CWCA/ACCR Statement on corporate, automated, online tutoring tools

Approved by CWCA/ACCR Board of Directors: December, 2022.

Access an accessible PDF of the Statement on corporate, automated, online tutoring tools.

Preamble

In recent years, members of the Canadian Writing Centres Association / Association canadienne des centres de rédaction (CWCA/ACCR) have noted an increase in the activity of producers of corporate, automated, online tutoring tools (CAOTTs) attempting to position themselves within higher education institutions in Canada. Many of these companies articulate such outcomes as improved writing skills, student retention, and student experience. The CWCA/ACCR shares and supports these goals, but we find that they can be far better achieved by institutional writing and learning centres within their local contexts.

Position of CWCA/ACCR

It is the position of the CWCA/ACCR that attempts to replace local, human writing tutoring and support with CAOTTs is a fundamental error. Further, any use of these tools as a supplement to writing services should be considered only with the support of and in consultation with writing centre professionals within the institution, informed by the literature of writing centre studies.

It is the position of the CWCA/ACCR that CAOTTs are not helpful or useful as a replacement for institution-based writing tutoring or instruction, whether online or in-person. CAOTTs are, in fact, a detriment to effective academic support for students, faculty, and their institutions, and CWCA/ACCR sees the use of CAOTTs as a form of social injustice.

Technological innovation

Writing centres have been at the forefront of the development and use of technology in higher education, beginning with computer-aided instruction (CAI) in the 1960s. The first dedicated CAI in a writing centre was at Michigan Technological University in 1977 (Palmquist, 2003, p. 396). Since then, writing centres have evolved to employ various technologies through the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s (See, for example, Burns, 1980; Coogan, 1995; Inman & Sewell, 2000; Wargo, 2018), including the Purdue Online Writing Lab, created  by Dr. Muriel Harris, godmother of writing centres in North America, and David Taylor in 1994 (OWL Fact Sheet, 2022). The COVID pandemic accelerated and expanded the use of technology in writing centres since 2020 (See, for example, Canadian writing centres respond, 2020; One year on…, 2021; Two years on…, 2022; Rempel, & Friesen, 2022; Wisniewski et al., 2020). Writing centres embrace and use technologies for supporting student writing when they add value to the experience for students, enrich learning, and do not pose a risk to students’ privacy or rights. Some CAOTTs may have limited usefulness for students when integrated into students’ writing processes within or alongside writing centres (Zhang et al., 2020); however, inaccuracies, algorithmic deficiencies, forms of social injustice, and other concerns, as discussed below, lead us to urge caution in their use.

Best practices

The following are best practices of the CWCA/ACCR—and of the International Writing Centers Association (IWCA)—from the literature on writing centres praxis and administration that are foundational to successful writing support. These foundational aspects of writing centres cannot be guaranteed when using a CAOTT, aspects that can only be carried out by local writing centres within institutions.

  • Tutors and instructors who work within writing centres should specifically reflect the demographic, ethnic, linguistic, and disciplinary diversity of the student population within that institution (CWCA/ACCR, 2021; IWCA, 2007, 2015).
  • Peer tutors should be selected to work in a writing centre based on performance in courses that require writing and should be endorsed by instructors (IWCA, 2007, 2015).
  • Tutors and instructors should receive appropriate, comprehensive, ongoing training via methods suitable to local context (CWCA/ACCR, 2021; IWCA, 2007, 2015).
  • Tutors and instructors should be evaluated by administrators of their institution and should receive feedback about the effectiveness of their work (IWCA, 2007, 2015).
  • Tutors and instructors should be encouraged to participate in professional development activities, including publication opportunities and participating in local, regional, national, and international conferences (CWCA/ACCR, 2021).
  • The writing centre should participate in academic and/or administrative program review processes within its own institution (CWCA/ACCR, 2021; IWCA, 2007, 2015).
  • Institutions and writing centres also have a duty and a responsibility to be accessible to all students (CWCA/ACCR, 2021). Many CAOTTs are only available to students over the age of 18 (Terms of use, 2022), and many students do not have access to technology, creating social injustice based on race and economic disparity (Gonzales, Calarco, & Lynch, 2018; Vogels et al., 2020).

Sociodigital justice

A significant aspect of the injustice of CAOTTs is the use of student data by CAOTT corporations (Bell & Hotson, 2022; Hotson & Bell, 2022; Zuboff, 2015). Students often have no choice or do not know they have choice when confronted with a request by a faculty member or institution to subscribe to an online support tool (e.g., Grammarly, Studiosity, Turnitin). Tools such as Grammarly track students’ internet use even when they are not completing work for their studies. The Grammarly browser plug-in “surveils and intervenes in their languaging practices across all contexts of online communication—from personal email to Facebook to comment forums—regardless of whether they’re writing for the purposes of the course or for personal or professional reasons” (Bell & Hotson, 2022). CAOTTs have the same practice: for example, the tutoring tool, Studiosity, collects students’ “year of study, date of birth, postcode, student status, entity/institution name, type of entity/institution (e.g., school, library, university), business address, details of sporting and other extracurricular commitments (if required to assist with scheduling)” (Privacy and cookies policy, 2022). They also reserve the right to change their user agreement at any time: “From time to time, Studiosity may vary unilaterally the terms or conditions on which it provides the Services” (Terms of use, 2022), without input from students, faculty, institutions, or government. These terms and activities, designed for financial gain, constitute “surveillance capitalism” (Zuboff, 2015).

When using CAOTTs, student writing, ideas, and opinions—their knowledge production through their writing—is held by a corporation outside students’ or their institutions’ purview. Corporations providing vital institutional services cannot be trusted to protect student data (For example, see CEO of exam monitoring software Proctorio apologises for posting student’s chat logs on Reddit (Zhou, 2020)). Regarding the use and protection of students’ knowledge production, Studiosity’s user agreement, for example, is vague:

The Receiving Party [Studiosity] shall only disclose such confidential information to those of its employees, agents and subcontractors who need to know it for the purpose of discharging the obligations of the Receiving Party under the Contract, and shall ensure that such employees, agents and subcontractors comply with the obligations set out in this clause as though they were a party to the Contract.

