: The multiplicity of communicative modes is not unlike the multiplicity of cultural identities, and the hegemony of the written word is not unlike the hegemony of the “universal” subject. Multimodality and multiliteracy are not unlike intersectionality, a theory of identity as “constituted by mutually

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A Hybrid Discussion • 3 reinforcing vectors of race, gender, class, and sexuality” and variances in social and cultural privilege and oppression (Nash 2). A richly multimodal text, such as a website, for example—one that is constituted by multiple communicative modes—is analogous to intersectional identity—one that is constituted by multiple historically and socially constructed categories of identity. Moreover, each identity, which is always multiple, is constituted by a multiplicity of subject positions. Individuals come to occupy different positions within different discourses. For any one identity, there are many meanings and many subject positions. Analogously, for any one mode of communication, there is not one but many genres. For example, the genres of writing include academic, journalistic, technical, professional, narrative, etc. The flip side of this theme is this: Just as academic discourse has historically excluded and marginalized various cultural identities, composition theory has excluded and marginalized, for example, the visual (George) and aural (Selfe) as illegitimate communicative modes. Likewise, as academic discourse has historically privileged the straight, white, able-bodied, middle-class, male, SAE speaker, composition theory has privileged the written word as the only legitimate communicative mode. Of course, I do not mean to suggest that multiliteracies and cultural identities are of equal importance or that the material consequences of these exclusions and marginalizations are in any way equally unjust. Still, much can be illuminated and mutually reinforced by discussing the similarities and interdependence of multiliteracy and identity politics. Consideration of these ideas’ interdependence will directly shed light on the ways in which the hybrid discussion can progress from theory into practice. If we agree that no cultural identity is stable—that is to say, there are no fixed, essential definitions of masculinity or femininity, whiteness or blackness, straightness or gayness, and so on—then we subscribe to the anti-essentialist theory of cultural identity. Using Foucauldian terminology, Stuart Hall defines identities as narratives “produced in specific historical and institutional sites within specific discursive formations and practices, by specific enunciative strategies” (4). Identities only come to exist within and through discourse. As effects of discourse, identities are always already fragmented, discontinuous, and constantly open to being reconstructed, to being transformed by way of a variety of discursive practices. This openness to transformation is often referred to as performativity (Butler). Through repeated acts, gestures, and signifying practices, individuals perform—and thus continue to bring into existence—a variety of cultural

identities. However, these performed identities are recognized and legitimated only to the extent that they conform to a given discourse community’s existing categories of identities. In other words, for those identities to continue to exist “legitimately” or “illegitimately,” their performance depends on an interaction between actors and audiences. To put it another way: performance is a kind of communication. Performances of cultural identity employ different, often multiple, communicative modes. For example, Denny writes: “For people of color and women, their bodies usually speak their marginality before their words are audible, and many would argue class and sexuality articulate their presence in non-verbal ways” (“Queering the Writing Center” 46). One might also consider the social significations of clothing, hairstyle, hair removal, gestures, accent, and so on. But completing the cycle of communication depends on the intelligibility of these visual and aural performances of race, gender, class, and sexuality. In other words, it depends on a discourse community’s multiliteracy. Therefore, the continual construction of identities depends on one’s ability to communicate through “multimodal performance” as well as on a discourse community’s ability to recognize that performance as such with the aid of the community’s “cultural multiliteracy.” Asking writing consultants—in the training course or during a staff meeting—to think about the ways in which their cultural identities are communicated, or how they may interpret the communicated identities of others, would generate a lively, insightful discussion. The writing center director or assistant director can begin the discussion by introducing either multiliteracy or cultural identity, given the knowledge base and interests of his or her consultants. Perhaps multiliteracy will present itself as a more accessible or familiar topic to a particular group of consultants; multiliteracy can then be analogized to the more unfamiliar topic of anti-essentialist identity. Or vice versa. In my experience facilitating a hybrid discussion at West Chester during a one-hour staff meeting last spring, the consultants were less familiar with multiliteracy and more knowledgeable about theories of cultural identity. The discussion largely consisted of my introducing ideas and using analogies to make them accessible for consultants. I also asked consultants to share relevant personal experiences in order to keep them engaged with the theoretically dense subject matter. This hybrid discussion was overall a success, but a number of changes will be made for future implementation during the fall semester.

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A Hybrid Discussion • 4 I began the meeting by describing multiliteracy as the holistic view of literacy, broadly defining it as the ability to perceive difference. For example, when looking at types of trees, what I see and what a biology student sees are two vastly different phenomena. As an illiterate observer, I see sameness (trees), whereas the literate observer, the biology student, sees difference (types of trees). Consultants provided other instances of (il)literacy such as a layperson and a mechanic looking at a car engine. Similarly, ideological discrimination against individuals with certain identity markers—skin color, facial and bodily features, etc.— can be partially explained as a form of illiteracy, as one’s perception of sameness. For example, one consultant, referencing the Trayvon Martin case, brought up the prevalence of negative media stereotypes of African American male teenagers. Another consultant added that positive stereotypes (such as that of high-achieving Asian American students) can also be harmful, though not to the same extent. If an individual perceives members of a community largely through stereotypes, s/he is seeing sameness where there is difference. This is a form of illiteracy. To connect multiliteracy with cultural identity, I noted that cultural identities can also be viewed holistically: one’s identity comprises multiple, intersecting categories such as gender, sexuality, race, class, ability, and so forth. With this established, I explained that none of these identity categories possesses a single, perfect, all-encompassing definition, that it is more a matter of doing than being. Consultants shared personal experiences of either grappling with this view of identity or advocating for it. For example, an undergraduate consultant described the frustrating and conflicting experience of being perceived by others as white but having Puerto Rican heritage. I then explained that identities are more accurately equated to the discontinuous and contradictory stories we tell to and about ourselves. To borrow Hall’s phrase, identity is more about coming to terms with one’s routes than with one’s roots (Hall 4). At this point, a number of consultants voiced their anticipation of how these ideas—multiliteracies and identities-as-stories—related to one another through linguistic and non-linguistic communication. Finally, I asked them to think about how they tell their stories: Are they told verbally or in writing? Aurally through dialect or accent? Or visually through gestures, clothing, hairstyle, or lack of (body) hair? Consultants were quick to offer examples of non-linguistically coded messages in a variety of contexts. For example, a female consultant described others’ perception of her short hair and their assumptions about her

personality and sexuality. As the conversation progressed, clothing emerged as the most accessible and dynamic example, specifically as it relates to one’s class, gender, and sexuality. At the end of the meeting, the consultants expressed that they felt more confident should a writer come in with a multimodal assignment (such as an online portfolio or Prezi presentation) or one concerned with multiliteracy (such as a rhetorical analysis of a magazine advertisement or film clip). They would be able to assist the writer by talking to him or her in a multiliterate way. This positive feedback strongly suggested the efficacy of our hybrid discussion in giving them a basic awareness and understanding of multiliteracy. I faced several challenges and surprises during this staff meeting, leading me to compile a number of recommendations for future implementation. One major challenge was the high level of theoretical density given the various levels of academic progress and various disciplines in our group. While many of the writing consultants at West Chester were graduate students in English, others were secondary-education undergraduates and graduate students in communication studies and social work. However, Director Dr. Karen Fitts and I were pleasantly surprised by the group’s ability to follow my presentation and the level of their engagement. While this observation does not absolutely confirm the accessibility of multiliteracy when presented through the hybrid discussion, I believe it bodes well for future implementation, especially considering the degree of generalist training each of the consultants had received up to that point. Nonetheless, we as a group could have benefitted from additional time. This particular meeting was near the end of the semester, and it was unfeasible to hold an entire follow-up meeting. In the future, I would plan to devote one meeting early in the semester to introducing the relatedness and interdependence of multiliteracy and cultural identity, and I would dedicate a separate meeting (or meetings) to discussing the ways in which cultural multiliteracy and multimodal performance play out in the context of the writing center. Giving consultants a week to mull over the ideas and have them in the backs of their minds throughout a week of writing conferences would be highly beneficial for the subsequent meeting’s discussion. Additionally, I would ask them to look for examples to bring up at the next meeting. Finally, another limitation presented by the lack of a follow-up meeting was my inability to hear consultants reflect on their conferences after the initial meeting. While consultants did informally approach me in the following weeks, reiterating the helpfulness of the

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A Hybrid Discussion • 5 hybrid discussion, further research would include observing and evaluating the ways in which writing conferences are affected by consultants’ new awareness of multimodal performance and cultural multiliteracy. While many writing center administrators may face some of the same challenges and limitations I faced, many would still benefit from asking their consultants some of the same questions. Specific questions may include the following: Which modes do consultants employ when discursively positioning themselves at the beginning of a conference, as a conference progresses, or when controversial topics emerge in a writer’s paper? Under which circumstances might one mode serve better to position the consultant than another? Might there be alternate modes to more subtly or more clearly position oneself in relation to the writer? How might the consultant’s discursive positioning change, based on a different set of available communicative modes, when the conference is in a synchronous or asynchronous online context, for example? Conversely, how do writers utilize semiotic systems to continually transform intersectional identities both within their (multimodal) texts and within the dialogue of the conference? More importantly, directors and consultants can discuss the ways in which consultants can use their insights from discussing multimodal performance and cultural multiliteracy to talk with writers. For instance, consultants can help writers actively use multimodality and multiliteracy to rhetorically negotiate his or her subject positions both inside and outside of academic discourse. This is, after all, the main purpose of the hybrid discussion. If generalist consultants understand that meaning can be articulated and interpreted through multiple modes—and that this communicative multiplicity is both analogous to, and interdependent with, the ongoing process of antiessentialist identity formation—consultants will be able to more fully help writers achieve the rhetorical agency necessary for the production and critical interpretation of texts in their private, public, and professional lives. As stated at the outset, I do not pretend to be presenting a comprehensive pedagogy of either cultural studies—discussing how exactly a critical eye toward power relations can be brought to bear on the writing conference—or multiliteracy—discussing how exactly a writer might be schematically introduced to the production and critical reception of multimodal texts—in the context of writing centers. Additionally, I have not presented a new hybrid pedagogy or even a rigorous empirical study of the hybrid discussion’s

efficacy. I merely seek to return culture and politics to the center of the discussion of multiliteracy in writing center studies. One way of accomplishing this is by using the “multi-”s of cultural identity to make more accessible to consultants the “multi-”s of literacy, or vice versa. Anti-essentialism can be quite heady, but an understanding of multiliteracy may perhaps help the performative aspect of anti-essentialism become more accessible. Conversely, multiliteracy can seem irrelevant to those not writing about film or digital media, but anti-essentialism may perhaps reinforce the social justice telos of multiliteracy pedagogy. Multiliteracy work occurs on a continuum between the “obsolete” writing center and the glorified computer lab known as the All in One MLC. However, if we are to fulfill the promise of the New London Group’s 1996 article, we must also keep our focus balanced between text forms and social justice, between digital technology and identity politics. Balance will ensure multiliteracy remains transdisciplinary. The hybrid discussion is one practical and inexpensive way of achieving that balance. As such, the hybrid discussion is a promising point of entry into multiliteracy work in the context of consultant training. This point of entry involves discovering the ways in which everyone involved— directors, consultants, and writers—can talk about pictures like we talk about paragraphs like we talk about politics. Note 1. The one exception to this lack of crossover is the history of scholarship on language diversity, on the existence and legitimacy of World Englishes, and the implications for racial justice (for some of the most recent work, see Diab et al. and Wilson). While this is an excellent start, I would want to expand the scope and thrust of the discussion of language diversity to include all aspects of multiliteracy and cultural identity. For example, just as descriptive linguistics can account for both “standard” and “nonstandard” Englishes, multiliteracy can account for not only writing and image, but also “standard” and “nonstandard” Englishes. Works Cited Balester, Valerie, et al. “The Idea of a Multiliteracy Center: Six Responses.” Praxis: A Writing Center Journal 9.2 (2012): 1-10. Web. 23 Jan. 2013. Bawarshi, Anis and Stephanie Pelkowski. “Postcolonialism and the Idea of a Writing Center.” Writing Center Journal 19.2 (1999): 41-58. Print. Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.

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A Hybrid Discussion • 6 Cooper, Marilyn M. “Really Useful Knowledge: A Cultural Studies Agenda for Writing Centers.” Writing Center Journal 14.2 (1994): 97-111. Print. Denny, Harry C. Facing the Center: Toward an Identity Politics of One-To-One Mentoring. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 2010. Print. –. “Introduction to ‘Multiliteracies, Social Futures, and Writing Centers’.” Writing Center Journal 30.1 (2010): 8487. Print. –. “Queering the Writing Center.” Writing Center Journal 25.2 (2005): 29-62. Print. Diab, Rasha, et al. “A Multi-Dimensional Pedagogy for Racial Justice in Writing Centers.” Praxis: A Writing Center Journal 10.1 (2012): 1-8. Web. 24 Jan. 2013. Gabor, Catherine. Rev. of Multiliteracy Centers: Writing Center Work, New Media, and Multimodal Rhetoric, ed. David M. Sheridan and James A. Inman. Praxis: A Writing Center Journal (2012): 1-3. Web. 23 Jan. 2013. George, Diana. “From Analysis to Design: Visual Communication in the Teaching of Writing.” College Composition and Communication 54.1 (2002): 11-39. Print. Grimm, Nancy Maloney. Good Intentions: Writing Center Work for Postmodern Times. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1999. Print. Hall, Stuart. “Who Needs ‘Identity’?” Questions of Cultural Identity. Ed. Stuart Hall and Paul du Gay. London: SAGE Publications, 1996. 1-17. Print. McKinney, Jackie Grutsch. “The New Media (R)evolution: Multiple Models for Multiliteracies.” Multiliteracy Centers: Writing Center Work, New Media, and Multimodal Rhetoric. Ed. David M. Sheridan and James A. Inman. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton, 2010. 207-23. Print. Nash, Jennifer C. “Re-Thinking Intersectionality.” Feminist Review 89 (2008): 1-15. Print. New London Group. “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures.” Harvard Educational Review 66 (1996): 60-92. Print. Selfe, Cynthia L. “The Movement of Air, the Breath of Meaning: Aurality and Multimodal Composing.” College Composition and Communication 60.4 (2009): 616-663. Print. Sheridan, David M. “Introduction: Writing Centers and the Multimodal Turn.” Multiliteracy Centers: Writing Center Work, New Media, and Multimodal Rhetoric. Ed. David M. Sheridan and James A. Inman. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton, 2010. 1-16. Print. –. “Words, Images, Sounds: Writing Centers as Multiliteracy Centers.” The Writing Center Director’s Resource Book. Ed. Christina Murphy and Byron L. Stay. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2006. 339-47. Print. Trimbur, John. “Multiliteracies, Social Futures, and Writing Centers.” Writing Center Journal 20.2 (2000): 29-32. Print. Wilson, Nancy Effinger. “Stocking The Bodega: Towards a New Writing Center Paradigm.” Praxis: A Writing Center Journal 10.1 (2012): 1-9. Web. 24 Jan. 2013.

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WHO ARE “WE”? EXAMINING IDENTITY USING THE MULTIPLE DIMENSIONS OF IDENTITY MODEL Alanna Bitzel The University of Texas at Austin alanna.bitzel@athletics.utexas.edu “We begin from where we are, listening to, facing and questioning the legacies each of us brings to [our] work.” – Anne Geller, et al. “Everyday Racism,” 90

tutors and reflect on how the Writing Lab can continue examining identities beyond the workshop.

“Both the internal conversations with self and the more public conversations in our communities of practice are what shape our identities, what begin to help us and our tutors actually see what before was invisible.” – Anne Geller, et al. “The Everyday Writing Center and the Production of New Knowledge in Antiracist Theory and Practice.”1 114

Much writing center discourse situates the tutor as peer, but the peer concept is questionable.3 Complicating peerness are tutor knowledge and expertise. As Isabelle Thompson summarizes in her study of scaffolding in writing center sessions: “current research suggests that rather than the peer collaboration advocated by writing center practitioners in the 1980s, the collaboration between students and tutors is asymmetrical … Unlike peers, tutors and students are not equals because tutors bring knowledge and skills that students often lack to conferences” (419).4 Muriel Harris explains that writing centers cultivate this knowledge and skill imbalance, training tutors “to be better acquainted with the conventions of academic discourse than students in peer-response groups” (379). When tutors acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for becoming effective students, writers, and tutors in the traditional academic structure, they are imbued with what John Trimbur describes as “a certain institutional authority” associated with the “values and standards” of the academic institution (23). This authority skews the relative power dynamic in writing sessions. While tutor expertise and authority separate tutors from the students with whom they work, they can also afford significant opportunities for writing center sessions. Developing expertise equips tutors with strategies for stimulating student learning. Thompson shows that when tutors employ scaffolding techniques, for example, “[t]he tutor and the student share knowledge and responsibility for completing the task successfully, and the less expert student begins to understand the task from the perspective of the more expert tutor” (421). Moreover, tutors’ expertise may help students wrestle with institutional authority. In her landmark essay, Marilyn Cooper argues that tutors, “by virtue of their constant contact with institutional constraints and with students’ lived experiences, are best positioned” (103) to help students “learn how to challenge these

As a writing center administrator–I oversee the Writing Lab housed within The University of Texas at Austin’s (UT) Football Academic Center (FAC)–I have been interested in exploring how identities affect writing sessions. In their study of student identities, researchers Susan Jones and Marylu McEwen developed the Multiple Dimensions of Identity model (“A Conceptual Model”), which describes “the dynamic construction of identity and the influence of changing contexts on the relative salience of multiple identity dimensions, such as race, sexual orientation, culture, and social class” (Abes, Jones, and McEwen 3).2 Last year, I applied Multiple Dimensions of Identity to the writing center context, implementing a workshop employing the model with the Writing Lab tutors. In this article, I share the Writing Lab’s experience using Multiple Dimensions of Identity, demonstrating that the model presents an effective and replicable training method for making visible some identities in the writing center and discovering how identity-laden power and authority dynamics can complicate writing center work. To help frame the discussion on identities, I begin by briefly summarizing some relevant writing center literature on power and authority as it relates to student-tutor interactions. Next, I give an overview of student and tutor identities in the Writing Lab, contextualizing the identities within the larger UT setting. I introduce Multiple Dimensions of Identity theory and describe the workshop format. Finally, I offer ideas for redesigning the workshop to facilitate deeper conversation among

Power and Authority


Examining Identity • 2 constraints productively in the service of their own goals and needs” (102). Carol Severino similarly describes how tutors can help students to “‘grapple with’ or negotiate between and among intersecting and clashing cultures, languages, literacies, discourses, and disciplines; to help them decide when to follow organizational and stylistic conventions . . . and when to take risks and violate them” (2). When tutors perform this work, writing centers can function as contact zones.5 More recently, authors such as Nancy Grimm and Harry Denny have contended that tutors should use their expertise to assist students with obtaining tools to penetrate (Grimm 84)6 academic conventions and determining how, whether, and to what extent to manipulate dominant discourses (Grimm 83, Denny 49).7 Knowledge of and familiarity with dominant discourses, various disciplines, and writing are not the only contributors to tutor authority. Tutors possess personal and social identities, which carry and compound privilege and power in different contexts. Peter Carino maintains that tutors should not shy away from “the inevitable presence of power and authority” in the writing center but to “confront and negotiate” it, taking “responsibility for what they know and do not know” (113). Seizing on this call to action, in Spring 2012, I strategized about how the Writing Lab can take responsibility for power and authority present in writing sessions. I started the process by reflecting on identity characteristics of the students and tutors at the FAC.

