By: Olivia Rowland, WIC GTA

For its winter events, WIC brought Dr. Vershawn Ashanti Young, who goes by dr. vay, to give a talk on anti-racist writing instruction and lead a workshop on code-meshing. The recaps of both events below outline key concepts and action steps you can take to implement anti-racist practices in your own teaching.

Teaching to Redress

dr. vay gave his talk, entitled “Teaching to Redress: Using the Myth of Canadian Exceptionalism to Pursue Anti-Racist Writing Instruction in Rhetoric and Composition,” on February 24th to an audience of more than 200. He opened the lecture by offering a Black Body Acknowledgment, a concept dr. vay created that is modeled on Indigenous land acknowledgments. A Black Body Acknowledgement serves three purposes: acknowledging Black people’s oppression, committing to challenging that oppression, and asking audience members to join the commitment to anti-racist work. dr. vay’s own Black Body Acknowledgement called upon his audience to be open to transforming their perceptions of linguistic diversity.

The rest of dr. vay’s talk provided arguments against white-centered pedagogies and in favor of accepting different linguistic varieties. dr. vay explained that dominant pedagogies are harmful because they fail to recognize marginalized rhetorical traditions and assign “linguistic deficiency” to certain BIPOC students. These pedagogies teach students that dialects associated with white people, often referred to as “Standard English,” are more effective for communication than dialects associated with BIPOC communities. In fact, dr. vay argued that BIPOC dialects may be precisely the languages we need to challenge colonialism and systemic racism.

Although many writing instructors worry that their students will need to speak Standard English later on, and that they would be denying their students a chance at success by letting them write in their own dialects, dr. vay contended that instructors should not become “proxies” for teachers down the hall or for their students’ imagined future employers. Instead, writing instructors can teach their students that the idea of Standard English itself is a myth, because everybody mixes dialects, or “code-meshes,” when they write and speak. Students can then become advocates for their own language and make their own decisions about how to use their languages in different contexts.

Ultimately, dr. vay emphasized that teachers of writing must be open to learning about anti-racist pedagogy through education as well as trial and error, and must remain willing to challenge their own beliefs. He recommended that instructors create their own Black Body Acknowledgement, which can be given in class or put on a syllabus. dr. vay also suggested some resources for instructors to educate themselves and center BIPOC voices, including his own textbook, This Ain’t Yesterday’s Literacy: Culture and Education After George Floyd; The Routledge Reader of African American Rhetoric, co-edited by dr. vay and Michelle Bachelor Robinson; and Aja Y. Martinez’s Counterstory: The Rhetoric and Writing of Critical Race Theory.

Code-Meshing, Code-Switching, and Black Standard English

On February 25th, dr. vay gave his workshop on “Code-Meshing, Code-Switching, and Black Standard English: Implications for Classroom Writers.” To begin, he asked participants to reflect on whose voices influence their approach to linguistic diversity. Is it linguists, whose research shows that all dialects are grammatical and have equal potential for effective communication? Is it Black students, whose experiences demonstrate the harm of dominant approaches to language? Or is it “the teacher down the hall,” who argues that some harm is necessary for students’ success?

dr. vay invited participants to listen to linguists and Black students and to be open-minded about code-meshing. His concept of code-meshing refers to the practice of “combining dialects” with Standard English in professional, academic, and everyday contexts. Along with translingualism, or an understanding of language as “fluid” and “negotiable,” code-meshing asks that we view language not as a “barrier,” but always as a “resource” for communication. Instructors should not aim to protect students from future discrimination, but to help students become more effective communicators—and that means teaching code-meshing.

The workshop also stressed the importance of challenging dominant ideologies that promote linguistic discrimination. Rather than refer to certain dialects as “non-standard,” dr. vay suggested calling them “undervalued.” He also engaged participants in a mind-mapping activity in which participants identified their different linguistic resources and saw in their own lives how everybody already code-meshes.

