“Make the Appointments Obligatory”: The Cultural and Institutional Challenges of Establishing a University Writing Center in Norway
In the US, writing centers have a long history at institutions of higher learning. Often housed in individual colleges, writing centers function to help both undergraduate and graduate students develop their writing skills and become more confident, independent writers. Assistance, which is typically offered by students who are themselves seasoned writers, takes form in both face-to-face and online tutoring sessions, and can focus on tenets of writing ranging from general skills (e.g., outlining, drafting, organization) to discipline- or genre-specific assignments (e.g., theses, reports, presentations). In recent years, efforts have been made to transfer the writing center culture across the pond; success stories have popped up in a wide range of European countries. Yet several contexts have yet to be investigated. The purpose of this study was to examine the challenges of establishing a writing center at the Department of Teacher Education (Institutt for lærerutdanning) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). In autumn 2019, 43 pre-service second-year students taking a course on Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) were obligated to make one appointment with the writing center to discuss drafts of a paper for a required assignment. Afterwards, they completed a survey detailing the experience of their visit. Results revealed that while students on the whole benefited from the sessions to discuss their writing, the students hinted at several cultural deviations that have the potential to hobble efforts of establishing a writing center. Instructional implications are discussed.
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