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Partners in Literacy

A Writing Center Model for Civic Engagement

Allen Brizee and Jaclyn M. Wells

Partners in Literacy describes the process, research, relationships, and theories that guided a three-year partnership between the Purdue University Writing Lab and two community organizations in Lafayette, Indiana: the Lafayette Adult Resource Academy and WorkOne Express. This partnership resulted in a new section of the globally known Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) and the Community Writing and Education Station (CWEST), which featured adult literacy resources in the areas of GED preparation, English as a Second Language, and workplace and job search literacy. Using an empirical and iterative design process, the authors worked closely with their community partners to develop, test, revise, and launch these resources.

Partners in Literacy, the authors argue that writing centers can be effective spaces from which to work with the community and that writing centers’ missions of sustainability, outreach, and research-driven practice can offer valuable philosophies for civic engagement. To support this argument, the book discusses the research methods and findings, the process behind developing and sustaining the three-year engagement project, and the personal relationships that ultimately held the project together.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 186Size: 6 3/8 x 9 1/4
978-1-4758-2761-3 • Hardback • July 2016 • $56.00 • (£37.95)
978-1-4758-2762-0 • Paperback • July 2016 • $28.00 • (£18.95)
978-1-4758-2763-7 • eBook • July 2016 • $26.00 • (£17.95)
Allen Brizee is an assistant professor of writing at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore. At Loyola, he coordinates the writing internship program and teaches first-year composition, technical writing, writing for the web, and rhetoric.

Jaclyn M. Wells is an assistant professor of English at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. At UAB, she directs the writing center and teaches first-year composition and professional writing.
Preface: Bridging University and Community Spaces

Chapter 1: Background and Methodology
·An Engaged Course Project
·The Researchers’ Backgrounds
·The Researchers’ Roles in the Project
·Emergent Methodology
Chapter 2: Community Partners and Overview of Research Methods
·Reaching out to the Community
·Learning More about the Project’s Partners
·Writing the Engagement Project
·Research Methods and Seeking IRB Approval
·Funding the Project
Chapter 3: Methods and Findings from Stage One – Developing the GED Resources
·A Picture of a Community Education Program: Initial Research Findings
·Drafting the GED Materials
·First Reactions to the GED Resources: A Focus Group
·After the Focus Group: Initial Revisions to the GED Resources
·Instructor Response to the GED Resources: Round Two Interviews and Observations
·The Need for Flexible Resources
Chapter 4: Methods and Findings from Stages Two and Three – Developing the ESL and Job Document Resources
·Revising the Resources and Posting them to the Purdue OWL
·Generation One Testing
·Working with WorkOne
·Generation Two Testing
Chapter 5: Discussion and Conclusions
·Jaclyn’s Reflections
·Allen’s Reflections
Chapter 6: Engagement as Professional Work
·Engaged Scholarship: How the CWEST Informs Allen’s Community-Based Work in Baltimore
·Diverse Roles and Responsibilities: How the CWEST Informs Jaclyn’s Writing Center Work
Conclusion: Looking Back, Looking Forward
·Chapter Heuristic Questions
·Research Protocols
·Observational Protocol for First LARA Observations
·Questions for Second LARA Interviews
·Observational Protocol for Second LARA Observations
·CWEST LARA Usability Test Protocol
·LARA Instructor Interview Script
·WorkOne Express Usability Testing

About the Authors
This is an exhaustive work, one clearly produced by writing center practitioners whose approach to academic administration is as politically savvy as it is ethically engaged…. The lessons gleaned from this book should reverberate well beyond outreach projects…. [A]n excellent discussion of writing center outreach and administrative efforts....
Composition Studies

What makes this book especially relevant to those contemplating a move from the writing center to the public sphere is how Brizee and Wells share their experiences with—and strategies for—relationship building, design thinking, and empirical methods. No community project will unfold quite like any other—and as their story shows, no project will go quite as planned. Yet relationship building, design thinking, and empirical methods can and should inform every such initiative. They are the gifts of this book.
Thomas Deans, Professor and Director of University Writing Center, University of Connecticut

Partners in Literacy...promises to serve as a useful text for both researchers and practitioners of engaged pedagogy...this book should grace the shelves of all those interested in writing centers and community-engaged pedagogies.
Rebecca Day Babcock, The University of Texas of the Permian Basin

As writing centers focus more and more on community involvement, the attention in Partners to all aspects of a project like CWEST makes an important and refreshing contribution to the conversation.
Leigh Ryan, Director, Writing Center, University of Maryland

Partners in Literacy is a remarkable book—part investigative study, part ethnography, part personal reflection, part theoretical analysis, and part critical narrative—but the significance of this text goes far beyond those simple descriptors. Brizee and Wells offer a remarkably readable and deeply personal account of what it means and what it takes to engage in a research project whose primary foci are community outreach and civic engagement.
Michael Pemberton, Director, Writing Center, Georgia Southern University

In the vein of scholarship like Eli Goldblatt’s Because We Live Here, Tiffany Rousculp’s Rhetoric of Respect, and the Everyday Writing Center, Brizee and Wells’ Partners in Literacy: A Writing Center Model for Civic Engagement offers a critical intervention for bridging the comfortable confines of conventional tutoring of academic writing to liminal spaces out in a larger community where a different sort of service, learning, and educational transformation can happen and be sustained. For writing centers, labs, and studios, where community engagement (and relevance) is central to their missions, Partners in Literacy provides a cogent road map rooted in organic collaboration, awareness of the politics of community, and attention to the cross-currents of local institutionality and history. Brizee and Wells make tangible the legwork and lived lessons that writing center professionals would wisely heed if they seek to make effective, lasting partnerships. The text is a must-read for those in search of a model to guide their own outreach beyond campus, perhaps even within it too.
Harry Denny, Associate Professor of English and Director of the Purdue Writing Lab and the Purdue OWL, Purdue University

Partnerships between university writing programs/writing centers and the communities that they border are often fraught with logistical, ethical, and philosophical challenges. In Partners in Literacy, Brizee and Wells guide readers through the challenges they faced to create the Community Writing and Education Station (CWEST), which focused on online resources for both adult literacy (particularly GED exam preparation) and job placement organizations. Their account of this project, launched while both were graduate students at Purdue, offers readers every step in the processes of creating, testing, and implementing CWEST, as well as powerful reflections on the challenges of responding to the true needs of community partners. Writing programs and writing center readers, whether currently engaged in such efforts or contemplating future ones, will be very well served by this book, including the cautions and the accomplishments the authors powerfully describe.
Neal Lerner, Writing Program Director, Northeastern University

Wells and Brizee give readers an honest and careful account of how they learned and what they learned from the participation as graduate students in a research partnership between the Purdue Writing Lab, the Lafayette Adult _Resource_ Academy, and WorkOne Lafayette. They detail the ways they used that new knowledge to inform their work with community partnerships in their faculty positions post-graduation, giving credence to the claim that writing programs and writing program administrators learn from engagement.
Shirley Rose, Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs, Arizona State University