There is no definition of “agent” or “subcontractor,” whether these are employees of Studiosity or if they are separate corporations, entities, or individuals. While it is indicated that these agents and subcontractors adhere to Studiosity’s user agreement, who monitors these agents and subcontractors and their use of student data is not stipulated.

Governmental monitoring

Exposure of student work beyond the educational institution is especially fraught for international students in Canada whose education activities may be subject to monitoring by their home governments. (China: Government Threats…, 2019; Confucius Institute U.S. Center…, 2020). Foreign governments have an interest in the activities of students studying abroad, especially monitoring any activities in opposition to repressive and intolerant regimes (CBC News, 2019; Furstenberg, Prelec, & Heathershaw, 2020; Gil, 2017; Mandour, 2022; Marczak et al., 2018); Canadian institutions have a duty to protect the international students they recruit as community members, protection that CAOTTs are not mandated to provide and cannot ensure.

Student labour

Any replacement of local student labour with CAOTT labour is unacceptable to CWCA/ACCR members. Providing students with opportunities for employment is a significant aspect of Canadian writing centres within their institutions. This employment is important for students’ financial security. Also, student tutors are provided with important learning opportunities and experience, which CWCA/ACCR views as a vital aspect of the institutional work of writing centres, as tutors’ learning is connected to their local learning context and extended throughout their tenure in higher education outside the classroom (e.g., institutional experiential learning programs; opportunities for research, publication, and conference presentations, contributing to the field of writing centre studies). For some CWCA/ACCR member writing centres, student employment is a directive.

Outsourced writing centre labour may not follow federal and provincial labour codes, institution union agreements, institutional human resources policies and practices, or provide a living wage (Living Wage, 2022).

References

Bell, S., & Hotson, B. (2022). “A podcast would be fun !”: The fetishization of digital writing projects. Discourse and Writing/Rédactologie, 32, 4–31. https://doi.org/10.31468/dwr.915

Burns, H. (1984). Recollections of first-generation computer-assisted prewriting. In W. Wresch (Ed.), The computer in composition instruction: A writer’s tool (pp. 15–33). Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

CBC News. (19 February 2019). ‘China is your daddy’: Backlash against Tibetan student’s election prompts questions about foreign influence. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/china-tibet-student-election-1.5019648

CWCA/ACCR position statement on writing centres in Canada. (2021). The Canadian Writing Centres Association / association canadienne des centres de rédaction. Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/file/d/1zNMRc0kgBA_1bcEvBYCQdMtWhfzh02SA/view

Canadian writing centres respond to COVID-19 – March 17, 2020. (2020). Canadian Writing Centre Review revue Canadienne des centres de rédaction, 1(6 Winter 2020). Retrieved from https://cwcaaccr.com/2020/03/19/covid-19-march-17-2020/

China: Government threats to academic freedom abroad. (2019). Human Rights Watch. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/03/21/china-government-threats-academic-freedom-abroad

Coogan, D. (1995). E-mail tutoring, a new way to do new work. Computers and Composition, 12, 171–-81.

“Confucius Institute U.S. center” designation as a foreign mission. (2020). U.S. Department of State. Retrieved from https://2017-2021.state.gov/confucius-institute-u-s-center-designation-as-a-foreign-mission/index.html

Furstenberg, S., Prelec, T., & Heathershaw, J. (2020). The internationalization of universities and the repression of academic freedom. Freedom House. Retrieved from https://freedomhouse.org/report/special-report/2020/internationalization-universities-and-repression-academic-freedom

Gil, J. (2017). Soft power and the worldwide promotion of Chinese language learning. Multilingual Matters. https://doi.org/10.21832/GIL8057

Gonzales, A. L., Calarco, J. M., & Lynch, T. K. (2018). Technology problems and student achievement gaps: A validation and extension of the technology maintenance construct. Communication Research, August, 1-38. https://doi.org/10.1177/0093650218796366

Hewett, B. L., & DePew, K. E. (Eds.) (2015). Foundational Practices of Online Writing Instruction (B. L. Hewett & K. E. DePew, eds.). https://doi.org/10.37514/per-b.2015.0650

Hotson, B., & Bell, S. (2022). Friends don’t let friends Studiosity (without reading the fine print), The Canadian Writing Centres Association / association canadienne des centres de rédaction, 4(1 Fall 2022).

Inman, J. A., & Sewell, D. N. (Eds.). (2000). Taking flight with OWLs: Examining electronic writing center work. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

IWCA position statement on two-year college writing centers. (2007, 2015). International Writing Centers Association. Retrieved from https://docs.google.com/document/d/1xsYp1oZOL-AtZ1KlOTjnDMNuIe-Ks2D91c2APGMyKhM/edit

Mandour, M. (2022). Transnational repression undermines academic freedom in Western universities. University of Minnesota. Retrieved from https://cla.umn.edu/human-rights/news-events/news/transnational-repression-undermines-academic-freedom-western-universities

Marczak, B., Scott-Railton, J., Senft, A.,  Razzak, B. A., & Deibert, R. (2018). The kingdom came to Canada: How Saudi-linked digital espionage reached Canadian soil. The Citizen Lab. Retrieved from https://citizenlab.ca/2018/10/the-kingdom-came-to-canada-how-saudi-linked-digital-espionage-reached-canadian-soil/

Living wage. (2022). United Nations. Retrieved from https://www.unglobalcompact.org/what-is-gc/our-work/livingwages

OWL facts sheet. (2022). Purdue Online Writing Lab. Retrieved from https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/about_the_owl/owl_information/purdue_owl_fact_sheet.html

One year on: COVID snapshot of writing centres in Canada. (2021). The Canadian Writing Centres Association / association canadienne des centres de rédaction, 2(3 Spring 2021).