The students on the team are in their late teens to early twenties, all of the students are male, and approximately half of the team members in the 2011 season were Black. In contrast, the Writing Lab tutoring staff comprises primarily graduate students at UT, along with a few professional tutors. In Spring 2012, the Writing Lab had eight writing staffers, three female tutors and five male tutors, in their midtwenties to mid-thirties, six of whom were White. Unlike the students, only a few tutors were involved in competitive sports in college. In addition to the above identity differences between the tutors and students, the tutors are more experienced with academic discourses than the students with whom they engage in writing sessions, especially the freshmen who are new to college-level work. Several of the graduate student tutors at the Writing Lab have even taught the writing-intensive classes required of UT undergraduates. Furthermore, the Writing Lab staffers engage in ongoing training and professional development in writing center pedagogy and practice. They are tutors, as Cooper describes, “who are in close contact with students and their everyday writing concerns, who reflect on their practices as tutors, and who study and critique theories of writing and language in light of their practice” (106). As graduate students, they are also entrenched in the academic hierarchy; they possess the institutional authority Trimbur discusses. These attributes indicate that the tutors and students at the Writing Lab are not peers.12

Students and Tutors8

Multiple Dimensions of Identity

UT is a large institution. This semester, Spring 2013, the undergraduate student population totaled 37,759 (Fisher 1). In Spring 2012, the undergraduate student population totaled 36, 422 (Fisher 1). The previous semester, Fall 2011, approximately 93% of UT undergraduates were in the 18-24 years of age range, and approximately 49% of UT undergraduates were male (Office of Information Management and Analysis).9 Additionally, in Spring 2012, 50.4% of undergraduates identified as “White only;” 19.9% as “Hispanic (any combination);” 18% as “Asian only;” 4.9% as “Black;”10 and 6.8% with another racial/ethnic identity11 (Fisher 3). The FAC serves a minute and unique subset of the larger UT population–the members of UT’s football team (117 members in the 2011 season) (“2011 Football Roster”), who have access to academic advising, mentoring, and tutoring support services, including the Writing Lab, at the FAC.

Last spring, in considering what the above identity differences between students and tutors mean for the Writing Lab, I recalled a “Facilitating Meaningful Discussions on Diversity and Social Justice” (“Oct 1721”) workshop that representatives from UT’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (DDCE) (“Diversity Education”) conducted in Fall 2011. The session incorporated Jones and McEwen’s Multiple Dimensions of Identity (MDI), a model emerging out of the researchers’ study of college students (405) in which they conceive of identity development as “a fluid and dynamic process” (411). MDI builds on Kay Deaux’s conception of personal and social identities that are “fundamentally interrelated” (5) and mutually informing. In Jones and McEwen’s model, the personal/inside/internal identity, designated the “core sense of self” (408) is most deeply experienced by the individual and least visible to other people (409). Surrounding the core are social/outside/external identities, such as race and

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Examining Identity • 3 gender, which are connected to the core and more visible to other people (408 – 409). In contrast to other developmental models and research on social identities that treat identity with a singular focus, MDI posits that identity dimensions “intersect with one another to demonstrate that no one dimension may be understood singularly; it can be understood only in relation to other dimensions” (409 – 410). Notably, in MDI, individuals can engage multiple dimensions at once (410), and their experiences with the dimensions undergo “ongoing construction” (408) such that dimensions will vary in importance and saliency across time depending on “a range of contextual influences” (411). MDI seemed applicable to the Writing Lab because the tutors negotiate multiple identities–e.g., student, instructor, and researcher–and the Writing Lab serves college students who negotiate multiple identities–e.g., student, athlete, and teammate. The tutors have also found that students are interested in tutor identities. Tutors have shared experiences with me and other tutors of students asking about ages, races, ethnicities, religions, and marital statuses. I have also encountered students’ interest in identities: a student once asked me, “What race are you?” which led to a conversation about what it means to me to identify as White and Hispanic; another time, I overheard a student say to a tutor, “It’s nice to see another brother!” identifying a tutor’s racial identity to be the same as his own. Nevertheless, I was concerned about tutor willingness to respond actively to a workshop involving identities. Geller, et al. discuss the challenges of doing social justice work in writing centers, acknowledging that “when each of us has begun, taking even the most tentative steps toward . . . opening conversations with tutors and student writers, with colleagues, we may feel uneasy” (“Everyday Racism” 92). Still new as the Writing Lab administrator, a role I assumed in 2011, I sympathized with the unease they described. Moreover, having a small Writing Lab staff has the benefit of tutors getting to know each other well, but I wondered if their closeness would make them feel that they could not honestly share their thoughts with one another.13 I met and worked with DDCE representatives to design an MDI workshop for the Writing Lab staff for Spring 2012. The workshop lasted about an hour and a half, and the first half involved a DDCE worksheet (Taylor):

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Tutors completed the worksheet, writing in responses of their choosing; leaving categories blank if, for instance, they disagreed with a category or felt it was not significant; or adding categories. The DDCE facilitator then invited tutors to share responses and reflect on the experience of filling in the worksheet–to indicate which categories were easy to fill in and which were more difficult, and why, and to identify which identities carry privilege, and when. The second half of the workshop involved discussing Writing Lab-specific scenarios: 1. Working with a student on an assignment in which he must analyze a class text that contains “provocative”14 language related to issues of race; 2. Overhearing “casual, though public” social conversations among students that involve derogatory or discriminatory language; 3. Respecting a student’s unique personality in his writing while assisting him with an assignment in which he must adhere to “formal” academic writing standards; and 4. Responding to a student who feels he has received an unfair grade from an instructor who has a different racial identity than he does. Tutors split into pairs or groups of three to talk about the scenarios before reconvening as a group. While tutors shared responses to all four scenarios, I focus here on scenario three, as it illustrates key issues surrounding power, authority, and identities in the Writing Lab.

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Examining Identity • 4

Scenario Discussion Returning to my examination of power and authority and applying it to the Writing Lab, the perception that Writing Lab tutors are experts or have expertise may be positive: it may help get some students in the Writing Lab door, students who believe the tutors know more than they do about writing and can help them. But it may also negatively impact collaboration. Some students may want to relinquish a bit of their authority for writing decisions to tutors who “know better” than they do and have the ability to “fix” their writing. For other students, believing the tutors are experts may discourage them from seeking writing support. Students who struggle academically or those who face stereotypes about their academic skills because of an identity they possess–such as athlete–may feel intimidated or fear judgment by those they deem more competent. The workshop emphasized that the language tutors use in writing sessions can inadvertently reinforce such feelings. In particular, in response to scenario three, the staff talked about the use of “we,” a phrase common in the language of writing center sessions. The DDCE facilitator pointed out that “we” is a powerful word, one that may have a different meaning to a student than it does to a tutor. If a writing tutor who is White and a graduate student says to an undergraduate student who is Black “we write this way in this discipline” in a good-intentioned effort to relate to the student when discussing “formal” writing, the tutor may intend “we” inclusively to mean “students,” but the student may interpret “we” to be exclusionary, to mean “tutor/instructor” or “White people.” This example demonstrates how the power and authority imbalance between the student and tutor, who has greater knowledge about disciplinary conventions, experience with the assignment at hand, and familiarity with the academic institution, is complicated further by another identity, race, that may become more salient in the moment. The tutor’s use of “we” in this case could be problematic. It could further distance tutor and student and prevent them from reaching the writing contact zone, a place where they can discuss how to negotiate dominant academic discourses and institutional hierarchies. It may distance students, especially the “newcomers to a discourse or culture” (77) Grimm describes, who perceive themselves as different–from a tutor, an instructor, an institution, or the writing they are asked to do–and prevent them from engaging with writing support services, writing, or academics more generally. Alienating students is

particularly detrimental in writing centers that support students who are members of minority or marginalized communities on campus or centers that, like the Writing Lab, have small staffs and very small communities of students with whom they work regularly over the course of the year. Creating trust and rapport with the students who visit the Writing Lab is crucial.

Workshop Redesign and Future Steps The topic of identities is incredibly complex, and one short workshop can only be the beginning of an examination regarding identities, power, and authority in a writing center. However, thinking about the Writing Lab through the MDI lens called attention to and furthered conversation among tutors regarding some ways in which identities and identity differences between tutors and students may affect communication and student engagement in writing sessions. For instance, it highlighted the importance of how we, as writing center practitioners, position ourselves in relation to the students with whom we work and must rethink prevailing practices and be mindful of language choices, like “we,” to promote productive moments of learning and understanding. The workshop had several limitations. First, the DDCE worksheet, which frames identity dimensions in terms of pre-set categories, was potentially restrictive. However, tutors could add or change categories on the worksheet. And, despite its restrictions, filling in the worksheet allowed time for personal reflection on identities, and discussing the worksheet as a group fostered a greater collective awareness among the tutors of some identity intersections and differences. This first activity led fluidly into a discussion of the scenarios, and the small group setting provided everyone an opportunity to contribute. For writing centers wanting to implement a similar training, the conversation-based approach of the workshop seems particularly well-suited for smaller staffs. For a writing center with a larger staff, dividing the staff into smaller groups for the workshop may encourage greater conversation and help staff members discover new ways to relate to and learn from each other. I also recommend tailoring the scenarios to each writing center to make the workshop relevant to the everyday situations the tutors encounter. Second, the initial workshop design was too ambitious. Each scenario involved issues that could have produced a rich discussion for which we did not have time. DDCE modified the workshop to reduce the number of scenarios when it conducted a second

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Examining Identity • 5 workshop with the Writing Lab in Fall 2012. I asked DDCE to return that semester because the Writing Lab underwent a change. Of the seven writing tutors on staff in the fall,15 five started working after Spring 2012, and I wanted them to experience the training as well. As in the spring workshop, the fall workshop started with tutors completing the worksheet. Next, rather than focusing on pre-determined scenarios, the facilitator invited tutors to describe situations that had come up for them, which reduced the pressure to talk about a set number of scenarios. Ultimately, a workshop can only be successful in promoting discussion of identities to the extent that a writing center staff is willing to actively engage and contribute opinions. As writing center administrators, we can help create environments in which tutors are comfortable participating in social justice efforts by giving them practice doing so.16 The Writing Lab staff, for example, has returned to the discussion on identities we started in the workshop in our weekly staff meetings, generating insights from writing center texts and our daily work with student athletes. Moving forward, the Writing Lab staff needs to think more broadly about the Writing Lab as an entity, of our mission and values as a writing center that serves student athletes. We must continuously consider how the communities in which we work–the Writing Lab, the FAC, the Intercollegiate Athletics Department, and UT–influence identities. We must pay concerted attention to our practices and policies, examining the responsiveness of the tutoring staff to student needs and exploring the impact of identities on students’ abilities to meaningfully engage and position themselves in the academic arena. We can do this by conducting research and program evaluations that incorporate student athletes’ perspectives and feedback. I take comfort in Geller, et al.’s reassurance that social justice “work can neither be done perfectly nor completely; it is an ongoing process” (“Everyday Racism” 87). This work begins with each of us. We, as individuals, must continue to expose ourselves to diverse populations and experiences, learning and understanding how our identities shape our work and us. Notes 1. For more on communities of practice, see Wenger

“Communities of Practice” and Wenger, et al. Cultivating Communities of Practice. 2. Abes, et al. updated Jones’s and McEwen’s 2000 model to incorporate “meaning making.”

3. See Weaver, especially 79 – 91, for her summarization of writing center literature that problematizes and questions “neutrality and ‘peerness’” (84). 4. See Bruffee for the perspective of “peer collaboration advocated by writing center practitioners in the 1980s” (Thompson 419). 5. See Pratt for a discussion of the “contact zone.” 6. Grimm argues, “dominant discourses will remain impenetrable to students who are true outsiders” if writing centers adhere to traditional mottos that students must “do all the work” (84). 7. See Denny, who discusses queering writing sessions and avoiding the teaching of “passing” in writing centers, whereby tutors “teach students to move toward and privilege the academic discourse community” (53). Denny argues that “writing mentors ought to help students bridge the multiple literacies to which they have access and those dominant forms they require for academic success” (49). 8. The description of students and tutors at the Writing Lab in this section includes only a few identities, those that are most visible and/or are most explicitly referenced in the scenario I describe later in the article. 9. The age range and gender category percentages are based on data from the fall semester of the 2011 – 2012 academic year. According to the Office of Information Management and Analysis website, the office “produces its Statistical Handbook annually based on data from the Fall semester.” 10. The percentage for the “Black” race/ethnicity category actually reflects the “Black Total” race/ethnicity category, which includes “Black only” (4.6%) and “Black (2 or more, excl. Hisp.)” (0.4%). The data reflects that, as of fall 2010, individuals may “specify more than one race/ethnicity in identifying themselves” (Fisher 7). 11. The memo lists the additional race/ethnicity categories as: “American Indian only,” “Hawaiian/Pac. Islander only,” “2 or more (excl. Hisp./Black),” “Foreign,” and “Unknown.” 12. Unless we in writing centers adopt Gardner’s “expansive” notion of peerness, of peers in the sense of “human beings.” 13. Grimm (91) discusses how communities can be limiting, referencing Wenger, Etienne, et al. 14. The phrases in quotations in the scenario descriptions come from the prompts DDCE provided. 15. In Fall 2012, we had seven writing staffers, four female tutors and three male tutors, in their mid-twenties to midthirties, six of whom were White. Our Writing Lab staff currently comprises these same seven writing tutors, as described in the “Students and Tutors” section. 16. On comprehensive tutor education programs, see Greenfield and Rowan. Works Cited “2011 Football Roster.” Texas Sports. UT Athletics, 2013. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. Abes, Elisa S., Susan R. Jones, and Marylu K. McEwen. “Reconceptualizing the Model of Multiple Dimensions

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Examining Identity • 6 of Identity; The Role of Meaning-Making Capacity in the Construction of Multiple Identities.” Journal of College Student Development 48.1 (2007): 1 – 22. Print. Bruffee, Kenneth. “Peer Tutoring and the ‘Conversation of Mankind.’” Writing Centers: Theory and Administration. Ed. Gary Olson. Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English, 1984. 87 – 98. Print. Carino, Peter. “Power and Authority in Peer Tutoring.” The Center Will Hold: Critical Perspectives on Writing Center Scholarship. Eds. Michael Pemberton and Joyce Kinkead. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2003. 96 – 113. Print. Cooper, Marilyn. “Really Useful Knowledge: A Cultural Studies Agenda for Writing Centers.” Writing Center Journal 14.2 (1994): 97 – 111. Print. Deaux, Kay. “Reconstructing Social Identity.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 19.4 (1993): 4 – 12. Print. Denny, Harry. “Queering the Writing Center.” The Writing Center Journal 25.2 (2005): 39-62. Print. “Diversity Education Initiatives.” Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. The University of Texas at Austin, 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 13 Jun. 2012. Fisher, Kristi. “FINAL Enrollment Analysis for Spring 2013.” Memo to President William Powers, Jr., 29 Apr. 2013. Office of Information Management and Analysis. The University of Texas at Austin. Print. Gardner, Clint. “Peer Tutoring: The Writing Center's Essential Contact Zone.” South Central Writing Centers Association. Holiday Inn Marina, Corpus Christi, TX. 21 May 2013. Keynote Address Geller, Anne, et al. “Everyday Racism: Anti-Racism Work and Writing Center Practice.” The Everyday Writing Center. Eds. Anne Geller, et al. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2007: 87 – 109. Print. Geller, Anne, et al. “The Everyday Writing Center and the Production of New Knowledge in Antiracist Theory and Practice.” Writing Centers and the New Racism. Eds. Laura Greenfield and Karen Rowan. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2011: 101 – 123. Print. Greenfield, Laura and Karen Rowan. “Beyond the ‘Week Twelve Approach:’ Toward a Critical Pedagogy for Antiracist Tutor Education.” Writing Centers and the New Racism. Eds. Laura Greenfield and Karen Rowan. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 2011. 124 – 149. Print. Greenfield, Laura, and Karen Rowan. “Beyond the ‘Week Twelve Approach:’ Toward a Critical Pedagogy for Antiracist Tutor Education.” Writing Centers and the New Racism. Eds. Laura Greenfield and Karen Rowan. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2011. 124 – 149. Print. Grimm, Nancy. “Retheorizing Writing Center Work to Transform a System of Advantage Based on Race.” Writing Centers and the New Racism. Eds. Laura Greenfield and Karen Rowan. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2011: 84 – 100. Print Harris, Muriel. “Collaboration Is Not Collaboration Is Not Collaboration: Writing Center Tutorials vs. Peer-

Response Groups.” College Composition and Communication 43.3 (1992): 369 – 383. Print. Jones, Susan, and Marylu McEwen. “A Conceptual Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity.” Journal of College Student Development 41.4 (2000): 405 – 414. Print. “Oct. 17-21: Social Justice Week Planned for School of Social Work Community.” School of Social Work: Educating for Change. The University of Texas at Austin, 2012. Web. 13 Jun. 2012. Office of Information Management and Analysis. “Distribution of Students by Level and Age.” Statistical Handbook (In Progress). The University of Texas at Austin. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. Office of Information Management and Analysis. “Enrollment by Classification and Gender.” Statistical Handbook (In Progress). The University of Texas at Austin. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. Pratt, Mary Louise. “Arts of the Contact Zone.” Profession (1991): 33 – 40. Print. Severino, Carol. “Writing Centers as Linguistic Contact Zones and Borderlands.” The Writing Lab Newsletter 19.4 (1994): 1 – 5. Print. Taylor, Betty Jeanne. “Intersections of Identities.” Austin, TX: Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, The University of Texas at Austin, 2011. Print. Thompson, Isabelle. “Scaffolding in the Writing Center: A Microanalysis of an Experienced Tutor’s Verbal and Nonverbal Tutoring Strategies.” Written Communication 26.4 (2009): 417 – 453. Print. Trimbur, John. “Peer Tutoring: A Contradiction in Terms?” The Writing Center Journal 7.2 (1987): 21 – 28. Print. Weaver, Margaret. “A Call for Racial Diversity in the Writing Center.” The Writing Center Director’s Resource Book. Eds. Christina Murphy and Byron Stay. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 2006. 79 – 91. Print. Wenger, Etienne. “Communities of Practice. Learning as a Social System.” The Systems Thinker (1998). Print. Wenger, Etienne, et al. Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge. Cambridge: Harvard Business School Press, 2002. Print.

