December 6, 2007

Reflecting on my inquiry paper and movin’ on to my reflective essay…

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December 4, 2007


receiving my inquiry paper today reminded me of something i came across in the data i collected from you guys in class that i think deserves addressing. not everyone feels like they are a part of a subculture. i'm not singling anyone out either, i think there is definitely more than one person that feels this way. i only got back 5 surveys so i can't really say for sure what everyone is thinking or how they feel on the subject, but i think that it's something i should have explored in my paper. by the time i got to this interesting tidbit in my data it was too late to add something new into my paper, but hey, this research is on-going...right? yes. and no, i will NOT actually add this into my paper. pft.

for those who don't really feel like they are part of a subculture, rest assured, i did not forget you. while you didn't appear in my paper, i did consider you. but ho, my friends, i disagree with you. even as you feel separated from any kind of "main group" or subculture per se in our course, you are still contributing, simply by being involved at all. the things i was finding in my research showed a lot of interactions that i never even thought about occurring not only in 3751, but in the writing center in general. so, by gracing us with your presence, you did contribute to our subculture. and again, i think it's important to keep in mind what exactly a subculture is. a lot of things can fall under this category, and it's definition isn't exactly clear, even to those who study it in a lot more depth than i did. but the main, working definition of a subculture (and the one i applied to our course) is a group of people with characteristics that separate them from the larger culture. we have some pretty obvious ones, including being part of the course, being new consultants, being undergrads, etc.. and the important thing is that we are all these things...AT THE SAME TIME! (we're just that good!) i also explored some other things in the paper about the subculture, so if you wanted to you could read my paper. not that it's any dazzling, final piece of literature by any means, but i enjoyed writing it because it dealt with all of us on such a personal level. maybe somebody is interested in reading it, like i found in the comments of the last blog i wrote. (btw that made me really happy that i was intriguing enough in my post to get a question about it! thanks!)

i hope everyone made it home safe tonight! stay warm.


November 27, 2007

The C4W As a Subculture

When approaching the assignment for our inquiry papers, I decided that the relationships among employees of the C4W were interesting, and worth a closer look. I began thinking of the C4W in terms of it's own community, and that translated to the possibility that it is a subculture. Over time, this transformed into the question, "How is 3751W 2007 a subculture, and what does that mean for the C4W as a whole?" I felt that 3751W had more of a strong subcultural context within the C4W, so it became my focus.

In order to support my claim of the course being a subculture I surveyed my fellow consultants who are enrolled in the course, interviewed Kirsten Jamsen, our director, and made personal observations on the interactions of our group. I referred to secondary research to establish a stronger definition of subculture, which, as it turns out, is not so easy to define. I also found recorded reactions of peer tutors at a different writing center, which I used as a comparison when examining our own.

Of course, I was not looking for definite answers to the questions that came up in my research, but I found some interesting information nonetheless. Our group dynamic, both as a course and as co-workers, is complex and dynamic; it is most definitely a subculture, as I prove in my research. I also examined the effects of us being a subculture. There were a lot of positive things I found happening both in our course and in the C4W as a whole as a direct result of the interactions of 3751W students. This led to the examining of possible implications, ways to either maintain a positive atmosphere or improve the atmosphere in future 3751W courses. I also discovered some interesting tidbits about myself as a member of the subculture, which I feel many consultants at the C4W may be able to relate to.

The hiring of Undergrad Peer Tutors

About the Hiring of Undergrad Peer Tutors in University Writing Centers

For this inquiry I began by asking how writing center directors decide whom to hire.
What guides them in their search and decision making process? What do they value in a peer tutor? There is very little prior research of the subject in writing center discourse. To find out the answers to these questions I composed a survey directed at writing center directors. The survey consisted of 9 open answer questions and one question where they were asked to rank eight characteristics. The questions included where and when they post for applicants and whether they require a certain GPA, faculty recommendation, or a class for tutors. I also asked about anything else they require of a candidate and whether they think it is important that the tutors reflect the population of their school. I also interviewed the three directors of one university writing center. For the analysis I brought together the results, interview responses, and research. The results reflected the large variety of processes that writing centers use in their procedures. Writing centers must have flexibility while deciding whom to hire for their undergrad peer tutor staff.

