symposium

On March 28, 2014, the Writing Center for Academic English with the Center for Modern Languages (Zentraleinrichtung Moderne Sprachen, ZeMoS) at Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Germany, hosted a one-day symposium on the role of university writing centers in supporting writing competencies in second language learning, especially English.

The symposium offered participants the opportunity to learn about different models of how writing competencies are integrated into various disciplinary and interdisciplinary structures at German and other European universities. The focus was be on exchanging best practices, sharing research projects and results, and networking with other faculty and staff. Isabell May, Director of the Writing Center for Academic English with the Center for Modern Languages at Leuphana University of Lüneburg, and Anne Barron, Professor of Linguistics with the Institute of English Studies, welcomed the guests to the symposium. The idea for such a symposium was born when Jill Wolff, lecturer for English at the University of Applied Sciences Bonn-Rhine-Sieg, and Isabell May met in March 2013 during a workshop on creating and developing writing centers and program at German universities, organized by the Schreiblabor at Bielefeld University. During the biannual meeting of the European Association for the Teaching of Academic Writing in Budapest, in July 2013, a few interested researcher and lecturers got together for lunch to further discuss the creation of an event for those interested in academic English writing competencies in an L2 context, with a particular emphasis on writing centers.

John Harbord, Director of the Center for Academic Writing at Central European University, Hungary, and former Chair of the European Association for the Teaching of Academic Writing (EATAW), gave the keynote address on second language writing in English and the development and role of English writing centers in Europe. His keynote was entitled “Supporting English writing competencies: The role of writing support.” John focused on English as an emerging academic lingua franca in many European universities, but also included remarks about supporting writing competencies in other second/third languages.

John’s keynote was followed by a panel presentation on best practices in English Writing Centers at German Universities. Shawn Raisig, Director of Research and Writing Center with the Department of English at Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, Heidi Minning, Head of the English Department at the Language Center, Technical University Munich, Ruth Bonazza, Coordinator of English Services with the Writing Center at the University of Osnabrück, and Isabell C. May, Director of the Writing Center for Academic English with the Center for Modern Languages at Leuphana University of Lüneburg. All four panel members presented their institutions’ various approaches to provide services in the area of academic English.

The panel was followed by two presentation sessions. In session 1, Holger Limberg, professor with the English Department at the University of Flensburg spoke about “Asking the right questions: How questioning practices in writing tutorials can help students become better writers,” followed by Debbie Coetzee-Lachmann, Director of the Language Center at the University of Osnabrück who spoke on “Focusing on the relation between form and function to improve students’ understanding of their subject field’s discourse and their own writing processes.”

In session 2, Monique Dorang, trainer and consultant for Academic Writing, started the session with her presentation on “Initiating staff development to professionalize the revision process of graduate writing in Science and Engineering.” Joy Emily Reid, coordinator of English at the Center for Applied Languages, Leibniz University Hannover, spoke next about “Analysing writing conventions in scientific publications using concordancer software: Tools for graduate students of the natural sciences,” followed by Jill Wolff, lecturer for English at the University of Applied Sciences Bonn-Rhine-Sieg, who presented on “Language makes science accessible.”

In addition, the symposium included a panel discussion by three student writing tutors, Katharina Luther from the Research and Writing Center at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen and Lisa-Sophie Kinne and Grant Helle from the Writing Center for Academic English at Leuphana University of Lüneburg.

The symposium closed with a wrap-up session that followed the world café method. Participants rotated their small discussion group three times before the entire group met again in a plenum-style discussion session. During the three smaller sessions and the larger plenum session at the end, participants discussed the following questions:

1. What challenges are you facing at your institution in terms of academic writing in English?

2. What are you able to take away from this symposium to your institutional context?

3. What do you see as long-term solutions to establish programs that focus on academic writing in English in L2 contexts?

The 2nd symposium of this kind will take place from March 12-13, 2015, at the University of Osnabrück, with the theme of “Supporting L2 Writing Competencies: academic writing support at German universities (German and English as a second or foreign language).”