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English 353, Spring ‘12

Introduction to Writing Center Theory and Practice (Practicum)

Carol Mohrbacher


Office:        B 51, 117A

Phone:        308-5472

Office Hours:

  • Monday through Thursday, 10-noon
  • Other times, by appointment

Derek Spoden


Office:         B51, 118

Phone:         308-2031

Office Hours:

  • To be arranged

Steve Tuytschaevers


Office:         B51, 118

Phone:         308-2031

Office Hours

  • To be arranged


Course Description (from English Department web site)

Writing center scholarship and pedagogy: literacy theory, composition theory, history of individualized writing instruction; diversified and politics of literacy education; development of reflective tutoring practices.

Course Structure

This class is both seminar and practicum; it is not a lecture class.  English 353 is modeled on the graduate seminar.  After the first week, students will spend most of the class engaged in discussion of assigned readings and Write Place experiences and observations.  In the second or third week, students will also begin a 3-part practicum—observing a tutorial by an experienced consultant, tutoring while assisted by an experienced consultant, and finally, tutoring solo. 

Course Goals

Students will

  • understand basic writing center history and theory
  • use basic theoretical perspectives to analyze writing center activity
  • learn about writing issues of ELL, ESL, older, learning challenged, and other underrepresented groups
  • learn about and develop strategies for their own tutorials
  • develop and improve their own writing skills

Required Texts

ESL Writers: A Guide for Writing Center Tutors, edited by Shanti Bruce and Ben Rafoth

A Tutor’s Guide: Helping Writers One to One, 2nd ed. edited by Ben Rafoth

The St. Martin’s Sourcebook for Writing Tutors, 3nd edited by Christina Murphy and Steve Sherwood

Also: various handouts.


10 Weekly critical responses (250-500 words, worth 25 point each)             250 points

3-Part Practicum (50 points each part)                                                            150 points

Final Project (1200-2000 words)                                                                     250 points

Total                                                                                                                650 points

General Assignment Information.  You should use the writing assignments to polish your own writing and to learn about writing so that you can more effectively help students in the writing center.  We will use some of your weekly writing assignments for tutoring practice.

Weekly Critical Responses.   These are responses to assigned readings.   There will be 12 weeks of readings; you only have to write 10 responses 250-500. Each response is worth 25 points.

Responses should reflect your internal dialogue with the assigned readings for the week.  Express your approbation, your concerns, related personal experience, and/or any other ideas or philosophies the reading evokes.  The responses should not just regurgitate what you have read in the texts, they should engage the texts, tease out ideas, play with them, and interrogate them.


The English department guideline for attendance is that, if a student misses 20% or more class days, that student may fail the class.  For our class, 20% equals 3 class days. 

Securing Employment in the Write Place

Satisfactorily completing this class is a requirement, but NOT a guarantee of securing a position as a consultant in the Write Place.  The applicant must also demonstrate the ability to work sensitively and respectfully in collaboration with others.  Having a good working knowledge of higher and lower writing issues is helpful, but not necessary.  You will learn much about writing in this class and as a consultant, as any experienced staff member can tell you.

To apply for a position, you must write a one-page letter (not an email) saying why you want to be a writing consultant and why you think you would be an effective consultant.  This letter should be given to Dr. Mohrbacher sometime near the end of the semester.

In-class participation

It is crucial that you participate in class discussions, as this is a seminar—not a lecture class.  Your reading responses should provide the basis for discussion.  If conversation lags, I may ask individuals to read their responses.

Final Note

There is no room for academic arrogance or disrespect in this classroom.  Learning and the generation of creative ideas can most productively occur when everyone feels safe and respected.   However, safety and respect don’t preclude the lively exchange of ideas, debate, and challenge.  Unpacking ideas is sometimes a painful process.  Expect to be challenged.


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