Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

English Rhetoric and Composition, PhD

Committee Chair

Williams, Bronwyn

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Sheridan, Mary P.

Committee Member

Sheridan, Mary P.

Committee Member

Maxwell, Kristi

Committee Member

Boquet, Elizabeth H.

Author's Keywords

writing centers; listening; power; collaboration; difference; openness


Writing center consultations are built of writer and consultant relationships and differences. Listening is a stance that facilitates navigation of these differences, yet it has long been undervalued. I investigated the roles of listening in writing center consultations, exploring the perspectives of writer and consultant participants. For this mixed methods case study, I collected observations, surveys, interviews, and asynchronous responses to follow-up questions. I also synthesized three listening theories that attend to relations between self and other: dialogic listening, rhetorical listening, and listening otherwise. Listening’s connections with openness, understanding, and power have many implications for the writing center. Listening involves openness to alterity and change, which requires and facilitates disruption of preconceptions. Through listening and openness, writers and consultants acknowledge the other as an individual, allowing them to better address the unique person and situation. More, through the collaboration inherent to listening and through listening’s facilitation of dialogue and agency, listening allows for collaboration within the inevitable power differentials present in consultations. This refutes two writing center preconceptions: that collaboration requires power balance and that the directive approach precludes collaboration. Finally, listening involves an attempt at understanding the other while acknowledging that a full understanding can never be reached. Listening to understand can help guide consultation approach, strengthen writer development, promote collaboration, and mitigate the risk involved in improvisation. I present this conceptualization of listening as a framework entitled listening within difference. This framework involves four principles: recognizing self as other, turning toward, co-creating a space between, and co-creating meaning.