FROM THE EDITORS
James Garner & Alejandro Omidsalar
University of Texas at Austin
We here in the Praxis editorial office proudly present our summer 2017 issue, entitled “Style & Pedagogy.” This issue’s articles range from technical and assessment-based concerns about ELL students and tutor training to more freewheeling looks at writerly style, a concept that often goes overlooked in our still-emergent field. We are confident that this issue has something for anyone and everyone with an interest in writing center labor and theory.
Our first column, penned by Meredith McCarroll, addresses student resistance to tutor training courses, pulling from her tutor training experience and research on training programs at Clemson University and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. McCarroll makes the point that knowing that you know how to write is just as important as knowing how to write for student tutors. In this issue’s latter column, Beatrice Mendez Newman of the newly minted University of Texas Rio Grande Valley details helpful and practical strategies for one-on-one work with non-native English speaking students, especially those from Spanish-speaking backgrounds. I (Alejandro) had the privilege of watching her give a presentation on the subject at SCWCA 2017, complete with participation and input from the very students whose linguistic progress she was discussing.
The first focus article of this issue finds Diana Awad Scrocco interrogating whether the traditional writing center model of reading students’ writing during consultations is effective for tutors working with advanced students composing discipline-specific papers. Instead of reading papers during the consultation, tutors would employ the read-ahead model, in which students submit their work for the tutors to read before consultation, which Scrocco posits might allow tutors to address advanced writers’ overall concerns more strategically and effectively. Though the read-ahead method has a few limitations, advanced students might ultimately receive more useful feedback if tutors have the time to read their clients’ work beforehand. Scrocco makes a compelling case that future writing center scholarship should consider the benefits of this model.
In his article, Joseph Cheatle lays out an insightful study of the perceived needs of ELL students versus those of native English speakers when both populations come to the writing center; surprisingly, his research reveals a striking similarity in student desires for writing center consultations, regardless of their proficiency (or lack thereof) with the English language. Among the various salient points raised, Cheatle argues that—aside from introductory ELL courses—there still are not enough resources for English language acquisition at the university level. Though that news may be less than welcome to some administrative ears, we here at Praxis believe it is a crucial message, and one that deserves repeating. Paired with the tutoring strategies in Newman’s column, Cheatle’s observations provide a great deal of food for thought about how writing centers can continue improving their accessibility to students from various linguistic backgrounds and skill levels. While cutting-edge tutorial practices are a big part of what we cover here at Praxis, we also thoroughly appreciate the classics. In her article, Kathryn Raign delves into the Platonic concept of elenchus to model useful vocabularies for student tutors to draw upon when questioning their tutees.
Talinn Phillips’s article provocatively suggests that the commonplace notion that graduate student writers, as nascent experts in their fields, arrive to graduate school fully formed as writers harms multilingual graduate student writers. Providing two fascinating IRB-approved case studies with multilingual graduate writers who felt the sometimes uncomfortable weight of various institutional pressures as their identities shifted from novice to expert, Phillips offers a number of ways that writing centers can adjust their practices to accommodate the needs of these graduate writers as they find their places in their chosen disciplines.
In keeping with this issue’s concerns about pedagogy and accessibility, Kristeen E. Cherney has composed a thoughtful piece about how writing centers can (and should) improve accessibility for students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). She proposes a number of helpful suggestions derived from the universal design principles to make our centers more ASD-friendly, as well as providing an efficient literature review on the admittedly under-studied subject of writing centers and ASD.
Last, but certainly not least, we close the issue with a pair of articles on the subject of style and its place in writing centers. Edward Santos Garza directly challenges the writing center shibboleth that casts style as a lower order concern, generally unworthy of tutorial interference. Demonstrating an incisive and charismatic flair all his own, Garza champions style as a tool for “helping writers navigate genre, helping writers take ownership of their work, and helping writers find themselves amid the ocean of academic discourse.” Chris Leary adds perceptive considerations of popular culture (namely the online feud between rappers Drake and Meek Mill) to shine a light on how our students think of and discuss both the idea of originality in writing and the writing center itself on Twitter. Leary’s deft readings of tweets, magazine excerpts, and quotes from hip hop luminaries culminate in one of the most enjoyable and compulsively readable articles published during our tenure as Praxis editors. While we are on the subject of style, we are happy to mark this issue as the premiere of our new cover layout.
On the note of editorial tenure, we unfortunately have to end this issue’s letter from the editor with some bad news. James Garner, one of the longest-running editors in the brief history of Praxis, is leaving our office this fall for an administrative position at the University Writing Center here at the University of Texas at Austin. We will miss his editorial prowess, his wisdom, and his boundless knowledge of punk and hardcore. But, as one editor leaves his post, another rises to fill it. James and I would both like to welcome Sarah Riddick, our incoming managing editor. Her varied and lengthy experience in the worlds of freelance writing and editing will maintain the quality that has become the signature of Praxis.