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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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4. Tutoring “Different” Populations


c h a p t e r f o u r Tutoring “Different” Populations1 Writing centers should attempt to help all students in ways they can best be helped. For some students, this will consist of help with edit- ing and proofreading, contrary to many writing centers’ policies. . . . Tu- tors may feel uncomfortable if they have been trained to use an extreme hands-off, minimal tutoring style. (Babcock, 2008b, pp. 63–64) One of the most thought-provoking essays we have read in the Writing Center Journal is “Pedagogies of Belonging: Listening to Students and Peers” (Bokser, 2005). While not an empirical study, Bokser’s article lays out the challenge writing center administrators and tutors experience when faced with difference, “those whose socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, linguistic, and/or educational worlds differ markedly from the academic world they encounter in college” (p. 43). Bokser asked, “How can we better train tutors to tutor imaginatively and effectively?” (p. 44). Basic writers, writers with disabilities, second-language writers, and graduate student writers have been treated as “different” populations in the writing center literature. Tutoring practice with these writers diverges somewhat from that peer- centered, collaborative “orthodoxy of current practice” in the writing center (Lock- ett, 2008). In this chapter, we examine empirical research studies done on tutoring of each group in the writing center setting, and, based on this evidence, make rec- ommendations for practice. B&T Final_B&T fin 6/19/12 3:21 PM Page 86 TUTORING “DIFFERENT” POPULATIONS | 87 Basic Writers The characterization and the characteristics...

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