Writing Center Assessment: An Argument For Change
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Assessment embodies the potential for change if used to its fullest advantage. For any writing center, assessment can build arguments for additional or continued funding, staffing, or space on campus. It can also provide an explanation of (and defense of) the value of its services to the campus community. Yet an assessment must have accurate outcomes and collect accurate data to build these arguments. Inspired by the desire to create a new, part time or full-time position in the writing center for the director, the pilot assessment at Longwood University (a small liberal arts college nestled in central Virginia) was designed to show the center’s effectiveness at helping to improve student writing, at helping to increase a student’s confidence about writing, at offering excellent professional development to the tutors and to the graduate assistant, at satisfying the needs of both students who use the center and the faculty who send them there, and at showing increasing amounts of usage to indicate positive growth. Thus, the pilot assessment was designed to show proof of the effectiveness of the center in order to ensure its longevity, along with the need for a permanent director so it would be able to reach more students through consistent leadership. As assessment takes center stage on the “to do” list of writing center directors, it is important to consider several aspects of building a coherent pilot such as context, audience, data collection, and possibilities for collaboration with faculty and the Office of Assessment and Institutional Research. In this paper, we will explore seven key questions for designing an effective pilot that address each of these areas.