Recently, I had the opportunity to spend five days on South Padre Island at the southern tip of Texas. Although I spent some time relaxing on the beach and sticking my toes in the sand and the cool water of the Gulf of Mexico, I buckled down at the South Padre Convention Center to present my findings with Wittenberg Writing Center Director Dr. Michael Mattison and Elon University Writing Center Director Julia Bleakney in a presentation titled “Lowering Barriers: Understanding Writers’ Resistance to Feedback.”
To those that aren’t familiar with Writing Center lingo or the outside research that we complete, this convention, The National Conference on Peer Tutoring and Writing (NCPTW), is the ultimate Writing Center conference. You’ve got a little bit of everything: sessions on student research, sessions on administration research, a powerful keynote speaker, a beautiful city as host, and a conference director with all of the great, local food recommendations.
I was lucky enough to attend NCPTW for a second time this year. Together with junior Ryan Probst and senior Shane Harris, we presented at NCPTW 2017 at Hofstra University in Long Island, New York. The idea for the original presentation came from Dr. Mattison after beginning a new program with the spring 2016 English 242: Writing Center Theory class called the Elon Exchange. Within this program, advisors in the 242 class exchanged papers they had written with advisors-in-training at Elon University. In class, we were learning how to give feedback, but this project helped us learn how to deliver feedback that best suits the writer’s needs and desires after we became the recipients of feedback.
In last spring’s 242 class, we proceeded with the same project, but this time focusing more on the feelings and emotions associated with becoming the recipient of feedback. One of my main jobs throughout the project was to complete interviews with selected 242 students, and most mentioned initial bouts of hesitancy or emotion upon receiving and reading the comments left on their papers. Over the course of a month and a half though, most, if not all, of the students became more receptive to the feedback that they had received from their exchange counterpart.
Although we haven’t come to any hard conclusions just yet, this project has been instrumental in teaching advisors at Wittenberg and Elon that no matter whether the session is face-to-face or through email, many writers feel the same sorts of initial hesitancy and emotional resistance to feedback that we faced as participants in the project. Because of this, we need to focus on what the writer wants us to focus on, and we need to be open to changing tutoring techniques depending on how the session progresses. If the session is over email, we need to use multiple tutoring techniques so that if the writer doesn’t respond to one method, they have a multitude of other comments to rely on.
After Thanksgiving, we’re looking to begin work on an article to be published within the Writing Center field. With the new 242 class coming in during the spring semester, I think we’re going to try the exchange again just to see if they have similar results (which I would expect given that most everyone feels some sort of resistance to feedback when they have to become a recipient of feedback).
Coming back from NCPTW both in 2017 and 2018, I felt incredibly enlightened by the presentations I experienced as well as a sense of motivation toward continuing my own research within the field. Graduation is approaching very rapidly, and I would consider myself lucky to continue on to graduate school while also maintaining my connections with the Writing Center field following these wonderful NCPTW experiences.
Jennifer Ryan ’19
Minors: Creative Writing and Journalism
Hometown: Upper Burrell, Pennsylvania