1st Athens International Writing Centers Conference
"Revisioning Tomorrow’s Writing Center: Roles, Practices, Audiences"

Abstracts

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"Extending Writing Center Work to the Community: Writing and Reading Support for Asylum Seekers in the City of Leipzig" by Gerd Bräuer - Writing Center, University of Education, Freiburg (Germany), EWCA Chair (2006-08), Germany

"The Bosporus Project: Collaborating, not Prescribing, Writing Center Practice" by Joseph J. Essid - Director, UR Writing Center, University of Richmond, USA

"Maximising the Potential of Your Writing Center’s Local Context" by Lisa Ganobcsik-Williams - Co-ordinator, Centre for Academic Writing, Coventry University, England

"Mobilizing New Realms of Writing: Opportunities in the Writing Center" by Cheryl Glenn - Professor of English, Co-director, Center for Civic Engagement and Democratic Deliberation, Pennsylvania State University, USA

"How do Engineers See Writing Centers? Do they Have a Role in their Viability and Social Outreach?" by Kemal Inan - Professor and Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences Sabance University, Turkey

"Tutoring in a Technologically Enhanced Environment: the Hellenic American University Writing Center Experience" by Vassiliki Kourbani - Academic Coordinator, Writing Center, Hellenic American University, Greece & Fotini Papantoniou - Academic Assistant, Writing Center, Hellenic American University, Greece

“Using Technology to Increase Interactivity in Education” by Don Millard - Director, Academy of Electronic Media, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA

"What we Talk about when we Talk about Writing" by Ann Mott - Director, American University of Paris Writing Lab, France

"The Administration-Tutorial Connection: Fostering Writing Center Environments With(in) our Communities" by Joan Mullin - Professor, Head, Writing across the Curriculum Initiative, University of Texas at Austin, USA

"Writing Centers and Social Outreach" by Jon Olson - Director, Center for Excellence in Writing, Pennsylvania State University, USA

"Decentralization, Hybrid Instruction, and Distributed Grading: How Writing Centers and First Year Composition Must Grow Together" by Rebecca J. Rickly - A ssociate Professor, Texas Tech University, USA

"Efforts to Make “Outsiders” “Insiders”: Is it a Dream? Writing Centers’ Survival and Outreach Strategies" by Dilek Tokay - Center for Individual and Academic Development (Writing Center), Sabanci University, Turkey

"The Use of the Writing Center as a Classroom Environment: the Case of the Writing Center at the Hellenic American University" by Dimitris Tolias - Associate Director, Center for Applied Linguistics and Language Studies, Hellenic American Union, Greece & Yiannis Petropoulos -Director, Writing Program, Hellenic American University, Greece

"Writing Centers as Classroom Environments / Classroom Environments as Centers of Writing" by Steven Youra - Director, Hixon Writing Center, California Institute of Technology, USA

 


 

"Extending Writing Center Work to the Community: Writing and Reading Support for Asylum Seekers in the City of Leipzig"

by Gerd Bräuer

Most often, the goal of writing centers in secondary and higher education is limited to enabling writers to meet the requirement of the writing center’s home institution and the professions being represented through the curriculum. Specific needs of the immediate community in communicative skills—orally and written—most often are not included.

This exclusion of the community was not always the case in writing pedagogy. In the early days of writing centers in the US, creative writers, for example, offered readings or writing workshops to their hometown. In the 1980’s, the US-based initiative Community-Service Learning also motivated student writing tutors to support people outside higher education in their struggle to become better writers, readers, and speakers.

In my presentation, I would like to draw from theories and practices of US writing center work in the community as well as from the methodology of experiential education and apply this knowledge to a project which I currently carry out in Leipzig, a city in former East-Germany. The main goal of this project is to set up a sustainable network of people trained in their home institution as tutors in either reading or writing and enabled to support the so-called socially disadvantaged learners in the community.

