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Writing center provides real-world experiences for future teachers

April 04, 2011

As partnerships go, the ASU-Metro Tech Writing Center is getting high marks for innovation and creativity, benefitting high school students, teachers and university students preparing to enter teaching professions.

The newly created program brings Arizona State University education majors and ASU Downtown Phoenix students to Metro Tech High School to provide one-on-one tutoring for students, assisting English teachers with struggling writers while affording the university students preparing for teacher careers real-world classroom experiences.

The ASU-Metro Tech Writing Center, which opened in mid-February, will be in action and on display at 9 a.m., April 11, to introduce the program to media and invited guests.

Developed by ASU's Jim Blasingame, English education professor; Barbara Lafford, faculty head of languages and cultures; and Evie Cortes-Pletenik, Metro Tech assistant principal, the Writing Center is a separate technology equipped room in the library complex staffed by ASU students, most of whom are future teachers, to raise the writing skills of Metro’s students by providing tutoring on individual assignments.

The ASU students receive credit hours and fulfill field experience requirements for their teaching degrees. While Metro Tech English teachers are working with 150 to 180 students a day, they are not always able to conference individually on specific areas, but they can assign students to the Writing Center during the class time for focused instruction.

“It is wonderful to see how this ASU-MetroTech Writing Center partnership has grown from our downtown faculty’s initial visit to MetroTech last year,” Lafford said. “The success of this initiative is a testimony to the combined creative energies of Dr. Jim Blasingame from Tempe, the faculty at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus, the ASU Tempe and downtown students involved in the project, the MetroTech faculty and administration, and the MetroTech students who have sought and received guidance on their writing.” 

There are currently seven ASU tutors at the Writing Center, with a goal of employing 20. The tutors were trained by ASU, and will receive 90 hours of field experience. Currently, the Writing Center is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday, Wednesday and Friday, in a re-purposed classroom in the Metro Tech technology center.

There the tutors work with students individually or in small groups, putting into practice writing skills based on the state standards, and honing their skills as teaching interns.

Blasingame expressed his satisfaction with the program: “It’s been so inspiring to watch our ASU students rise to the task of connecting with Metro Tech High School students and employ what they are learning about the teaching of writing. The experience for them has been priceless because this is a living lab where they can see the direct impact of individualized instruction on a young writer. They will carry this learning with them into their own secondary classrooms and use what they experienced to design writing instruction for future generations of students.”

MetroTech’s teachers are seeing results already.

“I try to conference with all my students during the writing process, but sometimes I can’t give some of them enough time,” said Liz Kally, Metro English teacher. “Going to the Writing Center gives them intensive one-on-on assistance with a specific piece exactly at the time they most need that help.”

The ASU students, mostly English education or journalism majors, have found this hands-on classroom experience prior to their student teaching requirement to be very valuable.

“This opportunity has been more rewarding than any of us had anticipated,” said Alina Sur, a junior at ASU’s Tempe campus. “I consider myself lucky because I am now able to see education through a different lens due to this experience.’

The benefits go even further, explains Cortes-Pletenik.

“This is not just a learning laboratory for the ASU students," she said. "Our students see young men and women just a few years older who are becoming professional educators, and they begin to understand what it takes to become a college student and what is expected of them. Our next phase is to have our ASU mentors train some of the Metro Tech students to become peer mentors themselves.”

The ASU/Metro Tech Writing Center is part of an evolving relationship between the university and Metro Tech. As part of its college-going initiative, every freshman student will have visited the ASU campuses each of the last two years. ASU professors in math, English and science joined Metro teachers to discuss articulation of curriculum and share ideas. Metro’s English teachers then invited professors from the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus to teach a high school class, which gave students a taste of college, and instilling confidence that they could handle a college-level class.