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INTRODUCTION Yo urs , M ine , and Ours Changing the Dynamics of Writing Center Assessment Ellen Schendel William J. Macauley, Jr. When we started this project, we had one idea in mind: to help our friends and colleagues make sense of and use assessment in their writing centers. We have been acting on this idea by providing a range of conference sessions and workshops over the past four years. This book project continues that work and benefits from what we have learned from so many of our colleagues through our conference meetings. Through these shared experiences, we felt as though we had found a clear idea of what writing center directors (WCDs) were looking for, what they wanted to learn and know, and what we could offer to support them in their assessment efforts. Once we had that clarity of purpose and audience, we started talking with folks about our book project ideas. We received only support and encouragement from our friends in writing centers, writing assessment, and writing program administration . Based on our workshop experiences and the support from multiple “camps” within our field, we started writing. We finished the first couple of chapters . . . and realized we had a problem. Throughout the writing process, we were surprised by how frequently we could come to contrasting views. And it didn’t happen all at once or even early in the project. These differences arose even as we completed the second half of the book and sought feedback from others. Our readers sensed some fundamental differences in our approaches to assessment and the kind of conversation we wanted to have with other WCDs. We understood the differences as primarily a function of Ellen’s background in writing assessment and Bill’s longer experience as a writing center director. We knew we agreed on one essential idea, however: both perspectives were necessary because they informed not only the project at hand but xiv    BUILDING WRITING CENTER ASSESSMENTS THAT MATTER how we got to it. The contrasts of perspective were at first problematic; even so, we recognized that the tensions between our respective views created a heightened expectation to support our individual claims and interpretations. In short, we were pushing one another harder than we would have had we agreed at every turn. As you’ll see in the pages that follow, we have written our own chapters. This structure may be deceiving, making it appear that we have dealt with our contrasting perspectives by simply avoiding them. However, we have shaped (and reshaped) each piece together while preserving the different perspectives that have informed our thinking about writing center assessment. Dif ferent Backgr o unds Ellen has been thinking about assessment for at least thirteen years and wrote a theoretical dissertation on writing assessment as social action— thinking that informs her current assessment work in the classroom and the writing center. A number of metaphors about assessment permeate her scholarly and practical work: assessment as social action; assessment as research; assessment as reflection; assessment as rhetoric. For Ellen, assessment isn’t just practical, local work—although it starts there. It’s one very important way that writing specialists and WCDs communicate their values and philosophies to high-stakes, external audiences—and to each other. Bill’s dissertation focused on empowering student writers, using studio pedagogies to do it, and adapting those studio pedagogies to firstyear composition courses. His experience with assessment spans writing centers, writing programs, and general education programs. An interest in assessment came long after he had become immersed in both the promise and lore of writing centers as locations of empowerment and student ownership of their work. In fact, Bill’s interest in writing center assessment evolved out of questions related to the agency of tutors and writing centers as well as student writers working within tutorials. Bill has felt for some time that writing centers have done a great deal to empower student writers. What assessment means for Bill now is the empowerment of writing center participants. Dif ferent I nstituti onal Fo cuses Ellen is one of several composition and rhetoric faculty in an independent writing department; she and other faculty who direct the various writing programs at the university are not “permanent” program Yours, Mine, and Ours    xv directors—the work can rotate as needed. The Writing Department has a long-standing interest in program and outcomes-based assessment, and the university’s assessment structure includes an administrator in the provost’s office who manages assessment university...


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