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Praxis: A Writing Center Journal • Vol 11, No 1 (2013)

JUST WRITING CENTER WORK IN THE DIGITAL AGE: DE FACTO MULTILITERACY CENTERS IN DIALOGUE WITH QUESTIONS OF SOCIAL JUSTICE Liliana M. Naydan University of Michigan lnaydan@umich.edu

Introduction Multiliteracy, new media writing, and multimodality: in some form or another, the kind of sleek, technological world these terms conjure emerges as a subject of conversation in current writing center work. When I began teaching a writing center theory course at the University of Michigan’s Sweetland Center for Writing, I scheduled about three-days worth of formal space for the stuff of multiliteracy. Among other essays, students read David Sheridan’s “Words, Images, Sounds: Writing Centers as Multiliteracy Centers,” a piece about how Sheridan helped start a “technology-rich” multiliteracy center staffed by tech- and multimodal-rhetoric-savvy consultants at the University of Michigan (“Words, Images, Sounds” 341). I was met with what I soon learned was a typical response to the essay: “So, where is it? Where’s the multiliteracy center?” “Gone,” was my answer, and in an official sense, it was: it dissipated after only a few years,1 and, what remains, among other Sweetland services, is the Peer Tutoring Center, an apparently far cry from the futuristic spaces that visions like Sheridan’s evoke. With computers too old and too few in number, our windowless, underground tutoring space looks like days of writing center past, not writing center future. And despite an understanding of our own institutional privilege, our collective affect resembles that of colleagues at less privileged institutions: many of us still feel like we are a long way off from the kind of cutting-edge multiliteracy center that Sheridan describes. This article examines the dissonance between scholarship on multiliteracy centers and everyday personal and writing center experiences with multiliteracy. I begin by considering extant writing center scholarship on new media, multimodality, and multiliteracy by scholars who position multiliteracy as a rare thing, or as a thing on the horizon, something for which we ideally prepare by providing “instruction in functional technology literacy” and obtaining “appropriate hardware and software” (McKinney, “(R)evolution” 211). I argue that consultants and writers alike may not necessarily be what Marc Prensky terms “digital natives,” aware of all technologies and !

rhetorical approaches that multimodal compositions employ, but rather that they exist in dynamic interplay with the digital media that define our interconnected times, and therefore that they render multiliteracy as always already present in the twenty-first century (1). In accord with my effort to broaden the field’s conception of what constitutes a multiliteracy center, I work to expand the conversation about multiliteracy,2 putting de facto multiliteracy, meaning multiliteracy as it exists in everyday reality and by default, into dialogue with social justice, or “justice at the level of a society or state as regards the possession of wealth, commodities, opportunities, and privileges” (“social justice”). I discuss accessibility and identity politics among other social justice issues in relation with two practices in Sweetland’s Peer Tutoring Center: tutors recording their tutorials for the purpose of observation as well as tutors using a Facebook group for professional conversation. Ultimately, I propose that theorizing the interface between privilege and extant multiliteracies enables writing center practitioners to organize in order to counter everyday oppression via digital environments. It enables them to engage in the ongoing process of setting new terms for contemporary writing center visions and missions, and it enables them to rethink and revise mission statements to represent our field’s ever-evolving nature.

Back to the Future In 1996, the New London Group introduced the idea of multiliteracy as literacy that transcends “traditional language-based approaches” because of “the burgeoning variety of text forms associated with information and multimedia technologies” (60, 61). Since then, scholarship about multiliteracy centers has portrayed multiliteracy as futuristic. As Jackie Grutsch McKinney explains, different “multiliteracy center models” exist, and, based on the assumption that the future has not yet arrived, she argues that “a writing center can evolve its identity by pursuing four paths: (1) staff (re)education, (2) physical redesign, (3) user (re)education or rebranding, and (4) name change” (“(R)evolution” 218, Balester et al.). Consider, too, for


De Facto Multiliteracy Centers • 2 instance, Sheridan’s more explicit reference to the futuristic stuff of science fiction: his explanation that “[a] full articulation of a multiliteracy center necessitates a bit of utopian thinking—thinking unfettered by limits imposed by scarcity of resources and various institutional practices” (“Introduction” 6). As a third example, Christina Murphy and Lory Hawkes explicitly view multiliteracy centers as futuristic: for them, “the future of the Writing Center is not as a Writing Center but as a multiliteracy center with expanded pedagogical possibilities and new roles for Writing Center specialists” (175). I find these visions of writing centers as existing at a disciplinary turning point and at a moment of radical break compelling, but I, too, find them at least somewhat misleading. I present a counter-narrative that recognizes multiliteracy centers as a de facto reality that already exists—even if writing center administrators avoid developing or organizing around existing multiliteracies that consultants have.3 Subtle and perhaps messy de facto multiliteracy center realities may still resemble the apparently non-digital writing center realities that Michael Pemberton described over a decade ago. Pemberton expressed resistance to developing his center as a multiliterate one because “most of the interactions between students and tutors still center on the handwritten or printed texts that are placed on a table between or, perhaps, shared in a word processing file” (9). Ten years later, I see Pemberton’s point. Yet, at least in the Peer Tutoring Center I direct, multiliteracy exposes itself in constant ways despite the fact that we still see most essays on paper. Even when, in 2011, only four outdated computers rested their worn and weary frames in our flagship center, digital connectivity among us thrived. Inhabitants lived and continue to live digital lives in visible ways. Walk into our center and you’ll see the old couch, the fake plant, and the framed art that Mickinney sees as shaping the master narrative of writing centers (Peripheral Visions 21). But you’ll see, too, evidence of a narrative already transformed: clients write text messages to friends or interpret visual arguments on Reddit as they wait for consultations; tutors armed with personal laptops, their browsers open to Facebook or Google News, connect us to the ever-interconnected world beyond the confines of our physical space. News of tragedies like the Sandy Hook shootings or the Boston Marathon bombings spreads like wildfire because regardless of the multimodal training writing center administrators provide or investments they make in technology and design, we live in an interconnected age—one that Peter Elbow calls “a newish world of writing where lots of people

are busy all hours of the day and night emailing, tweeting, and blogging on the internet” (3). We may not have had a single computer available exclusively for use in face-to-face tutorials in 2011, but our consultants and clients, products of the digital world, brought multiliteracy with them. Consultants know discourse and genre conventions for digital, multimodal, and traditional academic compositions, and these conventions exist in heteroglossic dialogue for them in their everyday lives and writing-centered conversations. Put another way, they exist as products of the digital age, and even in the absence of digital technology, they sustain ways of thinking and being that speak to a pervasive multiliterate reality. As Laura J. Gurak and Smiljana Antonijevic observe, “[w]e have now reached a time when the phrase ‘digital rhetoric’ is redundant” because all rhetoric is now, in essence, digital rhetoric. Deconstructing multiliteracy as futuristic allows writing center practitioners to consider the ways in which multiliteracy plays into ongoing disciplinary conversations involving social justice. Anne Ellen Geller et al. (2007), Harry C. Denny (2010), Laura Greenfield and Karen Rowan (2011), and Frankie Condon (2012) have written on anti-racism and antioppression in writing centers, but aside from John Trimbur’s gesture toward the connection in “Mulitliteracies, Social Futures, and Writing Centers,”4 James Inman’s consideration of multiliteracy centers and disabled students,5 and Allison Hitt’s consideration of the same subject,6 scholars have yet to connect social justice with multiliteracy. In the field of rhetoric and composition, more broadly construed, Kristen Hawley Turner and Troy Hicks speak to social justice’s connection to multiliteracy, arguing that “teaching digital writing is an issue of community literacy—one with local and global consequences” (57). As they explain, “[s]tudents—and teachers—can only engage in commentary, critique, and other forms of civic participation if they are afforded the full range of occasions to do so, and digital writing provides one such opportunity” (75). Similarly, Linda Adler-Kassner describes the relationship between rhetoric and composition and social justice in The Activist WPA: Changing Stories About Writing and Writers (2008). According to Adler-Kassner, community organizers rely on digital media to create social change, and Writing Program Administrators seeking to shift disciplinary narratives might benefit from “strategies developed by community organizers and media strategists” (5). If writing centers are to engage in the work of anti-racism and anti-oppression, becoming what Denny calls “sites for activism and social change,” and if the writers who inhabit them are to be

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De Facto Multiliteracy Centers • 3 empowered with digital literacies like those described by Turner and Hicks, then writing center practitioners must put social justice and multiliteracy into dialogue. They must discover approaches to connecting their activist, digital, and writing center identities.

Organizing Around Extant Multiliteracies What sorts of writers and consultants inhabit our centers? What privilege do these inhabitants have? How do they engage with digital environments in their everyday lives, and how, in turn, do or might they engage with multiliteracy in everyday writing center practice? These questions get me thinking about the connective tissue between social identity, multiliteracy, and social justice—between ideals for multiliteracy and the realities of the everyday de facto multiliteracy center that forms because of its inhabitants and evolves in dynamic interplay with them. Perhaps writing center administrators opt, to varying degrees, to brush aside digital literacies that manifest informally in their centers. Perhaps the tick-tock of Geller et al.’s clock renders them short on time for multiliteracy.7 But practical and pedagogical benefits exist in acknowledging these literacies and talking about the thorny nature of our interface with digital environments. De facto multiliteracy centers already exist, and writing center practitioners can organize around extant multiliteracies in the sense that AdlerKassner and social movement theorists conceptualize organizing: they can engage in dialogic work that draws people together to shape initiatives for their collective interests. Writing center practitioners can thereby develop around extant multiliteracies and put them into conversation with writing center practice in organic, grassroots ways. Writing center administrators encounter multiliteracy in their everyday work. Perhaps de facto multiliteracy gets unearthed via overt administrative efforts—attempts that ideally resist utopian idealism, involve consultants as grassroots organizers, and recognize developments in university resources. At other times, de facto multiliteracy manifests itself at unexpected moments, unprompted by substantial administrative initiatives: consultants already engage with digital media, and their engagement bleeds into writing centers in ways that administrators can recognize and theorize about. At best, recognizing extant multiliteracies leads to productive pedagogical ends. At worst or at least, it reveals problems that need further interrogation. To illustrate how multiliteracy comes into conversation with questions of social justice, I tell two stories from Sweetland’s Peer Tutoring Center. First, I tell the story of the

implementation of a digital-technology-based system of observation for purposes of professional development. Second, I tell the story of our center’s practitioners’ use of Facebook to extend a thorny staff-meeting discussion. 1. Observing Digital Developments Unlike centers in which administrators and faculty attend face-to-face writing center conferences to observe tutors, our center now conducts observations for professional development using digital audio-visual recorders. My own limitations on time prompted my approach to these observations. As a contingent faculty member who does administrative work predominantly as departmental service, I needed to limit my physical, on-campus presence to quasi-normal business hours—a difficult task given that some tutors only have late-night shifts due to work, school, and family obligations. The instructions for creating recordings that I developed invited students to borrow, for free, equipment available to them on campus: a small, handheld audio-visual digital recorder and a laptop on which to show me the recording during an hour-long meeting. They would be responsible, too, for writing a reflection on the consultation—one in which they narrate the tutorial, explain what they think they do well, and identify room for improvement. In implementing this observation system, I worried about accessibility: I wanted to avoid Othering tutors who lacked their own laptops or other necessary devices, but I also wanted to use resources I knew our institution had, and I came to see that the tutors themselves were resources I had overlooked as I planned for multiliteracy in the confines of my solitary office. Tutors certainly turned to the approach for recording that I outlined, but they, too, readily developed resourceful approaches to creating these audio-video recordings. They recorded and exhibited tutorials using laptops alone, theirs or borrowed, and, to my surprise, personal cell phones, even older models, sufficed for the task—as long as they had video recording devices. Tutors, too, organized other tutors into using easier strategies that they developed. In the second semester I employed this method of observation, I continued to hand out the instructions I developed for tutors, but rather than turn to my instructions, they more readily watched one another’s approaches to recording and emulated one another’s methods. As a result, I came to revise my instructions for creating recordings based on my observations of what tutors actually did and continue to do. I learned that I am certainly not out of touch with digital developments, but tutors are best positioned to teach me what is most convenient for them, and our digital-

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De Facto Multiliteracy Centers • 4 age developments best come from them instead of from me. Although my reasons for instituting digital observations were pragmatic, I came to see pedagogical benefits to them—despite the fact that many tutors expressed anxiety about watching and listening to themselves on screen. Because I watch tutorials alongside tutors, they, like me, have the opportunity to engage critically with observations of their consultations with writers of different races, ethnicities, classes, genders, and nationalities. They see body language and they re-experience tutorials in ways they would otherwise be unable to re-experience them. In particular, because we serve such a large number of multilingual writers, I see tutors engage with issues involving approaches to serving multilingual writers in their reflections and our conversations. They may sense what Denny terms as a “rush to monolingualist hegemony;” they may see, laid bare before them, “the identity politics at play when sessions address the needs of L2 consultants and students (126, 122). As one monolingual tutor expressed in her reflection on her session with a multilingual writer,8 Watching the tutorial, I […] realized that she asked me quite a few closed-ended questions, like “Is this point made too far down the page?” and “Is it ok to talk about this in my conclusion?” I missed my opportunity to deflect these questions and redirect them towards her, in the form of, “Why do you say that?”, so she could learn to solve these issues herself. Instead, I gave her yes and no answers, which made me seem like an allknowing teacher and probably did not make her feel any more confident as a writer. […] I didn’t feel it at the time, but looking at the video of the tutorial, I seemed overbearing at times. The degree to which tutors engage with social identity issues varies, of course, and some tutors struggle more than others with acknowledging identity politics in one-to-one consultations. However, when “championing the student’s right to her own language” can be “just as problematic as policing language acquisition,” opportunities for reflection are key (Denny 118). In a newer incarnation of the written portion of this assignment, I have added a specific request for reflection on the interplay of social identity in the tutorial to more pointedly invite tutors to engage with it. 2. Social Networks and Social Identity The second story I tell—of our center’s practitioners’ engagement with one another via a social network—resembles my first: it shows means by which tutors and questions of social justice shape our center, and it likewise shows practical approaches to

sustaining conversations about social issues via digital media. When we started a Facebook group at our center, becoming among the eighteen percent of centers on Facebook, we did so primarily because a majority of peer tutors already inhabited Facebook and used it to develop connections and conversations about their work (McKinney, Peripheral Visions 78). In other words, the Facebook group was an organic development, and it remains one that grows organically as tutors organize themselves into membership. As of yet, the space has been a respectful one, yet I recognize that every social network and online forum is volatile—never wholly safe from bullying and the language of oppression. On our heretofore respectful site, tutors advertise that they have housing available or they post links to articles they read that might be of interest to their peers. They also use the space to introduce questions that I consider taking up in staff meetings, and they extend conversations from staff meetings via the space. In other words, even though the space arose via relatively informal means and even though informal conversations happen in it, the space exists as a pedagogical one—one from which writing center tutors and administrators alike can learn. Of particular interest to me is the use of our Facebook group for continuing a thorny conversation that began in a staff meeting. The conversation involved dress in the writing center—dress that reveals not only our physical bodies, but features of our social identities like political perspectives. The tutors who started the conversation had brought in photographs of different kinds of dress, for instance a woman in a short skirt and another woman wearing a “Legalize Gay” t-shirt—a shirt that itself engages directly in ongoing national debates about gay marriage. Questions emerged around the images: If a female tutor wears attire that sexualizes her body, is she or the individual objectifying her via a sexual gaze responsible for what some may conceive of as lessthan-wholly-professional conditions in the writing center? Does the “Legalize Gay” message professing support for gay marriage politicize the writing center in what some inhabitants might view as uncomfortable ways? Should we engage in “covering” our identities as dress represents them, and to what degree is covering social identity possible, especially in face-to-face as opposed to digital environments (Denny 18)? As an activist academic who sees all spaces as inherently political,9 I have my own answers to questions like these, my own sense of the relevance of public controversies to writing center practice. Moreover, I see it as my obligation to invite students to consider the significance of these questions through pedagogy

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De Facto Multiliteracy Centers • 5 that helps them “become aware of both the practices of domination (assimilating to the mainstream currents) and the possibilities for opposition and resistance” (Denny 72). For tutors to perhaps embrace activist-academic identities themselves, they must work through questions via conversations with one another. Our staff meeting provided much-needed space for conversation, but its official end-point arrived with debates rearing on. We scratched at the surface of questions, but few tutors felt satisfied. As a result, tutors decided they would continue talking via our Facebook group. Like the face-to-face conversation, the digital one developed in thought-provoking ways, and posts obtained views from nearly every peer tutor affiliated with the group. The public controversy to which the “Legalize Gay” t-shirt speaks, too, became a pointedly local one when one tutor posted to ask whether anyone had said something about the “Legalize Gay” shirt to another tutor who happens to own and wear the shirt. The potential for an unruly thread on our site loomed large in my imagination, but tutors exhibited respect in their comments. In the end, though, the thread still sustained an underdeveloped feel to me; still, it seemed more conversation was necessary. For weeks following the initial posts to Facebook, talk of the clothing controversy continued among tutors during downtime on shifts, and via the interplay of face-to-face and digital conversation, all tutors—even those who had not attended the staff meeting where the conversation originally began—had the opportunity to engage with the issues at hand. Even if not all of them actually did, they at least had the opportunity to push past old assumptions—those involving gender, gay marriage, and the political nature of the writing center.

