Facilitating the transfer of writing knowledge among university writing center consultants.
Based on an IRB-approved qualitative study of 26 graduate and undergraduate writing consultants at the Baylor University Writing Center (UWC), this dissertation addresses the ways in which consultants draw on prior writing knowledge when facing unfamiliarity in tutoring sessions. It further explores how rhetorical and metaknowledge about writing can promote more fruitful transfer among consultants. In order to investigate the effectiveness of consultants’ transfer, I surveyed, interviewed, and observed writing consultants over the course of a semester, using reflection posts, discussions, and tutor education observations. While writing is often viewed as something we do, a generalizable activity, metaknowledge about writing brings with it the understanding that writing is something we can know about. Nuanced conceptions of writing contribute to writing expertise and allow for more informed adaptation of prior writing knowledge, especially that which is decontextualized, tacit, or entrenched. In this project, I examine ways in which consultants’ writing knowledge and metaknowledge shapes their choices during tutoring sessions and explore how we might encourage them to leverage writing expertise through pedagogical interventions in tutor education. Each chapter approaches the adaptation of writing expertise from a different angle, moving from an examination of what that writing expertise is to how it is manifested in the ways consultants utilize tutoring strategies. Ultimately, I aim to help consultants engage in more adaptive uses of writing knowledge to encourage more effective tutoring. In taking these steps, writing administrators can not only better equip consultants to engage in transfer but also underscore the value of writing metaknowledge in the context of writing center work. Moreover, leveraging writing metaknowledge in the writing center can help correct widespread assumptions that writing is a static set of skills rather than a subject to be studied and understood.