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  • 1Opportunities in launching a pilot Writing Center as an institutional initiativeElizabeth Narváez CardonaDepartment of LanguageFaculty of Social CommunicationWriting centers in Colombian highereducationThese initiatives belong to privateuniversities located in the capital of thecountry, Bogotá D.C. (# 1 # 3), Santiago deCali (# 2), and Barranquilla (# 4).Daily-life of writing centersIn analyzing the websites of the writingcenters # 1 and # 3, I have identifiedpreliminary answers upon what is the daily lifeof a writing center1.Writing center counts as a universitysite in which the students could ask for freewriting tutoring to succeed in their programs.In doing so, the student can set anappointment with someone called “tutor” toreceive assistance in accomplishing theirwriting assignments. This tutor will be agraduate student. During the appointment1 Green, J., Dixon, C., & Zaharlick, A., (2003).Ethnography as a logic of Inquiry. In J. Flood, D.Lapp & J. Squire (Eds.) The Handbook for Researchin the Teaching of the English Language Arts. NewJersey: Erlbaum.the tutor interacts with the students and notwith their texts. The students should bring tothe appointments, the instructors´ promptsand the actual texts written as part of theirwriting assignments.Furthermore, the analysis2 reveals thatin these institutional sites, writing is conceivedmostly to support writing assignments to fulfillfaculty expectations regardless the disciplines.Therefore, students are provided by guidelinesoffered by the websites to support, amongother issues:Citation strategies.Strategies to understand anddecipher the instructors’ expectationswith the writing assignments.Strategies to incorporate languageinstructor patterns and specificdiscourse style into writingassignments.2 Spradley, J. P. (1979). The ethnographic interview.For Worth, TX: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.A student could alsocome to a tutoringsession without havingwritten a paper yet,but still get help bydiscuss ideas andcreating an outline ofwhat they intendwritingA tutor could also help students with learningnew writing or reading strategies, or how torespond to a professor’s feedback, or how towrite documents or writing assignments thatthey have not written before.
  • 2Our imagined writing center……would undertake other types of writingnot addressed in our first year compositioncoursesThe current freshman composition coursesled by the Department of Language for theFaculties of Social Communication,Economics and Business help students toexplore and understand the new demands ofreading and writing for their first semester.Accordingly, essays, research reports, and oralcommunications are used as type ofdocuments that students will have to write inaccomplishing their first semester assignments.In the case of Faculty in Engineering, a 19-hour workshop is offered as part of theprofessional course “Introduction toEngineering 1”. This workshop aims atproviding students with guidance to selectand analyze secondary resources to build aninnovative project, developed as part of thecourse “Introduction to engineering 1”, and towrite the final report for the professor.Consequently, our department alreadyknows that in our University students andfaculty members write or ask for essays,research reports, oral communications, andproject reports. However, we can also learnwhat, when, and how other types ofdocuments are produced by the students intheir programs and fields as part of theirspecific professional or disciplinary growth(e.g., research reports, case-study reports, labreports, and posters).…would support in learning of writing andcommunication patterns of the disciplinesWriting studies research3 hasconfirmed that when students can fulfill ourexpectations in writing assignments, this mightbe associated with the students’ abilities to3 Driscoll, L. D., & Wells, J. (2012). Beyond knowledgeand skills: Writing transfer and the role of studentdispositions. Composition Forum, 26(Fall), Retrievedfromhttp://compositionforum.com/issue/26/beyond-knowledge-skills.phpMoore, J. (2012). Mapping the questions: The stateof writing-related transfer research. CompositionForum, 26(Fall), Retrieved fromhttp://compositionforum.com/issue/26/map-questions-transfer-research.phpuse knowledge learned in other time andspaces to face with the new situationsproposed by professors. This ability of studentsmight be boosted either i) by their ownmotivations and learning strategies, or ii) byspecific teaching experiences in which thespecific contents and formats of thedisciplines are learned as part of developingprofessional or disciplinary identities.For instance, if engineering studentsare exposed and taught explicitly over timeabout the writing and communicativefeatures of lab reports, they not only becomefamiliarized with the patterns of a professionalcommunicative practice but also becomeaware of the differences of such patterns incontrast to other writing and communicativesituations, as poster or oral communication inconferences addressing novice researchers.Systematic teaching experiences can stabilizeour knowledge and increase the probability towrite lab reports in new situations. Over time,when we are able to face new writing andcommunicative situations using our stableprior knowledge, we can acknowledge whatwe have learned4.Accordingly, the following proposal of a pilotwriting center aims at addressing students andleading faculty development programs for adiscipline during the first year to supportstudents´ writing in the center whiledeveloping, along with faculty members,other curriculum opportunities.Affording our writing centerOur teaching teamIn 2012, 31% out of the total ofprofessors in the Department of Languagetaught the writing 19-hour workshop inEngineering. The total of these professors werehired by hour every semester (19 week long).Moreover, 40% of the teaching team is incharge of the composition freshman coursesin the Faculty of Social Communication, and36% for the same courses in the Faculty ofEconomics and Business.Based on the historical tracking reportof the teaching team, currently, out of 7tenured professors in the Department, 4 havegained experiences as specialized instructors4 Rounsaville, A. (2012). Selecting genres for transfer:The role of uptake in students’ antecedent genreknowledge. Composition Forum, 26(Fall), Retrievedfrom http://compositionforum.com/issue/26/selecting-genres-uptake.php
  • 3for freshman courses in different disciplines.This means that developing the curriculum forthe courses has been mostly in charge ofthese 4 professors. Consequently, affording awriting center targeting students and facultypopulation of all the faculties and aiming atsupporting the differences of the disciplinesmight not be realistic, mostly because the 4tenured faculty members are also in charge ofthe research, publish, and outreach projects.Delimiting a disciplinary scope and learningmomentsGiven that our Departmental missionacknowledges the role “(…) of discursivecompetences as essential conditions forprofessional achievement in all disciplines”,the writing center might start as a pilotexperience addressing a discipline.Additionally, because the department offers aworkshop in the Faculty of Engineering insteadan autonomous course as in the otherfaculties, the pilot writing center might addressstudents and faculty members of Engineeringduring the freshman year to strengthen ourpresence with that Faculty while we boostdeveloping an autonomous course.In developing this pilot writing center,composition faculty could learn aboutdisciplinary writing in Engineering throughconducting a research project from which thewriting center scopes will be delimited.Accordingly, the pilot writing center will be aproject with two stages. The first stage isdescribed as follows.Schedule projectActivities January February March April May June July AugustPresenting the project in theFaculty Senate ofEngineering and negotiatethe scope and theexpectationsInterviewing the Dean ofthe Faculty of Engineeringand the Chair of thedepartment and analyzingthe information collectedInterviewing facultymembers of Engineering forthe first year and analyzingthe information collectedAsking permission to visitand freshman courses inEngineering andcompositionObserving classes inEngineering and incompositionPresenting the project infreshman courses to recruitstudentsConducting and analyzinginterviews with studentsCollecting and analyzingstudents writing samplesAnalyzing the data anddeveloping a pilot writingproposalActivities January February March April May June July AugustBudget $$$$$