Building Writing Center Assessments That Matter

Building Writing Center Assessments That Matter

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 200
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Building Writing Center Assessments That Matter
    Book Description:

    No less than other divisions of the college or university, contemporary writing centers find themselves within a galaxy of competing questions and demands that relate to assessment-questions and demands that usually embed priorities from outside the purview of the writing center itself. Writing centers are used to certain kinds of assessment, both quantitative and qualitative, but are often unprepared to address larger institutional or societal issues. In Building Writing Center Assessments that Matter, Schendel and Macauley start from the kinds of assessment strengths already in place in writing centers, and they build a framework that can help writing centers satisfy local needs and put them in useful dialogue with the larger needs of their institutions, while staying rooted in writing assessment theory. The authors begin from the position that tutoring writers is already an assessment activity, and that good assessment practice (rooted in the work of Adler-Kassner, O'Neill, Moore, and Huot) already reflects the values of writing center theory and practice. They offer examples of assessments developed in local contexts, and of how assessment data built within those contexts can powerfully inform decisions and shape the futures of local writing centers. With additional contributions by Neal Lerner, Brian Huot and Nicole Caswell, and with a strong commitment to honoring on-site local needs, the volume does not advocate a one-size-fits-all answer. But, like the modeling often used in a writing consultation, examples here illustrate how important assessment principles have been applied in a range of local contexts. Ultimately, Building Writing Assessments that Matter describes a theory stance toward assessment for writing centers that honors the uniqueness of the writing center context, and examples of assessment in action that are concrete, manageable, portable, and adaptable.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-834-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION YOURS, MINE, AND OURS: Changing the Dynamics of Writing Center Assessment
    (pp. xiii-xxiv)
    Ellen Schendel and William J. Macauley Jr.

    When we started this project, we had one idea in mind: to help our friends and colleagues make sense of and use assessment in their writing centers. We have been acting on this idea by providing a range of conference sessions and workshops over the past four years. This book project continues that work and benefits from what we have learned from so many of our colleagues through our conference meetings.

    Through these shared experiences, we felt as though we had found a clear idea of what writing center directors (WCDs) were looking for, what they wanted to learn and...

    (pp. 1-24)
    William J. Macauley Jr.

    After most of the writing center assessment workshops, sessions, and talks Ellen and I have done together, participants have shared their high levels of frustration with not finding scholarship to support assessing their writing centers. Coupled with the increasing assessment pressure that so many writing center directors (WCDs) are feeling, these worries have only escalated. Workshop participants have often found little scholarship on writing center assessment in the usual library databases. Another concern is that the scholarship on writing center assessment is interesting but doesn’t really answer the right questions. These frustrations make writing center assessment increasingly problematic, even as...

    (pp. 25-56)
    William J. Macauley Jr.

    Even while writing center directors (WCDs) usually know a great deal about what tutors and clients in their centers are doing and why, they can also worry that they don’t know enough about assessment to accurately represent that work. Writing center directors may worry that assessment won’t show the good work their centers do because assessments haven’t been designed or implemented properly, or because assessment designs found in the literature are not tailored specifically to writing centers. At other times, WCDs can worry that an assessment will be imposed from the outside, which will either inadequately measure some things or...

    (pp. 57-81)
    William J. Macauley Jr.

    Chapter 1 focused on looking inward to develop a strong sense of a writing center’s values, as a foundation for work in assessing that writing center. There is good reason, which I discussed in chapter 1, to build writing center assessment out of the values that inform that center. However, writing centers don’t work in a vacuum; centers live and breathe within institutions, in relation to other academic entities. Writing centers depend on those institutions and those other entities for so much of their work; it behooves writing center directors (WCDs) to acknowledge this reality and work with it. However,...

  8. 4 MOVING FROM OTHERS’ VALUES TO OUR OWN: Adapting Assessable Outcomes from Professional Organizations and Other Programs on Your Campus
    (pp. 82-105)
    Ellen Schendel

    In chapter 2, Bill outlined a process for generating assessable student learning and programmatic outcomes based on your writing center’s values and goals. The steps he described and illustrated were:

    1. Articulate the values or goals for your center’s work.

    2. Develop indicators that are expressions of those values and goals.

    3. Construct measures that assess those values and goals.

    4. Collect data.

    5. Analyze data.

    6. Complete the feedback loop by applying what you learned from the data to your center’s work.

    This process is rooted in serious, deliberate reflection on the work of your writing center to discover...

  9. INTERCHAPTER OF NUMBERS AND STORIES: Quantitative and Qualitative Assessment Research in the Writing Center
    (pp. 106-114)
    Neal Lerner

    Consider this scenario: A new dean has arrived on your campus from another institution, a dean with ultimate authority over your writing center budget. In your first meeting, she tells you that the writing center at her previous college did wonderful, terrific work. You feel yourself relax a bit, as much as might be possible in a first meeting with an academic administrator in a position of great power over you. Then the new dean follows up with how pleased she was that the writing center director (WCD) at her last institution had a firm grasp of the evidence for...

    (pp. 115-136)
    Ellen Schendel

    Writing centers are busy—at times, even chaotic—places. Many offer drop-in support; many directors manage multiple satellite locations; and writing centers may offer in-center as well as other kinds of support around campus, such as fellows programs, writing workshops, OWLs, synchronous and asynchronous tutoring programs, faculty/staff development workshops, and instructional support. There simply isn’t time for a writing center director (WCD), even with a robust staff, to fit a completely new and ongoing activity into the daily work of the center. For that reason, assessment can only really work for writing centers when it’s integrated into the other work...

    (pp. 137-161)
    Ellen Schendel

    The greatest challenge we face in writing assessment reports is the schizophrenic task of communicating with an audience that we aren’t sure is really listening and yet holds quite a bit of power in terms of how our future is supported with resources. We sometimes feel (or know) that the reports we write aren’t being read or used by anyone. At other times, the reports feel like high-stakes documents with enormous consequences for our writing centers’ futures, and the power lies in our audience, who may know little about writing centers. In either case, our best option is to make...

  12. AFTERWORD: Translating Assessment
    (pp. 162-170)
    Brian Huot and Nicole Caswell

    While Ellen and Bill graciously asked us to read and respond to this volume, we must confess that our response does not attempt to evaluate or improve upon the volume. One strong set of impressions throughout the reading of the volume and the drafting of the response revolves around the crucial role assessment plays for an institution and the identities of the people who make the writing center one of the most effective places for learning on a college campus. The status and position of most writing centers make their assessment a scary process for writing center staff and administrators....

  13. CODA
    (pp. 171-178)
    William J. Macauley Jr. and Ellen Schendel

    Our book focuses on the writing center assessment process as a journey that we’ve both taken, and which we’ve largely enjoyed and found important—even interesting and fun. But what we would like to muse upon for a few pages, here at the end of this book, is the very real experience you’re likely to have multiple times (at least, we did): that terrible feeling that you got it all wrong, that you made a mistake. Sometimes you will be correct in thinking that, and it’s a potentially paralyzing fear. But we want you to know that we’ve been there;...

  14. APPENDIX: Annotated Bibliography for Writing Center Assessment
    (pp. 179-202)
    William J. Macauley Jr.
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 203-208)
    (pp. 209-209)