How Does Writing Center Theory Support Mainstreaming Basic Writers?
-By Noelle Ballmer
Writing centers are sites within the university or college that offer free assistance with writing projects. Often considered sites of supplemental instruction, the writing center deals with varying aspects of the writing process and levels of student writing. A common misconception of the writing center is that is it a site for grammar instruction or proofreading only, but writing centers facilitate an open discussion, reflection, and feedback through one-on-one or group consultations with a writing consultant.
In recent years, the writing center’s outreach has extended at some colleges and universities that have adopted a mainstream program for students who score below the recommended standard on state assessment exams. Rather than placing these students in a remedial course which typically earns no college credit, some programs have implemented a mainstreamed FY composition course with writing center supplemental instruction.
The writing center is uniquely positioned to help these mainstreamed students because of the theory that informs writing center practice. As Eric Hobson indicates, “[T]utorials do not exist within the tightly defined, disciplinary structures of the academe; rather, they work within a process and thus within the complex whole that is the person. Thus, educational, psychological, social, behavioral, and analytic theories as well as the means of investigating them had to be drawn into the writing center. . .” (Writing Center Practice” 3). The writing center does not simply address the deficiencies that mainstreamed students may manifest, but they employ social constructivist principles, collaborative learning, and whole language theory to work with the specific needs of each individual in a one-on-one conference setting.