York College’s Writing Center conducts writing skills workshops to assist struggling students with the standard conventions of the written English language.
Every semester the Writing Center offers a series of writing skills workshops covering topics from supporting and developing a thesis to basic grammar. These workshops normally take place during club hours, and are conducted by the center’s writing consultants and director. The workshops consist of two components: a lesson and a forum on a particular topic where attendees are absorbing information, applying it in various writing exercises, and are encouraged to ask questions for clarification.
“The Writing Skills Workshops are an extension of the day-to-day services that the Writing Center offers,” said Professor Debbie Rowe of the Department of English and current director of the Writing Center at York College. “The workshops permit us to meet with larger groups of students at once, rather than the typical one-on-one tutoring session, all while covering common writing issues for which student wants help improving.”
The tutoring service offered by the Center allows York College students to sit with a consultant for 25 minutes (drop-in or scheduled) or 50 minutes for those who fill out an application at the beginning of the semester.
This semester, the Writing Center offers workshops on analyzing and synthesizing literature, personal statements, supporting and developing a thesis, developing and structuring an essay, conducting research and integrating sources, and basic grammar.
“While the workshop topics have somewhat remained the same over the years since they were put in place, our offerings are also based on what our writing consultants are willing to teach in a given semester,” said Rowe.
In an effort to determine the Center’s workshop effectiveness, students are provided with a questionnaire at the end of each workshop to provide anonymous feedback.
“We always receive positive feedback from the questionnaires,” said Carolette McDonald, the Writing Center’s manager. “Students enjoy the workshops, and express that they learn something which is important because we hope that the workshop would help them with something they didn’t know before or make easier what they felt was once difficult.”
Attendees of the workshops so far this semester agree that their personal learning goals for the workshops were met. Students who attended rated the consultants’ command of the subject a five on a scale from one to five, where one is the lowest score five is the highest. Attendees also rated the usefulness of the content a five on the same scale.
“As a student, I often solicit the expertise of the tutors in the Writing Center, whether it’s during a workshop or a tutoring session,” said Gianni Gustave, a French major. “I feel that the coordinators of the center select the best tutors for the students.”
“I have attended many scheduled sessions and in the past I have attended a workshop on research papers that I thought was very effective,” said Gustave. “When I consult with tutors during a one-on-one session, they help me review my papers meticulously—I not only learn from this experience, but it helps me prevent repeating previous mistakes.”
The Writing Center practices a progressive learning approach in regards to writing in any subject area.
“The purpose of all sessions, whether they are scheduled or drop-in sessions is to help students learn and progress with their writing, so that they eventually feel comfortable enough in expressing their ideas clearly and concisely without consultation from a writing consultant,” said, Writing Center Coordinator Jo-Ann Glenn, who also teaches writing and works as an assistant to the Journalism program.
During an observation of a typical day at the center, many students who came to schedule an appointment or drop-in for a tutoring session seemed to be under the impression that the center provides a proofreading service, expressing that they just “needed someone to correct [their] paper” or “fix [their] essay.” In response to these comments, one of the staff members replied with what students can actually expect:
“The consultants are not here to proofread, but to equip students with the tools needed to improve their writing skills—tools like the ability to recognize sentence fragments and how to fix them, teaching students how to understand subject verb agreement and punctuation usage,” said Saakhena Ali, a York alumna of the English department and senior writing consultant for the Writing Center.
Contrary to popular belief, the Writing Center’s writing consultants are not only English majors. The center’s consultants have backgrounds in disciplines from Occupational Therapy and Mathematics to Political Science and Psychology, which helps the center to serve the student body in various disciplines offered at York College.
While conducting a survey on the Writing Center’s overall effectiveness and usefulness, a few students from sophomores to seniors voiced their opinions.
“I have attended both drop-in/scheduled sessions at the Writing Center. I think the center is an excellent source of help,” said Ackail Ali, a senior majoring in Psychology. “The tutors are friendly and willing to help, but most importantly the center has helped me improve my writing skills greatly.”
Dorcas Adekanbi, a sophomore at the college said that she has benefitted from the services that the Writing Center offers. Her only complaint was that she feels the center needs more staff because sometimes the wait time can be long and trying to schedule an appointment that syncs up with a student’s schedule can be difficult.
Other students said they understood it was their responsibility to fit their schedule around the center’s schedule.
“I feel that students need to utilize the center in the right way,” said Odette Castaneda, a senior and English Literature and Teacher Education major at the college. “Coming last minute for a 25-minute microwave session won’t do you any good if you are a student like myself who isn’t as strong in their writing.
“The key to getting the most out of every session is to come consistently, so that your potential crisis can have time to simmer in the oven and not be left to a microwave session before the deadline when your paper is due. What can be done in a 50-minute session is completely different than what can be done in a 25-minute session,” said Castaneda.