Living Our Motto: Any Student, Any Project, Any Stage
As writing-center practitioners, we are all familiar with mission statements. While these brief statements cannot fully capture the complexity of the work that happens in our centers, they are vital to articulating our objectives to internal and external stakeholders.
Here at APU, our mission statement can be summarized as a tagline: Any Student, Any Project, Any Stage. Faculty, staff, and students alike know we are ready to help with all aspects of the writing process.
Over the course of my career as a tutor, instructor, coordinator, and assistant director, I have seen the amount of time and thought that is invested in crafting effective and administratively-appealing mission statements. Every word, phrase, and comma receives an inordinate amount of consideration; however, it is important to recognize that much more time must be spent making sure the undergraduate, graduate, and professional tutors in the center have been equipped to make such statements true. In other words, mottos must arise from praxis.
With this goal in mind, I turned meetings with the undergraduate and graduate student coaches as an opportunity to examine exactly how writing-center team members interpreted our tagline. Focusing on Any Stage, I asked groups of tutors to:
Share a list of the terms they associate with a particular step of the writing process.
Develop a clear definition of their step.
Offer tips for helping students through that step.
Below is a summary of their responses. Due to staff size, I hold two meetings for undergraduate and graduate students tutors. The bolded definitions that follow were compiled by four groups of tutors at my Thursday meetings; the graphic at the end of was created by the five tutors at the Friday meeting.
Group: Alisa, Isaac, Lindy, and Laura
Terms: brainstorming, listing, clustering, questioning, conversation, defining the topic, exploring potential topics, narrowing down, sorting through ideas
Definition of pre-writing: A process writers go through when exploring topics to develop a working thesis and organize their ideas.
(1) Get to know the student.
(2) Pay attention to / ask about the initial reactions to the prompt.
(3) Imagine the session is an interview, have a newscaster mentality, and make sure you have something to write on.
Group: Jaci, Donny, and Maya
Terms: starting, trying, flow, connection, structure, rough, text
Definition: The process in which the author expresses the desired points and establishes a flow of logic and structure that is open to change.
(1) We’d encourage writers to word-vomit on the initial draft. Many writers feel stuck when trying to create an introduction, or they feel that the initial draft has to be complete and perfectly structured. We want to relate to them that it is beneficial to put their thoughts to paper without worrying about it sounding polished; it is easier to work with words already on a paper than a blank page.
(2) We ask them to explain their argument to us without looking at their paper. This shows us how confident they are in their understanding of their argument.
(3) We will go through the student’s draft and highlight the points they mentioned in the explanation in their argument. Students can see whether or not they’ve included everything they want to say and everything that the prompt requires through this process.
Group: Rebecca, Eva, Razel, and Ashli
Terms: changes, reexamining, reverse outlining, refine, edit, proofread
Definition: Ensuring that all ideas connect to the thesis statement in a coherent and well-supported manner.
1) Structure Scramble: Cutting up paragraphs and considering their order and logical flow, then cutting up sentences to consider their order.
2) Supporting Citations: Highlighting citations and topic statements of the same paragraph in the same color to ensure that the evidence supports the topic.
Group: Angela, Julianne, and Lara
Terms: Word choice, grammar, citation, specific, concise, re-read
Definition: Editing is improving the paper at a sentence level after it has been completed with good structure and citations.
(1) Start at the end and move backward to see if the single sentence makes sense on its own.
(2) Ask the student, "Did every sentence in the paragraph say what you wanted it to say? Were all the sentences necessary?"
(3) Target the lengthy paragraphs (to see if their ideas are being said concisely or there are too many ideas in one paragraph) or extremely short paragraphs (to ensure that their ideas are being elaborated on completely).
Friday Meeting Group: Olivia, Karlee, K.C., Kelley, and Deborah
After sharing their work with their peers, the tutors were especially interested in why I asked them to write down the terms they associate with each step of the writing process. I wanted my team to see exactly how complicated each of the stages truly is, and, more importantly, how many ideas, terms, and concepts might clutter students’ minds when they are told to “pre-write” or “revise.” Part of assisting students at any stage is defining that stage and offering clear, actionable steps.
At both meetings, the tutors also discussed how they became more aware of their own writing processes after they started working in the center. I remember having the same realization after my first month working as a peer tutor at UC Irvine.
After the meetings, I was delighted to overhear several tutors examining the other components of our tagline and debating what exactly it means to work with Any Student on Any Project.