In the duration of the project this goal will be met in three steps: a) We train students teachers and in-service teachers in issues of writing/reading support and to strategies of training students in secondary schools and adult volunteers; b) These people go on to train high school students and adult volunteers; c) These high school students and adult volunteers facilitate the learning of our target group in different institutions in the city of Leipzig.

Outlining the methodological approach, content, and organizational structures of this 2 year-project in my presentation, I will indicate ways of how to adapt community-based Anglo-Saxon concepts of writing center work and experiential education to a European context hoping that my conclusions will spur similar projects in other European countries and help reconsider the goals of writing center work internationally.

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"The Bosporus Project: Collaborating, not Prescribing, Writing Center Practice"

by Joseph J. Essid

American Writing Center professionals have recently attracted some criticism for what might be labelled a form of cultural imperialism.As the grandchild of Middle-Eastern immigrants who had to assimilate in a less-enlightened period of our history, I am very sensitive to, but not offended by, these accusations. So what to do? In a time when American intentions are held suspect because of some very real geopolitical tensions, how can writing-center professionals from any nations build bridges between disparate geographies, pedagogies, languages, and cultures?

In my talk, I will invite participants to "populate" an online infrastructure called "The Bosporus Project," whose name occurred to me during my time in Istanbul, in the shadow of the transcontinental bridges connecting Europe and Asia.The strong collaboration between Greek and Turkish colleagues in the European Writing Centers Association inspired me to consider how our university's peer tutors and writing instructors might become part of a global inter-cultural collaboration that transcends the politics of our era.

My university, host to many international faculty and students, cannot afford to fly us en masse to Athens, Istanbul, or other wonderful cities far from Richmond. We can support a Wiki-based infrastructure that will enable users to share lesson plans, architectural and technological blueprints, advice for tutorials, and printed and online resources for our students.Together, we can build the bridge between our different practices in our centers without prescribing or judging.The Bosporus Project will, I hope, be one step in that process.

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"Maximising the Potential of Your Writing Center’s Local Context"

by Lisa Ganobcsik-Williams

Although most writing centers share a common goal of helping students to become confident and independent writers, the institutional contexts within which writing centers operate can vary widely. This presentation will examine ways in which writing center administrators can make the most of their local institutional contexts in order to ensure the success and continued resourcing of their centers. Drawing upon a theoretical framework adopted from studies of organisational change (Skillen and Mahony, 1997), the presentation will focus on the example of the Centre for Academic Writing (CAW) at Coventry University, England, and will examine the institutional factors that have enabled it to become the first university writing center to be founded in the UK. The presentation will then look at the key links made by CAW in establishing itself as central to its university’s mission. Through exploring this example, session participants will be invited to discuss strategies for linking writing centers closely to the needs of their own institutions.

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"Mobilizing New Realms of Writing: Opportunities in the Writing Center"

by Cheryl Glenn

The eradication of one tongue is not prerequisite to the learning of a second [or a third or a fourth]. —Keith Gilyard

When we think and talk about writing, especially the writing that circulates in a writing center, we most often think in terms of academic writing—not only as a set of practices or assignments but also as a pedagogy, an instructional objective, even a genre. We’re right to do so; after all, developing fluency in academic writing has long been a fundamental organizing principle of education. Folks like us, who teach writing one-to-one and/or in classrooms or administer writing centers/programs, stake our reputations on the power of academic writing to transform learning, clarify communication, and launch professional careers. Thus, academic writing remains the dialect of power and prestige.

I will open my remarks by briefly mapping the familiar realm of academic writing. Then I will move quickly beyond that well-established goal to consider the prospects for new realms of writing, writing that allows students to invent, compose, arrange, and even revise in the language that is most familiar to them. For many students, that language won’t be Standardized English (or Standardized Turkish, Greek, or Dutch, for that matter); therefore, they won’t begin their writing in the dialect of power and prestige. The language most familiar (and therefore most comfortable to think in) might be the Mother Tongue (a nonstandardized, marginalized, or discounted dialect) or another language altogether.

