A map from IWC Week 2021, which tags Was across the globe.

Call for Proposals

Together Again Apart: Reimagining Our Communities of Practice

International Writing Center Association members come from countries across continents and oceans, and we value this diversity as one of our organization’s strengths. We are brought together by what we share as a global community of practice, what Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner (2015) explain as a community with “an identity defined by a shared domain of interest.” For us, membership implies both “a commitment to the domain, and … a shared competence that distinguishes members from other people” (E. & B. Wenger-Trayner, 2015). At the same time, as an association of individuals, we also belong to many communities of practices that overlap, intertwine, and, sometimes, make things messy as we negotiate the values and experiences of one community of practice while interacting in another (Wengner-Trayner, 2015). Yet, it is the uniqueness of our individual locations that provides a richness of experiences from which to learn and grow. If anything, the last year has raised our attention not only to what we share as part of this writing center community of practice, but also to how our practices and positionalities are impacted by our membership in other communities of practice—many of which are grounded locally in the communities, cities, and countries in which we reside; the institutions in which we work; and their corresponding socio-historical contexts.

A cursory review of current publications and conference calls from our sibling organizations points to the challenges we—tutors, teachers, students, administrators—have negotiated this past year. If anything, the pandemic, has increased awareness of the historic and ongoing marginalization and disenfranchisement that groups within our communities continue to face—and  the many ways this violence/silencing is experienced in different places. At this year’s virtual gathering in October, we want to acknowledge the challenges our writing center community has faced—the ongoing global pandemic; the continuing attacks on democracy in Myanmar, Hong Kong, and the US; the rise in hate crimes and racial unrest; the chronic degradation of our planet —and examine how we have marshalled our talents to respond.

Over this last year,  we have witnessed individuals and groups across our membership–representing centers from South and North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia–respond to these challenges in responsible and ethical ways to support all writers who visit our centers and all people who work in them. While many of these efforts are grounded in the ways of knowing and being tied to our writing center community of practice, they also reflect unique perspectives derived from overlapping allegiances to local communities of practices, a reality that enriches and complicates our work in unanticipated ways. This work demands that we reaffirm and rearticulate our values, that we tangle in the sometimes uncomfortable space between saying who we are and doing who we are, and that we revisit our practices to determine how and whether they respond to our current contexts.

While many of us spent the last year physically apart from our families, colleagues, and communities, we also rallied. Innovation and ingenuity took hold as we figured out other ways to be together. We have seen efforts to respond to this kairotic moment in publications, conference calls, position statements, research trajectories, and partnerships that are forming. And it is the stories of our challenges and responses, our research and initiatives—the  moments when we rose up in the face of overwhelming despair—that we want to celebrate at this conference. As we come together, albeit still physically apart, we seek to acknowledge, explore, and celebrate how we continue to reimagine ourselves as a dynamic, innovative, reflective, and reflexive community of practice. 

Proposals might be inspired by (but are not limited to) the following threads:

  • What are the challenges your center has faced this last year and how have you responded? From which communities of practice did you draw in identifying issues and ways to respond?
  • How have events of the last year affected your identity as a writing center practitioner? How have they affected the identity of your center?
  • How does your center negotiate social justice/inclusion concerns? How have the material conditions of the past year impacted this work? Is this work primarily grounded in local or global events?
  • What local exigencies complicated global challenges for your writing center work? Have local resources also aided in responding to these challenges, or did a global community of practice support you?
  • In what ways has the move online impacted how local and global communities of practice are realized and negotiated?
  • What foundational writing center values and/or tenets remain at the heart of your practice? How have you adapted them to better respond to/in your context?
  • What insights, if any, has social distancing provided in terms of ideas for best practices, staff training, opportunities for research, or collaborating across locales?
  • How have you fostered or maintained connection with your staff, faculty, and students? How might online work make these connections more accessible for some who have been excluded?
  • How have you had to adapt assessment practices to represent your work as you have moved online?
  • What new research trajectories emerged from the changing material conditions of our workplaces this last year?
  • As we anticipate a return to “normal,” what new practices do you want to retain and what practices do you want to leave behind? 

Session Formats

The 2021 IWCA Conference will be held online during the week of October 18th and will feature a variety of presentation formats. Participants may propose one of the following types of presentations:

  • Panel Presentation: 3 to 4 presentations of 15-20 minutes each on a specific theme or question.
  • Individual Presentation: 15-20 minute presentation (that will be combined into a panel by the program chair).
  • Workshop: A participatory session that engages attendees in active learning.
  • Roundtable Discussion: 15 minutes of introductory framing by the leader(s), followed by a facilitated discussion among attendees.
  • Special Interest Groups: Strategic conversations led by colleagues who have similar interests, institutional settings, or identities.
  • Ignite Presentation: A 5-minute presentation composed of 20 images each lasting 15 seconds
  • Poster Presentation: A research-fair style presentation in which the presenter(s) create a poster to shape their discussion with attendees.
  • Works-in-Progress: Roundtable discussions where presenters briefly (5-10 minutes) discuss one of their current (in progress) writing center research projects and then receive feedback.

While Panel and Individual presentations will still be included, this year the different kinds of sessions will be equally represented. Proposals are due by June 4, 2021 at 11:59 pm HST (so many people will get a little more time, unless you are in Hawaiʻi!:)

Go to the IWCA website (www.writingcenters.org) for conference information and to the members portal (https://www.iwcamembers.org) to log in and submit a proposal. Contact Dr. Georganne Nordstrom (georgann@hawaii.edu) for any additional information.

References

Wenger-Trayner, E. & B. (2015). Introduction to communities of practice: A brief overview of the concept and its uses. Wenger-Trayner.com.

For a print friendly version, click on 2021 CFP: Together Again Apart.