The OSU Writing Center is undergoing a major transformation from a one-to-one consulting model to what is called a studio model. Writing Studio director Dennis Bennett shared with us those new changes and the ways those changes affect WIC faculty and students.
As of January 2017, the former OSU Undergraduate Writing Center transitioned into a new pedagogical model and format–the Undergraduate Writing Studio.
Prior to the model shift, the Writing Center followed a “fairly traditional, middle of the road” pedagogical model, said Bennett. Under this model, student writers met with writing assistants for one-on-one conferences that lasted 45 minutes on average. During this time, writing assistants addressed what are known as high to low order concerns; writing assistants guided the session through big picture concerns such as organization, content, and adhering to the assignment before moving on to line level concerns such as sentence structure and grammar and conventions. This is a standard model for a significant portion of post-secondary writing centers across the United States.
The new Undergrad Writing Studio departs from this model in significant ways. First, the Studio no longer offers undergraduate appointments. Students walk in and fill out a form detailing basic student and class/assignment information. Students explain what concerns they would like to address. Flip charts on workstations in the Studio inform studio consultants when students would like to work on their own and when they need help.
The studio model emphasizes real-time feedback and the studio as a workspace. Students are encouraged to bring their assignment sheets, unfinished or unstarted drafts, and come prepared to work. Many students bring their laptops to work on their projects, although it is not required. Bennett says the focus is to “create a space for writing” supplemented by feedback from studio consultants.
“The process itself is cyclical. Students propose some writing that the studio consultant critiques and the student then iterates these changes which they propose once more to the studio consultant and the process continues until the student is satisfied with their work,” he said.
In response to the question, “why did the change occur?” Bennett shared that the move to the Studio model stemmed from a new pedagogical goal. The new model is meant to work two-fold, first by helping students “build competence” through learning to ask for specific help on issues in their work as they construct and edit it. Second, the new model acts to “catch the moment of kairos.” According to Bennett, this means making the writing studio a place to write. So, as questions come up during the writing process, consultants are available to respond to those relevant questions in that very “moment of kairos.” The benefit for students is that they are not just told how to be better writers, they are given the environment in which to do so.
This model moves students away from binge-writing and into incremental, process-oriented writing. Bennett explained that advanced writers tend to use this process naturally. Rather than critiquing an entire paper at once, the writer will ask a friend or colleague to review a small piece of the paper as they are writing it. The studio model simply applies this concept in a collaborative, academic setting. This shift is important for the Writing Studio’s proposed relocation to the OSU Valley Library, which could be as early as next fall; the studio model complements the natural work and study environment of a library.
What is more important is to note what has not changed. The Undergraduate Writing Studio still provides students the same benefits the Writing Center did before the shift. The studio is staffed with mostly student studio consultants, from a variety of majors, including STEM majors, all of whom receive pedagogical training prior to beginning their work at the studio. In addition, consultants receive weekly one-hour training session during the course of each quarter.
Regardless of session-specific changes, consultants continue to offer feedback, support and help on writing issues large and small, providing students with all the attention they require. On the whole, Bennett advocates for “a universal design approach” that allows for flexibility and intentionality when adjusting to student-specific needs.
For example, one common issue for English Language Learners (ELLs) is grammar. An old approach would require the consultant to spend time explaining and pointing out examples. The new model asks students to build independence in the process of collaboration and feedback.
In an instance where a student is struggling with article usage (‘a’ vs. ‘the’), a consultant might say, “I’m noticing issues with articles. Why don’t you highlight all the nouns and we can talk about those.” This approach breaks down a more complex task into smaller, more digestible tasks, helping students build independence, one move at a time. “You have to be more specific and mindful,” Bennett said, but the overarching goal of placing the responsibility on the student to bring forward concerns works regardless of specialized needs.
But what does this all mean for WIC courses? Even previous to the shift, Bennett reported that the Writing Studio has established relationship with WIC faculty to assist WIC students with their work. Then, and now, Writing Studio consultant-WIC student dynamics depend on a balance between student understanding of class material and consultant’s ability to ask process questions. When it comes to discipline-specific content, Bennett said, “the student needs to be the expert,” but “we can still ask questions about what their process is like.” Ultimately though, “the more we know, the more we can help,” Bennett said.
WIC faculty can aid WIC student writing studio sessions by providing their assignment-specific goals and expectations to the Writing Studio and its studio consultants. Bennett encouraged faculty to meet with him in person to share any course materials “so we can review assignment resources and student learning outcomes together and ensure that we’re on the same page.” Because most WIC courses discuss discipline-specific ideas and conventions, professors should contact Bennett and articulate what they would like their students to accomplish at the Writing Studio and how the studio consultants can help achieve these goals.
“The Writing Center [Studio] would love to work with WIC faculty,” Bennett said.
For more information on the Writing Studio’s other resources available to WIC instructors, go to the Writing Center’s Faculty Information Page or contact Bennett directly.