In my remarks, I will argue that if students are permitted to launch their writing assignments in their familiar language and if students are invited to bring such drafts to the writing center, all of us (students, teachers, and tutors alike) will have greater access to all sorts of rich and complex ideas. We will be involved in new realms of writing and writing instruction that are dialogic rather than monologic, based on the interactional goal of understanding rather than persuading, and that are invitational rather than dominating. Our primary goal—writer and instructor or tutor—will be to understand what it is the writer has to say and wants to say. From there, we can work with the student writers to shape a piece of writing that will eventually (in the last stages of revision and editing according to the standardized dialect) become recognizable and valued as “academic.”

By following such a process, we (students, teachers, and tutors) will be experiencing the texts and lived experiences of people who are often marginalized based on their language use, people who are, nonetheless, rich sources of frequently overlooked information about our shared world. Furthermore, by seeking out the words and ideas of “others,” writing center tutors will be employing the tools of “invitational rhetoric” and “rhetorical listening,” which enable them to gain access to alternative perspectives on any topic. This act of seeking out alternative perspectives not only enriches their intellectual and moral growth, but also expands their writing pedagogies and practices—thereby mobilizing new realms of writing from which we can all benefit.

 

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"How do Engineers See Writing Centers? Do they Have a Role in their Viability and Social Outreach?"

by Kemal Inan

This presentation aims at focusing on Theme III. Writing Centers: Administration-Viability-Social Outreach in three phases. First part will very briefly reflect my personal views on the role of literacy in a GLOBALIZED SCHUMPETERIAN world in both an internal and external context, enriching an individual’s self-understanding and cultivating the individual to understand and appreciate the political, economic, administrative, and other social mechanisms that are operative in our daily lives. Attention will be geared to the relation between literacy and creativity in the present moment of history with an emphasis on engineering, technology, and leadership.

The second phase, which will be the  backbone of reflections in the context of Writing Centers’ present/ future role will be in a “Question - Answer” layout.  Session moderator’s questions will prepare grounds where an “outsider’s”, yet at interdisciplinary platforms, an “insider’s” views or anticipations might be of some significance to a “writing-related” community. The aim in this format is to initiate interaction and search for answers to the following questions from the perspective of a professional, an academician in the field of engineering, and a Dean:

From the perspective ofa professional/ an academician in the field of engineering:

- How apt is the threshold of the engineering students for research papers/ projects in engineering at freshman

    level?

- What difficulties do the engineering students encounter in the undergraduate/ graduate curricula?

- What kind ofsupport can the Engineering faculty give to the writing centers?

From the perspective of a Dean:

The third phase of the presentation will be interaction with the conference participants as they might have taken notes on the questions/ answers in the second phase and formulated their own questions. Session moderator’s additional questions for specific examples will be welcome, impromptu, just the same as any participant.

 

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"Tutoring in a Technologically Enhanced Environment: the Hellenic American University Writing Center Experience"

by Vassiliki Kourbani - Fotini Papantoniou

The traditional role of Writing Centers-both in the USA and in Europe- is to offer academic writing assistance to students and help them develop their writing skills, for specific purposes or across the curriculum. The Writing Center at the Hellenic American University shares the same fundamental aims but extends its mission to a wider scope of applications and audiences, addressing the needs not only of the Hellenic American University students but also of the general public. As a support mechanism for university students, its services go beyond the traditional face-to-face, “paper-pencil” approach since assistance is provided through e-equipment, and e-learning software (WebCt) that encourage individualized tutoring, mostly on line. By creating an online component for tutoring, the Writing Center at the Hellenic American University endeavors to make the development of writing skills an important part of the writing experience, increase student literacy, and promote intellectual growth.

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“Using Technology to Increase Interactivity in Education”

by Don Millard

We depend on computers, USB devices, and networks to do our jobs - while using mp3 players for entertainment - yet we have barely scratched the surface of how technology can be used to improve education. This presentation will describe and demonstrate how educational technologies can be used to eliminate the boundaries between theory provided in a lecture and practice, apply concepts in directed problem sessions, and enable/encourage our students' "hands-on" exploration of principles, devices, and systems. The presentation will discuss how new pedagogy is beginning to change the role of educator/teachers, increase interactivity in the classroom and improve student learning.

