Communication In and Out Of the Center

The first reading for this week was the first part of “Communications for Consultants” by Rita Owens, and focused on three major sections: pre-engagement, engagement, and post-engagement. This reading, unlike our others, was not tailored towards writing consultancy for writing centers– it was more focused on consultancy in a broader sense, such as in a business. As a result, much of this did not fully apply to us, such as the section on engagement: our entire engagement is between thirty minutes to one hour, so it is not exactly an ongoing project. I found the sections on pre- and post-engagement to be more relevant because, since our engagement is so short, most of our communication will fall into the realms of pre- or post- engagement. The only exception to this is the negotiating that occurs in both business and writing center engagement: both parties setting clear goals will lead to an overall more effective engagement, or session.

The section on pre-engagement focuses on being aware of your audience and of the context surrounding everything. We have discussed the importance of this rhetoric at length, especially in talking about tutor and writer identities and how those might influence a session. The post-engagement session urged those involved to write an accurate but concise summary of events. An overarching theme that Owens argues is that strong communications will lead to a stronger relationship with the client, which is definitely applicable to our tutoring practice.

Overall I thought that this piece could probably be more applicable to us because we were not its audience, but I also appreciated that it served the purposes that it was meant to very well and that its purposes did, in some places, overlap with ours. This makes sense because there are some aspects of the writing center, like consultant-client interactions, that function more like a business than like an academic department. This also made me realize that the skills we are learning here, to be writing consultants for Worcester State, will be highly marketable for the rest of our lives. We can market “consultancy” among our skills, and can also actually use these skills in whatever profession we so choose because while some require more communication than others, every single profession necessitates some aspect of communication, whether it be the primary point of the profession– such as working in public relations– or just something that facilitates the workings of the profession running smoothly– like an interdepartmental memo. The skills we are learning will not just be useful now and as we go on to tutor in the Writing Center, but will remain useful all the way through our professional lives and beyond.

The second reading this week was by the again familiar author in Mark Hall, entitled “Problems of Practice: Developing an Inquiry Stance Towards Writing Center Work”. This reading was more applicable than Owens’, because like much of Hall’s other work it was indeed meant for writing centers. This reading basically discussed the manner in which writing consultants think about the work that they do in their writing centers, and encourages them to develop an “inquiry stance”– meaning that they should think critically about what it is that they are doing in order to continue to gain knowledge and ask questions. Hall encourages the development of this stance through working with other tutors in order to develop more on each question that each tutor has, with the intent of using collaboration to work through difficult problems and questions in order to achieve the end goal, which would be to increase the knowledge of the center as a collective. Hall suggests asking questions with tangible answers that can be researched, so that it is possible to reach a resolution at the end of the session, but not questions that are so straightforward that they do not allow for any discussion. Hall also notes that this can be applied to more than just our writing centers, and encourages tutors to create blogs, like these, to interact and share strategies with tutors everywhere.

Overall I thought that these two readings were very interesting, although also very different. The first reading focused more on business consultations, which meant that we had to interpret how to best apply Owens’ advice to our purposes. Obviously the nature of communication in the Owens piece is going to be more formal and professional to some extent because we are still peer tutors, which means we are not going to behave over formally to our clients. While Owens’ work was still useful, Hall’s was more narrowly tailored to suit our purposes and thus, was overall more applicable. I also liked Hall’s ideas on collaboration, because I firmly believe that we can learn better when we depend on one another, cooperate, and share our resources than when we try to do everything ourselves– trust me, I’ve tried.

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