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2 G etting f r o m Values to A ssessable Outc o mes William J. Macauley, Jr. Even while writing center directors (WCDs) usually know a great deal about what tutors and clients in their centers are doing and why, they can also worry that they don’t know enough about assessment to accurately represent that work. Writing center directors may worry that assessment won’t show the good work their centers do because assessments haven’t been designed or implemented properly, or because assessment designs found in the literature are not tailored specifically to writing centers. At other times, WCDs can worry that an assessment will be imposed from the outside, which will either inadequately measure some things or miss the boat and assess the wrong things altogether. Those who wait for a reaccreditation visit or the institutional research officer to knock on the door are particularly vulnerable in these scenarios. These are real concerns, and these concerns can become real outcomes, especially when WCDs are not intimately involved in writing center assessments. Meanwhile, these worries often originate, in one way or another, from the same root problem: a lack of confidence, experience, or opportunity to accurately discuss the work of a writing center through assessment , especially within the context of institutional and programmatic assessment on the local campus. Frankly, writing centaurs (a term used to describe those involved in writing centers, used especially to address those who participate in WCenter)1 suffer something of a double whammy in this regard because (1) writing center work can be so isolated , given that there is typically only one writing center director per campus, and (2) there simply isn’t a great deal of current scholarship focused on how to do writing centers assessment. 1. If WCenter is unfamiliar to you, it is a listserv that is probably the most prominent means of communication within the writing center community. So much good information comes through that list; anyone serious about writing centers has to be a participant, IMHO. Any internet search using the term “wcenter” will get you the information you need to join. 26    BUILDING WRITING CENTER ASSESSMENTS THAT MATTER Although those of us in writing centers can so often feel a sense of discomfort when we are thinking about assessment, we generally feel certain of our writing center work. Even while WCDs must accept these less-than-perfect conditions, we must also acknowledge our own expertise and efficacy as substantial to the development of writing center assessment on multiple levels. We, who work every day in writing centers , are actually the best people to take on these challenges because we know what our writing centers value, what our writing centers accomplish , what we want them to achieve, and what we want (and want others ) to know about our progress toward those achievements. We know anecdotally what our centers are producing, and we know empirically who is using our centers, how often, and for what purposes. So we are in a unique position of doing work that is relatively new and quite familiar at the same time, and we are the only ones who can do that work. A primary challenge in building writing center assessment is finding a suitable foundation. WCDs might simply look to prior writing center assessment scholarship but, as our introduction argued, there is decidedly little scholarship available on writing centers assessment. What is available falls generally into two categories: broad arguments that writing centers should be doing assessment and writing center research that could be adapted to assessment. Joan Hawthorne’s “Approaching Assessment as if It Matters” (2006) is a good example of the former category and makes a strong argument for meaningful writing center assessment , from several perspectives. Peter Carino and Doug Enders’s “Does Frequency of Visits to the Writing Center Increase Student Satisfaction? A Statistical Correlation Study—or Story” (2001) is a smart and useful quantitative study of the relationships between data sets to which many WCDs often have ready access. Although Carino and Enders work to explore relationships between visits and satisfaction, and the methods might be adapted to assessment projects, their work is not assessment because it is not focused on an assessment question. There is a significant gap between an argument for assessment and assessment itself— between research that studies writing centers and research that assesses them. These latter types of scholarship are appearing slowly and will continue to develop. By conducting assessment within our writing centers , we...


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