In addition to the mind-mapping activity, dr. vay offered several suggestions for approaching code-meshing in the classroom. These include putting a pedagogical mission statement on the syllabus, having students find examples of code-meshing in published academic texts, using grading contracts, and working with other faculty to continue learning about anti-racist work. dr. vay identified two texts that can jumpstart this learning process: his co-authored collection, Other People’s English: Code-Meshing, Code-Switching, and African American Literacy, and the CCCC statement “This Ain’t Another Statement! This is a DEMAND for Black Linguistic Justice!”

The WIC Team is happy to announce our spring event series for 2022. For the third year, all events will be held via Zoom. While the remote modality precludes WIC’s regular provision of pizza, it has also allowed for greater scheduling flexibility, and this year’s events will be offered in a variety of time slots. In light of this change, it may be more appropriate to refer to this year’s “Spring Lunch Series” as a “Spring Snack Series,” albeit one which is strictly BYO Snack. You can register for spring events with this link.

Here is this year’s line-up:

Helping Students Read Disciplinary Texts

Friday, April 8 (OSU Week 2), 2:00-3:20 p.m.

Reading academic texts is challenging, especially for readers who are encountering particular kinds of texts for the first time. In this workshop, three faculty members will share tips and strategies you can use to help your students engage more effectively with difficult texts.

  • Stephanie André (English, Central Oregon CC) will describe strategies she uses in writing classes, including Writing 121.
  • Sheri Jordan (English, Blue Mountain CC) will describe the “Reading Apprenticeship” framework and how it supports reading across all disciplinary areas.
  • Shawn Massoni (Microbiology, OSU) will describe how he uses journal clubs in science classes.

This interactive workshop will include time to think and talk about how to apply strategies in our own teaching, and to ask questions.

Led by: Stephanie André (English, Central Oregon CC), Sheri Jordan (English, Blue Mountain CC) and Shawn Massoni (Microbiology, OSU)

Register here

Supporting Multilingual Student Writers

Friday, April 22 (OSU Week 4), 1:00-2:20 p.m.

In this session, Kelley Calvert, Writing Center Coordinator for Multilingual Support, will begin by discussing strategies to support multilingual writers in the classroom, with a focus on taking an asset-based approach to multilingualism. Following this introduction, Academic Support staff will join in the discussion around the topic of supporting multilingual writers. There will be time for questions and answers with a multiplicity of perspectives and strategies represented. 

Led by: Kelley Calvert, Multilingual Support Coordinator, OSU Writing Center

Register here

Another Angle on Assignments: Tips and Insights from Writing Consultants

Friday, May 6 (OSU Week 6), 3:00-4:20 p.m.

Writing consultants are trained to support their peers through on-on-one conversations about the writer’s process and draft. Consultants work with students across all majors and encounter a variety of assignments. A panel of writing consultants will describe assignment features that writers often finding confusing, as well as assignment features that help students understand their writing tasks, and that support their work as writers. After the panel share their perspectives, there will be time for attendees to ask consultants questions about these observations or other aspects of their work.

Led by: OSU Writing Consultants

Register here

Understanding and Supporting Transfer Students in WIC and Beyond

Friday, May 20 (OSU Week 8), 2:00-3:20 p.m.

36% of OSU undergraduates transfer here, bringing with them multi-faceted lived experiences, identities, and abilities that differ from those of non-transfer students. Understanding who these students are and what they bring to OSU will help us as faculty better draw on their past experiences, and better support them as learners in our classes. In this dialogue with OSU Transfer Transitions Coordinator Erin Bird, you will have a chance to learn more about our transfer student population, and about the strengths and needs of this growing part of our undergraduate population. Additionally, discussion surrounding non-transfer students’ transfer credits will be shared to shape awareness of all students enrolling in WIC-based curriculum.  

Led by: Erin Bird, OSU Transfer Transitions Coordinator

Register here

Reflecting on Teaching and Revising Classes and Assignments

Monday, June 6 (OSU Week 11), 2:00-3:20 p.m.

