OWC Writing Center Philosophy

Writing Center Philosophy

[I]n a writing center the object is to make sure that writers, and not necessarily their texts, are what get changed by instruction. In axiom form it goes like this: Our job is to produce better writers, not better writing.

—Stephen North, “The Idea of a Writing Center” (438)

 

While a specific writing situation is usually what compels a writer to visit us, our focus at the Oxford Writing Center (OWC) goes beyond a specific text to the writer as a learner. We therefore build on Stephen North’s influential statement to focus on producing better learners of writing. We believe all writers have more to learn and seek to help Oxford writers become more effective learners of their writing situations and choices. Ultimately, we seek to provide a supportive space for students to grow as flexible, thoughtful communicators and see the OWC as an important site of learning for all Oxford students, regardless of their strengths or challenges.

Our writing center philosophy is based on several beliefs about writing:

  • All writers have more to learn
  • Writing is social, rhetorical, and situated
  • Revision is central to developing writing
  • Reflection is critical for writers’ development
  • Writing involves making ethical choices
  • Writing involves the negotiation of language differences
  • All writing is multimodal

Because all writing situations are opportunities for continued growth as writers, the OWC extends an open invitation to students to bring all forms of writing to us, whether for classroom, professional, public, or personal purposes. While writing has always involved meaning making between modes like the visual and linguistic, we believe our increasingly digitally-mediated world requires writers to have a greater range of literacies in order to communicate effectively and therefore take a multiliteracies approach. Writers are encouraged to also bring work that is multimodal and can use the writing center as a place to think through the relationships between modes in their communication. Similarly, while writing has always involved negotiating language and cultural differences, we believe our increasingly globalized world requires greater attention to those dynamics and also take a translingual approach to help students develop as thoughtful citizens of the world.

Because our focus is on helping students develop as lifelong learners of writing, we are particularly mindful of student agency and of facilitating students’ own reflections about their writing. We do not “fix” papers or writers, but instead nurture their own active learning. Peer writing consultants practice approaches that foster respect, trust, and warmth in their consulting relationships so that student writers will feel comfortable enough working through their writing challenges with them. They also practice strategies that help student writers abstract their own principles and strategies for working through future writing challenges. Finally, writing consultants employ approaches that support student writers’ growth as critical thinkers of communication who understand their rhetorical choices as world building, and therefore always ethical choices.

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