Posts Tagged ‘research’

WCCP: Demographics 

Age

Experience

Gender

Training

Major/Minor

Graduation

21

5

Female

No

Biology/Spanish

Spring 2014

21

5

Female

Yes

Mathematics

Spring 2014

22

7

Female

Yes

Secondary English Education/Special Education

Spring 2015

21

3

Female

Yes

Communication Arts with Journalism & Public Relations Focus/ English and Marketing Management

Spring 2014

24

2

Female

Yes

Secondary English Education

Spring 2015

20

2

Female

Yes

Professional Writing

Spring 2015

21

2

Female

Yes

Secondary English Education

Fall 2014

21

2

Female

No

International Studies and Economics

Fall 2014

19

1

Female

Yes

Professional Writing/ Creative Writing and Music

Spring 2016

21

3

Female

No

Secondary English Education

Spring 2014

20

3

Female

No

Nursing

Spring 2015

22

2

Male

Yes

Professional Writing

Fall 2013

21

3

Female

No

Secondary English Education

Spring 2015

20

3

Female

No

Mass Communication with Public Relations and Advertising Focus

Spring 2014

21

3

Female

Yes

English and Film Studies

Spring 2014

Average:

21 years old

Mode:

3 semesters

Mode:
Female

5 no

10 yes

1st: Secondary Education English
2nd: Professional Writing/English

3rd Communication

Mode:

Spring 2014

 

Writing Consultants’ Future Career Plans Writing Consultants’ Future Graduate School Plans
7 teaching public school/college English or writing 3 professional writing or rhetoric & composition
4 international/public relations; non-profit event planning 2 college or public education
2 film criticism or publishing/editing
2 nursing or optometry
Advertisements

WCCP: Survey

REMINDER! Do not include your name on this survey. Do not answer any questions that make you feel uncomfortable. This survey will not affect your tutoring status in any way.

Today’s Date:

What is your age?

What is your gender?

When do you expect to graduate?

What are (were) your majors?

What career do you plan to pursue after graduation? If you plan to pursue graduate school, what will be your program of study and institution?

How many semesters or terms did you tutor at the Writing Center?

Did you take a credit-bearing tutor training course?  Yes      No

What other forms of tutor development did you participate in? (Please check all that apply.)

___ none

___ regular staff meetings

___ regional or national conferences

___ summer workshops

___ social events

___ other (please specify)

Reflections on Your Tutoring Experience (Open-ended)

  1. What are the most significant abilities, values, or skills that you developed in your work as a peer writing tutor? Please list them.
  2. Of the abilities, values, or skills that you listed above, would you illustrate those that strike you as most meaningful by sharing an episode or even that took place during your time as a tutor or a trainee?
  3. Do these abilities, values, or skills that you are developing as a peer tutor see to be a factor in your choice of job or graduate work? Would you elaborate?

Reflections on your Tutoring Qualities and Skills (Respond and Rate)

  1. Do the qualities gained from tutoring play a role in your interviewing process, in the hiring process, or in acceptance to graduate school? How did you come to that conclusion?
  2. Would you rate the importance of your training and/or experience as a tutor in the interviewing or hiring process for your first job?
5 4 3 2 1
Very important Not important
  1.  In your future occupation(s), will you use the qualities you developed as a writing tutor, if at all? Will you elaborate? Give an example?
  2. Would you rank the importance for your future occupation of the skills, qualities, or values you developed as a tutor?
5 4 3 2 1
Very important Not important
  1. What have learned from working with the writing of others? Please elaborate or provide an example.
  2. Would you rank the importance for your future occupation of the skills, qualities, or values you gained from working with others’ writing?
5 4 3 2 1
Very important Not important

Reflections on Your Tutoring Experience (Rate)

  1. Would you please rate the importance of your writing center/writing fellow training and experience as you developed as a university student?
5 4 3 2 1
Very important Not important
  1. Would you please rate the importance of your writing center/writing fellow training and experience as you developed as a future professional?
5 4 3 2 1
Very important Not important

WCCP: Survey Cover Letter

Greetings from Towson University!

Purpose

I am emailing you because your Writing Center director informed me that you are an undergraduate tutor who has a minimum of one semester tutoring experience. If this is not the case, please disregard this email.

Introduction

I am a graduate student in the Professional Writing Program at Towson University. While pursuing my undergraduate degree at York College of Pennsylvania, I was a peer writing tutor just like you. Currently, I serve as the graduate student board representative for the Mid-Atlantic Writing Center Association (MAWCA).

