Composition as Open Environment: A Roundtable Discussion of the Writing Studio

  • H.32 Composition as Open Environment: A Roundtable Discussion of the Writing Studio
  • 11:00 AM to 12:15 PM on Friday, March 21, 2014 CCCC ~ Session Flyer
  • Grand Ballroom VIII, Third Floor

Over the past two decades, the field of composition has sought out innovative strategies for delivering writing instruction to various student populations. Distance learning education, service learning, prison and workplace…

Emerging studio models diverge more widely from the Grego-Thompson model. Some programs are expanding writing studios through new designs that draw on blended course design principles and research on student conferencing, and others on learning communities as enacted in the National Writing Project. Still others are assessing the impact of financially-driven designs that aim to teach more students while reducing cost.

For this roundtable presentation, administrators and instructors in programs with writing studios will discuss the structure of their studios, reflect on the path taken to create these writing spaces, and offer ideas for the future of the studio model. Significant time will be left for full discussion with audience members.

The NWP Studio Model: Exploring New Possibilities

At Morehead State University, our Writing Studio is unique because we are located in a National Writing Project Site. For 40 years, the mission of the National Writing Project (NWP) has been to improve the teaching of writing. Nearly 200 NWP sites, located on college campuses across the United States, and educators at all levels, primary through postsecondary, and in all disciplines work toward this goal. At the heart of this successful professional development model is the learning community. This makes the writing studio model, which creates learning communities focused on writing, a natural connection and extension of the work of NWP sites.

Our Studio work takes a variety of forms. While we have more traditional Studio groups embedded within developmental writing classes we also run Writing Studio with First Year Seminar, Early College, High School English, and elementary classes. Our Studio work is both outreach – working with developing writers – and professional development – modeling how to support writers not teach writing.

Our Studio groups are led by preservice teachers who work in the classrooms of our NWP teachers both on and off campus as well as on and off the internet. We support the instructors and Peer Writers through our own Learning Community where we address both theory and practice.

The benefits of the NWP Studio model are two-fold. The students in classes offering our Writing Studio groups gain in confidence, motivation, and skills, but the Peer Writers who work with them are also learning and developing as writing teachers. We are able to use our Studio classrooms as a showcase and model for NWP methods while providing support for a wide range of developing writers. We are able to provide more long-term individualized writing support for more writers and we are able to show how (and why) this is the best way to teach writing to educators at the very beginning of their careers.

We have also found an unexpected benefit – participating in the learning community we use to support our Studio work, a community including site leaders, instructors, and peer writers, has reenergized our pedagogy and motivation. We have grown and developed as educators in ways that we might not have without the impetus of these weekly conversations about our teaching, students, and pedagogy. This has proved to be a tremendous benefit to us as an NWP site because one of our foundational professional development practices is the teacher as a reflective practitioner. It is easy to lose track of this during a busy semester but our Studio meetings have forced us to be reflective as the Peer Writers, as new teachers, question and challenge student behaviors and classroom practices alike. Our Studio learning community has given us fresh eyes to look at our students, our classes, and our pedagogy.

Blog posts about the MWP Writing Studio:

Information on the MWP web site: