The UCM Writing Center summer team read Stephen M. North's "The Idea of a Writing Center" (1984) as a collaborative professional development and brainstorming effort. Here are the highlights.
"[Writing centers represent] 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. This new writing center, then, defines its province not in terms of some curriculum, but in terms of the writers it serves." (p. 438)
"[I]n a writing center the object is to make sure that writers, and not necessarily their texts, are what get changed by instruction. In axiom form it goes like this: Our job is to produce better writers, not better writing." (p. 438, emphasis added)
"[A]ny plan of action the tutor follows . . . will not derive from a generalized model of composing, or be based on where the student ought to be because she is a freshman or sophomore, but will begin from where the student is, and move where the student moves." (p. 439)
In sum, writing centers strive to be student-centered spaces where writers gain confidence and skills to not just better their current papers but to better themselves as writers, and in turn, to better their future projects as well.
During our Peer Tutoring in the Writing Center class, we were taught this principle without knowing where it came from. It's enlightening to see how writing centers across the country share common goals.
Thanks for giving us a little direction, North. Pun totally intended.
North, S. M. (1984). The idea of a writing center. College English, 46(5), 433-446. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/377047
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