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Writing Centre wins internationally recognized award

The Conference on College Composition and Communication, CCCC, has awarded U of T Scarborough’s Writing Centre (TWC) with a writing program certificate of excellence.

The National Council of Teachers of English is a vast US organization with members from North America, Europe and Asia.   Members of its College Composition and Communication wing represent hundreds of US and Canadian universities. They host an annual conference which draws more than 7,000 attendees.

The certificate of excellence has recently been added to the conference’s agenda and is recognized as a major award for programming achievement.

Dr. Sarah King, Dr. Elaine Khoo and Dr. Nancy Johnston are the main architects of the present program at U of T Scarborough. Former Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) Director Teresa Dawson and former TWC Coordinator Kristen Guest laid the groundwork, setting up the professional structure of the writing centre. King was hired as writing centre coordinator in 2003, followed by Khoo, as the English language development Coordinator in 2004 and Johnston as writing specialist in 2005.

Khoo says that the U of T Scarborough administration was also very supportive of the growth of TWC programs.

“The writing centre has been in existence almost as long as the campus,” King said. “However, it has grown a great deal in the last five years. Growth has made some major collaborative initiatives possible, including the Foundation Skills for Scientists (FS2), a program for the first-year biology course which began in 2004, the Summer Learning Institutes which also began in 2004, and the Communication Café which debuted in 2005 along with the Reading and Writing by Email program.”

The writing centre also provides leadership training and certificates for students who have come through the Communication Café and apply to be facilitators.

“We have developed programs which support students across the university, not just students with English as a second language (ESL),” Khoo said. “We help all students with meeting academic expectations on campus. We build confidence through writing, oral presentation and leadership development among students who would otherwise feel that language deficiency is a barrier to their potential. For us, our students’ success and their positive engagement with their university experience is most important.” 

Since the award’s inception in 2004, only 2 to 5 writing programs from around the world have received a certificate each year. The U of T Scarborough Writing Centre is the second Canadian writing program to be awarded the certificate. The U of T School of Graduate Studies program in English Language and Writing Support received one last year.

“The awards committee recognized the University’s writing program as having a well defined mission and objectives,” wrote Cheryl Glenn, CCCC Chair in an official letter of congratulations. “It offers individual and group instruction in writing and is aligned with current composition research and theories. The creation of student-designed web pages, the Communication Café as well as consistent reading and writing through e-mail, all work to support its move toward excellence.”

“The CCCC panel is looking for evidence that programs follow research-guided best practices, and we do,” King said. “They are also looking for innovation and particularly in the context of the English Language Development program we have done a lot of innovative work. As yet, nothing like it exists elsewhere.”

According to Dr. Margaret Procter, U of T coordinator of writing support, the team at Scarborough has had a wide impact.

“Within the past year, both Dr. Johnston and Dr. Khoo have given professional-development sessions to writing instructors, and Dr. King has taken part in several administrative initiatives with other writing directors,” Procter said. “At least two St. George campus programs have adapted Dr. Khoo’s impressive mix of instructional methods for English language development. One such proposal has recently been funded in Arts and Science.”

 Dr. Johnston will be traveling to New Orleans at the end of March to receive the award. She is also presenting a paper at the Conference.

 Past awards of the Writing Centre include:

  • The Canadian Association of College and University Librarians Innovation award 2006 given to The Research, Writing, and Presenting Summer Learning Institute
  • The Faculty Accessibility award given to Dr. Nancy Johnston in 2007

Aurora Herrera is a fourth-year student in the joint journalism program offered by U of T Scarborough and Centennial College and currently working as an intern in the office of marketing and communications.

© University of Toronto Scarborough