Reaching Out Across the Campus & the Curriculum: A Brief Introduction To Writing Center Outreach

Outreach, Writing Across the Curriculum / Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Hi everyone. In this post I wanted to give a brief overview of Outreach for instructors, students, and teachings assistants working in the Writing Center (WC) as well as others interested in Writing Center teaching. My hope is that my post will interest all these audiences, be it by helping an instructor learn more about us and how to contact us to arrange an outreach or to inspire TAs in our own writing center to become a member of our Outreach staff.

In a nutshell, Outreach plays a small, but important, role in Writing Center’s mission to help undergraduate and graduate students in all disciplines become more effective, more confident writers by visiting classes and organizations across campus. Below I’ll list the fundamental ideas about writing we discuss during an outreach visit (no matter the topic) and then give an overview of our different Outreach options. But, I first want to list a few of our “co-teaches” from this semester—quite a variety and the most exciting part of our work in my mind!

1) We’ve worked with professors, teaching assistants, and academic staff to teach topics such as:

  • writing thesis statement and purpose statement essays in a Languages and Cultures of Asia history course;
  • writing research abstracts for the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program;
  • writing research proposals and literature reviews in a Civil and Environmental Engineering course;
  • and writing about quantitative data, for seniors in the concentration in analysis and research track in sociology.

2) Important ideas about writing we talk about in all visits:

  • Getting help with your writing isn’t “remedial” work.
  • It takes time to learn new genres, and we can help students become more capable of identifying the rhetorical features of a particular genre and incorporate that knowledge into their own writing.
  • Good writers, including professors, get feedback about their writing from colleagues. For example, many, many Writing Center instructors meet with other Writing Center instructors because we all benefit from having people read our work!

3) Most of our Outreach teaching falls into one of the following categories:

  • Brief introductions to the Writing Center: A Writing Center instructor visits a class to discuss all WC services such as individual writing instruction in main and satellite locations as well as our online options. We also tailor these visits to classes and assignment(s).
  • Co-Teaches on brief units on writing: Writing Center instructors can also visit undergraduate or graduate class to teach a brief unit on writing customized for students. In classes, the instructor will work closely with the professor or TA of the course to construct a lesson on writing specifically geared for the writing students are expected to do.
  • Group Meetings: Our instructors also visit events offered by various campus departments and programs such as International Academic Programs and the Graduate Student Collaborative to teach about a wide variety of writing.
  • New Student Orientations: Each fall our instructors attend many new student orientation sessions and either give a brief, one-time introduction to Writing Center services or operate an information booth alongside many other campus organizations and groups. Instructors bring with them a wide variety of handouts about our various services and speak with students about using the Writing Center.

If you would like to learn more about outreach instruction, I highly recommend an article we use in our staff training by Brad Hughes, Director of the UW’s Writing Center & Writing Across the Curriculum: “Writing Center Outreach: Sharing Knowledge and Influencing Attitudes About Writing,” in The Writing Center: New Directions, edited by Ray Wallace and Jeanne Simpson (1991).

I hope this information was all helpful and that you’ll either contact us to arrange a class visit or about becoming an Outreach instructor. Thanks for reading!

For more information, please feel free to contact me at outreach [at] writing [dot] wisc [dot] edu. Or visit our Outreach page.

4 Replies to “Reaching Out Across the Campus & the Curriculum: A Brief Introduction To Writing Center Outreach”

  1. Thanks for this post, Rik. Working on the Outreach staff has been really rewarding for me. It’s great to see how many professors and departments across campus value writing and enlist the Writing Center’s resources to help them help their students succeed as writers. And it’s just great to see the variety of writing that occurs on this campus. It definitely helps us improve our services at the Writing Center.

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