This year, my love of writing centers and collaborative learning has culminated into a formal research project that is going to look at the long and short-term effects of being a peer tutor in college. This study is an extension of The Peer Writing Tutor Alumni Research Project (more information can be found here: http://www.writing.wisc.edu/pwtarp/) and will assess the transferable job skills gained from the peer tutoring experience.

I plan to present this research at the 2014 MAWCA conference. I encourage you to come to the conference, which will be held at Salisbury University on April 4-5, 2014.

I will also be writing a report intended for publication that will summarize the survey’s findings. If you are interested in receiving a copy of the paper, please let me know.

How can YOU help?

I am hoping you will take time out of your busy schedule to participate in this important study. Except for your time and trouble, there are no foreseeable risks in participating in the research. The amount of time it will take will vary on your answers and experience.

I trust that the enclosed survey will provide a useful opportunity for you to reflect on your time as a tutor and as a student. Please be honest. What I’m looking for are thoughtful, candid, and detailed reflections on your experience. I know your response will be of great significance to the writing center community.

By responding to the survey and returning it to me, you are, in effect, giving me your consent to use your response as outlined above.

You are not required to complete or to sign the survey or to answer anything that might make you uncomfortable. Your status as a tutor will be in no way affected by your choice to participate or not. The responses will be coded to the master list of peer writing tutors, and should I quote you in any form, I will not use your name and will seek your permission first.

On board? Great! Here’s what to do next.
  1. Fill out the attached the survey as a Word document. Do not include your name anywhere on the completed survey!
  2. Create an email with the subject line: Peer Tutoring Survey Response
  3. Attach your completed survey and hit send.
  4. Save yourself some time. Do not include your name or a message in the email you send to me.

The last day I will accept surveys is Sunday, November 24, 2013. Please return the completed survey to me by that date to ensure your response will be part of the study.

If you have any questions about the project, you can reach me at 717-818-0861 or Cheryl Brown, my faculty sponsor at 410-704-2258 or the Chairperson of the Towson IRB at 410-704-2236.

Thinking outside the Writing Center

Composition Programs need Pedagogical Improvement

Some writing consultants gave responses that reflected on the transferrable aspects of their work. One participant stated his experience as a writing consultant taught him “the failings of introductory writing courses and high school English departments are innumerable” because some college professors and high school teachers expect students to produce verbosity and length rather than organization and logic, which are two essential skills that are needed to produce quality workplace documents. Similarly, another participant was disappointed to see that some students were not given the necessary writing support prior to attending college, which made it difficult to communicate effective grammatical choices during the tutoring session. These are common problems in writing center lore and are often highlighted in peer tutoring guides. The fact that these writing consultants identified them speaks to the fact that these are ongoing stressful tutoring situations in a millennial age.

Aptitudes Obtained

Other writing consultants pointed out the broad brushstrokes that make up the portrait of a writing center. They identified that tutoring is creativity and communication in coordination. Others recognized that tutoring broadens a person’s perspective on reality, on language, on the writing process, on conflict resolution, and on relationship-building. Overall, every writing consultant who was surveyed was positively impacted by their time spent in the writing center. The following categories, Interview Preparation and Career Preparation, will address how this impact affects writing consultants’ professional lives after they graduate and enter the workplace.

Interview Preparation

Many writing consultants identified not having much experience with interviewing. Writing center experience was viewed as a resume builder that improved confidence and increased one’s personal comfort level when interacting with new people (which is always helpful during interviews). While several writing consultants identified they gained a tool box of skills to apply to their own writing, few were able to take the next step: recognizing how to market their skills so they could secure a job or to attend graduate school. Four writing consultants identified that working in a writing center was equivalent to adapting to diversity, attending to multiple needs/disabilities, consulting one-on-one, solving conflict, and assessing student writing.

Career Preparation

When asked how writing center work prepared them for their careers, the writing consultants provided a wide range of answers. One tutor stated that “being a tutor not only helps the tutees, but helps the tutors as well.” The statement encompasses a discernible pattern that emerged in the skills writing consultants developed or the praxis they performed.