Teaching is a work in progress, and whether we’re heading into summer teaching or looking ahead to fall, now is a good time to reflect on what’s working and to think about revisions. This might be anything from the high level of overall class design, down to the fine-grained level of creating or tweaking low-stake classroom exercises. Wherever the level of change you are contemplating, join WIC Director Sarah Tinker Perrault and fellow WIC faculty from 2:00-3:20 on Monday, June 6th, for a guided discussion that will help you create a plan.

Led by: Sarah Tinker Perrault, WIC Director

Register here

By: Sarah Tinker Perrault, WIC Director

Winter is a relatively quiet quarter for WIC. However, we did have two excellent winter events, we have some exciting work going on behind the scenes, and we have set a spring workshop series that offers a lot.

Regarding the winter events, on February 24th, the internationally renowned scholar Vershawn Ashanti Young of Waterloo University gave a public talk, “Teaching to Redress: Using the Myth of Canadian Exceptionalism to Pursue Anti-Racist Writing Instruction in Rhetoric and Composition,” and on the 25th he led a workshop on “Code-Meshing, Code-Switching, and Black Standard English: Implications for Classroom Writers.” You can read synopses of these events here.

While winter is quiet in terms of events, a lot goes on behind the scenes. On the WIC team, we welcomed Olivia Rowland as the WIC graduate assistant for the remainder of the year, and we welcomed Faye Stone as an undergraduate assistant. With Faye’s help, we have started scanning files. Creating digital copies is a large project, but one well worth undertaking. WIC is one of the earliest, longest-lasting, and best-supported programs of its type, and for that alone its history is worth preserving. In addition, digitizing the files will make them available to scholars via the WAC Program Archives at the WAC Clearinghouse. As of late February, Faye has scanned 112 files, and we have just gotten started. Other projects include revising the WIC course proposal checklist, and working on revamping and adding resources to the WIC website.

Finally, the spring workshop series will cover a range of topics including how to integrate academic reading instruction into your courses, how to best tap into the strengths and abilities of multilingual students, and a similar workshop on working with and understanding the strengths and abilities of transfer students. In addition to these events, which will be led by faculty and staff experts from OSU and Oregon community colleges, we also will have a panel of writing center tutors offering advice on how to craft effective writing assignments, and taking questions from faculty. At the end of the quarter, I will facilitate a discussion in which faculty can reflect on changes they would like to make in their teaching next year, and develop plans for how they might revise curricula, exercises, and assignments over the summer. To read more about and register for these events please see our events page.

February 24 – Black Lives Matter in Academic Spaces: 3 Lessons in Critical Literacy

Talk will be from 12pm-1:30pm PST

dr. Vay (Vershawn Ashanti Young) will be delivering a talk that describes ways that teachers and the public in both Canada and the USA have misappropriated the linguistic concept of code-switching as it applies to both Black language and Standard language speakers.

Attendees can expect to learn:

  • How race is related to writing instruction 
  • How to exploit the best culturally relevant literacy tools to boost academic instruction in writing 
  • Three lessons to explore and incorporate code meshing into literacy instruction 

February 25 – Workshop: Code-Meshing, Code-Switching, and Black Standard English: Implications for Classroom Writers 

Workshop will be held from 12pm-1:30pm PST

This OSU-exclusive workshop given by dr. Vay (Vershawn Ashanti Young) has three goals for its attendees:

  • Identify and describe prevailing models of writing/literacy instruction in relation to code meshing and identify your own. 
  • Revise your model of literacy instruction to support code-meshing and explain why code meshing is beneficial to students.  
  • Create a Black Body Acknowledgement that supports your current/present positive and supportive stance on code meshing. 

dr. Vay will lead participants through readings and exercises to help achieve the goals above.

Attention WIC faculty! 

Remember to identify strong papers from your fall WIC course as possible nominees for the WIC Culture of Writing Award in your discipline. 

