Consultant evaluates Writing Labs

The English Writing Enhancement Lab (EWEL) and the English Instructional Computer Classroom (EICC) recently underwent a five-day review.  Dr. Claudia Grinnell, associate professor at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, was invited by Dr. Evelyn Wynn, the grant activity director for the labs.  

Dr. Grinnell spent time interviewing English faculty and student tutors to assess the writing labs’ effectiveness in an effort to improve services of the writing lab and to improve instruction using best practices in the computer classroom.

In addition, Grinnell conducted two workshops, one for English and Foreign Languages faculty that focused on best practices for incorporating computers in the teaching of writing and the other for student facilitators on strategies for tutoring peers effectively in the writing lab.  “I was especially pleased to learn about the websites available as tools for grammar, vocabulary, and citations’ enhancement, and that some of these websites can be constructed in Moodle,” explained Catherine Bonner, English instructor. 

Based upon a number of Grinnell’s recommendations, the following will be implemented in EWEL beginning spring 2014. Students will be able to utilize software that proofreads for grammar mistakes, improves word choice, and checks for plagiarism. They will also have access to software that will enable them to do visual mapping, outlining, writing and making presentations. “The EWEL website should offer a rich variety of resources, covering student needs regarding not only writing, grammar, and spelling needs, but also formatting, job searches, and graphic design related inquiries,” said Grinnell.

Consequently, students will have easy access to online resources that have been identified to enhance specific skills, including but not limited to research, grammar, job searches, graphics, and much more. EWEL will also begin with new hours (10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday).  In order to enhance EWEL’s visibility, the website has received a minor facelift and a technological savvy presentation has been prepared to inform students of its services throughout campus on the media panels. 

“GSU students should be proud to have the type of facility they have for the writing labs. I have established a writing center and I am extremely impressed with the layout of both the instructional computer classroom and the writing lab here at the university. They were well planned and they are located in close proximity to the English and Foreign Languages Department which is fantastic,” explained Grinnell.  

Dr. King David Godwin, interim dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, stated that “Dr. Grinnell’s visit to our campus provided great insight into the potential growth perspective for several paradigms related to students’ learning outcomes as writers across disciplines. Her assessment of our laboratory infrastructure, capabilities and its use as a tool of enhancement for student learning was most valuable.”

“The feedback articulated as a result of Dr. Grinnell’s experiences applauds the work of Dr. Evelyn Wynn, who wrote the grant to establish the labs, and at the same time makes us aware that there is still much to be done. We look forward to incorporating some of the strategies in all disciplines of university curricula,” added Godwin. 

“Understanding that writing labs play a critical role at any institution, it is necessary to assess what we are doing and to share new practices to our faculty to help us better serve our students,” concluded Wynn.  “This could not have happened without the support of Dr. Frank Pogue, GSU president, and the assistance of Tanika Whitley, acting executive director of Title III programs. 

Grinnell earned her doctorate from GSU in 2003. Her dissertation titled The Effects of a Writing Center on Developmental Students’ Writing Performance and Writing Apprehension served as a catalyst for her designing and serving as director of The Write Place, ULM’s writing center, from 2006-2011. 

She has written numerous academic papers on writing centers.