Conclusion: Mission

A

Just

and

Multimodal

Stories like those I tell of our center’s engagement with digitally-recorded observations and professional development via Facebook conversations begin the process of putting multiliteracy into dialogue with questions that drive social movements for change, and further exploration of the interface between digital media, privilege, and social identity will enable writing centers to continue the process of redefining their visions, their missions, and their influence for thoughtful and often digital twenty-first century work. Digital identities and digital writing inform academic identities and academic writing and vice versa. Likewise, digital concepts inform writing center practice, and questions of access, privilege, and

sustainability drive the informal or formal adoption of technology in a writing center. They drive the adoption of online scheduling platforms like WCOnline or TutorTrac. They, too, surround the creation of and conversations about asynchronous and synchronous tutoring platforms: Who creates online tutoring platforms and what circumstances influence decisions they make? How can tutors themselves be agents of change who appropriate affordable and accessible technology via a grassroots approach? In what ways can writing center administrators avoid utopian thinking and opt instead for organic and sustainable relationships with digital literacies— grassroots efforts that recognize digital media and literacies as always already part of the fabric of writing center identity? Because writing center identity exists in constant and dynamic interplay with writing center inhabitants, tutors who have a pulse on how defacto multiliteracy operates in their centers might be best positioned to engage in reshaping writing center mission statements. And they might do so as we at Sweetland’s Peer Tutoring Center are doing it: as a result of our experiences and with an eye for social justice and multiliteracy in content and in form. Ellen Schendel and William J. Macauley Jr. advise writing center administrators to “min[e] institutional statements” to develop their own missions that matter via assessment, but I advise writing center administrators to also consider their own mission statements as they relate to developments in writing center theory (61). If writing center missions make no mention of social identity, anti-oppression, or social justice, tutors might rework them to showcase the changed and continually changing nature of the twenty-first century writing center. Tutors, too, might make mention of contemporary writing center issues via multimodal means. For writing center mission statements to literally exhibit the multifaceted, digitally-literate, and socially-concerned work in which writing center inhabitants engage, blocks of alphabetic text may not suffice: they fail to exhibit the kinds of ideas that set the terms for contemporary writing center practice. With free and easy-to-use resources such as Prezi that might animate mission statements in new ways, viable alternatives to stagnant blocks of alphabetic text exist, and writing center inhabitants have an opportune moment to employ their multiliterate imaginations to reflect the means by which their identities constantly shape and will continue to reshape the writing center as a de facto multiliteracy center.

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De Facto Multiliteracy Centers • 6 Notes 1. It opened in 2000 and closed in 2003. 2. This effort is one that McKinney supports. As she explains, her hope in writing “The New Media (R)evolution” is to keep the conversation of multiliteracy centers from narrowing to a set of practices […]. To be sure, pioneers in multiliteracy centers have not wanted to limit the conversation of multiliteracies in particular ways—in fact, they are most invested in having the conversation expand. (208) 3. Economic privilege obviously influences access to technology, but based on 2010 census statistics, a majority of 18-34 year-old adults own cell phones and own or have access to computers and Internet: 95% own a cell phone, 57% own a desktop computer, and 70% own a laptop computer (Pew). Those 18-34 also have Internet access via different outlets according to statistics gathered in 2011: 34.70% have access at home, 32.63% have access at work, 61.89% have access at school or a library, 50.48% have access at another place, and 50.49% have it via their cell phone or other mobile device (GfK). 4. As Trimbur puts it, “[l]inked to the notion of multiliteracies is the challenge to develop more equitable social futures by redistributing the means of communication” (89). 5. As Inman explains, a vital “consideration should be the accessibility of any zoned space for individuals with disabilities. In this pursuit, the idea is not just to make spaces minimally accessible, but instead to consider how the disabled may be able to most fully participate in the uses for which the spaces were designed” (27). 6 See “Access for All: the Role of Dis/Ability in Multiliteracy Centers.” Hitt argues that “disability remains a troubling binary that creates an us/them framework, undermining the inclusive spirit of multiliteracy centers.” 7. Geller et al. argue that “our use of time and our conception of time can change and can be changed for the better” (32). 8. I have permission to quote this text from its author. I also have “not regulated” status from the IRB to include this quote. 9. As Patricia M. Malesh and Sharon McKenzie Stevens suggest, beliefs “that learning can and should be apolitical, free from partisanship, and that academic knowledge should be neutral—distanced from immediate social and political action” are unrealistic (14). Instead, they see “knowledge, and the ways we acquire it,” as “always interested and, as such, rhetorical” (14). Works Cited Adler-Kassner, Linda. The Activist WPA: Changing Stories about Writing and Writers. Logan, UT: Utah State UP, 2008. Print. Balester, Valerie, Nancy Grimm, Jackie Grutsch McKinney, Sohui Lee, David Sheridan, & Naomi Silver. “The Idea of a Multiliteracy Center: Six Responses.” Praxis: A

Writing Center Journal 9.2 (2012): n.p. Web. 24 May 2013. <http://projects.uwc.utexas.edu/index.php/praxis/arti cle/view/59/html> Condon, Frankie. I Hope I Join the Band: Narrative, Affiliation, and Antiracist Rhetoric. Logan, UT: Utah State UP, 2012. Print. Denny, Harry C. Facing the Center: Toward an Identity Politics of One-To-One Mentoring. Logan, UT: Utah State UP, 2010. Print. Elbow, Peter. Vernacular Eloquence: What Speech Can Bring to Writing. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2012. Print. GfK Mediamark Research & Intelligence, LLC. “Table 1164: Internet Access By Selected Characteristics: 2011 [By Age, Sex, Region, Household Size, Marital Status, Educational Attainment, Employment Status, And Income, As Of October].” ProQuest Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2013. Ed. ProQuest, 2013. Web. 27 May 2013. Greenfield, Laura, and Karen Rowan. Writing Centers and the New Racism: A Call for Sustainable Dialogue and Change. Logan, UT: Utah State UP, 2011. Print. Gurak, Laura J., and Smiljana Antonijevic. “Digital Rhetoric and Public Discourse.” The Sage Handbook of Rhetorical Studies. Ed. Andrea A. Lunsford, Kirt H. Wilson, and Rosa A. Eberly. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2009. 497507. Print. Hitt, Allison. “Access for All: The Role of Dis/ability in Multiliteracy Centers.” Praxis: A Writing Center Journal 9.2 (2012): n.p. Web. 24 May 2013. <http://projects.uwc.utexas.edu/index.php/praxis/arti cle/view/54/html> Inman, James A. “Designing Multiliteracy Centers: A Zoning Approach.” Multiliteracy Centers: Writing Center Work, New Media, and Multimodal Rhetoric. Ed. David Sheridan and James Inman. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton, 2010. 19-32. Print. Malesh, Patricia M., and Sharon McKenzie Stevens. “Introduction: Active Voices.” Active Voices: Composing a Rhetoric for Social Movements. Ed. Patricia M. Malesh and Sharon McKenzie Stevens. Albany: State U of New York P, 2009. 1-20. Print. McKinney, Jackie Grutsch. “The New Media (R)evolution: Multiple Models for Multiliteracies.” Multiliteracy Centers: Writing Center Work, New Media, and Multimodal Rhetoric. Ed. David Sheridan and James Inman. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton, 2010. 207-220. Print. –. Peripheral Visions for Writing Centers. Logan, UT: Utah State UP, 2013. Print. Murphy, Christina, and Lory Hawkes. “Future of Multiliteracies Centers in the E-World.” Multiliteracy Centers: Writing Center Work, New Media, and Multimodal Rhetoric. Ed. David Sheridan and James Inman. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton, 2010. 173-187. Print. The New London Group. A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures. Harvard Educational Review 66.1 (1996): 60-92. Print. Pemberton, Michael. “Planning for Hypertexts in the Writing Center…Or Not.” The Writing Center Journal 24.1 (2003): 9-24. Print.

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De Facto Multiliteracy Centers • 7 Pew Internet & American Life Project. “Table 1165: Percent Of Adults Who Own Electronic Devices By Age: 2010 [By Type Of Device, August-September Period].” ProQuest Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2013. Ed. ProQuest, 2013. Web. 27 May 2013. Prensky, Marc. “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants.” On the Horizon 9.5 (2001). 1-6. Web. 24 May 2013. <http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/prensky%20%20digital%20natives,%20digital%20immigrants%20%20part1.pdf> Schendel, Ellen, and William J. Macauley, Jr. Building Writing Center Assessments that Matter. Logan, UT: Utah State UP, 2012. Print. Sheridan, David. “Words, Images, Sounds: Writing Centers as Multiliteracy Centers.” The St. Martin’s Sourcebook for Writing Tutors. 4rd ed. Ed. Christina Murphy and Steve Sherwood. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2011. 334344. Print. –. “Introduction: Writing Centers and the Multimodal Turn.” Multiliteracy Centers: Writing Center Work, New Media, and Multimodal Rhetoric. Ed. David Sheridan and James Inman. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton, 2010. 1-16. Print. “social justice.” Oxford English Dictionary Online. Oxford UP. 2013. Web. 14 Aug. 2013. <http://www.oed.com.proxy.lib.umich.edu/view/Entr y/183739?redirectedFrom=social+justice> Trimbur, John. “Multiliteracies, Social Futures, and Writing Centers.” The Writing Center Journal 30.1 (2010): 88-91. Print. Turner, Kristen Hawley, and Troy Hicks. “‘That’s not Writing’: Exploring the Intersection of Digital Writing, Community Literacy, and Social Justice.” Community Literacy Journal 6.1 (2011): 55-78. Print.

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Praxis: A Writing Center Journal • Vol 11, No 1 (2013)

THE RIGHT TIME AND PROPER MEASURE: ASSESSING IN WRITING CENTERS AND JAMES KINNEAVY’S “KAIROS: A NEGLECTED CONCEPT IN CLASSICAL RHETORIC.” Marc Scott Shawnee State University mscott@shawnee.edu

Introduction In my experience working with tutors and college student writers over the last nine years, I am frequently reminded how important kairos is to my work. For example, a tutoring approach that might help Renee with her annotated bibliography draft won’t necessarily help Kevin understand his research essay prompt. The difference lies not in the fact that they are writing different essays; rather, each writer presents a different rhetorical situation with unique audiences, circumstances, exigencies, and contexts. Even if both students were writing the exact same essay on the exact same topic, their experience, confidence, and attitude toward writing would present different opportunities in a tutoring session. Although patterns exist and I begin and close a session in routine ways, I am frequently reminded by crossed arms, furrowed brows, and deep sighs that a tutoring approach ignoring kairos results in little learning and growth for the student as a writer and me as a tutor. The relevance of the term to writing center work can also be witnessed in an administrative sense. For example, interrupting a session to suggest a different approach for a tutor might be helpful; however, I may be more persuasive if I more carefully choose a time to provide feedback on a consultation. Kairos is a fascinating term with significance for diverse camps of rhetoricians. Different from chronos, the linear passing of time, kairos means a rhetor has found the opportune time to act and is acting in the appropriate measure. According to Richard Lanham, kairos refers to the “Greek word for time, place, circumstances of a subject” (94), and Eric Charles White suggests that the term “refer[s] to a passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved” (13). White’s definition originates from R.B. Onians, who claims in The Origins of European Thought that the etymology of kairos traces back to the accuracy required of an archer and the timing required of a weaver. The term also reflects broader philosophical debates. For instance, Plato, Isocrates, and Aristotle criticized Sophists such as Gorgias for accepting the

idea that “two antithetical statements can be made on each subject” (Herrick 43). However, many critics of sophistry generally overlook the fact that the Sophists used the concept of kairos to help them determine which statement is true in a specific circumstance. Kairos sets itself apart from more technical aspects of rhetoric because a rhetor may possess eloquence and know much about an issue, but unless an individual knows when—and when not—to implement a rhetorical strategy, the rhetor may lose a significant opportunity to persuade. Kairos is particularly applicable to rhetoric and composition scholarship because significant developments and shifts in the field reflect the concept. If we consider the work of composition scholars in the past forty years, we will likely note the value placed on context and specific pedagogical, political, cultural, and ethical climates. The discipline has consciously attempted to move away from scholarship and pedagogies envisioning a timeless, transcendent, and akairotic or context-less concept of writing and the teaching of writing. In terms of assessment scholarship, a topic this essay will address in writing centers, the importance educators placed on context allowed composition scholars to wrest the control of testing, evaluation, and assessment away from educational measurement experts who sought assessments transcending difference and divorced from realistic writing situations (Huot). An example of such work can be found in A Guide to College Writing Assessment, where Peggy O’Neill, Cindy Moore, and Brian Huot specifically outline the multiple layers of context involved in writing assessment. Educators can improve pedagogy, they argue, through situating an assessment in both local contexts and larger professional, disciplinary, rhetorical, and institutional contexts (8). Scholars such as Carl Glover have hinted at the connection between kairos and writing center work. Glover uses the “proper measure” aspect of kairos to describe writing center tutoring and administration, and he reminds us that hard and fast rules about refusing to make any kind of directive comment or


Right Time and Proper Measure • 2 mark on a student’s paper may fail to respond to kairotic moments in a tutoring session where such feedback could facilitate learning. Instead, he suggests, “Tutors with a sense of kairos will learn the right time and the right way to intervene in a paper” (18). In a 2009 Praxis article, Tim Taylor, Nia Klein, Kristi McDuffie, Fern Kory, Devin Black, and Serena Heath reflect on their writing center experiences and discuss how they “have developed a strong kairosconsciousness” and “how kairos can work as an essential guiding principle for promoting strong professional development.” Even without writing about kairos specifically, many writing center scholars address the term. In “The Idea of a Writing Center,” for instance, North reacts to the assumptions many educators had about writing centers; in many respects, he was arguing against an akairotic moment for writing centers—a moment fixated on correctness. He instead envisioned a more complex and dynamic context where teachers, students, and writing center professionals all played a part (53). Further examples can be found in more recent scholarship and inquiry. The May/June 2013 edition of The Writing Lab Newsletter features tutors and administrators sharing stories about how they respond to various opportunities in their writing centers including developing processes to better facilitate learning amongst English Language Learners (Enders) or creating opportunities to transform perceptions of a writing center (Schultz). While kairos seems appropriate for discussing what occurs in writing centers, scholarship in the field has only recently begun to theorize the importance of context in assessment. This doesn’t mean that practitioners are failing to develop thoughtful assessment projects investigating issues directly relevant to their writing centers; recent editions of the Writing Lab Newsletter, Praxis, and Writing Center Journal provide numerous examples of useful and welldesigned assessment practices (Lape; Canard-Salvo and Spartz; LaFrance and Nicolas). The field as a whole, however, lacks scholarship that theorizes assessment in a way assisting writing center tutors and administrators in responding to the kairotic exigencies they encounter. While the recent publication of Building Writing Center Assessments that Matter seeks to fill this void, much more scholarship is needed to construct theoretical options for writing center practitioners. My aim here is to propose such a theory, implementing James Kinneavy’s influential essay, “Kairos: A Neglected Concept in Classical Rhetoric.” Kinneavy’s essay is particularly appropriate for such an endeavor because it theorizes a concept essential to writing center work and because Kinneavy also

theorized the term for the teaching of writing and administration of writing programs. In “Kairos: A Neglected Concept in Classical Rhetoric,” Kinneavy explores the shifting importance of kairos and argues for application of the term to college writing programs. In applying kairos to composition studies, he argues that composition programs can incorporate five dimensions—or what he calls “consequences”—of the term: ethical, aesthetic, epistemological, social, and rhetorical. This essay will explore how these consequences impact writing center assessment. Two of the consequences, kairos’ epistemological and ethical consequences, overlap well with common practices already engaged in writing centers and provide important reminders of issues to consider when designing and implementing assessment projects. The remaining consequences, particularly the social and rhetorical consequences, can help us develop writing center assessment projects with more depth and can help us reframe and theorize assessment in writing centers. To illustrate the potential impact of Kinneavy’s work with kairos in a writing center context, I will explain how his concepts influence my work as the Writing Center Director at a small university in Southern Ohio.

