Academic journal article Composition Studies

Centering Research, Practice, and Perspectives: Writing Center Studies and the Continued Commitment to Inclusivity and Accessibility

Academic journal article Composition Studies

Centering Research, Practice, and Perspectives: Writing Center Studies and the Continued Commitment to Inclusivity and Accessibility

Article excerpt

The Oxford Guide for Writing Tutors: Practice and Research, by Lauren Fitzgerald and Melissa Ianetta. Oxford University Press, 2015. 597 pp.

Writing Centers and Disability, by Rebecca Day Babcock and Sharifa Daniels. Fountainhead Press, 2017. 356 pp.

The birth of writing center studies as an academic field can be traced back to the late 1970s and early 1980s, when WLN: A Journal for Writing Center Scholarship (formerly The Writing Lab Newsletter) and Writing Center Journal (WCJ) produced their first issues in 1976 and 1980, respectively. Influential figures in composition studies like Kenneth Bruffee, John Trimbur, and Andrea Lunsford helped establish the field, which focused on various pedagogical issues early on and into the 21st century-perhaps the most well-known being the directive/non-directive instructional continuum. As the field developed, scholars like Irene Clark, Evelyn Ashton-Jones, and Jeff Brooks addressed the development and effectiveness of directive and non-directive, or non-interventionist, approaches to writing center tutoring. More recently, research informed by rhetorical analysis (Corbett), discourse analysis (Mackiewicz and Thompson), and activity theory (Hall) has helped the field paint a more complicated picture of the directive/non-directive instructional continuum, especially its complex relationship to tutor and writer knowledge and identity. And although this concern remains an important touchstone in writing centers and in the field, contemporary scholars have turned their attention to new topics, which are taken up by the books reviewed in this essay.

Both texts are grounded in the history of the field and will help new and veteran tutors alike build their understanding of writing centers and their history. Both texts also provide a wealth of insight for individuals new to and familiar with writing center research and instruction. Most importantly for writing center studies, these texts reflect the field's ongoing commitment to inclusivity and accessibility in scholarship and in the day-to-day work of writing center practice.

The Oxford Guide for Writing Tutors: Practice and Research, edited by Lauren Fitzgerald and Melissa Ianetta, is a comprehensive yet flexible resource intended for a broad audience including new and veteran writing center tutors at the undergraduate and graduate-levels, writing fellows or course-specific writing tutors, and writing center administrators. Its central focus is on the preparation of new one-to-one teachers of writing, most commonly in tutor training courses or practicums. Importantly, the authors see tutors as active participants in the scholarly conversations happening in writing center studies. Fitzgerald and Ianetta advocate for this stance, in part, because they claim that tutors are experts on their own academic experiences and, as they draw on those experiences, tutors often recognize unexplored assumptions in writing center pedagogy and in the field more broadly. Therefore, to help tutors become active participants in the field, Fitzgerald and Ianetta argue that writing center professionals should expose tutors-in-training to research methods applied by scholars, encourage and guide tutors' research projects about writing and tutoring, and showcase tutors' research and findings in scholarly publications.

As Fitzgerald and Ianetta write in the book's preface, "this approach to tutor training.. .allows tutors to test their theories of what might work in a writing center session and helps them to move our professional conversation toward why such things happen" (xiv-xv). The Oxford Guide enacts this tutor-centered ethos by featuring a total of fifteen articles written by undergraduate and/or graduate student tutors. These articles were previously published in venues like WCJ and Young Scholars in Writing and appear in the final "Readings from the Research" section. That section complements the earlier three sections of the text, which address the history of writing centers; tutoring strategies, writing processes, and tutoring online and across different disciplines; and lastly, the kinds of research valued and conducted in the field. …

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