Skill-based

  • Learned to ask open-ended questions
  • Trained myself to think before making assumptions about people’s backgrounds
  • Improved communication and interpersonal skills
  • Became more personable and patient
  • Learned to provide positive praise, build confidence, give constructive criticism
  • Understood my own writing practices better by looking at my writing critically, neutrally, and objectively
  • Strengthened the ability to work one-on-one with students
  • Improved the ability to work on a team with other writing consultants
  • Developed a knowledge base in a variety of other subjects

Praxis-based

  • Hands-on teaching preparation
  • Practiced using analytical and critical thinking
  • Hands-on editing practice
  • Focused on a holistic approach to the writing process
  • Hands-on therapeutic communication
  • Relayed information in a way that could be understood by multiple people
  • Recognized that writer has his or her own voice, just as every person has his or her own strengths and weaknesses
  • Held the mindset that writing should be at the forefront of the curriculum
  • Believed in the ideal that everyone is capable of improvement

Likert-Scale Perceptions

The writing consultants’ narratives reflect their perceptions about their tutoring experience and are supported by all five Likert-scale ratings, which received positive ratings. The average, standard deviation, and mode calculations for each Likert-scale rating can be found in the Appendices section.

  • Training and/or experience as a tutor in the interviewing or hiring process for your first job.
    • Ranked somewhat important
  • Your future occupation of the skills, qualities, or values you developed as a tutor.
    • Ranked very important
  • Your future occupation of the skills, qualities, or values you gained from working with others’ writing.
    • Ranked important
  • Your writing center/writing fellow training and experience as you developed as a university student.
    • Ranked very important
  • Your writing center/writing fellow training and experience as you developed as a future professional.
    • Ranked very important

Open-ended Questions Coding

The four coding categories for the open-ended responses highlight a positive trend in the professional skills writing consultants believe they are gaining as well as indicate an enthusiasm for their tutoring work. To create a clearly-defined coding system, I separated professional skills from personal skills, which is a coding strategy that aligns with previous writing center studies (Dinitz and Kiedaisch 1-5; Gillespie, Hughes, and Kail 35-52; Hughes, Gillespie, and Kail 12-46; Kedia 13-15; Welsch 1-7).

On a personal level, writing tutors working in a writing center community have the opportunity to develop empathy, patience, and rapport. Interacting with peers improve their listening skills, a collaborative attitude, and their relationship with writing. There is a marked increase in their diplomacy, tact, confidence, and assertiveness.

Professional skills in the writing center community include teaching/pedagogy training, time management and problem solving capabilities, administrative and public relations preparation, and creative and critical thinking facilities. These skills transcend to holistic thinking with a focus on HOCs and the organization of a writer’s argument. Writing tutors develop analytic skills as they assess and prioritize a session. Writing tutors also hone their communication abilities: they can not only deliver information, but also constructive criticism one-on-one, in group settings, and during cross-cultural situations.

Perceived Transferable Skills

The tutoring narrative gives writing consultants the chance to reflect on the values and attitudes they will take with them when they leave the writing center. The responses were incredibly positive. In summary, the coded categories reveal a positive response from the surveyed writing consultants.

  • Client Relations occurs when tutors prioritize tutees’ needs by approaching a hierarchy of concerns through active listening, genuine praise, and non-directive questioning dependent on the stage of the writing process. Meeting students’ needs varied from drafting, crafting a thesis statement, organization, brainstorming, and writer’s voice. Many tutors were able to identify the personal and professional value of their work because they enjoyed helping people with writing. For others, building confidence was memorable because the act of doing so was a two-way street: writing consultants get confidence by giving the tutee confidence.
  • Interpersonal Skills are demonstrated when tutors improve communication by valuing listening, learning to collaborate, or increasing flexibility when problem solving. The results revealed that the undergraduate tutors favored the conversation and rapport-building aspects of their tutoring experience. One writing consultant identified communication as a significant ability because she had to verbalize her thoughts to different types of people “clearly and concisely so anyone [could] understand my feedback.” A specific skill area was working with ELL students, which proved to be especially rewarding.
  • Professional Development consists of various skills: administration, marketing, critical and analytical reading/writing/thinking skills, pedagogy, diversity training, conflict management, technology use, and mentoring. The tutors found that tutoring taught them patience and confidence. The tutors seemed especially empowered when they could help their peers become better writers by meeting their needs and providing them with praise.
  • Lastly, tutors might identify joining the Writing Center Community as a lasting skill they take with them. Language in the literature speaks to tutors viewing writing as conversation, developing a new relationship with writing, or engaging with their knowledgeable peers. The tutors surveyed pinpointed an improvement in their own personal writing processes because they are able to look at their writing, identify common mistakes, and critique critically for grammar and style.

