The inaugural Writing Centers Association of China Conference was held at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, bringing together speakers from many institutions around the country to share ideas on how to help their students to improve their writing.
“Writing centers have a long history in American academia, with the first ones dating back to the 1870s,” explained Jessie Cannady (pictured below), convenor of the Writing Center at XJTLU.
“They were called ‘writing laboratories’, and the purpose then was similar to their purpose now: Academics were finding that many students entering universities weren’t quite ready for academic writing, and sought ways to help them,” she said.
“There are some misconceptions about writing centers,” she continued. “That they are just for remedial students; that they just provide help with proofreading and correction. There’s more to it than that – we help build writers’ identities, encouraging them to take ownership by first writing about their individual experiences.”
The theme of the conference was ‘New Beginnings’, as it was the first of its kind in China focused on bolstering and encouraging newly-established writing centers.
Angela Rhoe (pictured above), director of the Writing Center at Montgomery College, Maryland, US, gave a presentation entitled: ‘Destigmatizing help: embedded tutoring in developmental English classes.’
“Embedded tutoring is done ‘on location’ in the classroom,” she explained. “Tutors help students with writing assignments during class time. We have found this to be a successful method at Montgomery College, where many of our students work and have families and don’t have time to come to the Writing Center outside of class time.”
Presentations were given in different formats, including panel presentations and PechaKucha, a fast-paced presentation style in which presenters have under seven minutes to present 20 slides.
Lingshan Song (pictured above), assistant director of the Writing Center at Mississippi College in the U.S., presented on, ‘New beginnings: establishing new writing center partnerships across borders.’
“My presentation was focused on how to establish writing centers at Chinese universities through partnerships with North American universities,” she explained.
“This can be challenging due to different education systems and mindsets. The most challenging aspect is often to convince the higher administration of the value of writing centers for students, faculty, and the university itself,” said Lingshan.
Jing Zhang, director of the Writing Center at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangdong, China, presented on assimilating and localising North American tutoring strategies in Chinese writing centers.
“Based on the findings of my research at our Writing Center, I advised that administrators and teaching staff should try to understand Chinese students, to respect their needs, and to allow for more flexibility and adjustments,” she said.
Michele Eodice, director of the Writing Center at the University of Oklahoma and editor of the journal of the International Writing Centers Association, gave a keynote speech on ‘Writing Centers as Global Learning Environments’.
“Having more of a global perspective is quite helpful,” said Angela Rhoe. “I listened to some wonderful presentations, and found there were many similarities with the work done by my Writing Center.
“When I learned that many of the tutors from the Writing Center at XJTLU do so on a voluntary basis, as they understand how it will benefit them academically, professionally, and confidence-wise, I was amazed. I admire them,” she added.
The Writing Center at XJTLU offers workshops for students on various topics including creative writing and grammar. It also organises one-to-one consultations for students, and activities such as a 30-day writing challenge, and ‘write-ins’, where groups of writers support each other to do several intensive writing sessions over the course of a day.