OWCA Conference (2021)

The Online Writing Centers Association (OWCA) hosted our first virtual conference on October 4-8, 2021, on the theme of interdependence in the online writing center.

Call for Proposals

Interdependence is a concept borrowed from disability studies that considers how the agency of individuals relies on others and environments (Bostad, 2016, p. 375). Traditional writing center narratives have privileged “individualistic” or “independent” notions of success. For example, past scholars have argued that writers should eventually learn to write on their own without relying on the writing center (Lichtenstein, 1983, p. 31; Pemberton, 1994, p. 64), that writers solely “own” their work (Lassner, 1984, p. 27), and that writing centers exist alone within the institution (Summerfield, 1988, p. 9). The rise of COVID-19 as a social problem provides a particularly powerful example of how these narratives fail to describe how writing happens and what a center’s most important contributions are. The pandemic’s disruption of daily life forced every writing center to reconsider how they could connect with practitioners, writers, and other campus programs, demonstrating how every communicative act is social and interconnected. Tending to interdependence in online writing center work can reveal how centers do not so much fix writers as orient them toward writing as a social act in a situation already in motion.

Roets (2020) describes “interdependence as the basis to all human interaction and as a universal feature of the human subject.” Why and how we communicate with each other is ultimately shaped by our dependence on each other and the material elements of our world. Some recent writing center scholarship has prompted center practitioners to rethink writing center labor and writer agency through this lens (Appleton Pine & Moroski-Rigney, 2020; Dembsey, 2020). Interdependence can help centers recognize their role in helping writers become members of communities: learning to perceive important components of a writing situation, work with others, and interpret feedback. While the goal of interdependence is to help individuals have more “control over making decisions that directly affect one’s life” (Cladwell, 2014, p. 489), it pursues this freedom through the recognition of distributed agency. That is to say, an interdependence lens recognizes writing agency as distributed throughout the various people and material things (of varying capabilities) imbricated in a writing act. This disrupts more individualized conceptions of agency, which understand writers as solitary actors in isolated contexts.

Questions to Consider

We invite proposals that consider how we can use interdependence to rethink the meaning of writing center work and the ways in which administrators, tutors, and writers can virtually connect. Proposals for this theme may consider, but are not limited to, some of the following questions:

  • How can the concept of interdependence help us rewrite narratives about online writing center work?
  • How can tending to interdependence help us attune to the ways in which various human and nonhuman elements mediate social interactions in and around online writing center labor?
  • How has COVID-19 challenged traditional notions of independence and dependence? 
  • What new online writing programs or services have you developed? How do these programs or services embrace interdependence?
  • How have you fostered virtual connections with other colleagues, departments, institutions, or communities?
  • What online practices, policies, and pedagogies can support interdependence?
  • How can we rethink our policies, practices, and attitudes towards those we serve virtually?
  • How can online writing support be more accessible and inclusive?
  • What are effective practices for encouraging listening, wellness, and emotion in an online context?
  • How can we train and assess staff for interdependence in online writing support?


Appleton Pine, A., & Moroski-Rigney, K. (2020). “What about access?” Writing an accessibility statement for your writing center. The Peer Review, 4(2).

Bostad, H. (2016). Freedom and disability Rights: Dependence, independence, and interdependence: Freedom and disability rights. Metaphilosophy, 47(3), 371–384.

Caldwell, K. (2014). Dyadic interviewing: a technique valuing interdependence in interviews with individuals with intellectual disabilities. Qualitative Research, 14(4), 488–507.

Dembsey, J. M. (2020). Naming ableism in the writing center. Praxis, 18(1).

Lassner, P. (1984). Conferencing: The psychodynamics of teaching contraries. The Writing Center Journal, 4(2), 22-30.

Lichtenstein, G. (1983). Ethics of peer tutoring in writing. The Writing Center Journal, 4(1), 29-34.

Pemberton, M. A.  (1994). Dependency in the writing center: Psychological profiles and tutorial strategies. Research and Teaching in Developmental Education, 10(2), 63-70.

Roets, G., Dermaut, V., Benoot, T., Claes, C., Schiettecat, T., Roose, R., & Vandevelde, S. (2020). A Critical Analysis of Disability Policy and Practice in Flanders: Toward Differentiated Manifestations of Interdependency. Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities.

Summerfield, J. (1988). Writing centers: A long view. The Writing Center Journal, 8(2), 3-9.

Session Formats

The OWCA accepted proposals for the following session formats:

Asynchronous Formats

Asynchronous presenters pre-recorded a presentation that was available to attendees throughout the conference and after the conference through January 31, 2022. After January, presenters chose for their recording to be deleted from the OWCA website or to be moved to our public scholarship archive.

  1. Individual Presentation (20 minutes or less): A pre-recorded presentation on a specific topic, with options for asynchronous and/or synchronous Q&A at the end of the conference for questions and discussion.

Synchronous Formats

Synchronous presenters were scheduled for a specific time slot and presented in real-time with attendees through Zoom. Synchronous sessions were recorded and made available to attendees through January 31, 2022. After January, presenters chose for their recording to be deleted from the OWCA website or to be moved to our public scholarship archive.

  1. Panel Presentation (60 minutes): Two or more presenters discussing a shared theme with time for questions and discussion.
  2. Workshop (60 minutes): An interactive session that briefly introduces a topic and invites audience members to participate in activities that help them apply concepts or develop new materials.
  3. Roundtable (60 minutes): A large group discussion that is framed and facilitated by the presenter(s).
  4. Special Interest Group (SIG) (60 minutes): A networking opportunity for conference attendees to discuss a common interest.