(more…)

Defining a Writing Center

A writing center possesses charged imagery. Their walls hold an energy that is not only collaborative but also empathetic, which makes it a safe haven for even the most insecure writer. The tables are always full of bustling productivity as the tutor and the writer work side-by-side to share ideas. Paragraphs are rearranged; sentence structure is revised, and style choice is evaluated. In the end, the writer leaves the writing not only with a better paper but also with a better understanding of how to approach the writing process. This noisy hub of conversing, laughing, and learning is home for serious academics, either struggling or successful, who want to succeed in higher education.

No writing center is the same. However, they function in a similar fashion because of Burke’s parlor theory and dramatic pentad.  These theories shape the collaboration, communication, cultures, and communities that make writing centers a successful grassroots movement within higher education. A writing center’s very nature—the centering on developing a writing process—is the dramatic pentad in scholastic hexameter (who, what, where, by what means, why, how, when) described in Burke’s Grammar of Motives (228). Language, when looked at this way, is a mode of action dependent on the situation, circumstances, or dilemma. This inquiry-based, therapeutic language shapes the open-ended, non-directive questions that ping back-and-forth in the writing center.

Writing Center Models

Before Burke is examined in full, however, the different models of writing centers need to be explained. In 1991, Lunsford identified two types of writing centers: the storehouse and the garret (2). The storehouse functions as an information hub that dispenses knowledge out to the individual as he or she needs it. This model is much in line with Freire’s banking concept of education. The garret also focuses on the individual, but in this case, the individual creates his or her own knowledge, voice, and style in a private quest for truth. Lunsford also introduced a new type of writing center based on Burke’s parlor where people of diverse backgrounds socially come together and do work with rhetoric and composition (4). Elbow also favors the Burkean parlor and describes it as a culture of movement:

“Some have already been there a long time working and talking together when new ones arrive. New ones learn from playing the game with the more experienced players. Some leave before others. People continually trickle in and trickle out, but they work and talk together while they are there. Unskilled writers would be there longer, but for that reason, they would often function as veterans, experts, elders, carriers of the culture. They would be better than the hotshot students at the writerly processes of sharing, cooperating, feedback, even revising” (466).

Therefore, writing centers are a perfect representation of the unending conversation that Burke defines in Philosophy of Literary Form. Burke invites us to imagine this conversation as a point of entry that leads toward a larger discussion, a difficult dialogue, and a great debate. The back-and-forth exchange of ideas creates a brighter illumination on the topic at hand even after the participant has long gone.  Boquet’s Noise from the Writing Center describes this kind of tutoring session as having a kind of spontaneous, innovative energy:

We take texts and we turn them around and over and upside down; we cut them into their bits and pieces; we tug at them, tutor to student, student to tutor, back and forth, to and fro, tug-tug-tug. We ball up ideas and we pitch them, sometimes to each other, sometimes away—three points!—into the trash. (Omygodcanwedothat?) (p. 18).

Bruffee considers this natural and unencumbered conversation a “kind of social context in which normal discourse occurs: a community of knowledgeable peers,” and Lunsford considers the exchange as knowledge, power, and control being negotiated and shared (Bruffee 644; Lunsford 5). Just a people come and go in Burke’s parlor, so do the ideas within their conversations. The same holds true for a community of practice where collective knowledge is never static, but always in a perpetual motion (Wenger, McDermott, and Snyder 10).

Communities of Practice

For this reason, a writing center can be considered a “community of practice.” A community of practice creates a particular identity for group members who “share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis” (Wenger, McDermott, and Snyder 4). Communities of practice are an informal, self-organized joint enterprise that “drive strategy, generate new lines of business, solve problems, promote the spread of best practices, [and] develop people’s professional skills” (Wenger and Snyder 139). These objectives make communities of practice become a “cascading interplay of participation and reification [so] that our experience of life becomes one of identity, and indeed of human existence and consciousness” (Wenger 151). In summation, communities of practice are where learners develop, negotiate, and share our own theories and ways of understanding their reality (Wenger 48).