Palmquist, M. (2003). A brief history of computer support for writing centers and writing-across-the-curriculum programs. Computers and Composition, 20(4), 395–413. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compcom.2003.08.013

Privacy and Cookies Policy. (2022). Studiosity. Retrieved from https://studiosity.com/connect/policy_agreements/4/privacy

Rempel , C., & Friesen, H. L. (2022). Benefits and challenges of Zoom tutoring during the Covid-19 pandemic. Discourse and Writing/Rédactologie, 32, 370-393. https://doi.org/10.31468/dwr.961

Terms of use. (2022). Studiosity. Retrieved from https://studiosity.com/connect/policy_agreements/4/terms_of_use

Two years on: COVID snapshot of writing centres in Canada – University of Alberta’s Centre for Writers. (2022). The Canadian Writing Centres Association / association canadienne des centres de rédaction, 3(3 Spring 2022).

Vogels, E., Perrin, A., Rainie, L., & Anderson, M. (2020). 53% of Americans say the internet has been essential: Americans with lower incomes are particularly likely to have concerns related to the digital divide and the digital “homework gap” (Vol. 30). Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2020/04/30/53-of-americans-say-the-internet-has-been-essential-during-the-covid-19-outbreak/

Wargo, J. M. (2018). Writing with wearables? Young children’s intra-active authoring and the sounds of emplaced invention. Journal of Literacy Research, 50(4), 502-523. https://doi.org/10.1177/1086296X18802880

Wisniewski, C., Regidor, M. C., Chason, L., Groundwater, E., Kranek, A., Mayne, D., & Middleton, L. (2020). Questioning assumptions about online tutoring. The Writing Center Journal, 38(1/2), 261-296.

Zhang, J., Zorluel Özer, H., & Bayazeed, R. (2020). Grammarly vs. face-to-face tutoring at the writing center: ESL student writers’ perceptions. Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, 17(2), 33-43. http://dx.doi.org/10.26153/tsw/8523

Zhou, N. (1 July 2020). CEO of exam monitoring software Proctorio apologises for posting student’s chat logs on Reddit. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jul/01/ceo-of-exam-monitoring-software-proctorio-apologises-for-posting-students-chat-logs-on-reddit

Zuboff, S. (2015). Big other: Surveillance capitalism and the prospects of an information civilization. Journal of Information Technology, 30(1), 75-89. https://doi.org/10.1057/jit.2015.

There’s a BIPOC Caucus in the CWCA/ACCR

Vol. 4 No. 2 (Fall 2022)

By Vidya Natarajan and Megumi Taguchi

Vidya Natarajan is a first-gen immigrant whose mother tongue is Tamil, and a settler on the lands of the Anishnaabek, Haudenosawnee, Lunaapewak and Chononton Peoples (now called London, Ontario). She teaches writing and coordinates the Writing program at King’s University College.

Megumi Taguchi lives and works on the unceded, traditional lands of the Qayqayt Peoples, in a city commonly known as New Westminster, in British Columbia. A fourth generation racialized settler, she believes that because her family on her father’s side settled in the Okanagan region, home of the Syilx (say-ooks) people, they were able to avoid the worst of the racial discrimination and imprisonment by the Canadian government during WW2. She is a former peer tutor and English language tutor, and is currently services coordinator at Douglas College, where she supervises and helps run the operational side of tutoring. She is working on her master of education in TESOL at the University of British Columbia.

SIGs and Caucuses

Special Interest Groups (SIGs) have long been a way for likeminded scholars and activists to come together at conferences around subjects or projects in which they are deeply invested. As antiracism became a key node for advocacy, research, and attention among members of the International Writing Center Association (IWCA), the Antiracism Activism Special Interest Group, active since 2006 (Godbee & Olson, 2014) consolidated itself. Talisha Haltiwanger Morrison and Keli Tucker (2019) document how the IWCA’s “Antiracism Activism SIG became a standing SIG in 2017” (p. 4). They note that under their co-leadership, the SIG’s “primary goal has been to develop resources and support to help its members move toward the action invoked in the SIG’s name” (2019, p. 4). Many SIGs function on the basis of common professional and academic interests; in giving racial identity full recognition, however, IWCA’s Antiracism Activism SIG acknowledges the complex involvement of identity-based interests in social and professional interactions. Continue reading “There’s a BIPOC Caucus in the CWCA/ACCR”

Response from Studiosity to Friends don’t let friends Studiosity (without reading the fine print)

CWCR/RCCR recently published a post, Friends don’t let friends Studiosity (without reading the fine print) (Vol. 4 No. 1 (Fall 2022)).

Professor Judyth Sachs, Academic Advisory Board Member & Chief Academic Officer at Studiosity, contacted the editor with a reply. Here is the content of that reply in the original.

Professor Judyth Sachs
Chief Academic Officer, Studiosity

Response to Holston and Bell (2022)

Students lie at the heart of university life and supporting their success is something we can all agree on. This support can take many forms. What form this takes is often contested, provides the basis for rigorous debate and is part and parcel of the academic zeitgeist. However, these debates need to be accurate, objective and evidence based. It is on these assumptions that, as Chief Academic Officer at Studiosity, I wish to set the record straight about Studiosity as a company, and our commitment to supporting students to be successful in their studies. However, before I do this, I want to make the following observations based on my experience as a senior academic leader and manager at two large research-intensive universities in Australia (University of Sydney as PVC Learning and Teaching and Provost at Macquarie University) where Student support came under my remit.

Continue reading “Response from Studiosity to Friends don’t let friends Studiosity (without reading the fine print)”

Friends don’t let friends Studiosity (without reading the fine print)

A surveillance on the ledge of a building with a cloudy sky in the background.

Vol. 4 No. 1 (Fall 2022)

Brian Hotson, CWCR/RCCR Editor
Stevie Bell, CWCR/RCCR Associate Editor

Like many teachers on a late-August vacation, education companies can see September on the horizon. The difference is that these companies aren’t relaxing. They’re sending e-mails and booking video conferences with offers of freshly printed textbooks, handy workbooks, new online tools, and easy-to-use mobile apps that promise to make student life easier and save universities and colleges money.

