Reconsidering Reading Models in Writing Center Consultations: When is the Read-Ahead Method Appropriate?
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After a decade of working in writing centers as a tutor and administrator, I have experienced and witnessed many challenging consultations. A particularly vexing type of consultation occurs when tutors work with advanced students writing in unfamiliar disciplines and genres. In this article, I consider whether the reading method employed during such consultations supports or detracts from tutors’ efforts to offer helpful advice. Specifically, I ask: When and how should writing tutors read students’ drafts to best support and engage them? How do the specific needs of student writers factor into selecting the best reading method? To respond to these questions, I first describe the results of a review of 70 well-known universities’ writing center websites, which reveals that the majority of centers require tutors to read students’ writing for the first time during consultations. Next, I posit some limitations of during-consultation reading models and argue that the read-ahead model may better meet the needs of some studentwriter populations. To provide a framework for the read-ahead model, I illustrate strategies that may be implemented to prepare tutors for consultations, drawing on research-based techniques that a more-senior director and I used at a private doctoral-granting university as we established the first writing center on the campus. I conclude by suggesting that directors consider the read-ahead method as yet another tool in their vast arsenal of pedagogical techniques, particularly when tutors must work with advanced writers from unfamiliar disciplines.