Units submit nominations by May 23rd, 2022.

In order to recognize and value excellence in student writing at OSU, each spring the Writing Intensive Curriculum program sponsors the WIC Culture of Writing Awards in the Disciplines, offering $50 in matching funds to $50 from any unit that wishes to participate in this undergraduate writing prize.

As the name implies, the WIC Culture of Writing Awards are designed to help create a culture of writing in which writing is taught, practiced, modeled, valued, and recognized at the class level, the unit level, and throughout the university as a whole.

Why give writing awards in the disciplines? This recognition sends a message to undergraduates and to the university community that excellence in writing matters in the unit, is recognized by the faculty, and is rewarded. 

For many students, even knowing that a professor has nominated their paper for a writing award is a significant form of recognition and a source of pride. 

The WIC program conducted a survey of previous Culture of Writing Award recipients in the spring of 2018, wherein respondents articulated the value of the award to them as young scholars:

“I still have the certificate. It wasn’t until I received that award, that I might have even considered myself a good writer.”

Anonymous, College of Liberal Arts, 2006

“When Dr. Natchee Barnd presented me with the WIC award, I actually cried because, still, in my senior year, I wasn’t terribly confident in my writing and I think part of me thought I was undeserving of it for some reason. The award spoke far more to my skills than I realized, and it validated all my hard work that I’d put into my classes (I’m welling up just writing about it).”

Elena Ramirez Robles, College of Liberal Arts, 2018

“Thank you for your support. The Culture of Writing Award was the first award I received during my academic career. It’s an accomplishment with significant positive impacts on young scholars during a vital stage of their progressive young careers.”

Andrew Larkin, College of Science, 2010

Participation in the Culture of Writing Awards has thrived since 2006, as 351 total students have earned recognition and cash awards through both individual and collaborative writing projects. WIC would like to thank all participating units for their continued desire to recognize and reward outstanding student writing.

Participating units select and nominate the best student paper written across their undergraduate courses, whether it was written in a Writing Intensive Course or not. 

As each unit assesses the best writing by their undergraduates, faculty have an opportunity to more clearly articulate what aspects of writing are highly valued in their field and select the student writing that best represents those qualities. 

Recognizing that the qualities of excellent writing are discipline-specific, awardees are selected by faculty within each discipline, with the selection process administered within each participating unit. 

WIC and the home unit each contribute $50 toward a $100 monetary award.

In addition the WIC Program issues an award certificate that is unit-specific — for example, the WIC Culture of Writing Award in Forest Engineering, or the WIC Culture of Writing Award in Political Science.

How to Nominate a Paper:

  • Model 1: The academic unit might use the unit awards committee to ask faculty to nominate and submit their best undergraduate paper for the year. The committee chooses the awardee.
  • Model 2: The academic unit wants the awardee to be from a WIC course, so one or more WIC instructors select the best paper.
  • Model 3: The academic writing occurs in a capstone course with a team project. The unit selects the team with the best-written capstone project for the award. When the award goes to a team of four, some units divide the $100 award four ways, while other units contribute more than $50 so that individuals will receive a more substantial award.

Specific instructions for nominating your unit’s award winner will be in the Winter term issue of Teaching with Writing. Remember to hold onto strong fall term papers for consideration.

For more information regarding the Culture of Writing Awards, please visit our website.

by Jessica Alfaqih, WIC GTA

Dr. Shawn Massoni is an instructor in the Microbiology and BioHealth Sciences departments at Oregon State University. Dr. Massoni was also a 2020-2021 Inclusive Excellence Fellow where he investigated the history of traditional grading models, and adopted new methods for grading more equitably in his courses at OSU. As a WIC instructor, Dr. Massoni focuses on bringing real science into the classroom through Journal Clubs–a model in which students take turns presenting research articles to the class–as a way to actively engage students in practical skills for STEM. In this excerpted interview with WIC GTA Jessica Alfaqih, Dr. Massoni discusses his experience as an undergraduate with journal clubs, and how they afford unique practices for students wanting strong, relevant STEM skills.