Epistemological and Ethical Consequences With respect to the epistemological ramifications of kairos, Kinneavy claims that composition programs and teachers should focus on global rather than local concerns and consider how situational and cultural contexts impact a student writer. Kinneavy also argues that kairos possesses an ethical consequence. Through framing the “right measure” aspect of kairos as an issue of choice, Kinneavy argues that kairos operates as an ethical issue because different choices lead to possibilities that can make a material impact on individuals. In applying an ethical notion of kairos to a writing program, Kinneavy suggests that curricula “must take into account the value system of the situational context of the writer and reader” (98). Doing so, he argues, would require writing programs to make their curriculum and pedagogy relevant to the writer’s major and social situation. Kinneavy argues that this turn to the specific context of students represents a significant change that puts students into contact with moral and ethical issues relevant to their lives and disciplines. Kinneavy’s epistemological and ethical consequences of kairos provide two important considerations for assessing in writing centers. First, writing center directors and tutors should expand their

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Right Time and Proper Measure • 3 notion of context and investigate different influences on their work. Second, when conducting assessments, writing center practitioners should use what they learn to make more effective and ethical tutoring and administrative choices. For example, in my role as director, I have found it tempting to think of context as simply the tutors, students, my department, my institution, and the countless number of tasks, meetings, and daily events that make up much of my time as director. However, the Writing Center also exists in other contexts that often overlap and even compete. The Writing Center impacts and is impacted by the community, my discipline, and various political, cultural, and socio-economic contexts. If I embrace these contexts and their relationship to the Writing Center as potential sites for inquiry and assessment, I can develop projects that seek to understand better the relationship between my writing center and various stakeholders. Furthermore, such knowledge helps me make informed, ethical choices that take into consideration a nuanced understanding of the Writing Center and its relationship with different stakeholders. Again, these are not novel approaches to engaged members of our discipline. However, considering assessment as an epistemological and ethical enterprise encourages practitioners to develop a rich understanding of the relationship between the writing center, institution, and community.

Social In writing about how the social consequences of kairos impact the teaching of writing, Kinneavy argues that composition programs should encourage political and social awareness and ask students to make connections between their experience and important political issues in society and in their discipline (99). Encouraging a political consciousness in students and their writing, Kinneavy suggests, continues the pedagogical importance of kairos in classical rhetoric. In order to prepare students to participate in a healthy debate of ideas, classical rhetorical training emphasized the significance of kairos to help students consider multiple positions and find opportunities to engage (or withhold from engaging) in an argument. In many respects, as socially engaged members of our profession, we attempt, as classical educators did, to prepare individuals for active participation in a more fully realized, yet still problematic, ideal of democracy. By working with students to prepare contextually appropriate arguments for specific audiences and by guiding students toward writing that is critical, politically sensitive, and aware, we seek to prepare

writers not only for academic and professional engagement, but also civic engagement. Kinneavy’s work can change how we assess arguments we engage in consultations through inquiring into how such arguments impact other social groups. For example, at the beginning of the Spring 2013 semester, a tutor at the Writing Center worked with a student writer who presented a Pat Robertsoninspired argument about how Hurricane Sandy proved God’s displeasure with our society’s changing attitudes toward homosexuality. The tutor spoke with me afterward about the session and confessed that she initially wanted to either tiptoe around the argument and deal with lower order concerns or tell the student to leave the Writing Center. I admired the tutor for recognizing that such responses failed to acknowledge the kairotic moment available and the degree to which the student writer perceived his audience. Specifically, his argument failed to acknowledge an audience or a social environment other than the one he inhabited. In the session, the tutor asked questions to prompt the student writer to place the context of writing in conversation with the various social contexts impacted by such an argument. Approaching the student’s argument by asking him about his audience and who might be impacted by his claims helped the tutor avoid shutting the writer down and instead allowed her to question the writer’s logic and reasoning in a way that put the emphasis on audience and the social impact of his argument. The writer resisted, but he finished the session asking himself uncomfortable—but necessary—questions about his claims and how they impacted others. In a political environment fraught with polarization, assessing arguments in a way that avoids dismissal and invites writers to think about the social implications of their claims can help students who visit the writing center become more compassionate and reasonable members of society. Writing center directors can also engage Kinneavy’s social consequences of kairos by developing assessment projects that explore the relationship between writing centers, institutions, and communities. For me, considering the social implications of kairos means looking beyond the typical forms of assessment such as tutor or writer post-session satisfaction surveys. Such surveys can be helpful, but as James Bell has noted, post-session surveys typically don’t provide much information that can help a writing center improve its practices. By engaging the social implications of kairos, I might instead assess how my writing center responds to the needs of my institution and community. The writing center at which I work is situated at an Appalachian serving institution of approximately 4500 students,

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Right Time and Proper Measure • 4 many of whom come significantly underprepared for college. Knowing this and many other political and social factors helps me train my tutors and develop assessment projects sensitive to these issues. An example should help clarify what I mean here. Ohio’s recently proposed funding formula increases emphasis on graduation rates and retention (Bloom). The changes seem particularly onerous for our institution and the students we serve because the revised funding formula would counter-intuitively work to punish schools most in need of resources to improve. These obstacles and the political machinations behind them, which comprise in part the social and political context of my writing center, provide me with a kairotic opportunity to advocate for my writing center through assessment. One example of such a project is a joint effort with my university’s assessment department. We have begun collecting data about the Writing Center’s impact on retention by accumulating student identification numbers and identifying how many students who visit the writing center ultimately graduate. This and similar assessments provide examples of how the Writing Center’s social and political context presents kairotic opportunities to engage in assessment projects that help the tutors and I understand the position of our writing center. Additionally, by developing assessment projects that inquire into the social, cultural, and political context of the Writing Center, I also build strategic partnerships with other departments and stakeholders on campus.

Rhetorical James Kinneavy notes that kairos remains one of few terms upon which classical rhetoricians agreed in terms of its importance. Pythagoras, Aristotle, Isocrates, Plato, and Sophists such as Gorgias each argued in one form or another that kairos existed as a cornerstone of rhetoric (81-2). In applying a rhetorically informed concept of kairos to a composition program, Kinneavy claims that writing programs should dispense with expository writing assignments with little connection to students’ majors, experiences, or contexts. Instead, he argues that writing programs should provide students with opportunities to “establish a real audience distinct from the classroom situation” (103). The field of composition studies as a whole has made significant pedagogical changes in this direction in the 25 years since Kinneavy’s essay appeared. However, his suggestion to make our students’ arguments and our knowledge reach beyond academia resonates today. For example, despite concerted efforts to further slash funding for higher education at the state level or

implement No Child Left Behind style learning evaluations in colleges and universities, the field of composition studies finds itself playing catch-up to articulate to a more general audience what scholars know about writing and the teaching of writing. Much like the field of composition studies has expanded its audience and shared its knowledge, assessment projects in writing centers can also reach out to more and different audiences. Embracing the rhetorical nature of kairos in writing center assessments provides directors with opportunities to identify strategic partnerships, share disciplinary knowledge with others, and use assessment to make more persuasive arguments that might improve the institutional resources our writing centers receive. As the first Writing Center Director at my institution in several years, I worked with tutors in my first year to help them obtain an understanding of foundational tutoring concepts. In the beginning of the fall semester, I asked tutors to read and discuss important scholarship in the field, but I still observed problematic tutoring practices in the Writing Center. When I initiated an observation assessment program, however, I found myself with a number of kairotic opportunities to persuade tutors to expand their abilities and move away from fixing grammar, punctuation, and syntax and instead move toward a focus on asking questions to help a writer develop. After observing each tutor, I wrote a summary of the session and provided encouragement and suggestions. However, the most useful and persuasive component of the observation assessment came in the discussions about the summary that followed. Those conversations became a pedagogical and rhetorical opportunity for the tutors and me because we learned more about our work and were able to persuade each other to look at tutoring and our writing center differently. These are conversations directors engage in routinely; however, we can look at these discussions as not only opportunities to learn from tutors and train and develop them, but also kairotic opportunities to learn and to persuade tutors to reexamine their work. Writing center assessment also provides directors with kairotic opportunities to persuade administrators and other stakeholders. By looking at assessment as a way to better understand our work, we can make assessment serve our writing centers and draw attention to the good work we do. As I noted earlier, my institution is currently under pressure to increase retention and graduation rates. By seeing this pressure as a kairotic opportunity, I have been able to identify stakeholders with whom I can work to develop assessment projects. Furthermore, working with these

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Right Time and Proper Measure • 5 stakeholders allows me to share my disciplinary knowledge with them and develop an understanding of the writing center with administrators and faculty in other departments. The aforementioned work I have done in my institution’s assessment department, for example, has persuaded some administrators that the Writing Center at my school is concerned about and active in addressing the institution’s struggles. In another example, I recently surveyed the faculty at the university in hopes of assessing and understanding the perceptions and attitudes toward writing at my institution. While the data of the project provided useful information, the assessment itself opened up kairotic opportunities to discuss writing and share disciplinary knowledge that can develop a healthy conversation about writing pedagogy and the place of the Writing Center at the institution. In short, assessment provides us opportunities to make arguments about the work we do while simultaneously providing us strong evidence in which to ground our claims.

Aesthetic I will close by exploring Kinneavy’s ideas about the aesthetic consequences of kairos. Kinneavy confesses to a poor understanding of the aesthetic nature of kairos; however, he argues that composition programs can make the reading of literature and writing of and about literature an important component of a composition program. While his recommendations are imperfect, we can think about assessment in aesthetic terms if we consider Kinneavy’s reminder that Plato used the kairotic concept of “proper measure” to define beauty and goodness. Plato’s definition of beauty hinges on the idea of “balance,” and I think balance might present a useful metaphor to think about assessment in writing centers. A majority of assessment scholarship in our field emphasizes practical and useful measures to improve the work we do, and I think such scholarship is important. However, when we fail to balance the practical and useful with theoretical approaches to assessment, we will likely miss opportunities to develop projects that can help us explore more fully the relationship between writing centers and their multiple stakeholders. For example, while satisfaction surveys are a useful and ubiquitous component of most writing centers, they often fail to provide a realistic representation of what happens in a writing center session. A student arguing, for example, that Hurricane Sandy indicates God’s displeasure with our society’s evolving attitudes toward homosexuality, may very well feel dissatisfied in a session where a tutor

asks the writer to examine his argument from different perspectives. Dissatisfaction and discomfort, in that case, may very well be signs of progress for a writer. However, we have few projects seeking to understand that kind of work in our writing centers. We need assessments that help us see that kind of complexity and strike a balance between staying true to the intricacies of our work and providing arguments relatable to other stakeholders. We also need assessments that help us balance the expectations of our colleagues in other disciplines and the knowledge our field produces. In the least, our assessments can help us understand the expectations of our colleagues, and, as has been the case here at my institution, an assessment may very well provide an opportunity to open a dialogue about writing, writing pedagogy, and the perception of the Writing Center at my institution. If we balance our work with recent scholarship in our field and use the material situations and the social, cultural, and political context of our writing centers as the starting point of our assessment projects, we make each project responsive to the here and now. And if we construct our assessments as a process contributing to scholarship in the field, balancing continuously the social, cultural, and political context of our writing centers and generating new projects of inquiry, then we come full circle. Our assessment projects then can develop a dynamic wholeness about them that is, in a word, beautiful. This is the body of the text. ! Works Cited This Bell, James. “When Hard Questions Are Asked: Evaluating Writing Centers.” Writing Center Journal 21.1 (2000): 7-28. Print. Bloom, Molly. “John Kasich’s New Higher Education Funding Formula: Results Equal Funding.” StateImpact. 30 Nov. 2012. Web. 2 May 2013. Canard-Salvo, Tammy, and John Spartz. “Listening to Revise: What a Study about Text-to-Speech Software Taught Us about Students’ Expectations for Technology Use in the Writing Center.” Writing Center Journal 32.1 (2012): 40-59. Print. Enders, Doug. “The Idea Check: Changing ESL Students’ Use of the Writing Center.” The Writing Lab Newsletter 37.9-10 (2013): 6-9. Print. Glover, Carl. “Kairos and the Writing Center: Modern Perspectives on an Ancient Idea.” The Writing Center Director’s Resource Book. Ed. Christina Murphy and Byron L. Stay. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2006. 13-20. Print. Herrick, James A. The History and Theory of Rhetoric: An Introduction. 3rd ed. Boston: Pearson Education, 2005. Print.

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Right Time and Proper Measure • 6 Huot, Brian. (Re)Articulating Writing Assessment for Teaching and Learning. Logan: UT State UP, 2002. Print. Kinneavy, James. “Kairos: A Neglected Concept in Classical Rhetoric.” Rhetoric and Praxis: The Contribution of Classical Rhetoric to Practical Reasoning. Ed. Jean Dietz Moss. Washington: The Catholic U of America P, 1986. 79106. Print. LaFrance, Michelle, and Melissa Nicolas. “What’s Your Frequency?: Preliminary Results of a Survey on Faculty and Staff Perspectives on Writing Center Work.” The Writing Lab Newsletter 37.5-6 (2013): 10-13. Print. Lanham, Richard A. A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms. 2nd ed. Berkeley: The U of CA P, 1991. Print. Lape, Noreen. “The Worth of the Writing Center: Numbers, Value, Culture and the Rhetoric of Budget Proposals.” Praxis: A Writing Center Journal 10.1 (2012): 1-4. Web. 18 July 2013. O’Neill, Peggy, Cindy Moore, and Brian Huot. A Guide to College Writing Assessment. Logan: UT State UP, 2009. O’Shaughnessy, Lynn. “50 State Universities with Best, Worst Grad Rates.” CBS Money Watch. 1 Oct. 2012. Web. 1 May 2013. Onians, R. B. The Origins of European Thought about the Body, the Mind, the Soul, the World, Time, and Fate: New Interpretations of Greek, Roman, and Kindred Evidence, Also of Some Basic Jewish and Christian Beliefs. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1951. Print. Schendel, Ellen, and William J. Macauley, Jr. Building Writing Center Assessments that Matter. Logan: UT State UP, 2012. Print. Schultz, Matthew. “Recalibrating an Established Writing Center: From Supplementary Service to Academic Discipline.” The Writing Lab Newsletter 37.9-10 (2013): 15. Print. Taylor, Tim, Nia Klein, Kristi McDuffie, Fern Kory, Devin Black, and Serena Heath. “Kairotic Moments in the Writing Center.” Praxis: A Writing Center Journal 7.1 (2009): n. pag. Web. 7 Mar. 2013. White, Eric Charles. Kaironomia: On the Will-to-Invent. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1987. Print.

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TWO’S COMPANY, THREE’S A CONVERSATION: A STUDY OF DIALOGUE AMONG A PROFESSOR, A PEER-WRITING FELLOW, AND UNDERGRADUATES AROUND FEEDBACK AND WRITING1 Alyssa-Rae Hug St. John's University alyssarae.hug09@stjohns.edu

Two’s Company: Teacher Feedback on Student Writing A single teacher’s comments on student writing may feel less like a readerly interpretation of a text than directive instructions for writing “better,” closing possibilities for conversations about writing. Instead, when an instructor opens a space for feedback from multiple voices, the resulting dialogue could gesture toward the plurality of readings possible for one text and create a space for a writer to exercise and articulate choice. As a writing fellow in an art history class at an urban, private, religiously-affiliated university, I worked with the professor to provide feedback to student writers that modeled a multiperson conversation around their writing. Using Microsoft Word’s “Review” function, the professor and I commented on both student writing and each other’s comments. At the end of the semester, I reviewed these comments and noticed an interesting record on the page. These collaborative comments, along with e-mails and my logs from conferences with students in the University Writing Center, reveal the development of a conversation that recognizes a multiplicity of readerly interpretations. This method of feedback has the potential to invite students and teachers to enter into an interactive and stimulating discourse that re-positions the authority of both, encouraging students to more freely discuss their writing as authors. Harvey Kail describes the most dominant model of learning as, “a teacher teaches a student” (595). The former possesses knowledge and therefore the power to teach and evaluate a student’s learning. So, standing alone, a teacher’s comments on students’ written work may take on an authoritative absoluteness that obscures the complexity of readers’ relationships with texts. This authority may render what should be a dialogue between the teacher and student-author, a “monologue,” compelling students to either respect or disregard “suggestions” without critique and causing students to be insecure about their authorial ownership (Fife and O’Neill; Haring-Smith 124;

Holmes 174-175; Sommers; Welch). When a single teacher provides written feedback, he or she often moves the draft only in the direction of his or her interpretation, creating one possible future for the work and closing off possibilities for other “realities” of that draft (Welch 374-382). In addition, students treat writing assignments as displays of understanding and information-gathering skills, rather than as a forum for grappling with unique, interesting ideas. Student papers are usually written for a “fake audience,” for the teacher alone, who will not read but judge, and academic standards of objectivity often require the student writer to “pretend” that there is no existing relationship between him or herself and the teacher, subverting recognition that the teacher is a subjective reader (Gopen 22-26; Lillis 120-122). Writing centers complicate this linear model of teacher-reader and student-writer by creating a bend in the pathway of knowledge transfer: writing tutors as additional audience members multiply the interpretations that surround a writer’s text (Kail). The writing tutor is not simply another judge figure because, according to North’s “The Idea of a Writing Center,” writing centers focus on talk with writers, rather than texts. Writing center talk transforms that linear knowledge transfer into a recursive process in which knowledge “seems to be backing up, moving around through a system shaped like an errant plumbing job,” in which a teacher’s directive authority as sole reader may be destabilized (Kail 597). More importantly, talk with a tutor is not talk with a teacher. Instead, tutors occupy the liminal space of authority between peer and teacher, from which they may initiate talk about students’ intentions and identities as writers (North 442). Faculty-tutor collaborations can be productive for the faculty member, the tutor, and the students, providing opportunities for faculty development, but also for re-negotiating the teacher-student model within a course (Pemberton 93). The Writing Across the Curriculum Writing Fellows program at my university pairs one University Writing Center undergraduate consultant with a faculty member, and


Two’s Company, Three’s a Conversation • 2 together, Writing and Faculty Fellows work to design and implement a curriculum that fosters greater emphasis on writing within one course.2 As tutors, peer-Writing Fellows occupy that space between the professor and students, and working with a particular class, Writing Fellows can help students to retain ownership over their own writing in that class and beyond (Haring-Smith 124; Soven 58). The professor and Writing Fellow share authority over teaching writing throughout the semester, so when the Faculty Fellow and I both provided feedback on students’ written work, we interrupted the typical linearity of feedback and the authority we each held. Commenting as subjective readers, we responded with our own impressions, describing, as Elbow states, “what happened in [us] when [we] read the words this time” (85). In addition, commenting as multiple readers provided the writer with “a wider range of reactions to offset the one-sidedness of a single reaction”— especially a teacher’s authoritative singular reaction (Elbow 121). This method of feedback asked student writers to consider various options and opportunities for their writing and for their identities as writers.