Cultural Contexts of Commanding English Students

My work as an in-class writing consultant in the U of M’s Commanding English program gave me the chance to investigate the experiences of non-native English speakers. I've focused my inquiry on gathering CE students' opinions of university life, and on identifying some of the forces – linguistic, cultural, social, etc. – that affect their academic lives, and that the Center for Writing (and the university in general) ought to understand better. I held face-to-face interviews with four CE students, who talked about the support systems they rely on and the values, past experiences and future goals that motivate them. Participants also gave frank evaluations of their institutional experiences. Overall satisfaction with the CE program was high. Students appreciated the emphasis on academic writing development and the engagement and accessibility of the faculty, but expressed frustration with the limits CE imposes on their access to classes outside the program. The interviews also suggested some possibilities for improving the Center for Writing's support of the CE population. One concrete example: Wilson Library is a popular after-hours study area. Perhaps CE students would use SWS more often if it expanded its presence there or extended its hours.

Writing Outside the Margins: An Analysis of the Writing Experiences of Multilingual Individuals

Continue reading "Writing Outside the Margins: An Analysis of the Writing Experiences of Multilingual Individuals" »

Examining MotivationsAmong First-Year Writing Consultants

The purpose of this study is to examine the motivations of first-year writing consultants for pursuing this line of work. Three first-year writing consultants were subjected to tape-recorded interviews. Close-readings of the interview transcriptions were presented in order to provide an analysis of motivations. Finally, a reflection of the author's own motivations, in concert with those of his interview subjects, are offered. Previous studies on teacher motivation were analyzed in order to create a theoretical framework for a discussion of motivators. A primary conclusion of this inquiry paper is that there are several fundamental motivators common among writing consultants writ large. These motivators include pleasure with working in an intellectual environment, a strong sense of community, and a joy found in assisting people with writing.

The Place Where Theory and Practice Meet: Flexibility within a Writing Consultant

This paper attempts to make the theoretical demands of writing center gurus Steven North and Muriel Harris more accessible to novice writing consultants, ie, me. I felt like focusing on right or wrong methods in writing consulting was quite pointless, as methods can change and vary, but as long as they uphold the principles, is it ok? The main question I was attempting to answer was: To what extent do differences in consultees affect one writing center consultant's basic principles of consulting, as visible as [his methods] in three sessions? Even with varying methods, is the writing consultant still adhering to the same principles?

Through studying one experienced, thoughtful writing consultant, I wanted to see by what principles does this consultant abide, AND how flexibility acts within three sessions. First, I found that both Harris and North upheld four principles: one, consultations should be student centered; two, consultations should be collaborative; third, they should be flexible; and fourth, writing consultations should focus on the process of writing, and not the product. I then looked at Jack* (name changed), and found that he did indeed uphold all of these principles in his work, but first, focused on upholding the student as a person trying to become. I also found that Jack acted in directive ways, and gave sentence-level help. Though these methods may appear non-collaborative, etc, it is not. In these sessions that these methods were utilized, the student needed the help. Thus, Jack was acting on a hierarchy of principles, focusing first on the student's needs and then acting out with flexibility. Writing consultancy is about meeting the student's needs...and adapting the principles through flexibility.

The End.

Computers in Face-to-Face Writing Consultations

In this study, I researched consultant behaviors and attitudes regarding computer use during face-to-face writing consultations in SWS-Nicholson. I examined issues such as the role of the computer, the computer as a physical object, and perceived ownership. To gather data, I asked my SWS-Nicholson colleagues to complete a short survey detailing their computer use, perceptions of computer role, and comfort-level with different computer-oriented tasks during a session. This study suggested that consultants use computers with relative frequency during their consultations for a variety of tasks, including consulting on electronic documents. While more than seventy percent of respondents indicated that they had used computers during their sessions for this purpose, responses to open-ended survey questions suggest that consultants are split when it comes to understanding consultations on electronic documents in the context of best practices. Survey results also suggested the need to critically evaluate SWS software and consultant training with the computer technology available in the Center.

