An Overview of Writing Center History and Scholarship

Writing Center History and
Scholarship: An Overview
Brian Fallon and Rusty Carpenter
IWCA Summer Institute 2013
First, let’s talk timelines…
Socrates invents
Socratic Method
c. 469-399 BCE
What happened when…
Writing Centers at University of
Minnesota & State University of
Iowa (now University of Iowa)
c. 1934
2013 IWCA
Quick Activity:
In groups, discuss what you already know about
writing center history. Here are some questions you
may consider:
• What events would you add to this timeline?
• How would you tell a history of the writing center?
• What’s the history of your own writing center?
Writing Center History:
Evolution, Innovative Heroes, and Multiple Forces
Peter Carino’s three models for investigating writing
center history:
• Evolutionary Model
• Dialectical Model
• Cultural Model
The right mix…
Needs and Interests
Modern Writing Centers
Elizabeth Boquet (1999)
Brooklyn College Institute for Training Peer
Writing Tutors - Participants
The Idea of a Writing Laboratory
“I have learned that when writing centers were
called writing laboratories, they often thrived,
with a lineage going back to the 1890s when
laboratory methods of instruction were
trumpeted in a wide range of disciplines and at
all instruction levels, but particularly in the
newly required first-year English composition
classes that proliferated nationwide following
Harvard University’s creation of ‘English A’
Neal Lerner
• The Idea of a Writing Laboratory. Carbondale:
Southern Illinois UP. 2009
• “Rejecting the Remedial Brand: The Rise and
Fall of the Dartmouth Writing Clinic.” College
Composition and Communication 59.1 (2007):
Important Scholarly and Professional
• The Writing Lab Newsletter, Print, 1977
• The Writing Center Journal, Print, 1980
• National Writing Centers Association (NWCA), Constitution Written,
• National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing (NCPTW), 1984
• The Dangling Modifier, Online, Fall 1994
• PeerCentered, Online, 1994/1995
• NWCA, 1st Conference Independent from NCTE or CCCC, 1997
• NWCA becomes International Writing Centers Association, 1999
• Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, Online, Fall 2003
WC Scholarship
• Types
• Methods
• Trends
• Technology
Types of Scholarship
Variety of Methods
WC Scholarship Trends
• Descriptive Scholarship (Moore)
• Epistemological Scholarship (Bruffee)
• Angry/Impassioned Scholarship (North “Idea”)
• Tutor-focused Scholarship (Kail and Trimbur)
• “How to” Scholarship (Harris)
• Theory-driven Scholarship (Boquet)
• Technology-focused Scholarship (Inman)
A History of Technology in the Writing
“We hope to have a computer terminal this fall.
We intend to use it primarily for administrative
control and academic accounting purposes (pen
and paper are just not fast enough), but it will
also be available to develop writing programs
(the latter is something of a luxury, since one
could equip up to fifteen or more carrel stations
for the cost of a terminal, and they would be
available at all times).”
Richard Mason, “A Response to our Questionnaire,” Writing Lab Newsletter, 1977
Electronic Writing Center Work
“It is a call for the entire composition
community to coordinate a new mandate for the
electronic writing center; to imagine an
alternate future for peer tutors and the students
that they serve, not by abandoning traditional
writing centers but by envisioning them with
electronic counterparts” (Coogan, 1999, xvi).
Tracing Technology: Milestones in
• Computer classrooms dubbed “writing labs,” 1980
• 1984 Writing Lab Directory lists 88/184 centers as
having at least one computer (Carino)
• Email (asynchronous), 1987/88 (Kinkead)
• Purdue OWL, founded 1994
• MUDs and MOOs, 1995 (Jordan-Henley and Maid)
• Chat (synchronous), 2005, Denny; Metzer
• Virtual Worlds, 2008-2009, UCF, MSU, BGSU
• Synchronous Video, 2009-Present
Tracing Technology: Milestones in the
• Mason, “A Response to our Questionnaire,” Writing Lab Newsletter,
• Veit, “Are Machines the Answer?” WLN, 1979
• Norton and Hansen, “The Potential for Computer-Assisted
Instruction in the Writing Lab” Ed. Harris, Tutoring Writing, 1982
• Hobson, Wiring the Writing Center, 1998
• Coogan, Electronic Writing Centers, 1999
• Palmquist, “A Brief History of Computer Support for Writing Centers
and Writing-Across-the-Curriculum Programs,” Computers and
Composition, 2003
• McKinney. “Geek in the Center.” Writing Lab Newsletter. 2009
• Lee and Carpenter, The Routledge Reader on Writing Centers and
New Media, 2013
First post on PeerCentered Blog
Discussion Starters
• What are your goals for this week?
• How do you see these goals aligning with WC
history and/or scholarship?
• What opportunities do you have to contribute
to WC Scholarship/History?
• What other questions do you hope to
discuss/pose/ask this week?

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