The OU-C Writing Center continues to make its mark with its ability to help students learn the craft of effective writing while further fostering the sense of a learning community on campus. In fact, “business is booming” this academic year, with traffic up approximately 25 percent in fall quarter 2009 compared to the previous year, according to Writing Center Coordinator Debra Nickles.
The center’s success is built on a student-centered approach that focuses on peer education and encourages students to become critical thinkers in the written communication. The center’s tutors are OU-C students who can most easily relate to their classmates and continue classroom teaching in a more personalized setting.
“The best aspect of peer-to-peer tutoring is that tutors, as students themselves, have great insights into what it means to be a student here on the Chillicothe Campus and what is expected from various instructors,” Nickles said. “Finding that common ground as students builds trust in a way that may be somewhat unique to the Learning Commons. For example, when tutors offer guidance on writing assignments, they often have a great sense of what the instructor may be looking for and sometimes have more one-one-one time with students to talk openly about specific issues that instructors identify. We really see a lot of work as an extension of what goes on in the classroom, only in a one-on-one setting.”
The Writing Center, which is part of the Learning Center, is located inside of Quinn Library inside of the Stevenson Center and shares space with the Math Center.
“The students who visit the center are put at ease when they realize that the tutors are also students,” tutor Brandi Weaver said. “They tend to open up more around us, and it helps when they see we have similar perspectives and that we feel their pain, in terms of juggling school and other responsibilities.
Weaver, a Huntington High School graduate, is a Writing Center veteran of four years. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Ohio University in 2007 and is pursuing a library information degree from Kent State University while taking some classes at OU-C. “The most fulfilling aspect is working with students and seeing them make improvement. Sometimes you can see that light bulb go off in their heads when they understand a new concept,” Weaver said.
“Peer to peer tutoring, unlike student-professor relationships, can be relaxed and highly individualized,” said student-tutor Caleb Marhoover, a geology major from Eastern High School. “We can provide a tutee with thoughtful suggestions that are grafted singularly and not blanket statements meant to generally benefit a large group of students.”
“The OU-C Writing Center allows tutors and tutees to have a unique opportunity to interact with one another in a low-risk environment. Occasionally, fast-paced university-level classes may not allow the one-on-one instruction time that some students require. If students come into the Writing Center a bit overwhelmed by a task that lies ahead, simply having an assignment explained from another perspective may make it clearer to the student,” said tutor Sarah Cook, a middle childhood education, English language arts & social studies major from Beavercreek. “This peer-to-peer approach enables tutors to meet the needs of the varying learning styles innate to OU-C's diverse student body. I hope all students feel a welcoming atmosphere when they enter the center.”
“The Writing Center staff is a core community of peers and friends. Students enter this relaxed atmosphere and are able to participate in their own education in a way that many of their fellow students can appreciate because it is a shred experience. With each visit, tutees become more comfortable with the Writing Center and more confident in their abilities. Over time, this creates a larger pool of confident, competent, comfortable students,” Marhoover said.
“Speaking as a prospective teacher, I know that good instruction must be a reflective process. Helping one another make it through a difficult assignment or simply brainstorming ideas together creates a unique community of collaborative learners on our regional campus. It is through constant practice and our own interaction and discussion with our peers that we become better tutors,” Cook noted.
The Writing Center’s staff strives to help student-users learn and apply skills that are durable and not just focused on the assignment at hand.
“We take a writer-oriented, not a product-oriented approach,” Nickles said. “We are not an editing service, but we talk with students about the writing process and how to apply the critical thinking process to their writing at all times. We are looking to redefine the meaning of the word ‘tutor’ and break out of the remedial connotation. Rather, the center is for individuals who want to go more deeply into their writing and their learning.”
The center maintains a close relationship faculty members on campus to better understand their expectations. In fact, many of the tutors are recommended by instructors. The center has been involved in outreach activities, with quarterly writing contests that allow OU-C students to demonstrate their creative writing talents and workshops on relevant topics such as research writing and APA style.
To offer a range of insights and breadth of knowledge, the center looks to identify tutors from across the curriculum.
Its location in the library makes use of other resources, such as library staff members, as well as helping to strengthen the library’s role as the academic hub of campus.
“What really makes the Writing Center so effective is the thoughtfulness and dedication of each student-tutor,” Nickles said. “They really deserve kudos for juggling their own work, academics and personal life so well while at the same time providing top-notch feedback on writing.”
“More faculty members are finding the center’s services useful and are inviting us into their classrooms to offer brief research brush-ups and by requesting that their students work with the center before submitting papers and projects,” Nickles said. “Quite a few instructors have said that they notice a big difference in the students’ work once we have worked with them.”
The center has expanded its hours of operation this academic year to 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and noon to 4 p.m. on Friday. Walk-ins are welcome, but students are encouraged to make an appointment by calling (740) 774-779 or by emailing the coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org.