Inquiry Proceedings: Stimulating the Writer...

"Stimulating the Writer: The Impact of Aesthetic Environment on Writing Center Client Motivation"
by Keely Shaller

My study examined the affect of the aesthetic environment on a client's motivation to initially utilize a campus writing center and their choice to return to that same center. It also attempted to distinguish an environmental difference between the primary writing center locations on the University campus at Appleby and Nicholson Halls.

Participants in the study were 18 clients surveyed during the course of a single consultation. I hypothesized that qualitative client survey data would reflect a distinction between student's perceptions of Appleby and Nicholson writing centers. I also hypothesized that this difference would reflect the individual preferences of students with regars to aesthetic criteria that would be better served by one center over the other.

Survey data and analysis indicates that there is, in fact, a variety of standards that define "environment" in the two primary campus writing centers ranging from the size of tables to the proffesionalism of consultants to walk-in versus appointment based methods. Furthermore, a direct comparison between client experience of both Appleby and Nicholson proved to be less of a focus than I had initially predicted because the majority of those surveyed had only visited one writing center. This seems to imply that the two centers do serve students with different needs and expectations, and suggests that further research that directly compares client usage of both centers may indicate important ammenities and methods that both centers can use and become more aware of to better serve the client base.

Beyond Writing: The Role of Reading on Writing Attitudes and Usages of the Writing Center


Within 2 years of coming to the US and not knowing any English beforehand, I was able to switch out of ESL and take accelerated English classes. I believe reading was one of the main factors that contributed to my writing development, so I wanted to see if my own experience paralleled students' reading and writing experiences in general. Thus, this inquiry aimed to explore the relationship between students' reading background and writing attitudes and confidences. In turn, I also wanted to see how students' reading background affected their main usages of the Center for Writing. In this study, I distributed a survey to 36 consultees and inquired about consultees' reading backgrounds, writing attitudes/confidences now, and main writing center usages. I then used a linear regression model to analyze the correlation between reading and writing. Similar to previous studies, my results showed a significant positive correlation between reading background and current writing attitudes/confidences. I also found that students who read a lot mainly came to the Center for Writing to get readers' feedback, while students who didn't read a lot as kids used the Center for Writing to work on major errors such as thesis and structure. Because my study and previous studies showed the importance of reading on students' writing performance and attitudes, I believe the Center for Writing should be more aware of its existing teachings of reading. As writing consultants, we are already readers of consultants' papers. Now, it's time to acknowledge that fact, embrace it, and use it to further promote the interrelationship between reading and writing.

Writing Consultants as Mediators between Student and Instructor Expectations

An abstract of my (finally!) completed inquiry paper:

After several sessions in which I found myself placed, uncomfortably, in the middle of student and instructor expectations, I wanted to explore other consultant's perceptions of their role as mediator between student and instructor expectations. While interested initially in a consultant's affective response to these situations, I also wondered how a their perception of this role becomes visable in their practices in sessions. Accordingly, I created a questionnaire that asked consultants to provide both detailed descriptions of specific sessions as well as answers to more general questions about their consulting practices. I only surveyed four consultants, leaving my inquiry much more suggestive than conclusive. However, the responses suggested an interesting new way to think about consultant's roles as mediator. While I had originally thought about it as a defensive role, one consultants are forced into, the responses suggested that it can also be a role that consultants actively choose. These findings, if explored in more depth, might prove useful to writing centers, especially in the training of new consultants.

When I'm With You: Responding to Frequent Flyers

In reaction to the anomaly of frequent flyers (i.e., students who work with a particular consultant on a regular basis) at the Center for Writing, I question whether or not consultants' methods and processes change when consulting with frequent flyers, and whether their relationships move away from "tutoring" ones.

