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Researching the Writing Center

Towards an Evidence-Based Practice

Rebecca Day Babcock and Terese Thonus

Researching the Writing Center is the first book-length treatment of the research base for academic writing tutoring. The book reviews the current state of writing center scholarship, arguing that although they continue to value anecdotal and experiential evidence, practitioner-researchers must also appreciate empirical evidence as mediating theory and practice. Readers of this book will discover an evidence-based orientation to research and be able to evaluate the current scholarship on recommended writing center practice. Chapters examine the research base for current theory and practice involving the contexts of tutoring, tutoring activities, and the tutoring of «different» populations. Readers will investigate the sample research question, «What is a ‘successful’ writing consultation?» The book concludes with an agenda for future questions about writing center practice that can be researched empirically. Researching the Writing Center is intended for writing center professionals, researchers, graduate students in English, composition studies, and education, and peer tutors in training.


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3. The Contexts of Tutoring


c h a p t e r t h r e e The Contexts of Tutoring To understand writing centers is to understand the dynamic, inter- active relationship that exists between a specific center and the envi- ronment in which it exists. (Kinkead & Harris, 1993, p. xvi) What should a writing center look like? Where should it be located administra- tively, and to whom should its administrator(s) report? Where should funds come from to support staff salaries, tutor wages, and outreach efforts? What are the im- pacts of funding source(s), departmental structure, service modes, and expecta- tions of faculty, students, and staff, both cultural and cross-cultural? How do these impact writing center tutors? How many tutors should a writing center employ, and how should they be trained? In this chapter, we explore the institutional con- texts of academic writing centers as investigated in the empirical research litera- ture. The sources cited in this chapter display the development of writing center RAD research: individual writing center assessments expanded to regional or even nationwide surveys, descriptions of writing center organization yielding questions for research studies, and recommendations for practice reframed as re- search results. The major issue we discuss is that much that has been written about the con- texts of tutoring has described individual writing centers, without recourse to com- parison with other writing centers or, better still, a set of standards for writing B&T Final_B&T fin 6/19/12 3:21 PM Page 58 centers. For...

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