The business of education is very large, with total global spending estimated at $4.7 trillion (USD) (UNESCO). By comparison, the total GDP of all African nations in 2021 was $2.7 trillion (USD) (StatisticsTimes, 2021). In 2018-2019, “public and private expenditure on [postsecondary] education” in Canada was $41.5 billion. Education companies would like a share of the money. In this context, a new-to-Canada online writing and tutoring tool, Studiosity, has appeared. Continue reading “Friends don’t let friends Studiosity (without reading the fine print)”

Reading and Writing Excellence Program: A Safe and Brave Space to Address Inequities

Two individuals smiling. One is holding a book, the other is looking at the book.

No. 3 Vol. 2 (Summer 2022)

This post is from the 2022 CWCA/ACCR annual conference virtual poster session. – Stevie Bell and Brian Hotson, 2022 CWCA/ACCR conference co-chairs

By Xiangying Huo & Elaine Khoo, University of Toronto Scarborough


The poster presents an innovative approach to support English Language Learners using a learner-driven and instructor-facilitated approach. Through this one-on-one support by a writing instructor, students develop their linguistic and knowledge capital required for writing in their respective courses. This risk-free approach that embraces relationality, respect and reciprocity to support students in their respective zone of proximal development can be enhanced by Culturally Responsive Pedagogy. The result of one-month of investment of time by instructor in collaboration with student have resulted in transformative impact, and opens up opportunities for further development should the student wish to pursue them. Continue reading “Reading and Writing Excellence Program: A Safe and Brave Space to Address Inequities”

Tutor’s experience: A session reflection on identity occlusion in virtual and in-person spaces

Vol. 3, No. 1 (Summer 2022)

By Mohsen Hosseinpour Moghaddam,
Graduate Writing Facilitator, Simon Fraser University

Mohsen is a PhD student in Education at Simon Fraser University. He moved to Canada from Iran in 2012. He started learning English at the age of twenty. Before that, he only knew a few words and grammar rules. He is currently working as an Graduate Writing Facilitator on the undergraduate team at the Student Learning Commons (SLC) and WriteAway. At SLC, in addition to offering individual writing consultations, he delivers general and course-integrated writing workshops across disciplines on topics ranging from argumentation to ethical use of research material in writing assignments.


“Body is never simply matter, for it is never divorced from perception and interpretation…and it is subject to examination and speculation” – Carla Peterson (2001, as cited in James Alexander, 2001, p. 108)

Mohsen Hosseinpour Moghaddam

Scene 1 (teaching in-person)
I started working as an undergraduate writing advisor at the Student Learning Commons (SLC) in the middle of the third year of my PhD program. I have been teaching workshops and having one-on-one consultations with students since then. Coming to Canada as an international student from the Middle East (Iran)[1] and being a non-native speaker/writer (NNS/W) of English made the challenges of being a writing advisor more intense. A question that has always lingered on my mind is if I am a legitimate writing advisor. I am not saying that others directly question my legitimacy and credibility as a writing advisor; this is just a feeling that I have always had with me as a NNS/W of English teaching at a Canadian university. Continue reading “Tutor’s experience: A session reflection on identity occlusion in virtual and in-person spaces”

Making Space for Speaking at the Canadian Writing Centre

A conference presenter speaking into a microphone

No. 3 Vol. 3 (Summer 2022)

This post is from the 2022 CWCA/ACCR annual conference virtual poster session. – Stevie Bell and Brian Hotson, 2022 CWCA/ACCR conference co-chairs

By Moberley Luger & Craig Stensrud, University of British Columbia


As writing centres increasingly become centres for writing and communication, our presentation calls for expanding the place of speaking pedagogies in writing centres. We understand scholarly speaking as an integral part of the research—and, indeed, writing—process. We will share a scholarly speaking web resource we built available to Canadian writing centres: The Precedents Archive for Scholarly Speaking (PASS). The site features examples of student speakers and aims to align speaking and writing pedagogies.

Please share widely! speaking.arts.ubc.ca

 

Managing the Emotional Well-being of Tutors and Students in a Middle-Eastern Writing Center

Landscape image of palm trees and institutional buildtings

Vol. 3 No. 4 (Summer 2022)

This post is from the 2022 CWCA/ACCR annual conference virtual poster session. – Stevie Bell and Brian Hotson, 2022 CWCA/ACCR conference co-chairs

By Maria Eleftheriou, Tamanna Taher, Alaa Itani, Konstantina Spyropoulou, & Zahraa Al-Dawood, The American University of Sharjah


As part of an effort to address writing issues, the American University of Sharjah (AUS) located in the United Arab Emirates established a writing center with a peer-tutoring program in 2004. The Writing Center conducts approximately 3500 appointments a year and has a staff of 30 undergraduate tutors and four graduate tutors. In this video, we describe how our Writing Center responded to the emotional challenges presented by the pandemic. We present our story through a variety of clips which illustrate the ongoing process of introducing emotional intelligence training in our program: the discussions that emphasized the importance of emotions in the teaching and learning process, the role-playing activities and readings we incorporated into our training program, the opportunities tutors are given to discuss strategies for avoiding burn-out and our developing ability to create a safe and supportive atmosphere in our Writing Center. Continue reading “Managing the Emotional Well-being of Tutors and Students in a Middle-Eastern Writing Center”

Vacillating Pandemic Space and Emergent Themes

Image of a home office with 2 computer screens.

