Writing centre consultants as critical friends
CITATION: Carlse, J. E. 2019. Writing centre consultants as critical friends. Stellenbosch Papers in Linguistics Plus, 57:183-194, doi:10.5842/57-0-817.
The original publication is available at http://spilplus.journals.ac.za/
“Critical friend” is a term widely used in professional development, teacher education, and evaluation contexts. It is defined by Costa and Kallick (1993) as a trusted person who asks the researcher provocative questions, provides an alternate point of view when needed, and critiques the researcher’s work as a friend rather than an antagonist. This theoretical paper aims to initiate a dialogue on how elaborating on the role of the writing consultant as a critical friend could open up university writing centres as spaces of exploration and empowerment for student writers, aiding them in nurturing their academic thinking and voice. The work of the writing consultant, primarily as a critical friend, would be to exercise active listening and pose questions while offering advice and reassurance on the student writer’s abilities, promoting trust while helping the student writer to develop the tools to reason, and therefore the freedom and confidence to articulate their arguments. I investigate how framing university writing centres as spaces for facilitating trusting dialogues with a critical friend can encourage student writers to think differently about their tasks, assisting them in overcoming hurdles to find their academic voices in order to succeed at university. By embracing the role of critical friends, writing consultants as advocates for the success of student writers’ work provide unusual opportunities to establish supportive relationships that take into account the individual student writer’s academic journey, promoting self-reflection rather than simply directing student writers through the task at hand. Additionally, this engagement as a critical friend has the potential to change perceptions of the nature of the support provided by writing centres, their value, and purpose.