A Guide to Conferencing at Illinois
A Handbook for Office Hours
Elizabeth E. Tavares & Esther Dettmar
"Conferencing," Laurel Johnson Black writes, "is something we do, but unexamined, it remains something we do not understand and thus cannot improve." The power and complexity of the student-teacher writing conference is often glossed over despite the fact that it is a regular part of college writing pedagogy. More than discussion of abstract ideas or the brainstorming of arguments, the writing-based, one-on-one conference provides students a unique opportunity to test rhetorical and research skills with directed coaching at the moment of need. It also provides students opportunities to direct their own learning, adopt life-long habits of metacognition, and link to and reinforce the skills introduced in classroom discussion and activities.
This guide aims to survey the various forms that the writing conference might take within the structure of a course or assignment sequence, articulate specific strategies and agendas for the conference scenario, and offer resources to expand and enliven instructors' current conferencing repertory.
A confluence of events on the UIUC campus made a guidebook to the teacher-student writing conference especially exigent, indulge the hire of a new Director for the Writers Workshop, the completion of internal and external reviews of the Center for Writing Studies, and the changing division of labor in higher education. Attentive to the nuances of this writing community as well as its place in a larger conversation about college writing instruction, provided here is a guide to the intimate teaching strategy known as the teacher-student writing conference, informed by the work done and to be done by Illinois writing instructors. Funded by several research assistantships from the Undergraduate Rhetoric Program, this project was proposed to and overseen by Dr. Kelly Ritter, and co-authored with Esther Dettmar.