This past weekend, several members of the WVU Writing Center attended the annual Mid-Atlantic Writing Center Association (MAWCA) conference at California University of Pennsylvania. The theme of the conference was “Writing Centers in 3D.” This metaphor was used to describe the importance of viewing the writing center space through three dimensions: theory, practice, and research. The MAWCA conference enabled us to interact with other writing center staff and share strategies, as well as discuss ways to improve our centers.
While there, we participated in a few workshops, along with leading a presentation in the form of a board game entitled, “Snakes and Ladders,” through which we discussed how to overcome potentially uncomfortable tutoring situations. I attended workshops on many wide-ranging topics, such as students self-identifying as “bad writers,” using mnemonics as tutoring devices, online tutoring, studying Daoist principles in tutoring style, and better serving ESL students. These topics allowed me to identify fresh tactics that seemed to work really well for other tutors that I will hopefully be able to utilize as well.
The keynote speaker, Associate Professor of English and Writing Program Director of Mississippi College Kerri Jordan, focused heavily on the overall theme of the conference. She stressed the importance of not relying too much on theory and practice while letting research fall to the wayside. MAWCA highlighted undergraduate research, and Dr. Jordan made sure to encourage the students in the room to recognize areas in need of improvement at their centers and take steps to solve them.
Overall, the MAWCA conference was a great way to exchange ideas that are ingrained into us but may provide a brand new perspective to somebody else. This active flow of ideas helps ensure that the practice in our writing centers doesn’t become stagnant, but rather they evolve to fit expanding knowledge. At the same time, the call for new undergraduate research from writing center tutors provided much motivation for us tutors to enthusiastically participate in improving the day-to-day practices of our respective writing centers and the writing center community at large. Plus the luncheon was delicious!