Interviews and recorded consulting sessions of three consultants and their frequent flyers lead to patterns that may be reassuring to the tender tutor. The results show a tendency for tutors to move away from the formal beginning-middle-end structure of a session, and toward a conversation style that is not merely small talk, without the relationship moving away from the professional. It seems that the comfort these fluctuations bring tutors allows them to connect, perhaps more deeply, with tutoring ethics advocated by many writing center scholars, and also provides perspective to consultants who are not specifically trained for frequent flyer situations.

How Much Proofreading is OK?

In this paper I explored what proofreading techniques are implemented by the C4W's consultants and which are not. The purpose was to get a clearer perspective from our consultants so I wouldn't have to worry about the matter so much. I used a survey to ask the consultants about the techniques they used in sessions. I found out, most importantly, that all consultants DO use one proofreading technique or another in a session, and secondly what those techniques are specifically. In particular, some of the techniques used by consultants include fixing grammatical errors or errors in punctuation that occur just once in a paper themselves, fixing articles, and giving the student synonyms when needed (most common).

Confidence in Me: Self-Image, First-Year Writers, and the Center for Writing

The U of M's first-year writing program received a major overhaul this semester, with the creation of the Department of Writing Studies. With that new department came new classes: WRIT 1301 and 1401. In this study, I wanted to look at the groups of students placed into each of these two classes: Were they entirely similar? Were there differences? Specifically, I tried to see if their differences affected how they asked for help with their writing (and, by extension, what that could mean for the Writing Center). I surveyed a total of 57 students--20 from 1301, and 37 from 1401--to look for differences in self-confidence, and in their writing help. I also interviewed one student from each class who had used the Writing Center, in order to get a feel for how their visits may be similar or different.

I found that the 1401 writers tended to be noticeably more self-confident. The differences were pretty stark, actually. I also saw that, as the semester progressed, the 1301 students got more confident, while the 1401 students had a bit of a wake-up call. Also, there seemed to be differences in how they seek help. We get lots more 1301 students here in the Center, and in general the 1301 students seemed more likely to seek out "authority figures" (like teachers, tutors, etc.). The Center sessions described by my two interview subjects were different as well: the 1401 student was much more directive, with more focused goals for her session. The 1301 student was more tentative, which seems to jive with the "authority figure" findings. The group of students were small, but it does seem possible that 1401 students seek more more focused and specific help, so perhaps we can adjust accordingly.

November 21, 2007

You can put it on the boooooooooard...


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November 19, 2007

Hoooooooome Stretch!

We're almost done, people!!!

What are YOU going to do to celebrate?

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November 17, 2007

one more...

Should I be using more than two sources???? I'm using North and that not enough?


That is how I feel right now...not really, just a lot of questions and I feel like I'm really screwing this up!! Can we have a support group?? Can you all answer some of my questions??

1. Tense- what in the heck tense do I write it in if I'm talking about watching three consultations- i already watched I say "Jack resonded to the student..." Or Jack responds...what do I do??
2. How do you make an appendix? DO you just label it appendix? When you refer to it in the paper, do you say "I gave him a pre-observation questionnaire, see appendix. (?) What do I do??
3. are you combining your results and your conclusion?
4. are youusing headings? The only two I have are methods and results.

Well...i hope this wasn't too much!
Let meknow!

November 9, 2007

Space and the WC

After seeing the first two conferences, I have been thinking a lot about our C4W space. Keeley has had me reevaluating the aesthetics of our two main spaces. Unlike what Keeley seemed to be implying, however, I think that the Nicholson space is immeasurably more welcoming than that of Appleby. This is important in thinking about aesthetics in the context of Gabe's research on CE students. Gabe mentioned that he was interested in what happens as CE student get older and more comfortable at the University, expanding their comfort zones. What happens, then, when these students, who have been encouraged to use SWS Appleby, want an appointment and switch to Nicholson? I don't think it's very difficult to see that Nicholson has had much better funding then Appleby; how do students who make the switch feel about this issue? How does this reflect on C4W as a whole or the University?

