Filling in the gaps: Engaging and supporting the development of writers at Morehead State University

Presentation with Alvin Madden-Grider (Tutoring and Learning Center) and Morehead State University students Megan Ison (peer writer) and Kelly Reid (writing tutor) at 2013 Kentucky Engagement Conference held Nov. 6 at Eastern Kentucky University.


This session will focus on how the partnership between the Morehead State University Tutoring and Learning Center and the Morehead Writing Project provides supplemental writing instruction in order to break the cycle of failure caused by writing apprehension. The session will share how this partnership came into being and currently plays out on our campus from the perspective of the faculty and staff members as well as the student tutors involved in the partnership. We will share the groundwork we laid during the 2012-13 academic year and the results of our collaboration as experienced during the 2013-14 academic year.



Even though most Americans agree that writing is key to both academic and professional success, we are still failing to prepare our students in both areas. Large numbers of students arrive on our campus underprepared for both academic and professional writing. Not only are they unprepared, the problem is compounded by an additional concern: writing apprehension. The term writing apprehension was coined by Daly and Miller (1975) while developing their groundbreaking instrument to measure writing apprehension after they found that communication apprehension seriously affects a large proportion of the population. Writing apprehension is a collection of behaviors that include a tendency to avoid situations that involve writing, to find writing unrewarding, to fear having one’s writing evaluated, and to develop increased anxiety over having one’s writing viewed in a public forum.  A few composition classes are not enough to break the cycle of writing apprehension for many students which results in an endless cycle of failure. Students lack confidence in their ability to write and so they do not take the steps necessary to improve their writing which leads to further failure and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. Without intervention the cycle will continue.

Morehead State’s solution to this cycle of struggle and failure is a two-pronged approach which offers personal support to supplement writing instruction. First, we provide one-on-one support sessions with writing tutors to offer focused, just-in-time intervention as needed by students. Second, we provide supported writing groups to offer intensive writing process intervention over time. What makes our solution unique from most programs is this complementary coverage which allows us to provide comprehensive writing support for struggling writers as well as break the cycle of failure. In addition, our supplemental writing programs have the support of a National Writing Project site. NWP is the only national professional development network focused on the teaching of writing and at MSU that work includes providing support for pre-service teachers and writing tutors as well as university faculty and staff. The Teaching and Learning Center and the Morehead Writing Project work closely together to synchronize our services to provide more comprehensive coverage of student writing needs and reach more students. We also use complementary training and support strategies. In addition, working with an NWP site has enabled us to extend our services beyond campus into our extended campus locations and K-12 schools both directly through on-site tutors and indirectly through teachers trained using NWP methods. Working together allows us to leverage existing resources in these challenging times to provide better and more comprehensive writing support services for our students.

Our session will focus on how this partnership came into being and currently plays out on our campus from the perspective of the faculty and staff members as well as the student tutors involved in the partnership. We will share the groundwork we laid during the 2012-13 academic year and the results of our collaboration as experienced during the 2013-14 academic year.


National Day On Writing

Organized regional National Day On Writing celebration Oct. 20-24, 2013, that included collaborative effort on campus of Morehead State University as well as participation of Morehead Writing Project teachers and students throughout the region. The celebration events included daily writing prompts and activities.

Learn more about the National Day On Writing celebration on the Morehead Writing Project web site.

Teen Writers Day Out

Led writing marathon including six word stories, Twitter fiction, and slam poetry (with the assistance of Mandy Lawson and her Sheldon Clark High School students) for 140 teen writers from Bath, Martin, and Montgomery counties on Oct. 24, 2013. Previously led a Teen Writers Day Out for 120 students from Boyd, Fleming. and Rowan counties on April 18, 2013.

Learn more about the  Teen Writers Day Out Writing Marathon on the Morehead Writing Project web site


Writers, Tutors, Teachers, Oh my!

Discussion (with Alvin Madden-Grider) at Southeastern Writing Center Association – Kentucky Conference held Sept. 20, 2013, at Eastern Kentucky University Noel Studio.

What happens when your National Writing Project site gets into the tutoring business? Come join our conversation about the pros-cons of marrying an NWP Writing Studio with a Tutoring and Learning Center in order to support a reinvented (reborn?) Writing Center. We will chart our journey and discuss the perils and promises of our unique program model.

I direct the Morehead Writing Project, a local site of the National Writing Project and one of 8 Kentucky Writing Project sites including one located here at EKU, and run the MWP Writing Studio (learning communities focused on writing). The mission of the National Writing Project is to improve the teaching of writing from kindergarten through college. The Morehead Writing Project centers our work toward that goal around two essential goals – teachers (and tutors) who write make better writing mentors (and that is how we see the role of the writing teacher – I do not call myself a writing teacher – I say that I teach writers) and so the second essential goal is dedicated to sustaining that focus on the teacher as writer – first we make our teachers writers and second we continue to feed the writer (teachers and students alike) through our various outreach programs. So that is what I bring to our unique collaboration. I come to it from an English and educator centered background which is different than Alvin’s focus. We like to think our experience and focus complement well but only time will tell.

What are the ideal qualities of a writing tutor – and why?

Reflect – share your thoughts with someone from another institution and decide what questions/ideas you want to bring to the larger conversation.

Now let’s talk about writers. What is a writer? What makes a “good” writer? When (or how) did you know you were a writer?

High- vs. Low-Stakes Writing

Presented at Aug. 13 at Morehead State University 2013 Professional Development Day and Nov. 2 at 2013 Writing Eastern Kentucky Conference at Morehead State University.

Avoiding a Grading Avalanche

More about Low-stakes writing:

Low-stakes writing assignments:

For this presentation:

Learning Communities/Networks: Harnessing Social Media to Create Social Capital

Kentucky Innovations Conference

Community plays an important role in learning and social capital is key for both students and educators. There are many tools available to form and foster community. This session will introduce educators to four social media tools (Twitter, Google, Facebook, Edmodo) which they can use to create their own personal learning networks as well as support classroom learning. We will share our use of these tools for learning and teaching as well as provide opportunities for session participants to engage with the technology on their own devices.

Links and notes

Social Media introduction notes

Understanding and Addressing Cultural Discontinuity in Appalachia

Kentucky Innovations

Powerpoint slides and notes

Appalachia notes

Students from marginalized populations often experience clashes in the expectations of their home and school environments, a cultural discontinuity that may impact their motivation and self-esteem which in turn hinders their chances for academic performance and long-term success. This presentation will provide an overview of the economic, educational, and technological context and challenges which complicates the lives as well as academic and professional achievements of today’s Appalachian students. In addition, we will describe the issues of faith, family, and community that both inform Appalachia’s rich heritage and the fears of Appalachians concerning the loss and destruction of this heritage.