Jessica Alfaqih: Can you start off by telling us what a journal club is?

Shawn Massoni: Basically, there is a presenter for the week who picks a primary research article that they will present to the group. They read an article, digest it, and communicate their findings in a concise and knowledgeable way to their audience.

JA: How did you get started with journal clubs?

SM: In the microbiology lab in which I was working as an undergrad, all students–graduate students, post-docs, and even undergrads–had to participate in journal clubs. It’s great preparation for teaching because, essentially, you have to teach the class. In my case, the “class” were rooms full of established researchers! It was the school of hard knocks.

Being in the lab was hard because you weren’t in a safe space, necessarily.

We had a big screen on the wall and the other side would pop up in the conference room, full of professors.

There weren’t any students on the other side; this was just the way lab professors got together and had intellectual jam sessions over papers that were of specific interest to our particular work.

As a student in the lab, you were expected to present with the other professors, and you would get a credit for it.

In that scenario, there were medical school professors and other heavy hitters there waiting for you to present a document that they completely understand and will punch holes in it–and you–without compunction.

That was tricky, but that’s really what got me into it.

JA: How does the way you teach journal clubs now compare to your experience as an undergrad?

SM: When I started out you had to sink or swim.

I don’t want to do that to my students, but I do want to expose them to the literature. If you’re getting into this field in any way, shape, or form–from graduate school to working in a clinic or going on to medical school–it’s essential that you see what real-world science is all about.

Every student presents on one paper and that’s the way the class runs.

I give a mini lecture. They have writing prompts, occasionally, during a lecture in which they do their informal writing in a physical journal.

Sometimes those low stakes assignments are where students feel that they can be more engaged and committed because the stakes are lower.

Once they can informally wrap their heads around the science, they are more prepared for taking a deep dive into the material they have to present.

JA: How did you get started with Journal Clubs at OSU?

SM: I inherited BHS 323, Microbial Influences on Human Health, from a professor who is now at Lane.

Much of the writing had really gone out of it over the years and I worked to get the WIC component back in it.

Informal writing helps students get used to communicating to different audiences, so I brought that back in with journaling and would lecture very briefly so that we could have more of a two-way discussion on a particular topic. We would also have a particular reading to discuss for that day, so in a way my classes are also reading intensives, without textbooks.

For those of us in the science disciplines, courses are mostly taught out of textbooks, which are very generalized, full of inaccuracy, and rarely updated. Students don’t get exposed as much as they should to the primary literature, which is what science really looks like in the publication sense.

Instead, scientific literature became our textbook–real-world research.

My WIC class helps adapt students to reading the science article format. Reading a science article is not like reading a textbook; it’s not generalized. Students are challenged by it because they don’t already have a strong basis for understanding this material.

And so the journal club is what we do in class.

JA: They’re more difficult, but a journal isn’t as intimidating as a 300 page long, hard-bound textbook.

SM: Yes, these articles aren’t looking at the entire discipline. They’re looking at one little bit that I can relate to other things that we’ve talked about.

It is, in a sense, the culmination of an entire discipline applied to a single question. You need to understand everything that goes into it and start to know that that’s what you need. It’s challenging. It takes practice. And I think that’s good.

JA: I’m curious if there are notable benefits you’ve noticed the students coming away with?

SM: They learn how to access the primary lit (a skill in itself), how to read the literature, and how to be critical about it, which is a skill that they’ll need to have. They’re going to get papers from all sorts of different realms that they’re not experts in. I try to help them refine a method for themselves and figure out how best to approach difficult readings when they’re confronted with them.

That builds confidence too.

I wish I could offer this kind of exposure to freshmen, but there’s not that opportunity in that particular class. So I try to bring this element into all my classes now, in whatever way I can–bringing in the primary literature, exposing them to that, instead of textbooks.