Collaborative Commenting When we interviewed each other during the initial pairing process, the professor told me that she was planning to revise her Twentieth Century Art History course. So, when we began our work together, we wrote four major writing assignments for the semester: a personal reflection, in which the students were asked to introduce their interest in both art and writing; a visual response describing their personal reflections on a work of art; a visual analysis, in which they were to adapt the visual response paper into an “objective,” thesis-driven analysis of that work; and a ten-page research paper on a topic of the student’s choice. The students would be required to meet with me between the second and third assignments and before the final research paper, but were encouraged to do so more often. The professor and I also decided to provide feedback on written work together. For each writing

assignment, students were instructed to send their papers via e-mail to both the professor and me. We decided in advance who would provide the first round of comments. So, upon receipt of the assignments, either the professor or I began to comment using Word’s “Review” function, which formats comments as bubbles in the right margin. As each paper was finished, the first commenter e-mailed the document to the second commenter, who then provided her own feedback on both the paper and the previously-added comments and sometimes edited the existing comments if appropriate. All papers were returned to the professor for review and for any necessary final changes to the comments, and then were sent to all students at the same time by e-mail, without a grade listed. Grades were later assigned when hard copies of the papers were handed back in class.3 The comment-conversation that I study in this essay did not develop immediately. In the beginning of our collaboration, comments are often more sparse than on later assignments, especially in the case of agreement. On earlier papers, when the second commenter agrees with the first, only the first comment is left as “authority” (see Fig. 1, from the personal reflection assignment), while on later writing, both commenters voice opinions, even if they are in agreement (see Fig. 2, from a research paper). As we become more confident in our individual, readerly voices, we more often elaborate upon what the other commenter has said, demonstrating that even our concurring ideas are subjective. In the first example (Fig. 1), an excerpt from the students’ first writing assignment, I (“AH”) commented first, here on the student’s word choice, and the professor (“ff”) makes her agreement known by the absence of her own comment, deferring to my comment as the “correct” revision. In retrospect, there are a number of ways to read this student’s word choice, “selfish,” without needing to change the word itself. If the professor had commented with her interpretation of the student’s choice, whether affirming my comment or not, the student may have been prompted to reflect on her own authority to

Figure 1: Student Personal Reflection Paper

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Two’s Company, Three’s a Conversation • 3 ! Figure 2: Student Research Paper

choose this word or another. Like the problem of one teacher’s “monologue,” this early feedback insisted on a correct way of using writing knowledge. The second example (Fig. 2) comes from a student’s research paper. Comment [AH4] builds on [ff3], supporting the “doubt” raised in the latter, but stating that, “despite” this, there is the opportunity for a positive reading of this opening sentence. My comment provides a less prescriptive possible direction for revision, whereas if the professor’s comment had stood alone, the student may not have considered how this idea works positively in her paper. This difference within the comments might allow the student to see friction and connection between subjective readings, within which the student can make choices and take ownership of his or her writing.

Three’s a Conversation: Tracking Shifts in Attitude, Engagement, and Understanding At the conclusion of the semester, several students in the class seemed particularly affected by the increased focus on writing, especially in relation to feedback on their papers. In this section, I trace patterns in two of these students’ investment in their authorship through their actions and talk about writing beyond the page. I argue that a major factor contributing to their greater interest was the presence of that on-paper feedback conversation. One particular student came to the class excited and eager to work on his writing. Already talkative in

the classroom and an engaged writer, the student expressed insecurity about his ability to be coherent, organized, and intelligent in his writing. He made two appointments with me before beginning his visual analysis paper and stayed an entire hour for each appointment, discussing his ideas and expressing his concerns about his paper (Hug, 16 Mar 20114). On the day the visual analysis assignment was due, he e-mailed me to request a quick second opinion before he submitted his paper. In the excerpt from this student’s visual analysis assignment below (Fig. 3), both the professor and I comment on his writing style and content. In these comments, the professor and I both comment on the location of the student’s thesis statement, but we express different readings. I bring to my interpretation of his paper our conversations in sessions, while the professor’s comment, though worded more strongly, is less certain in its advice. This student questioned his own ability to write in an “academically correct” style because, as he stated in his sessions with me, he viewed the professor and me as “experts” on writing. Our comments, however, demonstrated that our opinions were subjective and based on readings of his work. The feedback therefore asked him to rely upon his own expertise to evaluate his intentions and possibilities for his thesis statement. When scheduling a meeting with me for his research paper, he held off until he felt he had a draft completed that satisfied him. It was apparent that he was more comfortable with those aspects of writing

Figure 3: Student 1’s Visual Analysis Paper

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Two’s Company, Three’s a Conversation • 4 that had concerned him before, such as organization, and, according to my report of our session, he defended his composition choices with knowledge and conviction. He was still receptive to talking, but his newfound confidence and self-awareness allowed him to engage in our conversation as a student-author rather than only as a student. In this conference he was notably more satisfied with his writing decisions and actively reacted to my suggestions based on his experience as the writer of his paper (Hug, 28 Apr 2011). Although this student became more confident in his identity as a writer, he was actively interested in learning from the course, and he consistently exceeded assignment expectations. It is important to note that students who enroll in Writing Fellows courses have thus far not been made aware of the Writing Fellows component until the first day of class, so there are often students who are averse to the emphasis on writing in the course at the beginning of the semester. For example, another student, a second-semester freshman, began the course extremely reluctant to accept help from either the professor or me. Following an aggressive argument with the professor during class, she failed to attend a scheduled meeting with me for her visual analysis assignment and emailed me several days later, on the paper’s due date, attempting to reschedule in order to meet the

professor’s requirements for grading. When we finally met, the student repeatedly expressed feeling “dumb,” in the class and in her writing. We discussed her writing strengths and places for improvement, and she did participate in the session, but she was fixed on the idea that she did not meet the professor’s standards for performance in the class. She confessed to me that she felt she could not talk to the professor. I felt that there was little exchange in our conversation, and she seemed unable or unwilling to listen to most of my suggestions regarding her concerns with the course or her paper. Her visual analysis paper, however, was returned to her with many comments, emphasizing that the professor and I were committed to the three-way relationship around her writing. Comments were generally unified in an affirmative reading of the text while still providing a record of two individual readers. On the first page alone (see Fig. 4), there are ten comments from both professor and Writing Fellow, engaging intently with the student’s writing. Our concentrated dialogue here functions as a conversation with real participants. For example, in comment [AH5], I bring to my reading the conversation from our session, during which we discussed that particular sentence as her thesis. Also, in both the professor’s and my comments, there is crossover between “content” and “writing” as we each read both “sides”

Figure 4: Student 2’s Visual Analysis Paper

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Two’s Company, Three’s a Conversation • 5 of her text to understand her meaning. Our comments demonstrate our reading of her paper as an authored text with interpretable meanings, rather than as a display of information or a performance for a grade. Within this conversation, the student was eventually able to find much more confidence to think about and discuss her writing. Shortly after the next writing assignment, the research paper, was handed out, this student scheduled an appointment with me. She came with a “broad idea for her paper, but no thesis and no research done” (Hug, 6 Apr 2011), but she was enthusiastic about her topic. The student showed a much stronger concern for her writing in this session, engaging in a dialogue with me about possibilities for her paper, although she also still communicated insecurity in meeting the standards of the assignment. Less than a week after our meeting, she e-mailed the professor to continue discussing her topic. Although she became discouraged by the amount of research necessary for her paper, she met with me again two days before the due date with a partial draft written, evincing greater investment in this paper than in the last. We had a productive, lengthy conversation about her argument and how she could prove it to her readers (Hug, 27 Apr 2011). Whereas the early step of thinking about writing her analysis paper created resistance and anxiety, she approached her research paper much more independently and initiated a conversation about her ideas. The paper that she handed in showed engagement with her subject matter, her writing process, and her research. After receiving her paper with our feedback, she responded to these comments in an e-mail to the professor and me. In this e-mail, she communicated more effectively than she had in past discussions about her writing; her writing is calm, purposeful, and demonstrates respect for our opinions as her readers but also for herself as author. Her message reveals a much clearer understanding of her own writing in her ability to talk about her choices and attitudes. She states that, instead of an e-mail, she would have liked to join our comment-dialogue, but that she does not know how to create comment bubbles. Her reason for writing is that she feels offended by a particular comment that her title seemed unprofessional, because she had considered it to be thoughtful and clever, playing upon the theme of her paper. She reflects on this choice within the context of the text she handed in and within the context of her process of researching and writing the paper, including both her triumphs and frustrations. She ends the e-mail by thanking us and stating that our comments will be useful to her in future papers, and signs off, “Respectfully.” The

increased focus on writing and the opening of a space in the course for the student to take authority as a writer seemed to encourage her to respond to us in a way that she did not feel comfortable to before, and, although she was hampered from entering the comment conversation itself, she chose to situate her response within our feedback. Both of these students were able to develop their identities as writers and then enter the conversation that took place around their writing because of the collaborative attitude with which writing was approached within this course, most visible in the three-way conversation around writing. While the increased focus on writing created fruitful interactions between each student and me, between each student and the professor, and between the professor and me, it was via the comments, which included the two instructors and a student in his or her writing, that a dynamic and complex conversation was established. This on-paper conversation encouraged students to enter off-paper conversations, using their authorial position to conscientiously discuss their writing outside the text itself.

Comments on Collaborative Commenting Despite the benefit that some students gained from our method, because of the exact form of our collaborative commenting was developed throughout the semester, and because I only observed this conversation after the conclusion of the course, there are several aspects of this method that may require revision in future implementation. The first issue that becomes apparent in studying the data from this course is the sheer volume of comments produced by two commenters. Some students anticipated extensive feedback considering the intensive focus on writing; for example, following a writing center conference, one student e-mailed me to ask for more feedback when she felt that we did not discuss her paper sufficiently. However, for many students, opening a document to find a wall of comment bubbles is intimidating. Richard Beach and Tom Friedrich write, “too many comments can overwhelm students, suggesting the need for teachers to prioritize their comments by responding selectively to those aspects of a text that are perceived to be the most problematic” (227). However, two individual commenters may find it more difficult to come to an agreement on “the most problematic” elements of a text. Each commenter may read certain aspects of the student’s writing differently and feel that comments are necessary. In addition, as was perhaps the case for the second student above, students may be shut out of

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Two’s Company, Three’s a Conversation • 6 the conversation because of this wall of comments around their papers. Another major concern is the absence of the student-author’s voice in the initial conversation about his or her writing. Although my feedback often took into account meetings with students, I could not speak for their experiences making choices as they wrote. Welch’s method of “sideshadowing” requires students to comment on the development of their papers before the teacher reads it, which gives authors greater ownership over their work and shapes the way the teacher interprets the text. This perspective was noticeably missing from our feedback conversation unless students voluntarily responded after receiving papers back. As an experiment, after visual analysis papers were returned, students were given the optional assignment to participate in a “Comments-toComments” exercise (Berzsenyi): students were instructed to choose several comments to respond to individually, on a separate piece of paper. Only two students participated, and even for them, the exercise proved a dead end. In reality, “Comments-toComments” still only allowed students to be involved in the conversation after it had already begun between professor and Writing Fellow. If the students in this course were given the opportunity to speak or write to us about their texts earlier, perhaps the professor and I would have seen increased and earlier engagement.. Finally, outside factors, such as relationships in the classroom, may have influenced how students were affected by our commenting method. Two students especially exemplify this: One student demonstrated a lack of respect for the professor and the feedback she gave on the student’s writing. Although this student trusted me as a peer and a friend, she did not like the professor’s teaching style and approach to the course material and often expressed dissatisfaction with all of the feedback on her papers. Conversely, another student who was a senior showed distrust and disregard for me as a peer writing tutor, possibly because I was two years younger than she was. She became more resistant to my help throughout the semester, and she was unengaged in any conversation about her writing, even with the professor whom she liked and had taken classes with previously. Therefore, students’ personal opinions of the professor or the peer-tutor or of classmates or material appears to have a strong effect on their response to this method of feedback overall.

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Conclusion Using this feedback method, the commenters began to read students’ writing as texts with a multiplicity of available interpretations. The professor and I interacted with student writing in an unusual way, taking into account the other’s reading, and as such, the existence of other readings and responses. We worked to diffuse the singular “monologue” teacher commentary can become and turn it into a dynamic dialogue among all of us—the professor, the student’s writing, and the writing fellow, and then eventually, the student-author. It is easy for a teachercommenter to fall into a monologue derived from authority as grader, “expert,” and singular reader, but this method turned our comments into an exchange that centered on the students’ texts. Utilizing this method, or a version of it, teachers, writing tutors, and students may discover a way to approach texts that returns some authority to the writer, and yields a more useful, and more intriguing, three-way conversation. Notes 1. This research was originally presented at the 2012 Conference on College Composition and Communication in St. Louis, MO as part of “A Gateway to Professionalization: An Undergraduate Researcher Poster Session,” the organizers of which I would like to thank for giving me the opportunity to share and further develop this project. I would also like to thank Dr. Anne Ellen Geller, Dr. Susan Rosenberg, and Dr. Harry Denny for their invaluable encouragement, guidance, and support at every stage of this project; Dr. Neal Lerner and Lauren Williams for help with references; and Jon McGinn, Sandra Nelson, Cassandra Richardson-Coughlin, Emily Gotimer-Strolla, and Meghan P. Nolan for all of their comments, both collaborative and monologic, as I wrote and revised this article. 2. There are no designated upper-level writing intensive/writing enriched courses at this institution. 3. The absence of an immediate grade may have also compelled students to engage with comments as a measure of teacher assessment. And, this prevented the contextualization of feedback that happens when a grade is given, which Gopen discusses (23), and lessened the effects of the teacher’s authority as evaluator. 4. Student work, University Writing Center session reports (from WCOnline), and my reflections on them are used with IRB approval through the Fellows program. Students gave written consent for portions of their work to be used without identifying information.

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Two’s Company, Three’s a Conversation • 7 ! Works Cited Beach, Richard and Tom Friedrich. “Response to Writing.” Handbook of Writing Research. Ed. Charles A. MacArthur, Steve Graham, Jill Fitzgerald. New York: Guilford Press, 2006. 222-234. Print. Berzsenyi, Christyne A. “Comments to Comments: Teachers and Students in Written Dialogue about Critical Revision.” Composition Studies 29.2 (2001): 71-92. Print. Elbow, Peter. Writing Without Teachers. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford UP, 1998. Print. Fife, Jane Mathison and Peggy O’Neill. “Moving Beyond the Written Comment: Narrowing the Gap between Response Practice and Research.” College Composition and Communication 53.2 (2001): 300-321. Web. Gopen, George. “Why So Many Bright Students and So Many Dull Papers?: Peer-Reponded Journals as a Partial Solution to the Problem of the Fake Audience.” The WAC Journal 16 (2005): 22-48. Web. Haring-Smith, Tori. “Changing Students’ Attitudes: Writing Fellows Programs.” Rewriting Across the Curriculum: Writing Fellows as Agents of Change in WAC. Spec. issue of Across the Disciplines 5 (2008): 123-131. Web. Holmes, Lynda A. “What Do Students Mean When They Say, ‘I Hate Writing’?.” Teaching English in the Two Year College 29.2 (2001): 172-178. Web. Hug, Alyssa-Rae. St. John’s University Writing Center Session Report. 16 Mar 2011. –. St. John’s University Writing Center Session Report. 27 Apr 2011. –. St. John’s University Writing Center Session Report. 28 Apr 2011. –. St. John’s University Writing Center Session Report. 6 Apr 2011. Kail, Harvey. “Collaborative Learning in Context: The Problem with Peer Tutoring.” College English 45.6 (1983): 594-599. Web. Lillis, Theresa M. Student Writing: Access, Regulation, Desire. London and New York: Routledge, 2001. Print. North, Stephen M. “The Idea of a Writing Center.” College English 46.5 (1984): 433-446. Web. Pemberton, Michael. “A Finger in Every Pie: The Expanding Role of Writing Centers in Writing Instruction.” Writing & Pedagogy 1.1 (2009): 89-100. Web. Sommers, Nancy. “Responding to Student Writing.” College Composition and Communication 33.2 (1982): 148-156. Web. Soven, Margot. “Curriculum-Based Peer Tutoring Programs: A Survey.” Writing Program Administration 17.1-2 (1993). 58-74. Web. Welch, Nancy. “Sideshadowing Teacher Response.” College English 60.4 (1998): 374-395. Web.

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Praxis: A Writing Center Journal • Vol 11, No 1 (2013)

“SHOULD I TAKE NOTES AS YOU BRAINSTORM?”: EXAMINING CONSULTANTS’ IN-SESSION NOTES Lamiyah Bahrainwala The University of Texas at Austin lamiyah@utexas.edu Because writing center pedagogy emphasizes individual client needs, there are few consultation strategies that might be considered “staples.” However, reading the client’s paper aloud and taking notes on scrap paper as the consultant are two such strategies. In fact, they are so entrenched in consulting pedagogy that many writing centers list them on consultant training “checklists.” While there is a respectable amount of scholarship examining the readaloud strategy (see Block; Huang), there is a conspicuous absence of literature examining the type of note-taking that occurs during consultations. It is important to examine these notes because clients often leave with them, and may reference them throughout their writing process. Additionally, while many writing centers do email clients a summary of their consultations, the notes produced during the session can offer insight into the dynamics of a consultation. Finally, there is great variation in the way consultants employ the note-taking strategy. Given this diversity, it is even more important to examine consultant notes to establish efficient note-taking strategies for writing center consultations. The widespread use of note-taking, as well as the diversity in consultant note-taking styles, are the impetuses for this study. As my time working in the United Arab Emirates attests, note pads, paper trays, and jars of pens sit on writing center tables across the world. In “Writing as Process,” Bariss Mills explains why any conversation on writing should be accompanied by easy access to scratch paper. Mills describes how by “writing out their processes,” his students were able to develop a visual trail to follow while composing (23). However, writing center clients may not be “writing out their processes” alone; a notetaking consultant may also contribute to their “writing-out process.” I discovered this when one consultant gave me her notes on my paper, which I referenced many times as I wrote my paper. But, more importantly, I noticed that my consultant’s note-taking style was completely different from my own, as a consultant. This diversity in note-taking styles made me curious to see what other consultants were producing during writing consultations.