Vol. 3 No. 5 (Summer 2022)

This post is from the 2022 CWCA/ACCR annual conference virtual poster session. – Stevie Bell and Brian Hotson, 2022 CWCA/ACCR conference co-chairs

By Nancy Ami, Emily Arvay, Hossein Ghanbari, Kaveh Tagharobi, Madeline Walker, and Medha Yadav, Centre for Academic Communication, University of Victoria


Reflecting on our journey since March 2020, when we moved from our beloved library offices to remote workspaces, we have noted themes of safetyresponsivenessever-changing technology, and resilience that may speak to us all. We would like to share our personal paths via a blog, to affirm our writing centre colleagues: “You were not alone in experiencing …” and as a way to instill hope for the future: “You will not be alone as you experience…” Our blog features artifacts that document our individual and collective experiences with vacillating S P A C E.

Check it out here: https://onlineacademiccommunity.uvic.ca/caccwca2022/

 

Creating an Online Space for Learning Science Communication

Learning science communication online

Vol. 3 No. 6 (Summer 2022)

This post is from the 2022 CWCA/ACCR annual conference virtual poster session. – Stevie Bell and Brian Hotson, 2022 CWCA/ACCR conference co-chairs

By Clare Bermingham, University of Waterloo & Elisabeth van Stam, University of Waterloo


Abstract 

To support the development of science communication knowledge and skills in undergraduate  classrooms, students benefit from access to specific content and examples from science  communication experts. Training students in science communication prepares them for the  many careers that help bridge the gap between scientists and the public. Because  undergraduate students typically do not receive this kind of training in their undergraduate  classrooms, the University of Waterloo Writing and Communication Centre secured funding from eCampus Ontario and worked with partners from the University of Waterloo, from University of  Toronto–Mississauga (UTM), Scarborough (UTSC), and St. George (Health Sciences Writing  Centre) campuses, and from Toronto Metropolitan University to develop four asynchronous  workshops that can be embedded into courses or used for independent learning. Continue reading “Creating an Online Space for Learning Science Communication”

Academia’s ‘Among Us’: A guide to imposter syndrome

Academia's Among Us: A guide to imposter syndrome

Vol. 3 No. 7 (Summer 2022)

This post is from the 2022 CWCA/ACCR annual conference virtual poster session. – Stevie Bell and Brian Hotson, 2022 CWCA/ACCR conference co-chairs

By Ashley Kyne, Simon Fraser University


“Am I good enough?” “Do I belong here?” Have these questions ever plagued your mind? Well, you are not alone. Undergraduate students, graduate students, post-docs, and even your professors (yes, they can feel this way too!) are haunted by feelings of inadequacy. However, how did this syndrome come to be? Imposter syndrome is a feeling of self-doubt or incompetence. Despite your accomplishments, imposter syndrome can be described as that little voice in your head that makes you question your self-worth. Imposter syndrome can be attributed to a pattern that causes academics to doubt their success, feel like a fraud, and perceive themselves as failures. So, if you doubt yourself, even when you are doing everything right, are you sentenced to feeling like an imposter forever? No. There are a few things you can do when you feel like imposter syndrome is creeping up behind you. Namely, turning off “negative self-talk TV,” embracing criticism, avoiding comparison, asking for help, and being kind to yourself. Continue reading “Academia’s ‘Among Us’: A guide to imposter syndrome”

Principles of Inclusive & Antiracist Writing

Vol. 3 No. 8 (Summer 2022)

This post is from the 2022 CWCA/ACCR annual conference virtual poster session. – Stevie Bell and Brian Hotson, 2022 CWCA/ACCR conference co-chairs

By Julia Lane, Simon Fraser University


If you want to write in an inclusive and antiracist way, you have to pay attention to the perspectives, peoples, and groups that might be excluded and even harmed through your writing, even if unintentionally.

  1. Question Assumptions. Part of the power of inclusive and antiracist writing is that it prompts us to shine a light on our assumptions–even ones we’ve never noticed before.
  2. Choose words thoughtfully & carefully. As you question assumptions, you bring new attention to the words you use. Words have power and no two words mean precisely the same thing!
  3. Revise critically. Like all writing, inclusive and antiracist writing benefits from revisions! Seek feedback from those whose experiences differ from yours.
  4. Learn from feedback. When you get critical feedback treat it as a chance to learn and grow. Mistakes are not an excuse to give up or back away from the work.

Continue reading “Principles of Inclusive & Antiracist Writing”

ProTips for Essay Writers: From OWL Handouts to Videos

Image of Stevie Bell, a white woman with cropped hair, and Brian Hotson, a white man with a grey beard, smiling with the text: Pro Tips for Essay Writers

Vol. 3 No. 9 (Summer 2022)

This post is from the 2022 CWCA/ACCR annual conference virtual poster session. – Stevie Bell and Brian Hotson, 2022 CWCA/ACCR conference co-chairs

By Stevie Bell, York University Writing Department & Brian Hotson, Independent Scholar


The digital turn in education, part of the COVID turn, initiated by the pandemic reenergized, recentred, and reoriented asynchronous writing instruction where students engage with writing resources and connect with writing tutors on their schedule. At York University’s writing centre, where Stevie is located, renewed attention is being paid to developing a repertoire of online resources to engage students differently than traditional PDF instructional handouts or webtext pages. Stevie was given a .5 teaching credit in an experimental initiative to develop instructional videos for the Writing Centre and learn about student preferences, engagement, production processes, etc. Of course Stevie invited Brian Hotson, her writing partner, on the adventure. Together, they produced ProTips for Essay Writers. In this piece, we reflect on lessons learned and share some of the behind-the-scenes production workflow, how-tos, and video analytics. Continue reading “ProTips for Essay Writers: From OWL Handouts to Videos”

Colonial outposts in the 36th chamber: Hip hop pedagogies and writing centres

Vol. 3, No. 5 (Spring 2022)
Brian Hotson,
Editor, CWCR/RCCR

I recently interviewed with Casey Wong who is the keynote speaker for the 2022 CWCA/ACCR conference. Wong (he/him) is currently an Assistant Professor of Social Foundations of Education in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at Georgia State University. He is co-editing a forthcoming book, Freedom Moves: Hip Hop Knowledges, Pedagogies, and Futures?, with H. Samy Alim and Jeff Chang.