The community’s perspective-taking accommodates a multitude of new factors, data, inventions, and problems that accumulate over years of working in collaboration. As Lunsford points out, this collaboration is important in aiding practitioners, or members of the community of practice, to unearth new knowledge about problems and abstractions (3). Collaboration also leads to sharper critical thinking, higher achievement, and greater excellence (Lunsford 3).

In any community of practice, these markers are all evidence of success. In particular, a writing center/a Burkean parlor/a community of knowledgeable peers focuses on learning from one another whether one’s status is an old-timer or a newcomer (Theory in/to practice 94). Status in the center of the conversation surrounding writing centers becomes inconsequential. Participation in the dynamic aspects of knowledge creation is vital, and dialectical transactions, not years of experience, are the mark of expertise (Theory in/to 103).

Developing Aptitudes

Tutors who participate in the writing center community learn lessons outside the classroom curriculum (Integrating best practices 29). Teamwork and leadership are obvious skills, but Wenger points out three categories that come with belonging to a community of practice (95).

  • Evolving forms of mutual engagement
    • Discovering how to engage, what helps and what hinders; developing mutual relationships; defining identities.
  • Understanding and tuning their enterprise
    • Aligning their engagement with it, and learning to become and hold each other accountable to it; struggling to define the enterprise and reconciling conflicting interpretations of what the enterprise is about.
  • Developing their repertoire, styles, and discourses
    • Renegotiating the meaning of various elements; producing or adopting tools, artifacts, representations; recording and recalling events; inventing new terms and redefining or abandoning old ones; telling and retelling stories; creating and breaking routines.

Entering an Academic Culture

Within the writing center community of practice, there is an academic culture described by Molly Wingate in 2001. She points out that writing centers permit tutors to gain professional skills, which prepares them for a career choice, management, or client interactions (Wingate 10). Soma Kedia’s anecdotal evidence in her 2007 article, “Everything I Needed to Know about Life I Learned at the Writing Center” puts these categories into context by commenting on her marked shift from an individual approach towards writing to a collaborative one. By tutoring, she learned to approach a hierarchy of concerns through active listening, genuine praise, non-directive questioning (13-15).

A common theme runs through Wingate’s and Kedia’s observations. Writing centers not only shape better students, but better professionals. Wingate writes, “Those serious tutors and writers grow up, finish graduate school, join professions, have neighbors, children, vote, participate in their local schools, get elected, volunteer and protest. Those writing center attitudes go right along with them as they respect themselves and other people” (14). Kedia echoes this concept of carrying on a trend of responsibility and involvement after leaving the writing center. She reflects that “Writing is so much more than the way we put words on a page: writing is conversation, leadership, even therapy. Writing is subversive social action” (Kedia 15).

Conversations, communications, and collaborations in the writing center make a lasting impact. Tutors who work, learn, write, and play in the writing center are a perfect example of those visitors to Burke’s parlor of unending conversation in Philosophy of Literary Form. Although tutors leave the writing center and pursue other careers and interests, the writing center never leaves them just as Burke never leaves the center of conversation in composition. He writes:

“You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally’s assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress” (Burke 110-111).

(more…)

It’s Not Easy Being Millennial

Young adults who are between the ages of 19 and 33 and born on the cusp of the 21st century face a daunting reality: a high number of highly-educated young adults who are unemployed (Thompson). Economics might be to blame. The 2008 recession continues to delay their career pathways and retirement savings. Well-being might be another cause. These unsettling times means Millennials are surrounded by fear, uncertainty, and doubt because they “lack stable close relationships, a feeling of safety, and a simple path to adulthood and the workplace” (Twenge 136). Perception might also be a reason. Some Baby Boomers view Millennials as being the entitled “Me” generation that appears cocky rather than confident when networking or interviewing.

Facebook Status: Job searching…again.

Although Millennials face numerous challenges, they are more global, more connected, more resilient, more self-reliant, and more adaptive than any previous generation (Burstein 95-96; Woodruff). Social media is the great leveler for this generation. It equalizes access to culture, politics, and social justice. Information’s free flow, social media’s vast transparency, and technology’s inclusiveness creates an innovative spark that is interspersed with millennials’ personal, academic, political, and professional lives.

Millennials as digital natives are more prone to express their views online, connect online, and communicate online, making them more open to innovative possibilities that get published on a large, globalized scale (Burstein 54-59). In order to obtain employment in difficult job market, Facebook, Pintrest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Prezi, Instagram, and blogging platforms are tools for constant networking.

