Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Best practices

Thinking of that best practices memo.
Thinking of doing the Best Practices assignment about the writing center where I work, though I'm going to narrow the topic down to just the language of the materials (comparing negative constructions: Two things you must avoid... Don't do this.... with positive constructions-- Here are two things you should try to achieve... and Try this) and the possible use of student focus groups to assess which gets the better response from students. 

I'll say (thinking out loud here), that this offers twin benefits, one that we get information on student responses, and two that this could be the basis of research, like someone could write an article on using focus groups in the writing center. 
One of the problems that comes with the good thing of having lots of work is that we are not encouraged to take time to do research, though there are wonderful research possibilities primarily in the area of "what helps students learn whatever." We have such good opportunity to observe what works and what doesn't or in what situation some policy helps or doesn't. But there's no time to stop and think or even make note of what we've just experienced. There's always another week starting with four more new classes. It's such a missed opportunity. This is a good reason to consider writing center advisors "faculty," however low-level (I've always been adjunct in my teaching, so I know how low the levels can go). We're "staff" which is good for practical reasons (we are actual employees, not semester-by-semester adjuncts), but "staff" suggests that what we do has some administrative function. And in fact, we're teachers. We teach in a limited way, a week at a time, one particular assignment, and only the writing aspects, but it's still teaching. We function as visiting faculty. As faculty, we would not be thought weird if we said we'd like to do research. But "staff" doing research? Absurd! 
I've worked in writing centers since about 1991, when they were becoming widespread, and I think there was a decision made back then, for whatever reason, that writing centers were not going to be part of the faculty but part of the administration. (Probably this was about funding!)  Libraries, notice, went the other way-- librarians are often considered part of the faculty, get tenure, etc.  I wish I knew more about this. It does seem like more than just the whole administration-octopus evolution, that pretty soon 90% of the university will be "administration," and there'll be more administrators in a department than teachers.... but rather some decision that if the program can't be assigned to an academic discipline, it's "administration." A lot of writing centers are in the "Writing Program", and some are under that big administrative "Student advising" section. The one I taught at when I started was under the Liberal Arts dean, though we worked with all students.

I should ask the WCenter list about this-- is WC administration or faculty?


No comments:

Post a Comment