CCCC 2006 in Review
Blakeslee talked about the transition from a voluntary to a more formal and institutional WAC program at Eastern Michigan University. She listed concerns for and features of the new version of WAC there. The concerns were how to structure WAC, what institutionalizing it ought to mean, and how to achieve a shift in the campus culture accompanying the change in the WAC program. She noted seven features of the transition:
Cogie addressed the challenges of building campus community by way of writing center outreach. She declared that classroom-based tutoring is a challenge to the traditional situation of writing centers, for the very reason that classroom-based tutoring involves outreach rather than the more passive model of having clients come to the center. Her university began a classroom-based tutoring plan in 1999. Surveys taken in nine of the 12 semesters completed since then showed that first-year composition students generally better understood peer-group collaboration and were more engaged with their writing processes as a result of these tutorials. At the same time, and perhaps strangely, students' responses to a question about "Are you more likely to visit the Writing Center as a result of this [in-class tutorial] experience?" varied widely, from 36% to 93% of students answering "yes." Generally, the percentage of students answering "yes" to this question has declined from fall 2001 (the first time this question was asked) to spring 2005. The presenter also suggested that writing center tutor visits to classes could be a way to help de-center the classroom, and that composition teachers might benefit from these visits by seeing tutorial strategies for themselves and carrying them forward in peer reviewing sessions when Writing Center tutors were not present.
Mataway mentioned that she has spent a year at a small private liberal arts college advising faculty across the disciplines about writing and that what she heard "professors really say about writing in their disciplines" (part of the title of her talk) was that first-year composition courses had not "fixed" student writing well enough for the discipline-area teachers to carry that writing forward the way they wanted to. When she returned to the University of Pittsburgh in a similar capacity, she found much different concerns among faculty from across the disciplines. Instead of focusing on student error, these faculty tended to be concerned about student thinking as it showed up in and affected their writing. She of course took this to be a more enlightened and productive concern; although, it was not her purpose to denigrate the faculty at the small college or to claim that Research I university faculty are somehow superior. She thought that the University of Pittsburgh's longer history with writing in the disciplines was more likely responsible for these professors' focus of concerns. She reported on her interviews with 27 faculty from the Arts and Sciences College to see what was going on in their WID courses.
Overall, I thought this was a valuable session for suggesting ways in which various writing initiatives—WAC, WID and writing center outreach—could have positive effects in stimulating faculty thinking about and valuation of writing.
— Joel Wingard
For more information on the CCCC 2006 conference,
visit the NCTE Web site at http://www.ncte.org/profdev/conv/cccc/.