Campus / News / January 26, 2011

Writer’s Block expands, takes on new challenges

Solutions for writer’s block can now be found in a new location.

At the start of winter term, the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) moved its writing tutors from the CTL building to Seymour Library’s Red Room.

“We want to bring writing tutorials and support closer to where students work,” director of the CTL John Haslem said.

The location change was also made in order to create a more conducive learning environment.

“The CTL isn’t the best set up,” said senior Sam Martone, who has been a writing tutor since his sophomore year. “There are people coming in and out every five minutes.”

“It was a pretty uncomfortable place to work for our students,” Haslem said. He went on to say some students have even requested to work across the street, in Post Lobby, rather than remain in the CTL. Moving tutors to the Red Room, Haslem said, will create a place where students “hopefully feel comfortable working.”

Other than the physical location change, Haslem also instituted changes to the writing program, christening the effort “Writer’s Block.” Tutors will now receive more opportunities for advanced certification in the teaching of writing. The center is currently working to secure money for undergraduates to attend a national conference on methods in teaching composition.

These expanded efforts came in response to an increased demand for Red Room tutoring services. The Red Room employs over 60 tutors in a total of 15 academic subjects and is offered three nights a week. It served more than 200 students during fall term alone.

“If Red Room can do this, well, maybe we can make a complementary writing program,” Haslem said.

Writer’s Block, according to Haslem, is not meant for spelling or grammar corrections but instead aims at “higher order concerns. Do you have a thesis? … Have you thought about assessing sources you’re using?” he said.

“We try to avoid just being proofreaders,” senior and writing tutor Claire Anderson said. “We’re seeking to make the individual student a better writer.”

Once hired, tutors go through a certification process and can achieve up to three different levels of qualification. They are taught ways to strengthen a paper, no matter the topic. Haslem views the role as positive for the tutor as well as the tutee.

“They’re learning about practice and how practice unfolds from theoretical underpinnings,” he said. “They’re challenged to explain it.”

Although the move has only been in effect for a few weeks, Haslem is optimistic about the change.

“I’m encouraged by our early reception from students,” he said.

Katy Sutcliffe

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