While I have so far described the impetus for this study, it is also important to consider its larger significance. Through this study, I hope to contribute to discussions of writing “process-products,” i.e. writing that reflects the writing process rather than the written product. Second, understanding how different consultants take notes in different writing contexts may not only reveal effective note-taking strategies, but also make us more reflexive as consultants. Third, examining consultants’ in-session notes can address questions of authorship and plagiarism. While I am loath to distrust consultants’ in-session note-taking, there is no denying that it can be viewed with some suspicion by third parties. For instance, when I presented this research at the East Central Writing Center Association, two composition teachers in the audience asked whether note-taking by consultants could lead to “cheating.” Additionally, NCAA policy forbids consultants from giving athletes any notes from writing consultations to discourage favoritism. Although consultants receive rigorous training to ensure clients retain writing ownership, these concerns highlight the fear that any writing that is not done by the client can make ownership suspect. For this reason, it is particularly important to examine whether and how consultant notes reflect the writing process rather than product. Additionally, as writers are composing increasingly multimodal texts, notions of collaboration and plagiarism are changing (see Howard; Lunsford; Sheridan & Inman; Selfe). As a result, consultants will have to adapt note-taking strategies to address the multimodal texts clients bring to the consultation. Given these concerns, my goal with this research was to focus on three things: what consultants generally put on paper; when they tended to do more in-session note-taking; and whether the notes bolstered writing center pedagogy. The following sections describe my research methods, findings, and present a few noteworthy case studies of in-session note-taking.


Consultants’ In-Session Notes • 2

Data Collection For this study, I collected notes and interviewed consultants from two writing centers: the first was a center in an American university in the Middle East, which employed approximately 30 consultants and saw close to 3000 clients per semester. The second was a large center at a Midwestern university that employed about 70 consultants and drew approximately 10,000 clients per semester. I chose to collect data from these centers because they were the largest writing centers in their respective regions, and I had been employed for at least two years at each center. The data collection took place over a two-month period. Collecting In-Session Notes At this point, it is important to define the term “notes,” since the definition affects the data I collect and examine in this study. For the purpose of this study, I define “notes” as any writing produced by consultants on a separate piece of paper during consultations. Notes that were created by the client and notes made on the client’s paper by the consultant (if any) were not included. The reason I didn’t include the latter was because both centers I collected notes from strongly discouraged consultants from making notes on client papers to reduce concerns about ownership. The notes themselves were produced by both graduate and undergraduate consultants. Because clients usually left with these notes at the end of sessions, I asked consultants to make photocopies of any notes they made (with the client’s permission). The consultants at the center in the Middle East scanned their notes and sent them to me on a weekly basis. At the end of the two-month collection period, I had amassed notes from 116 consulting sessions facilitated by 20 consultants. These notes were then categorized by consultants to facilitate the interview process. The Interviews To understand the context in which these insession writings were produced, I conducted interviews with the 20 consultants who produced the 116 notes I had collected. 13 of these consultants were employed at the Midwestern writing center, and seven were consultants from the center in the Middle East. Prior to the interviews, the questions were sent to the interviewees to allow them to reflect on their insession writings before the actual interview (see appendix for interview questions). Because the questions were fairly open-ended, the interviewees took the conversation in the direction they wanted it to go. The interviews took place face-to-face or over Skype, and were 15-30 minutes long. These interviews were transcribed and coded for patterns based on recurring words. The findings section below discusses

the four most frequently recurring patterns, and provides examples to highlight their pedagogical significance.

Findings This section examines the data in two ways. First, it examines the patterns that emerged from the consultant notes themselves, then categorizes these findings based on frequency, and expresses them as percentages. Second, it places these patterns in the context of the consultant interviews to understand why these patterns recurred, and the consultants’ rationales for creating these notes. Patterns in the In-Session Notes Because the notes were so diverse in form and content, it seemed unproductive to attempt to classify each note separately. That being said, many distinct patterns emerged from the notes, and some notes displayed more than one type of pattern. Given the diversity and overlap across the notes, I decided to present (and discuss) the most frequently recurring patterns. Therefore, Table 1 (below) presents the four most frequently recurring patterns visible across the 116 consultant notes I collected, meaning every note demonstrated one or more of the patterns in Table 1. As Table 1 shows, 27 of the notes (or 23.3%) contained “full sentences or long phrases.” This refers to all the notes that contained more dense writing than isolated words or phrases. While this description might seem vague, I should say that the remaining 89 notes were so sparse (containing just the occasional word, punctuation mark, or phrase) that these 27 “detailed” notes clearly stood out. Next, the most prevalent pattern (visible in 88% of the notes) was the consultation agenda for each session, listing the concerns that the client wanted to focus on. These lists included concerns like “grammar,” “flow” and “topic sentences,” and a few of the consultants had crossed out or put check-marks next to the concerns they were able to tackle in the session. Third, close to 20% of the consultant notes contained sketches and drawings. These notes ranged from simple sketches of inverted triangles (to show how introductions go from a broad to narrow idea) and shapes surrounded by arrows, to more detailed illustrations of web pages, PowerPoint slides and even stick figures. Finally, 31% of all the notes contained “meta writing,” i.e. questions the consultants wrote down to remind themselves to ask the client something. These included instructions like “check assignment prompt” and “spelling mistake or word choice?”

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Consultants’ In-Session Notes • 3 ! Table 1 Pattern Description

Number

Percentage

Full sentences or long phrases

27

23.3%

Consultation agenda written down

103

88.8%

Sketches/drawings

23

19.8%

Notes for consultants, or “meta writing”

36

31%

In the next section, I will draw on the follow-up interviews with the consultants to contextualize these patterns, and attempt to understand consultants’ rationales for their in-session note taking. Contextualizing the In-Session Notes The follow-up interviews with consultants illuminated the context for the four patterns described above. To begin with, several consultants attempted to explain why some of the notes were more detailed, i.e. contained “full sentences or long phrases.” Interestingly, 19 out of the 20 consultants I interviewed stated they wrote more during sessions when they perceived clients to be ESL students. While some of these consultants mentioned this tendency in relation to the notes I had collected, others mentioned it as a general observation about their consulting style. The following interview excerpts illustrate this: It’s with […] ESL students that I ended up writing more, way more, and so I don’t know if that says something about me as – about my consulting style, or that I’m giving my clients what I think they expect from me. So a lot of times my student will just say straightaway look, English is […] not my first language, and I noticed those students really appreciated when I gave them notes. I would make sure to take more notes when students came in and said that.

This trend raises questions about directive consulting and the nature of “ESL-ness.” First, the excerpts above point to the complexity of the term “ESL” and its implications for writing center consultations. Writing scholarship shows that the term “ESL” could simply indicate that a client speaks another language more proficiently than English; it doesn’t always mean a lack of proficiency in English (see Matsuda et al). However, some ESL clients (and indeed any clients) might still benefit from a more directive consulting style if they are unfamiliar with US-centered writing approaches. While my interviewees identified their tendency to take more notes for ESL clients, they may not have realized that this tendency reinforced writing center pedagogy. However, while these consultants admitted to taking more notes during ESL sessions, it still wasn’t clear why. Some consultants cited fairly obvious reasons – clients could not keep up with the quick pace of the conversation; consultants wrote down words clients couldn’t spell or pronounce – but one consultant said something striking: Talking about writing the way we do in writing centers is a – is widely accepted in […] US schools. I mean, I know the conversation is the most important part of a consultation, but I sort of feel like a pressure to sell the writing center to ESL students by giving them detailed written takeaways.

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Consultants’ In-Session Notes • 4 In this case, the consultant recognized that discussing writing is a well-established pedagogical technique in the US, but that it may not be familiar (or seen as productive) by clients who are not from the US. This consultant was cognizant that sometimes clients equate more writing with more productivity in the consultation, and was actively using his in-session writings as incentives to bring ESL students back to the center. While this quote does make it seem that the consultant is assuming that all ESL clients are international students, that was not what he meant. He was referring to his note-taking in sessions with international students who also happened to be ESL speakers. However, based on my analysis of the 116 notes, the notes produced for ESL clients were not markedly different from the remaining notes. During the interviews, consultants made it a point to identify the notes they produced in ESL sessions, which were only seven out of the 27 “detailed” notes. However, the remaining 20 notes were not produced in ESL sessions. The 27 notes ranged from “transcriptions” of client ideas during brainstorming sessions, to writing sentences demonstrating the use of different punctuation marks. However, while the more detailed notes may indicate a more directive consulting style, my findings reveal that consultants do not simply adopt a more directive approach with ESL students. This belies their belief that they were more directive with their ESL clients. While consultants may certainly be taking a more directive approach with ESL clients, my data shows that they are also willing to use a more directive approach with non-ESL clients. The interviews also revealed another reason why consultants may write more “detailed” notes during certain consultations rather than others. 12 of the 20 consultants I interviewed stated that those detailed notes came from brainstorming sessions with clients. This is unsurprising since clients synthesize ideas rapidly while brainstorming, and consultants may record those ideas so that they are not “lost.” While note-taking increased during brainstorming sessions, it rose again when clients brought in close-tofinal drafts. Eight of the 27 detailed notes I collected were produced in sessions where the client brought in a polished draft. Some examples of these phrases were sentences like “cultural racism – but how is that different from other racisms? Doesn’t all racism become a floating signifier?” and “the camera angles are important to the meaning, and there are high and low angles but no overhead shots.” These long sentences stood in stark contrast to the notes containing only isolated words and phrases, which may have been produced in sessions where a client came in

with a first draft. The consultants who produced these more descriptive notes explained that in these situations, they felt an additional pressure to focus on minutiae because clients expected fine-tuning: As they read through their paper I’d just write down a bunch of sentences and phrases from their essay that were grammatically incorrect or just awkward. I mean, when clients say they’re bringing in a final draft they don’t want to change their main argument, they’re kind of looking to focus on language issues. So I’d write down full sentences, and sometimes I’d notice patterns of grammar errors so I’d write down ‘verb tense’ and I’d know to come back to that. Normally I – I don’t focus too too [sic] much on grammar and punctuation if it’s an early draft of the paper, but if a client wants to polish a final draft then I get super nit-picky. Like I’ll write down stuff like ‘paragraph one: awkward’ or ‘topic sentence three: semi colon use’ and things like that to remind me what we need to talk about in case I forget later. Once again, these excerpts illustrate that consultants lean towards making notes about the writing process, rather than the product, particularly when clients come in with a nearly finished draft. But, more interestingly, it also appears that consultants were using note-taking to teach grammar rules and focus on lower-order concerns. The samples I collected reflected these grammar and punctuation “lessons,” where consultants had written down sentences illustrating the proper uses of semicolons and different verb tenses for the same verb. Because writing center practice encourages working on lower-order concerns at the end of the writing process, it was intriguing to see consultant notes mirror this so clearly. The next two patterns the interviews revealed were taking “meta notes,” (where consultants were taking notes for themselves rather than their clients) and writing down consultation agendas. 14 of the 20 interviewees stated they did this, while others said they weren’t even sure their notes would be intelligible to their clients. Why, then, did they bother making those notes? They offered several different reasons: I like to write down the agenda at the beginning of the session, because it keeps – you can use it sort of like a checklist, and I like to tick things off when we’re done with it, like once we’ve made finished [sic] tackling topic sentences or citations for instance […] it makes me feel good about getting stuff done, and I

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Consultants’ In-Session Notes • 5 usually make that list for myself and it helps me as a consultant, but sometimes clients want to take [the list] with them so they can see what they’ve got let to do if we didn’t get to it in the session. (emphasis added) When my client is reading aloud, I will write words and use a sort of short hand to remind myself which sentences or paragraphs I want to come back to. Sometimes they’ll freak out that I’m writing stuff down, and I’m like ‘no, I’m doing this because I’m listening closely, I’m not writing critiques about your writing!’ So I’ll write down a single word, for example, and I’ll remember I want to talk about the sentence that word is in. This system works for me, and even if [the client] takes the notes with them it’s not like they can copy anything off it. But yeah, they ask for the notes any way. Most of the times [sic]. (emphasis added) There are two noteworthy aspects in these excerpts. First, some consultants use note-taking as a way of demonstrating their own engagement as clients read their writing aloud. Second, consultants who write down the consultation agenda are able to provide a writing-process-takeaway that enables the client to “continue” the consultation after they leave the center. This clearly reinforces writing center pedagogy because it ensures that an agenda is created and followed throughout the consultation, which is a key part of consulting technique (see Harris). But, perhaps more importantly, sending clients home with the agenda demonstrates a commitment to writing process over product, a key writing center principle, as the agenda itself is a process-product. While some writing centers do have consultants send a follow-up email to clients outlining their way forward on their assignment, other centers that do not could encourage consultants to produce written agendas during consultations that clients can take away. Finally, the fourth pattern in the data was consultants’ tendencies to create images in their notes. And while the consultants did not directly address these images in the interviews, they did make some remarks about multimodality that were interesting. Of the 116 notes that I examined, 23 contained images including maps with arrows, shapes, and tables, and a few were sketches that contained no words at all. While writing centers are becoming more cognizant of multimodal composition (see Sheridan & Inman; Selber; Blythe), it appears that this multimodality is even becoming visible in notes produced during consultations. At the Midwestern writing center, consultant training included learning to work with

software like iMovie, Illustrator and Comic Life to understand the composition processes these media entail. As writing centers begin to see more clients working on movies, comic strips, posters, etc., it is interesting to see writing processes also embody such multimodality. Consultants must be willing to use nonalphabetic processes to help clients compose both alphabetic and non-alphabetic products. Two examples of such “multimodal note-taking” stood out in the data. The first was a sketch of a website home page, which I recognized even before interviewing the consultant who sketched it. This rough sketch included a “menu bar” for navigation, a side panel, and a central space for key text. The client had come in with an idea of what the website should contain, but not what it should look like. The consultant then initiated a conversation about website conventions, and sketched the homepage for illustration. In doing so, he demonstrated that it was just as important to talk about conventions in multimodal texts as it is with traditional texts. When I asked why they didn’t just browse through actual websites, he said that he thought the conventions would be more visible in a minimal, 2D version on paper. His other reason: “sometimes the Internet is way slow.” The second example of “multimodal notetaking” was one that came out of the writing center in the Middle East. It was created by an artistically gifted consultant majoring in graphic design, and was a sketch of a tattooed ogre carrying a club, with a small man and a duck on his back. The detail was remarkable, and the consultant explained that it came out of a consultation in which the client was writing a sci-fi short story. When they were mapping out their agenda at the start of the session, the student said she was concerned that her characters and setting weren’t as clear as she’d like them to be. Her professor wanted more descriptive detail, which was especially necessary for fictional/extra-terrestrial settings and characters. The consultant told his client that as she read her piece aloud, he would draw the characters as he pictured them based on her descriptions. While this note was perhaps the most striking of the 116 notes I had collected, it is also worth remarking on this consultant’s willingness to engage in play during the session. In “Incorporating Play and Toys into the Writing Center,” Chad Verbais talks about why creative approaches are so important to writing center pedagogy. He argues that play offers much more than a distraction; it offers a diversion that frees up the mind to focus on the task in a big-picture way without becoming consumed by details (136). By giving her a sketch at the end of the read-aloud, this

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Consultants’ In-Session Notes • 6 consultant offered his client a playful distraction, as well as a way to renew focus. There is a reason writing centers are decorated to look welcoming and playful. They are not a classroom space or a living space, but, as Grego and Thompson describe, a thirdspace: a safe space to use creative approaches that would be difficult to implement in first or second spaces. Additionally, writing centers employ consultants with different professional backgrounds, both writingrelated and otherwise. By applying his background in art, the consultant demonstrated that writing processes don't have to be “written,” and that high-stakes products can be created through low-stakes interactions.

Conclusions This study has some limitations. The data was collected over just a two month period at only two centers, and only a few of the collected samples have been examined in depth. However, the few patterns described in this paper are pedagogically complex, and the follow-up interviews provided insight into the judgment calls consultants make during sessions. For instance, we see that the data occasionally contradicts consultants’ reflections about their consulting approach. This was especially evident from the consultants’ beliefs that they primarily take more notes for ESL clients, when the data shows that consultants produce detailed notes for a wide variety of reasons. Additionally, the findings reveal that the agenda is what consultants are most likely to write down during consultations, implying that consultants rely on the agenda as a “contract,” and guide for the consultation. Furthermore, consultants are sensitive to the stage of the writing process their clients are in, and modify their note-taking strategies accordingly. This is an especially empathetic move, because consultants (who are students themselves) recognize the importance of transcribing ideas while brainstorming and paying extra attention to drafts that are about to be submitted. Undoubtedly, the notes produced in consultations engage issues of authorship, ESL strategies, multimodality, and the value of play. Because these samples engage so many pedagogical concerns, it is worthwhile to continue inspecting insession writing in future studies. For instance, it could be useful to examine whether in-session note-taking affects client satisfaction. This research also highlights how notes from consultations form an archive within

writing centers that tell a multitude of stories, as they provide organic records of the diversity of consultations and composition processes. This does not mean that we need to inspect every note from every consultation, but it does remind us that if we are looking for stories to tell from within the center we need not look very far. Works Cited Block, Rebecca R. Reading Aloud in the Writing Center: A Comparative Analysis of Three Tutoring Methods. Diss. University of Louisville, 2010. Print. Blythe, Stuart. “Technologies and Writing Center Practices: A Critical Approach.” Diss. Purdue University, 1997. Electronic. Ede, Lisa and Andrea Lunsford. “Collaboration and Concepts of Authorship.” Publications of the Modern Language Association116.2 (2001): 354-369. Print. Grego, Rhonda and Nancy Thompson. Teaching/Writing in Third Spaces: The Studio Approach. Southern Illinois University Press: IL, 2008. Print. Harris, Muriel. “Collaboration is not Collaboration is not Collaboration: Writing Center Tutorials vs. PeerResponse Groups.” College Composition and Communication 43.3 (1992): 369-383. Print. Howard, Rebecca Moore. “Understanding “Internet Plagiarism”. Computers and Composition 24.1 (2007): 3-15. Print. Huang, Liangguang. “Reading Aloud in the Foreign Language Teaching.” Asian Social Science 6.4 (2010): 148151. Print Matsuda, Paul Kei, Bruce Horner and Min-Zhan Lu. “Cross-Language Relations in Composition.” Southern Illinois University Press: IL, 2010. Print. Mills, Barriss. “Writing as Process.” College English 15.1 (1953): 19-26. Electronic.. Powers, Judith. “Rethinking Writing Center Conferencing Strategies for the ESL Writer.” Writing Center Journal 13.2 (1993): 39-47. Electronic. Rafoth, Bennett. A Tutor’s Guide: Helping Writers One on One. Boynton/Cook Publishers: Portsmouth, 2000. Print. Selber, Stuart. Multiliteracies for a Digital Age. Southern Illinois University: Carbondale, 2004. Print. Selfe, Cynthia. Technology and Literacy in the Twenty-First Century. Southern Illinois University: Carbondale, 1999. Print. Sheridan, David Michael and James Inman. Multiliteracy Centers: Writing Center Work, New Media, and Multimodal Rhetoric. Hamilton Press: CA, 2010. Print. Verbais, Chad. “Incorporating Toys and Play into the Writing Center.” Creative Approaches to Writing Center Work. Hampton Press: NY, 2008. Print.

