Commenting Across the Disciplines: Partnering with Writing Centers to Train Faculty to Respond Effectively to Student Writing

Andrea Scott
Assistant Professor of Academic Writing Writing Center Director Pitzer College

Published Mar 2, 2015



Faculty and writing center tutors bring expertise to writing as practice and pro-cess. Yet at many institutions, the two groups work in relative isolation, missing opportunities to learn from each other. In this article, I describe a faculty de-velopment initiative in a multidisciplinary writing program that brings together new faculty and experienced undergraduate tutors to workshop instructors’ com-ments on first-year writing. The purpose of these workshops is to assist faculty in crafting inquiry-driven written responses that pave the way for collaborative faculty-student conferences. By bringing together scholarly conversations on tu-tor expertise and the role of faculty comments in student learning, I argue for the value of extending partnerships between writing centers and programs. Such ac-counts are important to the field for challenging what Grutsch McKinney (2013) calls the “writing center grand narrative,” which limits the scope of writing center work by imagining centers primarily as “comfortable, iconoclastic places where all students go to get one-to-one tutoring on their writing” to the exclusion of lived realities (p. 3). In this case, I describe a writing center where tutors bring their expertise outside the center and into the faculty office, consulting in small groups with faculty with the aim of enriching the quality of instructor feedback in first-year seminars.