The talk will describe and demonstrate how interactive media and educational technology can be used to help teach students to understand concepts while having fun. It will explain and illustrate how technology can be used to enable students to guide themselves through materials at their own pace and level, while allowing them to collaboratively work with tutors, peers, etc.. It will conclude with a look at the future of technology in education and close with a multimedia presentation – that offers an example of how music can be used to help students understand basic concepts.

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"What we Talk about when we Talk about Writing"

by Ann Mott

Fact:  Those of us working in Writing Centers serve a crucial function in our enthusiasm and capacity to engage student writers in conversations about their writing.

Fact:  Few others in our respective institutions can do this work – one to one, face to face.

Fact:  Few others in our respective institutions want to do this work.

Fact:  But everyone wants it done, and now (Harvey Kail).

In this presentation, I will demonstrate what happens (only good!) when Writing Centers first treat the writer, then treat the writing.  Students who visit our centers need us often for something they have not yet acquired - - ownership of their work, their ideas, their writing.  They need to become agents of their own writing and to learn what it’s like to talk about their thinking and to talk about their writing.  I will discuss six principles that guide what we do and what we talk about when we talk about writing in our Writing Centers.  A DVD clip will demonstrate how these principles can be translated into a successful Writing Center tutoring session.

 

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"The Administration-Tutorial Connection: Fostering Writing Center Environments With(in) our Communities"

by Joan Mullin

We know that, when tutoring, writing center experts need to determine the nature of the writer’s assignment, the writer’s experiences and attitudes towards writing, and the writer’s immediate concerns for the task. Tutors bring to the table an observant eye, their own writing experiences and their knowledge about writing. The tutorial depends on balancing the assumptions and expectations of what a writer and tutor each brings and each expects. By using as a model how a tutor and student establish their authority within a writing center collaboration, a writing center administrator can negotiate disciplinary, departmental and administrative expectations and understandings about writing, to foster curricular reform. In this presentation, such parallels between tutors and administrators will be used to demonstrate ways in which strategies used in the tutorial (observation, assessment and knowledge building) can either promote curricular and community change or undermine our efforts to do so. Drawing on administrative lessons learned from two very different institutional communities, examples will demonstrate how to ensure the viability of a writing center in any community by continually measuring and adapting to its ever-changing context, a challenge best met when we engage our colleagues by using tutorial strategies.

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"Writing Centers and Social Outreach"

by Jon Olson

Writing center work carries with it an obligation not only to help students succeed as writers within the academic community but also to help them participate successfully in their roles as scholar-citizens in the public sphere (outside academe).  Viewing the writing center as a public sphere for deliberation will help us understand why and how a writing center’s scholarly practices and theories can and should help students develop the skills necessary for civic engagement.  By means of social outreach through public scholarship, students and tutors can perform as active participants in their academic community, as engaged members of their broader community, and ultimately as global citizens. 

Public scholarship, by definition, “commits academic and creative work—including teaching, discovery, and artistic performance—to the practice of effective student and faculty engagement in public sovereignty and the democratic process.”  Public scholarship goes beyond volunteerism, service learning, experiential learning, civic engagement, and reflection in an attempt to give faculty, staff, and students “ways to bring their scholarship to bear on public problems” such as preparing people to “be able to contribute to an enlightened democracy” (www.publicscholarship.psu.edu).

Traditionally, writing centers have been sites where tutors initiate collaborative learning that invites student writers into the academic community of effective language users.  Toward that goal, tutors listen to writers and assess their needs, help writers set goals, work toward reaching common ground on criteria of academic writing, foster critical distance, encourage writing independence, and create knowledge collaboratively in a way that improves the expertise of both writer and tutor (Harbord 1999).  But such interactions should not be limited to the writing center.  As citizens outside the walls of the writing center, both tutors and student writers can also benefit from such writing-centered collaboration.  Thus, writing center workers can enact their habits of mind as members of the larger community and apply them to civic issues.