Thank you for taking the time for to speak with me. 

Wong: Thank you! I’m excited about entering into community with you and the CWCA/ACCR attendees.

First off, I’m interested in how you got to where you are now. What was your path to your PhD and UCLA? 

Casey Wong
Case Wong

Wong: I love this question, and I imagine I could begin academically, but I might start with my upbringing. When I’m thinking about the power of language and rhetorics, I think about all I witnessed growing up in communities in Southern California that were some of the poorest by size in the country. I saw a variety of literacies spraypainted across train cars that actively passed through one of my central places of upbringing, Colton, California. I consider how I grew up among interconnected and overlapping peoples from the African/Black, Latinx, Asian, and Pacific Islander diasporas. I consider how local Native peoples were actively involved in my elementary school in San Bernardino, California. I think about how White supremacy often found its way into the voices and lives of my poor and working-class White peers, but how often there were deep co-conspiracies and solidarities that went unnoticed. With so many peoples, from so many places, it made having access to multiple varieties of language a deep advantage, and their value, and beauty–even as Dominant American English was widely seen as the ideological norm in very oppressive ways. I saw this personally as my Cantonese father secretly refused to let us know he spoke Cantonese, nor let us learn–something myself, my brother and sister would not find out until he passed away while we were in high school. Continue reading “Colonial outposts in the 36th chamber: Hip hop pedagogies and writing centres”

Safe space to brave space: Avasha Rambiritch on space & safety in the writing centre

a single cloud in a blue sky

Vol. 3, No. 4 (Spring 2022)
Brian Hotson,
Editor, CWCR/RCCR

Avasha Rambiritch is a lecturer in the Unit for Academic Literacy where she teaches academic literacy and academic writing modules at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. She is co-ordinator of the Humanities Writing Centre at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. Rambiritch is a plenary speaker at the 2022 CWCA/ACCR Conference.

I recently interviewed Rambiritch for CWCR/RCCR about her work and for a preview of her plenary conference talk. The theme for this year’s conference is Space and Safety.


Thank you for this opportunity to speak with you. I’d like to start by asking, how did you get started in writing centres? Was it a direct path?

Image of CWCA/ACCR conference keynote, Avasha Rambiritch
Avasha Rambiritch

Rambiritch: I like to think of my journey to the writing centre as one of ‘pure luck’! I am a full-time lecturer in the Unit for Academic Literacy at the University of Pretoria. As part of my responsibilities, I was the Tutor Coordinator for one of the large Academic Literacy modules offered in the Faculty of Humanities. At the end of 2013 my then Head of Department (HOD) asked if I would be interested in investigating the possibility of establishing a faculty-specific writing centre. I jumped at the opportunity and a few months later in February 2014, we opened the doors to the Humanities Writing Centre (HWC). Continue reading “Safe space to brave space: Avasha Rambiritch on space & safety in the writing centre”

Two years on: COVID Snapshot of writing centres in Canada – Emily Carr University of Art + Design Writing Centre

Vol 3, No 3 (Spring 2022)

This is the third of three posts from our CWCR/RCCR’s 2022 COVID snapshot of writing centres in Canada. Here are links to the first and second posts.

Here are the snapshots from 2020 and 2021.


Emily Carr University of Art + Design Writing Centre
Jacqueline Turner, Writing Specialist
Sara Osenton, Learning Specialist
Emily Carr University of Art + Design
Vancouver, BC

The deep fatigue of the pandemic has definitely set in, but this year we’ve focused on our tutors and building their capacity to thrive in changing conditions. We started the year with tutor-led meetings, providing a structure and then letting them learn and practice how to lead. To kick off 2022, we started meetings with a variety of activities such as Jamboard drawing on virtual money envelopes for lunar new year, or sharing our own creative practices from painting, book making, design, and graphic novel creation to sewing and knitting. We talked about how all these practices made us think differently about the moment of writing and how empathy and enthusiasm were key traits for tutor success. This week, we’ll start off our meeting figuring out how our collective skills might help us survive a zombie apocalypse. Too real~

 

 

While the ongoing limitations brought on by COVID restrictions meant the cancellation of our yearly, open-house Valentine’s event for the second time now, we found ways to connect with students by pivoting “Love, the Writing Centre” to a Valentine’s swag-bag giveaway. A hundred students signed in to WCOnline to reserve their kit and pick up time. The kits included writing-themed items designed by our tutors, who took these ideas from conception through the design process: notepads of Venn diagrams and writing checklists designed by one of our talented (and Instagram famous) tutors; a real postage stamp designed by tutors in the Letter Writing Collective, tucked into a tiny envelope; Writing Centre pencils and bookmarks; and, of course, candy. A few select kits even included a “golden ticket” redeemable for additional prizes to amp up the excitement.

We’ve also had tutors lead out and collaborate on workshops in proposal writing featuring “obnoxious unicorns” (who ask “Why?” and “How?” many times); to moving beyond cliché in artist statement workshops; to MLA sessions; and thesis queries. We’ve had tutors visiting virtual classes and sharing their enthusiasm for writing in Zoom rooms across the curriculum. Tutors have hosted online Study Hall Sessions for students to hang out and work on assignments and hosted a letter-writing collective where they set up a pen-pal system and wrote letters to trees in Australia. Wordsmiths, our long running tutor-led creative writing club, continues to have strong uptake. In this sense, the culture of writing is still strong in our university community.

 

In essence, we’ve begun to see that the work tutors do beyond one-on-one appointments to build community and a love of writing is even more important in COVID times. Seeking and maintaining connections in the shifting landscape of Writing Centre practice seems like the most significant thing we can do these days. We’re lucky to have such a dynamic and thoughtful group of tutors to carry it all out.

Two years on: COVID Snapshot of writing centres in Canada – University of Alberta’s Centre for Writers

Vol 3, No 2 (Spring 2022)

This is the second of three posts from our CWCR/RCCR’s 2022 COVID snapshot of writing centres in Canada. The first post was a snapshot from Hailie Tattrie from the writing centre at MSVU in Halifax. This snapshot come further west–Centre for Writers at the University of Alberta.