Logically then, millennials rely on technology 1) to make life easier, 2) to access information quickly, 3) to play a greater role in political activism, 4) to create a more efficient use of time, and 5) to develop closer bonds between friends and family (Taylor and Keeter 26-27; White 11). As a result, these easily personalized, customized, and individualized tools foster the Millennial generation’s resourceful, innovative, and connected spirit (Kelm 507).

Social media equips Millennials, and they want to use their skills to find the right balance for the multiple obligations that fill their busy schedules (Lancaster and Stillman 55). They have a strong commitment to actionable and realizable goals that can be reached in practical increments. Creativity and communication and collaboration speak directly to the literature surrounding writing centers’ pedagogies, tutors’ transferrable job skills, and employers’ hiring demands.

Assessing Professional Development in Writing Centers

In the writing center, tutees are not only gaining skills; tutors are as well. However, tracking peer writing tutor professional development did not begin until 2000. Wright State University created a survey, distributed it to their writing center alumni, and received the small sample size of 29 respondents. One of the questions was “What, specifically, did you learn from Writing Center training and tutoring?” Writing center alumni responded with the following skills: improving communication, increasing flexibility, prioritizing others’ needs, and adapting problem-solving techniques (Macklin, Marshall, and Law 14).

PWTARP

This finding was formally determined in 2004 by Harvey Kail, Paula Gillespie, and Brad Hughes, creators of The Peer Writing Tutor Alumni Research Project (PWTARP) (“The Peer Writing Tutor Alumni Research Project”). PWTARP surveyed 126 alumni from University of Maine, Florida International University, and University of Wisconsin-Madison to tackle the question, “What do students take with them from their education and experience as peer writing tutors that would account for this continued engagement?”

The results from the PWTARP’s open-ended/Likert-scale survey demonstrated determined five categories: a new relationship with writing, learning collaborative learning, critical and analytic reading ability, the value of listening, and joining a community of knowledgeable peers. These categories factor directly into the workplace, demonstrating “that the influence of being a peer tutor is strong, and that its effects endure—two years and ten years and even twenty years beyond graduation” (Hughes, Gillespie, and Kail 39).

The PWTARP fostered an interest in the literature surrounding tutors’ career development. Two articles, “Shaping Careers in the Writing Center” and “Putting Your Writing Center Experience to Work,” focused on identifying the workplace skills tutors could promote in a job interview (Welsch, 1-8; Whalen, 9-10). These categories, which were similar to PWTARP, included: administration, public relations, interpersonal/client communication, analytic skills, pedagogy, technology skills, and professional development (Welsch, 1-8; Whalen, 9-10).

Sue Dinitz and Jean Kiedaisch from University of Vermont replicated PWTARP with 135 alumni in 2009. From their survey results, they identified the following four categories of transferrable job skills: interpersonal skills, various writing skills, mentoring, and general thinking skills (1-5).

Writing Consultants are Ready to Work

A Millennial writing consultant already has the ability to be successful in client relations, written/oral communications, and interpersonal interactions because of the time spent solving problems, analyzing tasks, and adapting tutoring techniques. The writing center community has prepared them with leadership abilities by encouraging research presentations and mentoring new tutors. Accurate record-keeping and plagiarism prevention means writing consultants possess strong ethics and integrity. Overall, college graduates who have tutored are willing to tackle problems with professional decorum.

Transferrable Workplace Skills

Writing centers, according to the PWTARP and other anecdotal evidence, create a dialogic, relationship-based culture. Communication through collaboration, through writing and reading, and through a well-established community creates necessary workplace skills employers are looking for. In 2006, an in-depth survey titled Are They Really Ready to Work was distributed to over 400 human resource representatives and senior executives to determine workplace readiness for the 21st century.

The results of Are They Really Ready to Work identify an ideal worker as one who has a professional presence and is willing to collaborate with others to solve problems in an innovative way. The report identified deficiencies that are considered very important but needed improvement: written communications, writing in English, and leadership (Casner-Lotto and Barrington 41). The results also predicted that in the next five years creativity/innovation was expected to be most critical workplace skills (Casner-Lotto and Barringon 50).

More recently in 2012, the Center for Professional Development at York College of Pennsylvania surveyed 415 college faculty members nationwide to establish professionalism traits in college juniors and seniors. The professors’ responses revealed a series of skills that set professional students apart from their peers (Center for Professional Development 18-26).