November 8, 2007


I am leaving the presentations before the Q & A today. I am looking forward to hearing them and I apologize to the presenters that I won't be there for all of it. In order to participate, I will be blogging my questions etc on the presentations. Sorry again.

November 7, 2007

so the whole presenting thing wasn't so bad...

I just felt compelled to say that, although I was un-necessarily nervous before our research panel kick-off yesterday, I thought it was a great initiation to a conference experience. My fellow presenters did an awesome job, and I was surprise by how much feedback was offered at the end. I don't know how much any of us can really expand or change our questions and scope for our projects at this point, but it makes it clear that the "research process" never really ends, because outside perspectives will always bring up new ways to consider the questions.

I'm excited, (and a tad relieved, to be in the audience on Thursday!

(and I am SO mad, because I think I have a family obligation on Friday during the soup party!!!! I'm trying to get out of it, guys, and I'll rsvp asap Emily and Maggie!)

November 1, 2007

If blogging counts as classwork, it can count as research...right?

I know some of you already blogged on this for me, but I thought I'd invite you all to help me with my research once again.

Continue reading "If blogging counts as classwork, it can count as research...right?" »

A 3-day Inquiry about Writing and Consulting Conference

Tue 6 Nov: Devious Observers: On the Boundaries of the C4W
4:05 John Sharkey, Confidence In Me: Student Writers in WRIT 1301/1401

4:18 Miranda Trimmier, Writing Consultants as Mediators between Student and Teacher Expectations

4:31 Keely Shaller, Stimulating the Writer: The Impact of Aesthetic Environment on Writing Center Client Motivation

4:44 Meher Khan, The Subculture of the Writing Center

Thur 8 Nov: Uncovering the Values of Writers and Consultants

4:05 Gabe Rodriguez-Doerr, Cultural Contexts of Commanding English Writers

4:16 Brittany Clausell, Writing Outside the Margins: An Analysis of the Writing Experiences of Multilingual Individuals

4:27 Jenna Krause, Beliefs, Practices, and Flexibility: Case Study of One Writing Consultant

4:38 Grant Grays, Examining the Motivations of First-Year Writing Consultants

4:49 Wendy Smith, Hiring Undergrad Peer Tutors

Tue 13 Nov: Zooming in on Writing Center Experiences

4:05 Yi Yu, Beyond Writing: The Role of Reading on Writing Attitudes and Relationships with the Writing Center

4:18 Emily Lind, Computers in Face-to-Face Writing Consultations

4:31 Emily Schnobrich, Responding to Frequent Flyers

4:44 Maggie Whelan, Perceptions of Proofreading: How Much is Okay?

October 14, 2007

Silly rabbit.. titles are for kids!

I am researching the role of the computer in the carrell in SWS Nicholson. If anyone would like to share an experience using the computer during a session, or of a time when the computer's presence was clearly felt during a session, even if you weren't using it, or just your feelings about the computer's presence in the carrel, that would be excellent.

October 6, 2007

research for a sultry saturday night

I'm sure most of the cool people I work/learn with are doing much more interesting or cultural things as I sit in front of my computer, but I think I too have a touch of OCD and I am already getting nervous about how to research for our inquiry papers. Finding "secondary" documents seem easy enough, but it's the nitty gritty data that I need to retrieve that's got me worried. I think interviews seem the easiest way to go, but are there other methods you guys are considering - survey? observation? Maybe your ideas can help me find a way to approach my question, and also narrow it (hopefully). At least now you all know that I have a kickass social life...actually, I enjoy being a homebody - I'm proud of it!

Enjoy the weird weather!

September 27, 2007

Just to make your researching easier....

Thanks to Katie, the consummate writing center researcher, here are those valuable links to start surveying the literature about writing centers:
Writing Centers Research Project
Writing Center Journal Digital Archive
Writing Lab Newsletter
PeerCentered blog

I'm also fan of just visiting our Nicholson 10 library (where you'll find WC books as well as past issues of WCJ and WLN ) or visiting the PE 1404 stack in Wilson library (what ...real books-- not downloadable PDFs?).