Here are the snapshots from 2020 and 2021.


Centre for Writers
Yan (Belinda) Wang, Acting Director
University of Alberta
Edmonton, AB

This coming March will mark the two-year transition into remote services since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The past year saw the Centre for Writers (C4W) thrive in some areas but also experience unprecedented difficulties and challenges.

What Went Well and Relatively Well
Our clients are happy with online tutoring and other services we provide. We echo some other writing centres’ pleasant surprise in students’ willingness and appreciation for us adopting remote services. In the past academic year, when clients were asked if they were happy with the new online tutoring service, 99% of them said they were very happy or somewhat happy. For the first time ever, C4W services were offered later in the day (sometimes up to 10:00 pm) to accommodate clients in different time zones. The WCOnline scheduling system, especially its online consultation feature, continued to function effectively most of the time. Zoom was also used as an alternative when WCOnline malfunctioned.

Prior to the pandemic, asynchronous tutoring (i.e., emailed written feedback) was only offered to Faculty of Extension, U of A’s  school of distance learning, students. When it became clear that extending the service in a pandemic setting would be beneficial, we started to offer the service to students of all faculties. Soon after the change was implemented, we experienced a surge in asynchronous tutoring requests. Even though we had three dedicated asynchronous tutors providing written feedback, many synchronous tutors had to assist with asynchronous requests when the number of submissions became overwhelming.

Our guided writing groups (for international graduate students) and group writing support (for writing-intensive undergraduate courses) thrived in the first half of 2021. We offered eight writing groups between January and April 2021, a new record for the C4W. We also supported five writing-intensive undergraduate courses in the same period, another very successful record.

The pandemic also impacted the delivery of our tutor training course, Writing Studies 301/603. Dr. Lucie Moussu, the former Director of the C4W, successfully taught the course online for the first time in Fall 2020. A new approach was developed to facilitate the online practicum portion of the course: student-tutors were given the opportunity to develop their tutoring skills and reflect upon their tutoring practice through online observations, online co-tutoring, online supervised tutoring, and solo tutoring at their own pace throughout the term. However, student-tutors’ individual challenges and efforts necessitated adjustments to this plan, with some never reaching the third or fourth stage of tutoring. A detailed spreadsheet was used to track student-tutors’ hours at each stage, as well as their progress. Justin, our Program Coordinator, did an amazing job scheduling and keeping track of everything and everyone amidst the scheduling madness. In the end, out of 18 students, six undergraduate students and eight graduate students from the course were hired in 2021 to fuel our tutor team.

Difficulties and Challenges
The continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic brought to light a few ongoing challenges, especially feelings of isolation and mental health concerns. Additional instabilities emerged in the latter half of 2021, bringing with them significant challenges: our previous director left, and we struggled a little in the aftermath of her departure.

Issues with technology
Issues with technology arose for both tutors and clients. Some of these issues included microphone and camera troubles, clients not showing up to online appointments, Internet instability, and a recurring problem with WCOnline malfunctioning and terminating online consultations prematurely. Some of these problems were resolved quickly; for example, we used Zoom to connect tutors with clients during a WCOnline outage. Each tutor was given a private Zoom link (through the U of A) that they shared with clients at the start of each appointment in case issues arose with WCOnline. Some clients preferred Zoom and asked tutors to switch to Zoom at the beginning of their appointments.

Feelings of isolation and mental health concerns
The online environment left many feeling isolated, so it was important for tutors to keep in touch with one another. Justin set up a daily check-in window on WCOnline, where the tutors could connect and socialize. We also gave the tutors our personal cell phone numbers so that they could contact us when needed. Tutors needed to be reachable at all times during their shifts in case clients needed a drop-in session or we had other writing-centre related duties for them. Also, tutors checked in with Justin at the start of each shift between 10 am and 4:30 pm in the WCOnline check-in window, and with the director, by text, from 4:30 pm until 10 pm. More frequent staff meetings were also scheduled so that we could connect with the tutors on a weekly basis.

Isolation due to the pandemic also caused some mental health concerns. While C4W staff had the methods of coping mentioned above, many clients felt very isolated. Tutors often found themselves listening to problems and concerns that their clients needed to talk about. While tutors are not expected or encouraged to act as therapists, they graciously listened to clients when they needed a place to vent their frustrations. Tutors themselves were in turn encouraged to reach out to us with any problems they needed to talk about.

The aftermath of Dr. Lucie Moussu leaving the C4W
Dr. Lucie Moussu leaving the C4W in June 2021 was a huge loss. Her departure and the Dean of Students’ inaction in finding a permanent replacement threw the rest of us into a panic, and we struggled to cope in her absence. The C4W was without a director for two months, after which I asked the Dean of Students to hire me as Acting Director. (I had already been Acting Director during Dr. Moussu’s last sabbatical leave.)

Dr. Moussu’s departure meant that she could no longer teach the tutor training course, which had been essential in preparing well-trained tutors. For the first time in the C4W history, this course was taught by someone other than the C4W director in Fall 2021; it was instead taught by a full lecturer in the Department of English and Film Studies (EFS). The problem with this arrangement was that the lecturer did not train students specifically for the C4W  but rather for other writing tutor positions in EFS. In the end, only two undergraduate students from this class applied for a C4W tutor position. It was very disappointing, as it did not give the C4W any room to select the tutors with the most potential. Also, it defeated the purpose of the tutor training course, which was initially specifically designed to fit the C4W’s purposes.

My limited experience with writing centre work, and even more limited energy as I am trying to complete my own PhD dissertation, means that a number of goals set for the 2021-2022 academic year cannot be achieved. Vigorous promotion of our services, community building, collaboration with various faculties, research-related activities, and professional development opportunities for tutors were greatly reduced, as a result.