Professionalism is demonstrated by accepting personal responsibility for their decisions, displaying a sense of ethics, and exhibiting an attentive focus. Time management, thorough preparation, and dependability are also important factors as well as appearance and appropriate dress. Verbal and written communication goes hand in hand with interpersonal skills. Students who are respectful and considerate do not have the negative association of being entitled.

The Writing Center Consultant Project

Assessing transferable job skills aligns with a long trend of collaborative learning, knowledge sharing, personal transformation, and networking. The Writing Center Consultant Project (WCCP) started in September 2013 replicates the PWTARP with a new population—undergraduate tutors—in order to meet the goal of assessing the transferable job skills they gain before entering the workplace.

The Likert-scale/open-ended survey was sent to York College of Pennsylvania, Shippensburg University, University of Maryland, Loyola University, Salisbury University, and Towson University. The sample for WCCP’s pilot study was small (15 out of 100 sent surveys were returned); however, the impact of this research is filled with potential. The WCCP revealed that tutors are incredibly enthusiastic about the positive impact of their writing center experience. Participants pointed out the broad brushstrokes that make up the portrait of a writing center. They identified that tutoring is creativity and communication in coordination. Others recognized that tutoring broadens a person’s perspective on reality, on language, on the writing process, on conflict resolution, and on relationship-building. The tutors’ narratives and Likert-scale ratings revealed the trends outlined below; however tutors also identified that they lacked strategic professional development skills such as interviewing strategies and career planning, which would ensure future job placement.

Client Relations

Occurred when tutors prioritized tutees’ needs by approaching a hierarchy of concerns through active listening, genuine praise, and non-directive questioning dependent on the stage of the writing process. Meeting students’ needs varied from drafting, crafting a thesis statement, organization, brainstorming, and writer’s voice. Many tutors were able to identify the personal and professional value of their work because they enjoyed helping people with writing. For others, building confidence was memorable because the act of doing so was a two-way street: writing consultants get confidence by giving the tutee confidence.

Interpersonal Skills

Demonstrated when tutors improve communication by valuing listening, learning to collaborate, or increasing flexibility when problem solving. The results revealed that the undergraduate tutors favored the conversation and rapport-building aspects of their tutoring experience. One writing consultant identified communication as a significant ability because she had to verbalize her thoughts to different types of people “clearly and concisely so anyone [could] understand my feedback.” A specific skill area was working with ELL students, which proved to be especially rewarding.

Professional Development

Consisted of various skills: administration, marketing, critical and analytical reading/writing/thinking skills, pedagogy, diversity training, conflict management, technology use, and mentoring. The tutors found that tutoring taught them patience and confidence. The tutors seemed especially empowered when they could help their peers become better writers by meeting their needs and providing them with praise.

Joining the Writing Center Community

A lasting skill writing consultants would take with them. Language in the literature speaks to tutors viewing writing as conversation, developing a new relationship with writing, or engaging with their knowledgeable peers. The tutors surveyed pinpointed an improvement in their own personal writing processes because they are able to look at their writing, identify common mistakes, and critique critically for grammar and style.

Prioritizing Professional Development

Administrators who ask consultants to complete the WCCP’s Likert-scale/open-ended survey at the end of each semester will gauge their professional development needs. Additional support can be established by distributing a checklist of options provided via the college career center or collaboration with writing center alumni. Some sample options include:

College Career Center Professional Development

  • Resume/cover letter reviews and mock interview sessions
  • Job search strategies and social media branding
  • Graduate school application advising
  • Career interest surveys and career counseling

Writing Center Alumni Networking

  • Provide voluntary community service opportunities
  • Locate internships to strengthen professional development
  • Mentor tutors to help them identify and sell transferable skills
  • Review research presentation applications for national and regional conferences

Promoting Further Study

The WCCP pilot study does not seek to provide writing center administrators a concrete answer as to why undergraduate tutors are unemployed post graduation; rather, it provides insight as to how tutors see themselves as future professionals in the workplace. Research like the WCCP has never been implemented before. Knowing tutors’ perceptions of their workplace readiness in a quantitative form makes implementing career development interventions for an easier transition out of academia. Any continuation of the WCCP will generate growth in writing centers’ grassroots movement of professional development and workplace readiness. For more information or to obtain the survey tools associated with the Writing Center Consultant Project, please contact Emily Raffensberger by email at eraffens@gmail.com.

(more…)