We writing center tutors and administrators have a responsibility to “focus discovery and creative performance on the social, civic, economic, educational, artistic and cultural well-being of the neighborhoods beyond the academy, as well as on basic research and disciplinary teaching” and to see our work “not as the isolated, self-indulgent actions of a campus segregated from society, but as the contributions of scholar-citizens with membership in a larger community” (Cohen and Yapa 2003).  I will draw on the work of theorists and practitioners such as Kenneth Burke, April Carter, Jeremy Cohen, Albert DeCiccio, Filia de Hollander, Rosa Eberly, Katherine Ericsson, Constance Flannagan, Cindy Griffin, John Harbord, Eric Hartman, Soma Kedia, Richard Kiely, Christina Murphy, Martha Nussbaum, and Lakshman Yapa to suggest ways writing centers can help build a healthy civic culture and serve society by applying the theories and practices of writing centers to the common good.

 

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"Decentralization, Hybrid Instruction, and Distributed Grading: How Writing Centers and First Year Composition Must Grow Together"

by Rebecca J. Rickly

In this presentation, I focus on the convergence of three ideas/practices:  the de-centralization of the Writing center, hybrid instruction, and the idea of criteria-driven assessment through distributed grading.  After looking individually at each of these components, I argue that the continuing decentralization of the writing center must take into account the innovations in first year composition classrooms such as the de-centered hybrid first year composition classrooms, as well as the de-centering distributed assessment that the ICON (Interactive Composition Online) program at Texas Tech University is using (similar, perhaps, to industry-based programs like SmartThinking.com). 

In the context of a hybrid system (where students only meet face-to-face once a week, but turn in assignments three times a week), students and instructors interact anonymously in a virtual environment.  Each assignment includes criteria that students know about and understand before they write, and that other students and trained instructors (but not the student's classroom instructor) assess according to that criteria. 

What the ICON system at TTU has done, then, is to put into practice the age old adage "fix the writer, not the paper" by the convergence of de-centered virtual space, in a hybrid instructional setting, and using distributed grading according to specific criteria, insisting that students can and do think for themselves by modeling what they see done in these decentralized spaces, then taking this knowledge into the other places they inhabit.

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"Efforts to Make “Outsiders” “Insiders”: Is it a Dream? Writing Centers’ Survival and Outreach Strategies"

by Dilek Tokay

This presentation on Theme III. Administration-Viability-Social Outreach of Writing Centers necessitates “zooming ” into the mission and  vision  of a writing center to analyze its role, AND into societal needs;  therefore binds “thinking inward” and “outward” with  empathy and consideration where all pictures are put together holistically for further planning and ACTION. That is again why the subject involves, first amateur, but later professional commitment of educators, researchers, administrators, writers, media, business, civil society/ NGOs as well as local and state governments.

The first part of the presentation focuses on “administration - viability” issues, mainly survival, evaluation, and continuance strategies within bilingual or multilingual ELT, WIC/ WAC and professional development contexts. Here, the presenter will elaborate on how the services and programs of a writing center can be designed and evaluated with various feedback mechanisms, the results of which are shared via reports including the rationale and statistics for institutional awareness, need of modifications, and administrative support.  All this should mean turning the collaborative spirit and interdisciplinary pedagogical efforts within the university into institutional policies with human, technological, and financial resources so that, with turnover, there is no going backwards for a writing center, but always a move further ahead.  Since collaboration involves writing specialists, curriculum designers, material producers, tutors, researchers, faculty, professional and student writers, and administrators to bridge local/ international models of writing center theory and practice, what needs to be emphasized at this point is significance of means of fostering the interaction inside the university and outside, at local/ regional/ international conferences, and through funded exchange programs or networks. How these requisites, can be met to promote initiation of new projects and lead parties to improve their local scenes, liaising with colleagues in both their respective institutions and others, is also discussed in this part in a broader sense. 