The OWCA required all presenters to provide the following before the conference:

  • Written transcripts for all planned presentation portions of their session
  • Slide decks (if applicable)
  • Handouts (if applicable)
  • Session recording and closed captions (asynchronous presentations only)

The OWCA provided the following:

  • Training materials, guides, and support to help presenters develop accessible presentation materials.
  • American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters in all synchronous sessions. The OWCA worked with Morr Interpreting for ASL interpretation.
  • Recordings of all synchronous sessions and their ASL interpretation
  • Edited closed captions for all asynchronous and synchronous video recordings

Conference Deadlines and Timeline

  • Proposals due: May 22, 2021 (extended)
  • Accepted presenters notified: June 21, 2021
  • Presentation materials due: September 20, 2021
  • Asynchronous sessions posted: October 4, 2021
  • Synchronous sessions: October 4-8, 2021
  • Presentation materials available to members until: January 31, 2022

Proposal Submission & Rubric

Proposal submissions included the following:

  • Presenter name(s), role(s), institution(s), and email(s)
  • Session format (individual presentation, panel presentation, workshop, roundtable, or SIG)
  • Working title
  • 3 keywords that best describe the proposal
  • The proposal in one of the following formats:
    • Written proposal (about 500 words)
    • Audio proposal (5 minutes or less)
    • Video proposal (5 minutes or less)

Conference proposals were scored using the following rubric:

  • Is the presentation situated in an existing body of research?
    • Rating 0-5
    • 0 = does not draw from any existing scholarship
    • 5 =  significantly draws from existing scholarship
  • Would this presentation contribute to diverse perspectives and interpretations of the conference theme of interdependence?
    • Rating 0-5
    • 0 = unclear topic, irrelevant to OWCs; replicates previous contributions; does not synthesize previous research
    • 5 = clear topic exceptionally meaningful to OWCs; proposes new idea; draws new connections or conclusions; recontextualizes or rearticulates previous research
  • Would this presentation contribute to diverse and inclusive online writing center theory and/or practice?
    • Rating 0-5
    • 0 = irrelevant to the conference theme
    • 5 = compellingly responds to conference theme about OWCs
  • Would you recommend we accept the proposal?
    • Yes (priority)
    • Yes (if space & time permit)
    • No
  • Additional comments

Conference Schedule

Monday, October 4

Asynchronous presentations were posted and could be viewed anytime through the conference. 

  1. Achieving the ‘Inter’ in ‘Interdependence’: Reframing a Theory of Expertise for Online Writing Center Relationships” by Adrienne Lamberti
  2. Aligning with the Language of Justice in the Writing Center” by Cynthia Cochran, Joshua Knight, Justine Kennedy, and Katelyn Scott
  3. “‘Are You Allowed to Help Me with This?’ Interdependence, Academic Integrity, and the Boundaries of ‘Help’ in Online Writing Centers” by Meghan Velez
  4. “Behind the Screens” by Janice Lark
  5. Demonstrating Interdependence: Aligning Writing Coach Skills & Multimodal Writing Practices” by Jennifer Gray and Mary McGinnis
  6. Inspiring Writing Tutors to Move beyond Competence and Courtesy to Compassion Online” by Katherine Schmidt and Sean Tellvik
  7. Online Adult Student Perceptions on Racial and Linguistic Identity and Academic Writing” by Julie Johnson Archer
  8. Promoting ESL Students’ Writing Development in Online Synchronous Tutoring: a Dynamic Assessment Approach” by Ruge Zhao
  9. Rethinking Dependency: Promoting Motivation, Rapport, and Solidarity in Online Consultations during Times of Crisis” by Annelise Norman
  10. “Rewriting ‘Collaboration’ in (and around) the Center: Reflections on a Co-Curricular Writing Lab Pilot” by Matthew Bryan
  11. “The Role of Writing Center Directors in Achieving Interdependency through Facilitating Online Virtual Sessions During the Covid-19 Pandemic” by Muhammad Alamri
  12. Using Computer-Assisted Language Learning to Foster Self-Editing Skills: The Interdependence of Writers, Tutors, and Technology” by Kimberly Becker, Sarah Huffman, and Kristin Terrill
  13. Videoconferencing Is Not a Replication of Face-to-Face Tutoring: Training Tutors to Prepare for Technology Interdependence in Synchronous Tutoring” by Kim Fahle Peck

4–5pm EST

Wednesday, October 6

2–3pm EST

  • Informational Session with the OWCA Executive Board:  Jenelle Dembsey, Sarah Prince, Beth Nastachowski, Lisa Nicole Tyson, Megan Boeshart, Paula Rawlins, and Brooke Hessler

Thursday, October 7

2–3pm EST

  • Session A: Workshop on “Being Here Now: Helping Students (and Ourselves) Write Our Way to Presence, Agency, and Connection ” by Mary O’Shan Overton

3:20–4:20pm EST

4:40–5:40pm EST

Friday, October 8

12–1pm EST

1:20–2:20pm EST

  • Session E1: Roundtable on “Leading Towards Interconnectedness” with Janine Carlock and Heidi Marshall
  • Session E2: Workshop on “Designing Online Writing Centers and Writing Consultations with Technomoral Virtues” with Antony Ricks

2:40–3:40pm EST