Students seek out the writing center for as many reasons as there are reasons to write. When consulting with me, they will not find a surrogate professor or a shaman who knows the ancient truths of composition. Instead, they will find a conversation that guides a collaborative learning experience. Since talking about writing is a fundamental aspect of the writing process, it is where all sessions must begin and end. Understanding the writer’s needs and goals enables me to achieve my main goals for helping first-year students to transition to college level writing. Further, by aspiring to enact a nonhierarchical pedagogy, I can educate the writer from the perspective of a more experienced peer who can empathize with their concerns and can model the best practices of writing. I strive to use my role as a one-to-one writing consultant to demystify academic writing for students, while supporting the faculty’s mission of ushering students into their disciplines’ discourse communities.
As a one-to-one writing consultant, I take seriously my mission to help students of all writing abilities improve their composition skills. Process theory lends itself to cooperative learning and is the foundation of my practice, which is continually being informed by my theoretical research. Using writer-centric techniques, like freewriting and Socratic questioning, allows writers to construct their own knowledge of composition, while providing me insights into the strengths of their skill sets. This also defines my approach to the consultation because I can address their document more accurately knowing where they are in the writing process. Additionally, it provides me a base from which to I can help the writer to grow through scaffolding.
Developing relationships with students over a succession of consultations is the best way to assess a writer’s growth. Since students with diverse experience and varying goals frequent the writing center, I am not always able to begin the writing process with a writer and consult with them through its completion. In instances when consulting longitudinally is not an option, the writer and I must compartmentalize the document and address it as separate literacy tasks. These tasks, when completed, are then unified into a learning experience that generates a better document.
When working with more experienced writers, I aspire to be conversant in an array of documents and styles of writing. I am constantly learning more about the written needs of their disciplines and their corresponding conventions to meet the challenges of their specialized needs, goals, and audiences. In the same vain, I embrace the challenge of working second language writers and writers outside the academic community. Each group has its own objectives, and, given my goal of helping people to become better writers, I personalize our consultations to address their individualized needs and to foster their development.
Assessing student learning and adjudicating the efficacy of my consultations are important for me to enhance my practice and to grow as a writing consultant. In the same way that I challenge writers to develop in their skill sets with experimentation and new techniques, I challenge myself to critically reflect on my sessions. Soliciting student feedback in our summative conversation is helpful. Working with students over the course of a project gives me the opportunity to see if they are meeting the demands of new literacy tasks and to assess whether my instruction is assisting them. Writing post session reports and discussing best practices with writing center colleagues helps me to introspect on my pedagogical choices and to benefit from other writing teachers’ experiences. As the writing process commands revisions over time, I see my practice as a series of drafts moving me closer to attaining my ultimate goal of helping others to write better.