Stories About Writing (Centers): Sites of Innovation in (Online) Writing Instruction



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In this dissertation I study the University of Houston Writing Center (UHWC) as a site for innovative writing instruction while simultaneously critiquing business-model approaches to the teaching of writing. Using the Writing Center as a microcosm for the larger issues affecting writing pedagogy, I investigate productive ways programs collaborate via Writing in the Disciplines (WID) partnerships across campus to engage with both face-to-face and online/multimodal pedagogies. Using a critical ethnographic approach, I conducted, coded, and analyzed audio-recorded interviews with the UHWC community. In addition, I studied closely through observations, interviews, focus groups, and informal conversations two UHWC partnerships: first, the hybrid/online studio partnership with the Department of English, and second, the College of Technology’s Electrical Power Engineering Technology Department four-course, face-to-face, small group partnership. As I both critique (the business model) and forward (the partnership approach) to the teaching of writing, I also put forth a new curricular method that can be used by writing centers, writing programs, and WID initiatives aiming collaboration with a wide range of faculty, departments, and colleges. To get at the larger story of innovative writing instruction that occurs through the UHWC, I ask what stories do UHWC administrators/consultants, university administrators, and disciplinary faculty tell about innovative writing curricula? How does resistance manifest in stories that challenge traditional approaches to the teaching of writing? In what ways do stories about digital disruptions reflect invention, change, or continuity in pedagogical approach? And, most importantly, how and when are continuities in writing instruction masked as innovation?



Rhetorics, Composition, Writing Center, Online writing instruction, Online learning