ERIC Number: EJ1116387
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Mar-29
The Protean Shape of the Writing Associate's Role: An Empirical Study and Conceptual Model
Cairns, Rhoda; Anderson, Paul V.
Across the Disciplines, v5 Mar 2008
Writing fellow or writing associate (WA) programs trace their heritage to a single point of origin: the model developed at Brown University in the early 1980s by Tori Haring-Smith (Soven, 1993, 2001). Since then, the Brown model has spread to hundreds of schools. WA programs are so adaptable because they consist of many discrete elements, each of which can be adjusted to match the character and aspirations of individual institutions. Program directors can localize the requirements faculty must satisfy to obtain the assistance of a WA, the kinds of help WAs provide to students, and everything in between. Consequently, each WA program, despite its family resemblance to all others, remains distinctive. To find out what might be gained by examining the WA's role empirically, the authors studied the activities of four WAs in a special program that was very different from the Brown model. Rather than specifying the proper role for the WAs, the authors let each faculty member/WA pair work out the WA's role together within deliberately vague, loosely defined requirements concerning the WAs' responsibilities. This open-endedness created a wonderful research opportunity for exploring the dynamics of the WA's role. By gathering and analyzing information from the WAs, their faculty partners, and students in the faculty members' classes, we developed a conceptual model of the WA's role. The model includes four major elements: (1) the essential tasks of a WA; (2) the principal forces that influence the ways a particular WA performs these tasks; (3) the dynamic interaction among these forces that shape the WA's role; and (4) the institutional context in which the WA works and the dynamic interaction occurs. To learn about the WA's role as it unfolds in situ, the authors designed a participant-observer study in which they gathered information from WAs and their faculty members throughout a semester. At the end of the term, they distributed a survey to the students in the faculty members' classes. The study was conducted at Miami University (Ohio), a public institution that offers a liberal arts undergraduate education and selected master's and doctoral programs. All aspects of the study had prior Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval. A major finding is that the role of a WA is shaped by the dynamic interaction of the faculty member, WA, and students. Moreover, the WA's role may evolve as the relationships among the faculty member, WA, and students unfold throughout a semester or quarter.
Descriptors: Models, Program Development, Task Analysis, Performance Factors, Institutional Characteristics, Context Effect, Participant Observation, Content Area Writing, Writing Across the Curriculum, Instructional Development, Cooperative Planning, Educational Practices, Educational Policy, Learning Activities, Administrative Principles, Role Perception, College Programs
WAC Clearinghouse. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523. Tel: 970-491-3132; Web site: http://wac.colostate.edu
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Rhode Island (Providence)
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A