North Texas Writing Center Association Spring 2011 Conference
Granbury, Texas, April 15, 2011
Our group of three from Collin College’s Central Park Campus in McKinney, TX, arrived at the Langdon Center around noon on April 15. The weather was overcast, slightly cool, and very windy — and the skies from Fort Worth all the way south to Granbury remained clouded with smoke from distant Texas wildfires.
The meeting began with registration, lunch and welcome of members, a review of minutes from the previous meeting, and a business session. Approximately thirty people were present, with representatives from a variety of campuses such as Texas Woman’s University, Texas Christian University, Tarleton State University, The University of Texas at Arlington, Dallas County Community College District, and Collin College.
The official conference began at 1:00 and consisted of a series of speakers, each followed by questions and discussion.
Amy Sentementes, winner of the 2011 Mary Nell Kivikko Excellence in Scholarship Award and a TCU student, spoke first. Drawing from her experience as a political science major, Sentementes used the Federalist Papers #11 to explain James Madison’s concept of “plurality,” in which a variety of approaches and philosophies may be combined in an effective government. She applied this theory to Writing Centers, arguing that the centers should adopt the philosophy of a diverse republic through Madisonian pluralism by encouraging writing tutors to employ a variety of pedagogical approaches. Sentementes outlined various theories of tutoring styles and compared them to broader political and economic structures. She suggested that individual tutors and students with unique needs would benefit most from a flexible, multi-faceted approach, depending on the needs of the student and the personal strengths and judgment of the tutor.
After a brief break, Mike Fraley of TSU accepted the Outstanding Tutor Award, and three speakers gave brief presentations.
First, Rebecca Allen of TCU discussed her experiences as an online writing tutor and argued that tutors need to make sure students who submit work online receive the same individual attention and personalized support given during in-person consultations.
Second, Mike Fraley of TSU spoke about creating a positive, encouraging environment in the Writing Center to attract students who may otherwise be put off by negative and authoritative signage that used to dominate the TSU Writing Center space. He outlined the positive changes he helped bring to the TSU Writing Center, and presented statistical data analyses showing that changes in attitude and atmosphere were an important factor in the dramatic increase of student use of the Writing Center.
Finally, Skye Solmonson of the University of Texas at Arlington spoke about physical space in Writing Centers. She explained the benefits of having a separate “break room” in which off-duty tutors can share best practices and advice. Solomonson also discussed the positive aspects of UTA’s semi-partitioned workspaces in which students seem to feel a greater sense of privacy and thus a willingness to communicate more openly about writing challenges with the tutors. Several audience members raised the idea that both open, public workspaces and semi-private workspaces can facilitate positive tutoring outcomes, depending on the personalities and expectations of individual students.
Each of these presentations involved a question-and-answer session and brief discussion with the audience afterward.
The meeting adjourned at around 3:30 p.m.
*Thanks to TexasTravelGal.com for the great CC-licensed photo!
For the official program, see the Conferences page.