Discovery as the direct and urgent action of ecological assessment in writing centers

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jennifer Smith Daniel (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Nancy Myers

Abstract: Institutional assessment in higher education often restricts measurement of learning to outcomes that elide the complexity of learning processes and contexts in favor of data that is tidy and manageable. Moreover, such outcomes are frequently written to express an economic value for the learning to justify the purpose of education as a personal good versus a public good. Currently, the value of education is determined by free market principles and commodified as something necessary for social mobility. However, this commodification functions within exclusionary power structures that serve hegemonic systems, not the public good. Writing centers within this contemporary ecosphere of higher education offer unique opportunities to interrupt these neoliberal logics. Yet, much of the writing center scholarship leans towards utopian narratives (e.g., “The Idea of a Writing Center”) about the positionality of the writing center within these educational ecologies. New voices have specifically called for writing center administrators to account for the ways that center work operates within these neoliberal logics in order to reckon with the ways that such work might actually reify the very logics it hopes—and claims—to interrupt. This project takes up that call to design a heuristic meant to map how my writing center is positioned within its various educational ecologies (i.e., higher education in the US; the local Queens ecology; the classroom) and what that positionality means for my work as the director. Specifically, this project explores the ways that distant ecologies, local ecologies, and the writing center infrastructure influence the daily operations of the center and the tutoring practices of the student-tutors. Using a framework of ecological thinking by Lorraine Code, this project seeks to make legible the ways that these educational ecologies impact writing center work so that writing center administrators can make ethical and informed choices—such as with institutional assessments—about the daily processes and practices in order to resist the neoliberal logics that shift our missions in subtle but tangible ways.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2023
Ecological Assessment, Outcomes Assessment, Pedagogy, Writing Center
Education, Higher $x Aims and objectives
Writing centers
Educational change
Social justice and education
Competency-based education

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