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Perceptions of Writing Centers in the Community College: Ways that Students, Tutors, and Instructors Concur and Diverge

  • Author(s): Missakian, Ilona Virginia
  • Advisor(s): Olson, Carol Booth
  • et al.
Abstract

This monograph presents the perceptions of Writing Center assistance that three groups at community colleges have: composition students, Writing Center tutors, and English instructors. While the three groups have been highlighted often separately in many studies, this study adds to those that compare how the three groups respond to the same issues about writing and Writing Center assistance. The study examines three questions:

• What are the writing challenges that English instructors, center tutors, and students served in Writing Centers identify and expect the Writing Center to assist students with?

• How do Writing Center models (mandatory or voluntary) provide or deliver the assistance that is needed?

• What are the perceptions of the three groups of the efficacy of Writing Center assistance?

Four community colleges in southern California participated in the study and the three groups included individuals from developmental, college-transfer, and advanced levels. Matching surveys with the same question sequence were used to gather the responses of the three groups, and comparisons of their responses in the form of frequency counts, means, and standard deviation were made. Results reveal:

• The three groups have differing priorities of what is important in writing.

• The three groups have differing perceptions of what Writing Center assistance is focused upon.

• The three groups have a few overlapping recommendations about improvements that Writing Centers might implement.

The majority of the differing priorities in writing involve the writing process and mechanical/proofreading issues vs. analytical approaches. While tutors and instructors agree on a few writing features, students exhibit wide discrepancy in their priorities. The differences in perceptions of Writing Center assistance also reveal wide discrepancies in what students express that they need help with, what they actually take to the Writing Center, and what they believe they received help with. Instructors and tutors also have differing perceptions of what the Writing Center assists students with, or should assist students with. Survey results also suggest a slight preference for Writing Center assistance being mandatory (requiring attendance) as opposed to being voluntary (not requiring attendance), and the participants recommend that Writing Centers have more tutors, expanded hours, and an interesting suggestion of “other” for flexibility in how Writing Centers can assist students. The implications for that recommendation for flexibility indicate that additional studies of Writing Centers can yield valuable insights for the ongoing development of Writing Centers.

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