Toward Authentic Dialogue: Origins of the Fishbowl Method and Implications for Writing Center Work
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Dialogue is central to a writing center’s mission. Whether we think of dialogue as the literal exchange of words between two people or as a method for prompting a creative openness to others’ perspectives, writers, tutors, and writing center administrators rely on dialogue to collaborate and learn from one another. While we may be able to agree on its value, less clear is the best route for achieving authentic, open dialogue. Furthermore, as we export writing center pedagogy and push beyond the physical boundaries of “the Center” to work online, in libraries, in satellite centers, in writing fellows programs, or with community partners, it will become increasingly necessary to expand our field’s traditional focus on dyadic, writerto-tutor exchanges to explore the dialogic potential of larger group configurations. In writing center work, we often speak of such potential in terms of collaboration, and with this essay, we’d like to explore the benefits—and acknowledge the limitations—of the fishbowl method for initiating the kind of dialogue necessary for building collaborative relationships within a campus community.