Looking Forward
The future of the C4W remains uncertain, but we are hopeful that peer writing support will continue to thrive, at least in some areas. Changes are underway and conversations about the future of our tutoring services are ongoing.

Streamlining services and reinventing workshops
In an effort to streamline our services, limit the unmanageable number of email exchanges, and encourage clients to book synchronous online tutoring appointments, we decided to retire the email system and implement the eTutoring function already available on WCOnline. Our Quick Guide for Online Tutoring was updated to reflect this new change. Justin created a separate eTutoring schedule for Winter 2022 on WCOnline, opening a few eTutoring appointments each day. Three dedicated eTutors are responsible for checking their appointment windows and attaching written feedback to the appointments within three business days.

As our clients and tutors have grown accustomed to the new norm of online learning, interest in and demand for workshops kept growing. As a result, we decided to bring back the writing workshops, which were cancelled at the beginning of the pandemic. Our graduate tutors responded positively to the idea of resuming the workshops in an online setting, and many created new workshop topics and materials relevant to clients’ current concerns. Most of the workshops have been well-attended and all of them well-received.

Resuming in-person services and the future of the tutor training course
We have been having ongoing conversations with the Dean of Students about resuming in-person services once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. We might return to campus in the coming Fall 2022 semester, and we would like to explore a hybrid model to accommodate clients’ different needs. Discussions about alternative formats of the tutor training course are also underway, as entrusting the Department of EFS to teach the course proved to be less than ideal.

Two years on: COVID Snapshot of writing centres in Canada – Mount Saint Vincent University Writing Centre

Vol 3, No 1 (Spring 2022)

In both March 2020 and 2021, CWCR/RCCR published snapshots of writing centres in Canada and their responses to the disruption of COVID 19. Now, two years on, while the thesaurus is busy writing new adjectives to describe our new realities, CWCR/RCCR is providing a snapshot from centres around Canada for 2022. We will post three snapshots—here is the first from MSVU in Halifax.


Mount Saint Vincent University Writing Centre
Hailie Tattrie, PhD Student
Mount Saint Vincent University
Halifax, NS

Making the best of COVID19: Learning together

“I really feel like this meeting has helped me!”, words from one of my regular students, Student M, who visits me at the Mount Saint Vincent University Writing Centre. Some days we edit her work together, other days we converse for the entire hour; sharing ideas, asking one another questions as we sip coffee at our desks, each of us in a different country. Despite the distance and the low hum of our laptops we make online tutoring work.

An image of Paulo Freire sitting in an office or library.
Paulo Freire

Revolutionary educator, Paulo Freire, is known for his work on critical pedagogy, as well as his exploration of the banking-model of education and the problem-posing model of education. The form of education that many in North America grew up with is known as the banking-model of education. This model is a subject-object relationship. As a tutor under the banking-model of education, I would simply sit at my desk and tell the student to remain silent as I edit their paper and make comments; there would be very little conversing. Under this model, the teacher is the subject, the bringer of knowledge, and the students are the object, empty and knowing nothing (Freire, 1970). Under the banking-model of education, students are seen as empty vessels, waiting to be filled with what is deemed the “correct” knowledge. In the banking-model, there’s no room for dialogue, critical thinking, or creativity. The banking model can be seen as Eurocentric in nature (Beattie, 2019; Kanu, 2006). However, Freire dreamed of more than the banking-model; he suggested an alternative, the problem-posing model of education. Continue reading “Two years on: COVID Snapshot of writing centres in Canada – Mount Saint Vincent University Writing Centre”

Writing a conference proposal: A guide

an auditorium filled with people with two presenters

Vol. 3 No. 3 (Winter 2022)

Brian Hotson, CWCA/ACCR 2022 Conference Co-Chair
Stevie Bell, CWCA/ACCR 2022 Conference Co-Chair


If you’ve not written a conference proposal, it’s hard to know where to start and what to write, all while following the conference CFP format. This guide (links below) will provide you with some help as you get your proposal started, into shape, and then submitted. This is a step-by-step guide, leading you through each part of the CFP:

  • Title
  • Detailed abstract
  • Proposal description
  • Type of session
  • References

Provided are instructions on how to structure each section using examples, leading to a final Proposal Description sample. Use it for your own proposal and share it with your colleagues and tutors.

Writing a conference proposal: A guide

2022 CWCA/ACCR Conference CFP – Reckoning with Space & Safety in the COVID Turn

If you need support, please contact the conference co-chairs,
Stevie Bell, stepbell@yorku.ca
Brian Hotson, brw.hotson@gmail.com

“I don’t know, let’s play”: Multimodal design support in the writing centre

the word "Play" in green against a brown backdrop

Vol. 3 No. 2 (Winter 2022)

Editor’s note: This is a Session Reflection. If you have a unique tutoring experience to share, submit your Session Reflection to Brian Hotson cwcr.rccr@gmail.com

Stevie Bell is an associate professor in the Writing Department at York University and CWCR/RCCR co-founder

A sticker with the word "essay" that looks like its meltingWriting centre tutors may be seeing an increase in multimodal writing projects (DWPs) now that students are primarily producing and submitting their work online―at least this is the case for me. Today’s students have the opportunity to use colour, sound, gifs, and video elements to enhance even traditional essays, and these elements are becoming not just common, but often expected. Students are also being assigned creative projects that require them to focus on becoming design-savvy producers of multimodal texts, using design elements and theory that isn’t always in their writing toolbox

Where on campus can students seek help with multimodal projects? In my opinion, writing centres are well positioned to extend the work they do supporting students as they use writing as a tool of thinking and communicating to include multimodal processes that do not prioritize alphabetic/linguistic modes. Writing centre tutors already know the structure of argumentation, the rhetoric of academic writing, and styles and formats required for writing at university or college levels. They also know how to think along with students, as well as to think in and through the tasks, challenges, and blocks that students come to the centre to work through.

Continue reading ““I don’t know, let’s play”: Multimodal design support in the writing centre”