JA: It sounds like there’s a feedback piece to all of this that helps with student development. Could you speak more about that?

SM: There’s a very heavy feedback element, and that’s what makes it so challenging because they often feel like they don’t have the chops to be able to judge whether a paper is good or bad in a lot of ways. But I tell them to bring in their opinion too, because the primary lit is full of veiled opinion as well.

They can say what they found to be beneficial, or not so beneficial. They can say, “What do I want to know more about?” And then they start to reflect on their own work as they make comments on others’ work. This process is internal and metacognitive.

I think it’s beneficial they do this as this is what they’ll have to do as part of their careers later on. That’s maybe a bit of an assumption, but I think it’s critical for them to have this exposure.

One of the things we do as faculty is peer-review our co-faculty. We sit in on classes and check boxes: do they use updated, relevant material? Do they project what they’re saying? Do they give real world examples?

This is exactly why it’s so important and why I like to bring the peer review aspect of journal clubs into my classroom. Because this is science in the real world.

JA: Are there difficulties with journal clubs one could be on the lookout for and try to prevent?

SM: One critical question is how to motivate the students to actually read the article.

Only one person has to present each week and all the other people review it and give the presenter their review. They’re required to give at least one comment, critique, and there are boxes for them to check off to rank a presentation strong or weak. But there’s no accountability for doing the reading or not.

I want people to be there because they want to be, but at the same time this class is not an elective. Everyone’s there because they have to be for their degree, which is tricky. I want them to want the knowledge and to want to be there, but I don’t always get what I want.

JA: How do you or how might you get them to do the reading, short of assigning a letter grade? Are you considering any changes to your class in the future to help students better understand the value of doing the reading, and to encourage them to actually do it?

SM: To incentivize students to actually do the reading when they’re not presenting, I just started using a daily rhetorical precis.

Even if they haven’t read or have only skimmed the article previously, this forces them to at least re-access it at that moment in class, right before the presentation. This way, they can start to gain an understanding about the paper being presented, form an opinion, or even start to imagine possible questions.

I find that knowing they will have to write a live precis gives them motivation to have read the material and tried to understand it previously. It’s really all about priming their thinking to be present for the paper and the peer presenting, and to be able to offer some valuable questions and criticism.

This was impromptu just this term, born out of my frustration at students not appearing to have done the reading (and having no extrinsic motivation to do so), and so was not graded in any way, but in the future I will likely fold it into the graded “informal” writing category.

JA: Do you have any advice for other faculty who might be interested in starting a journal club?

SM: For me, it’s a no brainer. Journal clubs expose students to the reality of your work, of your discipline. The students get to discover science in the real world, not in a boring textbook. The research articles actually show a relevant, up to date thing happening, and they show how and why and this is what they do as opposed to just accepting what is written in a text.

It’s great to use primary literature no matter what discipline you’re in. It keeps things vibrant, dynamic and challenging. And it gives students a more accurate picture of what people in a given field actually do.

By Jessica Alfaqih, WIC GTA

The WIC team is happy to report on a successful Fall event series throughout our ongoing remote modality. Each of this term’s events is summarized below, along with a bonus announcement for an upcoming event this winter.

Sept. 20 and repeating in winter via CTL– How to design accessible and engaging course material

In this interactive workshop, Design faculty members Christine Gallagher, Deann Garcia, and Andrea Marks taught easy-to-apply design principles. Attendees were shown how important design elements are to readability and engagement in syllabi design. Faculty were presented with examples and offered a range of practical tips for designing accessible and engaging course material. The workshop will be held across multiple dates in 2022. Check the CTL website for more information or watch the recorded workshop here.

Oct. 11 – How to use informal writing to promote active learning

WIC welcomed back faculty this Fall with a Kickoff Event featuring an interactive workshop led by WIC Director Sarah Tinker Perrault. In this workshop, Dr. Perrault demonstrated how to include informal writing that accentuates course content that helps develop students’ content learning as well as their academic writing skills.

