Ideas about Writing Centers

For discussion:

In 1984, in a well-known article entitled "The Idea of a Writing Center," Stephen North railed against the common faculty perception of a writing center as a fix-it shop, a place for remediation.

He wrote about what he thought writing centers should be, his "idea of a writing center."

1) we get involved in the process of writing: Our job is to produce better writers, not better writing.

2) We are student-centered.

Here are some points North makes:

  • Out of respect to fellow-professionals, we never evaluate any teacher's syllabus, assignment, comments, or grades.

  • We are not the teacher, so we aren't the grader.

  • We expect that teachers should not think of our work as plagiarism, any more than they think of teacher conferences as plagiarism.

  • Teachers should respect our work as we do theirs. They should not evaluate or second-guess our work with writers.

  • Writers seek us out. (North doesn't like the idea of students being required to go to the Writing Center.)

  • When students WANT to improve their own writing, we are there. And we capitalize on their motivation.

  • We give writers plenty of time.

  • The paper is in whatever form the writer has managed to make it--not always efficient, but always student-centered.

  • The kind of writing doesn't change the approach. We always want the writer to tell us what the purpose is, who the audience is, how the writer hopes to present him or herself, etc.

  • Talk is everything.