The first book-length empirical investigation of writing center directors’ labor, The Working Lives of New Writing Center Directorspresents a longitudinal qualitative study of the individual professional lives of nine new directors. Inspired by Kinkead and Harris’s Writing Centers in Context (1993), the authors adopt a case study approach to examine the labor these directors performed and the varied motivations for their labor, as well as the labor they ignored, deferred, or sidelined temporarily, whether or not they wanted to. The study shows directors engaged in various types of labor—everyday, disciplinary, and emotional—and reveals that labor is never restricted to a list of job responsibilities, although those play a role. Instead, labor is motivated and shaped by complex and unique combinations of requirements, expectations, values, perceived strengths, interests and desires, identities, and knowledge. The cases collectively distill how different institutions define writing and appropriate resources to writing instruction and support, informing the ongoing wider cultural debates about skills (writing and otherwise), the preparation of educators, the renewal/tenuring of educators, and administrative “bloat” in academe. The nine new directors discuss more than just their labor; they address their motivations, their sense of self, and their own thoughts about the work they do, facets of writing center director labor that other types of research or scholarship have up to now left invisible. The Working Lives of New Writing Center Directors strikes a new path in scholarship on writing center administration and is essential reading for present and future writing center administrators and those who mentor them.
Strategies for Writing Center Research is a guide to empirical research on writing center work. Though there are many other places where formal writing instruction, conversations about writing, conversations about teaching writing, writing, and revision happen, these activities are all always occurring in writing centers. All of the political, theoretical, social, spatial, technological, and practical debates about how a someone becomes a better writer play out hour after hour in the writing center; thus, the possibility of the writing center as a site for serious, interesting, groundbreaking writing research cannot be overstated.
Strategies for Writing Center Research is divided into three parts that correspond, more or less, to the stages of a research project. Part 1 includes an overview of writing center research, an introduction to key terms for research, a discussion of how to conduct bibliographic research in writing center studies, and advice on shaping a research proposal. Part 2 helps readers select appropriate research methods for their research questions. Chapters are devoted to discourse analysis, interviewing, surveying, fieldwork, and action research, including a discussion of the limitations, ethical challenges, and pitfalls to expect, as well as a description of the sort of data collected. Part 3 includes a discussion of approaches for analyzing and reporting research.
Winner of the 2014 IWCA Best Book Award Peripheral Visions for Writing Centers
"A critical text for current and future writing center administrators and scholars.... Peripheral Visions will be cited in future scholarship as a one of a growing collection of texts that desire to set the stage for the next phase of engagement with student writing." —Daniel Sanford, Writing Center Journal
Peripheral Visions for Writing Centers aims to inspire a re-conception and re-envisioning of the boundaries of writing center work. Moving beyond the grand narrative of the writing center—that it is solely a comfortable, yet iconoclastic place where all students go to get one-to-one tutoring on their writing—McKinney shines light on other representations of writing center work.
McKinney argues that this grand narrative neglects the extent to which writing center work is theoretically and pedagogically complex, with ever-changing work and conditions, and results in a straitjacket for writing center scholars, practitioners, students, and outsiders alike. Peripheral Visions for Writing Centers makes the case for a broader narrative of writing center work that recognizes and theorizes the various spaces of writing center labor, allows for professionalization of administrators, and sees tutoring as just one way to perform writing center work. McKinney explores possibilities that lie outside the grand narrative, allowing scholars and practitioners to open the field to a fuller, richer, and more realistic representation of their material labor and intellectual work.