Congratulations to Isabelle Thompson of Auburn University, whose 2009 Written Communication article received the IWCA’s Best Article Award for 2009. Thompson’s article “Scaffolding in the Writing Center: A Microanalysis of an Experienced Tutor’s Verbal and Nonverbal Tutoring Strategies” (Written Communication, 26.4, 417-453) was announced as the Best Article Award Committee’s choice at the Thursday evening IWCA SIG at CCCC in Louisville (March 18, 2010).

Abstract of Thompson’s Article

In this microanalysis, a university writing center conference with an experienced tutor and a student he has never met before is analyzed for the tutor’s use of direct instruction, cognitive scaffolding, and motivational scaffolding. Along with verbal expressions of scaffolding, this analysis also considers the tutor’s hand gestures—topic gestures, which operationalize instruction and cognitive scaffolding, and interactive gestures, which operationalize motivational scaffolding. As defined in this analysis, instruction is the most directive of the three strategies and includes telling. Also directive, cognitive scaffolding leads and supports the student in making correct and useful responses, while motivational scaffolding provides feedback and helps maintain focus on the task and motivation. The microanalysis points to the importance of the student’s cognitive and motivational readiness to learn and the need for the student to control the agenda throughout the conference. It also contextualizes admonitions against tutor directiveness. (

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Nominator’s Statement

“I nominate this article for several reasons: 1) It represents an exciting new direction in writing center research, both in terms of methodology (a microanalysis of not only language but gesture) and in terms of findings as it provides much-needed nuance in regard to concerns about tutor “directiveness.” 2) The author’s theoretical framework nicely captures a great deal of research and theory on student development and socially situated learning, advancing our understanding of those models. 3) The article is published in one of the premier peer-reviewed research journals in writing studies, offering evidence that writing centers are key and valuable research sites.”

Also Nominated for 2009

Babcock, Rebecca Day. “Research-Based Tutoring Tips for Working with Deaf Students.” Kansas English 93.1 (2009): 73-98. Print.

Charlton, Jonikka. “The Future of WPA Professionalization: A 2007 Survey.” Praxis: A Writing Center Journal 7.1 (Fall 2009). Web.

Lape, Noreen. “Giving Voice to Tutors’ Really Useful Knowledge: A New Plan for Writing Center Podcasts.” Writing Lab Newsletter 34.2 (October 2009): . Print.

LeCluyse, Christopher. “Medieval Literacy in the Writing Center.” Writing Lab Newsletter 33.10 (June 2009): 10-13. Web.

Ronesi, Lynne. “Theory In/To Practice: Multilingual Tutors Supporting Multilingual Peers: A Peer– Tutor Training Course in the Arabian Gulf.” Writing Center Journal 29.2 (2009): 76-94. Print.

Rowan, Karen. “All the Best Intentions: Graduate Student Administrative Professional Development in Practice” Writing Center Journal 29.1 (2009): 9-41. Print.

Best Article Committee

Steve Sherwood (Chair), Sam Van Horne, Elisabeth Piedmont-Marton.

The IWCA Best Article and Outstanding Scholarship Awards are announced each year at either CCCC or the IWCA conference. Read more about the IWCA scholarship awards at .