The second part of the presentation concentrates on growth and social outreach, where professional, ethical, social, and financial responsibilities play an important role in horizontal axis, entrepreneurial university models in the 21st century.  Since this phenomenon is directly related with the university mission and vision, how a writing center can grow as much as its university encourages efforts and provides the facilities will be the focus. The five important highlights of this part will be: university - high school linkages as an educational obligation of universities to elevate students’ writing thresholds at an earlier age; contact with  renowned writers for them to start their discourse programs as civic rhetoric may appeal to them with the support of the media; interaction with civil society and the NGOs, providing individuals with various professional counseling services, creative writing programs or competitions for scholarships to promote consciousness of writing skills and  raise a generation equipped with the tools of intellectual literacy in a global context.; contact with the business world to reinforce involvement with civil discourse besides offering programs concerning e-mail etiquette, CV/ resume/ report/ business letter writing, which are business world prerequisites; liaising with local or state government for effective writing curricula in the hands of the Ministry of Education as well as packaged programs for efficient report/ proposal writing in line with  international parliamentary procedures and communications.

Strategies in Part I and II presented in PowerPoint will be scrutinized by the participants with the hope of finding a satisfactory answer to the question, “Does writing have a place in the business world?’ once answered by a prominent ‘writing-friendly’ executive in bold, “writing is an ‘under-marketed’ product and believers should embrace the power of marketing to make it more accessible among the masses to see its wonders.”

 

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"The Use of the Writing Center as a Classroom Environment: the Case of the Writing Center at the Hellenic American University"

by Dimitris Tolias - Yiannis Petropoulos

A Writing Center in the American higher education context has traditionally meant a service provided for individual students who may come in or be referred to, and get one-on-one help on their writing skills. The Writing Center at the Hellenic American University does not merely function as a support mechanism for university students. It is also a unique classroom environment that allows for students’ electronic cooperation enhancing their efforts to share ideas, put them into practice and perform efficiently a variety of writing tasks. The Writing Center is a specially designed room which consists of three learning and cooperation isles. Each isle accommodates six users facilitating interaction, collaboration and communication. Also, students in the writing center have access to enhanced, online, instructive, visualized help in lieu of traditional writing centers. The methodology of the Writing Center promotes intellectual teamwork and writing efficiency focusing on five basic learning processes: monitoring, interaction, collaboration, visualization, and transfer. The Writing Center’s learning objective is to place different pieces of knowledge in a single package to secure that this knowledge can be quickly and effectively transferred from one student to another within the environment. This new approach to the role of the WRC may require, for the instructor mainly, some time to manage and combine successfully and productively the various software and applications, but in the end it streamlines the knowledge transfer process; the most vital and integral component of every educational institution.

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"Writing Centers as Classroom Environments / Classroom Environments as Centers of Writing"

by Steven Youra

As classrooms spaces, Writing Centers are sites for teaching and learning in a wide variety of modes, including individualized writing consultations; term-length courses or briefer workshops on particular genres, communication tasks, or language issues; and staff development projects. These and other activities help to shape the physical, and sometimes virtual, classroom environments within our Centers. At the same time, through a range of complementary endeavors, many of us work with writing in classroom spaces outside the Center and across or even beyond our institutions, via instructional collaborations, guest presentations, writers-group work, community outreach, and other initiatives. Drawing upon research in Writing Center pedagogy and on developments in Writing Across the Curriculum, this session will explore not only how Writing Centers function as classrooms in themselves, but also how Centers work within other classroom environments to create new spaces for writing across traditional boundaries of physical location and disciplinary or conceptual domain. Interactive and collaborative, the session will exploit the collective wisdom and experience of conference participants and challenge us to reconsider how to establish and sustain successful classroom environments on our own turf and also contribute to effective writing instruction in other classrooms and off-Center locations.

 

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