by Erin Vieira, WIC Intern

As my time as a consultant at the Writing Center comes to a close, I find myself saddened to leave the wonderful people I’ve worked with, but also proud to have been part of such a great community. In reflecting about what I will take from my experience over the past years I’ve worked with the Writing Center, I’m reminded of “writing transfer”. Writing transfer, in one of its many definitions, can be described as how “previous learning influences current and future learning” (Elon Statement on Writing Transfer) and how that knowledge is used in a specific way.

Writing transfer can act as a framework to explore in self-reflection, becoming a useful tool to engage with understanding your own writing and learning process.  Below, I explore how writing transfer has shaped my own writing journey as well as my work in the OSU Writing Center.

Writing Transfer as a Writing Consultant

1. Situational Awareness

Working at the Writing Center has been both beneficial to me not only as a peer writing consultant, but as a learner myself. When working with so many different students, I find there are so many fascinating stories and subjects that are outside of my traditional realm of expertise, from learning about professional writing in the media to science papers about fictional fish. As an English major, I tend to focus on literature and fiction, but working at the Writing Center has allowed me to see a much wider variety of different topics.

Understanding this allows for “situational awareness”; there are so many different methods and knowledge of writing and writing subjects at play during a consultation. Writing itself is such a broad category (persuasive, argumentative) that a person in one field may focus on more than another. Having a consistent reminder of the different genres of writing in consultations opened me up as a learner to take in new things. At the Writing Center, having situational awareness keeps me engaged with the different fields of writers that come in for assistance. Whether you’re a student, a professor, or a faculty member, it’s always important to continue expanding your awareness, both of your own field and of the world around you. When working with writers, it is important to continue having this in mind and understanding there are different levels of knowledge at play.

2. The Revision Process

Through my awareness of how writing transfer works, the methods of revising and drafting have transformed my process for my own work. With writing transfer, anything that is new or unfamiliar to the writer draws from the writer’s fount of knowledge via their methodologies, skills, strategies, and rhetoric. In learning new methodologies such as pedagogical approaches at the Writing Center, a new approach to writing can be taken. When approaching my own writing, I find I pull from all of these elements as well, with the current knowledge I have as a writer being taken into account before I begin to learn new skills and strategies to consider later work. When working with other writers, I ask questions like “how should I organize this piece for the best flow of information?” and “what audience should I be considering?” Asking myself these questions in turn is a great reminder of the writing process; the approach of my work draws on the transfer of knowledge. Keeping knowledge transfer in mind allows me to use my own when assisting writers to offer better guidance. 

3. The Power of Collaboration

One of the most valuable things I’ve learned as a writing consultant is the power of collaboration. When I first began the process of peer feedback in university, I thought of it from a critical standpoint, ready with my red pen in hand to highlight, circle, and strike through any error that came across my path. Through the Writing Center, I’ve since come to learn that this is no way to approach giving feedback—it’s all about the collaboration between the consultant and the writer.

Writers are sharing a personal part of themselves when they offer another a chance to see their writing; it can be a very raw, honest experience for them. When writers face a new task, they tend to draw on previous knowledge and strategies. What they’re currently working with is what feels comfortable to them, and it can be frightening to come to someone, step outside of that comfort zone, and open up to critique. In understanding this, consulting a writer becomes more than just critiquing their work—it’s lifting them up, understanding that what they’ve written comes from the heart and that there are features of every writer’s text that deserves praise, and features that invite revision. In moving forward with not just others’ work, but my own as well, this is something I’m going to continue keeping in mind. Offering both constructive criticism as well as praise creates confidence in writers and encourages them to continue improving.

My personal favorite sessions were brainstorming consultations, which act as collaborative and informative consultations with other writers. Depending on the consultation, they can range from the writer already having a broad range of ideas and needing to narrow it down or having no idea where to start at all. These reflect back on my earlier reflection of growing as a learner—discovering new things. Elon University notes that “prior knowledge is a complex construct that can benefit or hinder writing transfer”. This holds very true when it comes to brainstorming with a writer. When I’m brainstorming with someone, I get to challenge my own perceived knowledge and open up my mind to a broader field of things I haven’t considered before, while also keeping in mind that I may not possess all the information. Taking over a brainstorming session with my own perceived knowledge of the subject wouldn’t allow for the proper kind of transfer. Instead, a brainstorm consultation should give the ability to bounce ideas back and forth with the writer in a collective amalgamation of our own knowledge, challenging the both of us to consider new topics and how to integrate the kind of information they’re seeking to write about.

Looking to the Future

The beauty of considering what I will take away from working at the Writing Center is that it is a sweet harmony of everything else I’ve reflected on. As a graduate, I’m currently considering going into the editing field, becoming a novelist, or perhaps both! As an editor, asking those whose work you review requires consideration towards their metacognitive abilities, prompting them to self-reflect on what they produce. Being able to react, consider, and constructively critique any and all types of writing is an invaluable skill for an editor. As a novelist, I believe observing and understanding the environment around me serves to enhance my personal writing skills, and a drive to learn heightens the content I produce. Engaging in development, whether it be my own or prompting others towards their personal growth, is vital to growing myself and my expertise. No matter the field I end up stepping into, what I’ve learned from the Writing Center will certainly carry on to my future work.

The Value of Reflection

Thanks to my time at the Writing Center, I’ve fostered my own growth as well as others in my journey as a consultant. Allowing a moment of personal reflection for myself and applying it to the framework of writing transfer encourages me to continue practicing these qualities for my own sake. Understanding my transfer of writing from a consultant perspective helps me continue transferring my learning to future endeavors. I encourage anyone—student, consultant, or faculty alike—to consider how writing transfer affects their own proficiencies, and to provide the opportunity for self-reflection.

If you’re interested in learning more about writing transfer, you can read about here.

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