By: Sarah Tinker Perrault, WIC Director

This quarter, WIC lost its founding director, Lisa Ede, and many of us in the program, at OSU, and in the field lost a guiding light. Lisa has been memorialized beautifully by her long-time friend and co-author, Andrea Lunsford.

The WIC program is part of Lisa’s enormous legacy, and one of our current projects is to digitize and share the program archives, which date back to the 1980s. The paper archive will be housed here in the OSU library, and an international organization, the WAC Clearinghouse, is interested in hosting the digital archive. WIC is one of the earliest and most successful WAC programs in the country, a testament to the work of Lisa and of long-term director Vicki Tolar Burton, and the archives should be of interest to scholars and to faculty working on creating or sustaining their own programs.

The work of WIC also continues, with some exciting things to report from fall:

  • We had two events this quarter. In September, designers Christine Gallagher, Deann Garcia, and Andrea Marks gave a workshop on how to create readable and accessible student-facing documents; they will offer a similar workshop through CTL’s “Tuesday Teaching & Tech Talks” in February and May. Next, in October’s fall kickoff event, faculty learned about how to use informal writing to support students’ content learning and give them practice with academic writing. A recording and materials from this event can be found on the Past WIC Events page.
  • WIC graduate assistant Jessica Al-Faqih and graduate intern Olivia Rowland have been working on new web materials. Both are M.A. students in Rhetoric & Writing in the School of Writing, Literature, and Film.
  • We have a Visiting WIC Affiliate, Hannah Whitley, who graduated from OSU with a triple major in Anthropology, Religious Studies, and Sociology, and is now a PhD candidate in Rural Sociology and Human Dimensions of Natural Resources and the Environment at Penn State.

As we head into winter quarter, we are looking forward to virtually hosting renowned scholar, speaker, and performer Dr. Vershawn Ashanti Young, for a public talk on linguistic justice and code meshing, and a faculty workshop on linguistic inclusiveness in teaching.

Finally, don’t forget to identify strong papers from your fall WIC course as possible nominees for the WIC Culture of Writing Award in your discipline.

Nominations will be due May 23rd, 2022.

The WIC team is happy to congratulate the thirteen faculty members who completed the 2021 WIC Fall Seminar.

Top row: Sarah Tinker-Perrault (WIC Director), Jessica Alfaqih (WIC GTA), Dominique Bachelet, Tyler Anderson
Second row: Yong Bakos, Ingrid Scheel, Hannah Whitley (Visiting WIC Affiliate), Jen Myers
Third row: Sean Getson, Hilary Boudet, Yvette Gibson, Elisa Monaco
Fourth row: Ashley Vaughn, Hoe Woon Kim, Kari-Lyn Sakuma, Peder Nelson
Bottom row: Olivia Rowland (WIC Intern)

For five weeks, OSU faculty came together via zoom from around Oregon, and from as far away as Colorado. Along with members of the WIC team, participants talked about what it means to “write well” in the disciplines; about how they use informal writing exercises and formal writing assignments to help students develop field-, genre-, and audience-appropriate writing abilities; and about how to develop and refine effective and equitable practices for giving feedback and grading student work.

The 2021 graduates are:

  • Tyler Anderson, Sociology
  • Dominique Bachelet, Biological and Ecological Engineering
  • Yong Bakos, Computer Science
  • Hilary Boudet, Sociology
  • Olga Custer, Sociology
  • Sean Gestson, Civil & Construction Engineering
  • Yvette Gibson, Animal & Rangeland Sciences
  • Hoewoon Kim, Mathematics
  • Elisa Monaco, Animal & Rangeland Sciences
  • Jen Myers, Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences
  • Kari-Lyn Sakuma, Health Promotion and Health Behavior
  • Ingrid Scheel, Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Ashley Vaughn, Health Promotion and Health Behavior

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.