Over Fall Break, three Wittenberg Writing Center advisors teamed up with two tutors from Elon University to present “It’s Up to You! Practicing the Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback.”
The National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing (NCPTW) took place from Thursday, October 12th through Saturday, October 14th. Elon and Wittenberg presented in a collaboration-style format early Friday morning to a crowd of about twenty at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.
Originally, the five advisors had a full block of 75 minutes to present, but due to the amount of proposals received, the presentation slot was dropped to 20 minutes to accommodate three separate presentations into one 75 minute slot.
Here is the proposal originally sent into Hofstra that the five advisors tailored both their overall and personal reactions to through their presentation:
Of the strategies writing center tutors use to engage students in their writing, providing direct feedback is one of the most useful and the most challenging. This presentation describes an exchange between two writing centers designed to prepare tutors to deliver written feedback. What were our experiences like as readers, responders, recipients, and writers? What did we learn about receiving feedback and responding to writing that we have incorporated into our work as tutors?
Each advisor spoke for roughly 3-4 minutes, each choosing to focus on a different sub-topic about the email exchange as a whole. Sub-topics ranged from immediate personal reactions to the visual effect of comments on a page to translating the pros of a face-to-face session into an email session.
Here are two advisor’s reactions to both the presentation and the conference:
I spent my portion of the presentation discussing my personal reaction to the ‘experiment,’ as I had been rather disappointed in the disconnect between what I asked the Elon advisor to look at within my paper as to what I received back at the conclusion of the exchange. She had barely left 7-8 comments, and none of them focused on what I had asked her to focus on.
When I gave comments to my student for the exchange, I’ll be the first to admit, I left a lot of comments, but I focused on what she wanted me to, and I felt that each comment would be helpful as she looked to revise. I also made it very clear at the beginning of her paper that I feel multiple comments on a paper to be more useful than mentioning something once and never pointing it out again throughout the rest of the paper.
As I looked through some of my classmate’s reactions to the exchange, I noticed a lot of us were either intimidated by the amount of comments, or disappointed in a lack of comments that they received back from the exchange. When we thought about email exchanges in the context of our 242 class, we tried to balance praise, suggestion, and direct corrections while also attempting to give as many possible comments that would enable the writer to progress in revision without having that face-to-face dialect as a normal session. Because Elon does not have email sessions, they appeared to translate a face-to-face session directly into the email session, which didn’t translate as well as they had wanted it to.
In conclusion of our results, I suggested a new way of going about email sessions to make sure that students got the comments they desired from an email session. Now, when students go to make an appointment on wconline, there is a box where students can go into more depth about the comments they’d like to receive on their papers, without advisors just having one drop-down menu topic to go off of throughout the paper.
The presentation went swimmingly, I must say, and getting to present was a really unique opportunity, especially with this being my first semester in the Writing Center. I’m hoping to write an article regarding this experience, and I’m hoping to begin research on another project in the coming weeks.
I strongly encourage anyone, regardless of what they’re involved in, to present at some kind of conference. The feedback you get from the presentation and the feeling of actually presenting something you worked very hard on is unparalleled in terms of experiences. – Jenn Ryan, ’19
Throughout my experience at the NCPTW in New York, I was impressed with the number and diversity of ideas presented at the conference. As far as writing centers go, I realized how lucky we are to have the space that we have here at Witt, and how lucky we are to have the positive and relaxed environment that we have. Although Wittenberg is a relatively small university, our space is large compared even to other larger universities, and the amenities that we have are well above par.
What became clear to me as I looked at the spaces that other centers had, and aspects that we like to emphasize in our center, is the importance of the visual appearance of the space, and creating a welcoming yet still academic environment for all students here at Witt. Whether it’s the superhero posters on the wall, the ever-present gumball machine, or the friendly faces that greet you when you walk in, there is just something about our center that exudes our core beliefs about the most effective ways to advise writers.
Although I did get some new ideas for how to improve our center space even more, my time at the conference provided me with the ability to step back and observe where our center stands on the spectrum of several important factors that make a writing center successful in advising writers, and I believe that we have done and are continuing to provide a great space for writers to work. – Shane Harris, ’20
All three Wittenberg students received grants from NCPTW. Jenn received a Burkean Parlor Award while Ryan Probst, ’20, and Shane Harris received Registration & Grub Awards.
While at the conference, the three got to meet two of the coauthors of one of the textbooks they had encountered in their 242 class, Melissa Ianetta and Lauren Fitzgerald.