My goal in this post is to involve the Lincoln University community in writing the mission statement for the Roscoe Lee Brown Writer’s Studio. Located in University Hall B-3 with hours this semester on Tuesdays from 3:30 until 5 p.m. and Wednesdays from 4 until 6 p.m., the RLB Writer’s Studio is based on a writing center model—a collaborative place to create better writers. We offer non-evaluative, one-on-one consultations on any writing matters, for any student at any level, as well as specialty workshops for groups. We also house the English Department’s component of the Humanities Tutoring Program in the core.
Let me start with an anecdote from a class in that core:
In yet another English Composition II class, this first day of midterm week, I explained my “revision” midterm assignment. Students need to take their short story analysis essay, write a revision, then write a meta-cognitive reflection of how they attempted to revise each graded entity on the rubric (thesis, support, etc), and finally address grammar and punctuation issues by writing the rule for their particular pattern of error as well as demonstrating application of that rule to their own writing.
No Scantron here. We are quickly climbing Bloom’s taxonomy and addressing numerous SLOGs.
The students are writing, revising, engaging in critical thinking, and learning about their writing process. But a finer point escaped the students—the difference I was trying to elicit between “editing” and “proofreading.” Even after my powerpoint and class discussion, a student response to the midterm assignment was to “fix the errors” as if there was nothing more to revision than fixing a mistake. That a thesis, although “somewhat effective” on the grading rubric, could not be revised further.
As I discussed with my students today and as I talk about the RLB Writer’s Studio as a “writing center” at Lincoln, I am often reminded of Stephen North’s 1984 essay in College English titled “The Idea of a Writing Center,” which was the basis for a “new” model of writing center that differed from the “basement, fix-it” shop approach to writing (VISIT US IN THE BASEMENT OF UNIVERSITY HALL!) Instead, North argued, “it represents the marriage of what are arguably the two most powerful contemporary perspectives on teaching writing: first, that writing is most usefully viewed as a process; and second, that writing curricula need to be student-centered” (438) as opposed to the “older” model where “instruction tends to take place after or apart from writing, and tends to focus on the correction of textual problems” (439).
Writing centers focus on creating better writers through collaborative, dialogue/question driven, non-directive measures. The goal is often a better writer, not necessarily a better written text. The analogy I often use is teaching people to fish so that they will never go hungry.
The more recent criticism of the process approach to writing, which developed in 60s through the 90s, comes from post process scholars such as Kent (2003) who assert that writing is social—a situated, public, and interpretative act. The product cannot be ignored.
So the Writing Center is stuck in the middle—which is right where we want to be.
WE DON'T FIX STUDENT WRITING (but we can help students fix their own writing).
WE DON'T DO REMEDIATION (but we can help remediate student writing).
WE WANT STUDENTS TO COME TO US (but any encouragement to help students find us will be accepted).
WE WORK WITH ANY WRITING ISSUE (believe it or not there is more to writing than grammar).
WE WANT TO PROMOTE WRITING (we want to promote writing).
After all as North stated, “if writing centers are going to finally be accepted, surely they must be accepted on their own terms, as places whose primary responsibility, whose only reason for being, is to talk to writers” (446).
So I now enter into a dialogue with you. Help us create our Mission Statement. What do you see as the mission of the Roscoe Lee Browne Writer’s Studio?
Kent, T. (2003). “Introduction.” Post-Process Theory: Beyond the Writing Process Paradigm. Ed. Thomas Kent. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP.
North, S. M. (1984). “The Idea of a Writing Center.” College English, 46(5), 433-446.