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Bradley Hughes (USA)

Looking At Writing Centers Through Scientific Spectacles

Designed for peer tutors as well as faculty, my talk will celebrate ways writing centers and their wonderful peer tutors empower student-writers and tutors. I love what animates writing centers--the conversational buzz, deep listening, intellectual rigor, care, slow progress, discovery, frustration, and learning. What centers have achieved is audacious and hard won.

At the same time, I want to urge writing centers to engage in some activism—to empower writers and writing at their universities more inclusively and influence teaching and learning more broadly. Centers can expand their vision and share their knowledge, pedagogy, and values, especially by partnering with teaching staff across the university.

To do that well, to broaden our reach, we have to tap into two key strengths: our foundational principles and our people. Together we’ll articulate what scientific spectacles allow us to see: some of the big ideas, abstract principles that underlie our everyday writing center work. We’ll draw from literature inside writing center studies (e.g., Mackiewicz & Babcock, 2020) and outside (e.g., Christakis, Blueprint, 2019) and from the learning theory of connectivism. I’ll ask participants to imagine ways peer tutors from all kinds of different majors and interests can contribute (Epstein, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, 2019). I’ll also share my recent research about what professors want to learn about teaching with writing.

I’ll suggest small and large ways to do this work, drawing from 35 years as director of the Writing Center and the Faculty Program in Writing Across the Curriculum at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and from collaborating with writing centers and WAC programs across the US and in Kazakhstan, Germany, China, South Korea, Chile, Poland, India, and Canada.

I am deeply honored to learn together with great EWCA colleagues!

Short biography

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW), Brad Hughes was Director of the Writing Center from 1984-2019 and Director of Writing Across the Curriculum from 1990-2019. One of the most comprehensive in the US, UW’s Center has hosted many international visitors. He has been a consultant and evaluator in North America, Europe, South America, and East, Central, and South Asia, and given many keynote addresses. With Harvey Kail and Paula Gillespie, he created the Peer Writing Tutor Alumni Research Project. In 2003 he co-chaired the first IWCA Summer Institute for writing center directors. His newest publications: a 2021 major research study in The WAC Journal, and forthcoming articles in The Writing Center Journal; Across the Disciplines; Another Word, UW Center’s blog, celebrating 300 posts; and his first article in Chinese, with Zhang Jingtian. With co-authors, he twice received the IWCA award for best writing center research article, and in 2016 received IWCA’s Muriel Harris award.



Dr. Doris Pany

Writing Center
Department of Academic Services
Halbärthgasse 6/I
A-8010 Graz

Phone:+43 316 380 - 1150

Unfortunately, our office is not wheelchair accessible. However, in order to make our services accessible to all, we are happy to arrange meetings in other rooms on campus.

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