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Consultants’ In-Session Notes • 7 ! Appendix: Interview Questions Why did you create these writing samples that came out of your sessions? Do you usually use put something on paper during sessions? Do you think a consultation might be different if you had no access to scrap paper? Do you find yourself writing more in certain consultations than others? Do you find yourself writing more when the client is at a particular stage of the writing process? Do you ever sketch when writing notes? How do clients react to your in-session writing? Do you think there are any downsides to consultants making notes during consultations?

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Praxis: A Writing Center Journal • Vol 11, No 1 (2013)

REVIEW: A SYNTHESIS OF QUALITATIVE STUDIES OF WRITING CENTER TUTORING Roger Austin Georgia State University raustin6@gsu.edu A Synthesis of Qualitative Studies of Writing Center Tutoring is refreshingly direct about a regrettable fact concerning writing center tutoring and tutor training: established best practices are difficult to quantify. Before reaching the end of the first page, Rebecca Day Babcock, Kellye Manning, and Travis Rogers outline the impetus of their research, relating Babcock’s difficulty in synthesizing information on the ideologies of writing centers when preparing for her doctoral comprehensive exams. That difficulty prompts the authors to admit that “there was no one common writing center theory, but rather a set of practices and a pattern of taking theories from other disciplines and applying them to writing centers” (1). Babcock, Manning, and Rogers then call upon Linda Shamoon and Deborah Burns’ infamous 1995 essay, “A Critique of Pure Tutoring,” referencing its indictment that writing center research does little to critically examine its preferred tutoring practices, reducing appraisal efforts to little more than hunches. On generally accepted techniques and strategies, Shamoon and Burns write that “these codes and appeals seem less the product of research or examined practice and more like articles of faith that serve to validate a tutoring approach which ‘feels right’” (135). Nearly two decades later, writing center research has arguably diminished old preferences for hands-off, minimalist tutoring. The message of A Synthesis is immediately clear: a unified theory of tutoring practice must prefer researched, verifiable practice and eschew unsubstantiated belief. Before delving into the results and conclusions of their work, Babcock, Manning, and Rogers review the origins of writing center practice and take stock of where centers currently stand: “Student-centeredness and collaboration have been buzzwords in writing center studies for some time now. It is writing center dogma or formalism that tutors should adopt a student-centered or collaborative approach to tutorials and very little research or, indeed, questioning of such a stance has occurred” (3). Asserting that this lack of reflection and interrogation manifests itself in vague standards for tutor practice, the authors profess a need for “theory grounded in data rather than in abstractions in order to present a complete model of

what actually happens in tutoring sessions” (5). Babcock, Manning, and Rogers deliver just that. A Synthesis is a svelte aggregate of numerous qualitative studies of tutoring in practice ranging over multiple writing centers and more than twenty years. The authors are forthcoming with details of their research design, divulging their criteria for study inclusion or exclusion, the training process for the team of researchers reviewing the studies, and the organization of their findings. What follows is a concise, well-researched resource that collects more than two decades of qualitative data from tutoring observation from a diverse selection of writing centers, distills that data into clear conclusions and takeaways, and leaves the reader with actionable facts of tutoring in practice. Babcock, Manning, and Rogers steer tutors and directors away from the false security of mantras and platitudes. A Synthesis is tutee-focused. This perspective avoids the trend in writing center discussions that often revert to assumptions. It is tempting for us to speak dogmatically of what makes for an effective tutorial instead of substantiating our expectations. A Synthesis is focused on the outcomes of tutorial choices and on tutee reaction to tutor action. Babcock, Manning, and Rogers emphasize conclusions, in part, by focusing seven of the book’s nine chapters on variables that inescapably impact tutorials, including personal characteristics (of tutees and tutors), communication, external influences, and emotions among others. The authors deconstruct each of these chapter themes further into component issues that impact the work that takes place at the writing center table. In the chapter on roles, for example, some of the issues covered include tutor directivity (or a lack thereof), authority and power, gendered approaches to tutoring, navigating the difference between teacher and peer, and tutor sincerity. The following synopsis illustrates the effective, concise summary that Babcock, Manning, and Rogers wield: Sincerity and insincerity are related to honesty and dishonesty in our framework. Stachera wrote of a conference that she had in which she was not honest about what she felt about the tutee’s paper.


Book Review • 2 In the name of non-directivity, she kept her negative evaluations to herself and told him that the paper was “interesting.” She noted that nondirectivity does not foster true rapport because one party is holding back, and in Stachera’s case, she felt this was dishonest. (67) This clear and articulate synthesis moves forward quickly, refining what starts with Stachera by introducing two more researchers drawing complementary conclusions on tutor sincerity. Each subtopic is similarly brief and contributes to providing a structured, succinct primer of relevant qualitative research. The real value in the organization of A Synthesis resides in the bulleted summaries that finish each chapter. The authors revisit each subtopic, further refining their discoveries into simple, direct statements that help readers digest clear takeaways. Babcock, Manning, and Rogers return to Stachera’s research on tutor sincerity here and refine it with a single bullet point: “Non-directivity can lead tutors to be dishonest and not foster true rapport through their actions because they hold back their opinions and are being dishonest” (71). While the original discussions are not overly lengthy, these succinct reminders of their conclusions can only help readers to better understand the effects of the tutor’s sincerity on the tutoring session. The discussion/bullet-point relationship also may help some readers reverse-engineer valuable insight into the authors’ arguments. Reading the bullet points first may encourage readers to work backwards to the longer, more detailed discussion. This format accommodates multiple reading and retention styles. And while it may seem odd to praise a book index, readers will find that of A Synthesis to be especially useful as a quick reference for further reading precisely because of the discuss/distill format of the chapters. A Synthesis is not without its limitations. At a trim 137 pages, the study is short, so there will inevitably be topics on which some readers might want more detail. Some of the discussions contained within A Synthesis lack supporting research. This limitation is likely due to the lack of research available for Babcock, Manning, and Rogers to draw from. Remember the nature of the problem they are trying to address in the first place: when so little qualitative research takes place in writing center theory building, there will be gaps. Remember also that this brevity can be a strength. This is not the ultimate encyclopedia of all things tutoring practice, but it is concise. This economy of space also supports an objective the authors point toward in their text’s conclusion: “The implications of our study, we hope, will serve as points of departure

for other scholars who wish to use similar groundedtheory approaches to describe writing center tutoring” (116). With so wide a selection of potential topics that readers will certainly find useful, A Synthesis will serve as a great starting line from which to begin new research projects. Rebecca Day Babcock, Kellye Manning, and Travis Rogers bring their mission full circle in the final pages of A Synthesis of Qualitative Studies of Writing Center Tutoring, concluding that “something about writing center lore is no longer helping our students and, given the wide variance in theory vs. practice, may never have been effective aides to writing center clients. Since helping our students is precisely why the lore developed, it is time for our methods to evolve” (123). Readers can look to A Synthesis as a catalyst for exactly this change. Research like this calls for the codification of successful writing center tutoring and for a challenging of the assumptions about what practices may no longer have a place in the field. Works Cited Day Babcock, Rebecca, Kellye Manning and Travis Rogers. A Synthesis of Qualitative Studies of Writing Center Tutoring, 1983-2006. New York: Peter Lang, 2012. Print. Shamoon, Linda K. and Deborah H. Burns. "A Critique of Pure Tutoring." Writing Center Journal 15.2 (1995): 134152. Print.

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Praxis: A Writing Center Journal • Vol 11, No 1 (2013)

REVIEW: PERIPHERAL VISIONS FOR WRITING CENTERS Jeremy Smyczek The University of Texas at Austin jsmyczek@utexas.edu In Peripheral Visions for Writing Centers, Jackie Grutsch McKinney contends that writing centers have a narrative problem: despite multifaceted work, writing center professionals present a unified public face that describes homey, nontraditional centers that are of equal service to all. Grutsch McKinney holds that not only does this “writing center grand narrative” (3) overlook the labor that goes on within, but it concurrently creates tunnel vision among professionals and researchers. This vision has pernicious consequences for those employed in and served by writing centers, and impedes the “peripheral visions” of the field that might otherwise manifest. Arguing theoretically rather than practically, Grutsch McKinney’s six-chapter arrangement provides: • an Introduction (subtitled “Cognitive Dissonance”) that describes the harried complexity of a writing program administrator’s day, compared with the simplified rendition of this work offered to the public; • a theoretical overview (“Story Vision”) situating the project in the postmodern tradition; • a deconstruction of the idea of writing centers as comfy retreats (“Writing Centers Are Cozy Homes”); • a caution against writing centers embracing outsider status (“Writing Centers Are Iconoclastic”); • a critique of peer-tutoring’s centrality to writing centers (“Writing Centers Tutor (All Students)”); • a Conclusion (subtitled “The End of the Story of the End of the Center?”) offering brief advice going forward. In the first two chapters, Grutsch McKinney outlines her method, leaning heavily on the psychologist Jerome Bruner. Following his guidance, she intends to demonstrate that our autobiographies “conform to cultural expectations,” that these introjected accounts “direct future actions,” and that “narratives are interpretations of reality” (16, 17). Many in the literature, rhetoric, and composition communities will agree, and it seems reasonable to extend these observations to the narratives of writing centers.

But despite the clear initial focus, the ensuing chapters accomplish mixed success, often struggling to present compelling evidence for the case or forcing examples into the author’s preconceived theoretical notions. This is especially evident in the book’s three primary chapters, which establish the purported master narrative of writing centers as, respectively, “cozy homes,” “iconoclastic,” and places that “tutor all students.” In “Writing Centers Are Cozy Homes,” for example, Grutsch McKinney laments the representation of centers as places symbolized by overstuffed couches and coffee pots and conflates the idea of writing centers being described as physical and welcoming spaces. Citing various researchers who famously depict writing centers as a “garret,” “storehouse,” “Burkean parlor,” “laundry or safe house,” “skills center,” or “fix-it shop,” she concludes that “the idea of a writing center as cozy home became dominant” (22). There is a twofold problem here. On one hand, there seems little to recommend attics, warehouses, basements, or (heaven forbid) auto repair facilities as welcoming spaces. On the other, I have worked as an undergraduate, graduate, and professional tutor in two writing centers for over seven years, neither of which designed its space nor promoted its services in this “cozy” way. The argument seems to selectively read both writing center spaces and their written representations. To defend the point, Grutsch McKinney brusquely rebuts other research. A 2009 study by Leslie Hadfield and others, in which “the authors set forth … to imagine an ideal center for an imaginary university” and then tested the design through interviews, concluded that “tutors, students and staff … share common ideals about what makes an ideal writing center.” Grutsch McKinney dismisses the finding as “an absurd claim” (31). The basis of this dismissal is a single conversation with her own graduate students, all but one of whom had never worked in a writing center. If we skip the inevitable imprecise details, we are given what Grutsch McKinney feels is a more troubling “grand narrative” aspect: the idea that the “cozy home” account allows those initiated to “show themselves as insiders in the field of writing centers”


Book Review • 2 (24), thereby creating exclusive parameters for outsiders. “Cozy” spaces may: 1) delineate class distinctions, with markers such as abstract art that “seem pretentious” to those from nonwhite and/or lower-income backgrounds; 2) create a “feminized” space that is “problematic in terms of gender” (26); and 3) create a “safe haven” (27) that avoids productive conflict that can spur learning. We might concede these important points, however, and still wonder how one would design a completely neutral space that lacks any markers of gender, class or status. We are, alas, never told. Marginalization narratives are the focus of the next chapter, “Writing Centers Are Iconoclastic,” which makes interesting observations about the work such stories have performed. According to the author, marginality is the main discourse used to establish iconoclasm: Grutsch McKinney employs an impressive array of writing center scholarship, arranging sources into accounts that deny marginality, claim post-marginal status, or embrace marginality as a tool of subversion. A consequence of this central discourse, the author contends, is de facto marginalization of writing center professionals: to this end, she cites statistics about the job security of writing center directors, only 41% of whom were in tenured or tenure-track positions as of 2003-2004 (52). But the link between iconoclastic narratives and dismal job prospects seems far more correlative than causal. We might suspect that the tenure statistics for directors are comparable to those of other advanced degree-holders in similar situations. When we consider Grutsch McKinney’s own statistics, a majority of directors have their graduate training in literature (52), and are thus less likely to be working in their chosen specialties; over half of directors (in early studies) lack doctoral degrees. Some control numbers would have been helpful here, and this might be an opportunity for additional research. The final narrative string Grutsch McKinney wishes to unravel is two-part: the primary work of writing centers is tutoring, and tutoring is a service meant to serve all students. While this idea will seem intuitive to most, the author here gathers some empirical data (open-ended surveying of the WCENTER listserv users) to see if interrogating it can show us other possibilities—what we may miss by storying writing centers this way. This inquiry about perceived similarities and differences among writing centers does give the reader a better sense of who, exactly, the audience for the grand narrative might be (veteran professionals who rarely publish) beyond the writing center scholarship community. Some observations are useful: few respondents, for example,

identify workshops and secondary resources, “near universal activities in writing centers” that are “rarely seen as such” (64), indicating that the focus on one-toone peer tutoring may, in fact, occlude other extant resources. Hence, the first part of the thesis fares well. But Grutsch McKinney’s fidelity to Bruner’s idea that there can be no purely informational narratives— that all stories, no matter how seemingly innocuous, perform ideological work serving powerful interests— also leaves her searching for villains who never materialize. She maintains that the narrative of writing centers as a universal help “blinds us to the fact that not all students want tutoring” (72). But who in writing center work was blind to this fact? “When we say, as we do at my center,” she continues, “that we work with all students, we lie … we know only about a quarter of students will take us up on our offer” (73). Again, this assumes that anyone literally, actually supposes that writing centers intend to serve each member of the student body. But no one believes this; nearly all services, academic or otherwise, have selective appeal. The cumulative result, then, of chapters that are either undercooked or loosely correlated with the main argument is threefold: the reader may begin to wonder if the writing center grand narrative is really all that grand, if its effects are indeed pernicious, and if contesting it would lead to tangible benefits. We might look to the Conclusion (“The End of the Story, or the End of the Center?”), but still never find such benefits. And it is here that Peripheral Visions most disappoints. Its omission of practical advice may seem amiss simply due to my misguided expectations, coming to the subject first as a tutor, with theoretical concerns a distant second. But ultimately, the book never delivers what it promises: there are no peripheral visions here, just a description of a problem with few recommendations other than a warning against schism with multiliteracy centers and centers for writing excellence (90), and the tepid suggestion that “acknowledging the problem is the first step” (86). On the whole, then, Grutsch McKinney’s study is to be commended more for effort than execution. The perils of complacency in any field seem real enough, and assiduously rethinking our message and practice is essential. But while Peripheral Visions may spark interesting conversation in the writing center literature, it is difficult to imagine how it might apply to the daily operation of centers in ways appreciably different from how they already run. In a book that tantalizes with a different view, a proverbial candle, we mainly get a lot of cursing the darkness.

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Book Review • 3 ! Works Cited Grutsch McKinney, Jackie. Peripheral Visions for Writing Centers. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 2013. Print.

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Praxis: A Writing Center Journal

CALL FOR PAPERS: CONNECTED WRITING Praxis: A Writing Center Journal welcomes submissions on a wide range of topics related to writing centers for its Spring 2014 issue. We also encourage submissions on the issue’s theme: Connected Writing. Writing center practitioners often must negotiate across various technologies, languages, and academic disciplines in order to serve students, making the labor of connecting central to writing center theory and practice. “Connection” is a capacious term that could encompass interpersonal relationality as well as the practical matters of Internet connectivity – both issues that become important to writing centers with the increasing emphasis on multiliteracy in writing center scholarship. How do these various senses of the word connection come together in writing center theory and practice? Articles might explore topics including: · Technological connections, networking, and Internet accessibility · Inter-disciplinary methods · Writing centers connecting with other writing centers · Face-to-face meetings between students and tutors · Intersecting issues of race, gender, sexuality, and ability · Communicating across multiple languages and literacies · Movement between various spaces, places, and locations Recommended article length is 3000 to 4000 words. Articles should conform to MLA style. Please submit articles online at praxis.uwc.utexas.edu. For further information about submitting an article, the journal’s blind review process, or to contact the managing editors, please email praxisuwc@gmail.com. The deadline for spring issue consideration is January 15, 2014.

Vol 11, no 1 (2013): Special Issue on the Future of Writing Centers  
Vol 11, no 1 (2013): Special Issue on the Future of Writing Centers