This past summer Carol Trosset completed a study tracking the class that entered Carleton in Fall 2015 and their use of the Writing Center, their performance in writing-rich courses, and their performance on the sophomore writing portfolio. The results were striking. The strongest predictor of overall performance in writing-rich courses (as measured by GPA) was the number of terms that the student used the Writing Center. Visiting the Writing Center for one term, even with multiple visits, did not impact overall writing-rich GPA. The results suggest that those students who face multiple pre-college challenges* can overcome those challenges by consistently visiting the Writing Center over multiple terms. With the writing portfolio, the results were somewhat different. Those students facing three or more pre-college challenges*, who used the Writing Center at all, passed the writing portfolio at a rate comparable to their peers with fewer challenges, but those students facing 3 or more challenges who did not use the Writing Center at all were less likely to pass the writing portfolio than their peers with fewer challenges.
Tip: Don’t “send” (i.e., require) students to use the Writing Center, because it can seem shaming or stigmatizing, but do tell students what a difference the Writing Center can make in their academic performance! If you have questions about supporting student use of the Writing Center, contact Kathy Evertz or Renata Fitzpatrick.
*For the purposes of this study, the five pre-college challenges that were tracked were: 1) English is not the student’s first language; 2) the student is first-generation and/or low-income; 3) the student’s SAT or ACT score is average or below-average compared to the rest of the entering cohort; 4) The student reported in the CIRP Freshman Survey that they had been average or below-average writer in high school; and 5) The student reported on the CIRP Freshman Survey that they expected to need help with writing.
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