Instructor FAQs about Gallery Walk workshops
Instructor FAQs about Writing Center workshops
A: Our tutors offer a 50 minute brainstorming workshop called the “Gallery Walk.” The Gallery Walk workshop is a chance for writers to talk through their ideas early in the writing process with a nonjudgmental, interested and attentive audience, after they’ve engaged with the readings they’ll be writing about and chosen a paper topic but before they’ve written a draft and are still open to revision.
A: Before the workshop, when you arrive, the tutors leading the workshop will check in with you for a quick briefing– to get some context about the class, and to share tips about the Gallery Walk format.
During this check-in, the tutors will tell you how many of them they are; your class should seat themselves at the same number of tables (roughly 4 writers per table, usually).
The 50 minute workshop itself has 6 phases:
- Welcome spiel: The tutors welcome the class, introduce themselves and the range of Writing Center tutoring options (in person or online, drop in or book in advance, 30/60/90 minutes, any writing, any discipline, any stage in the process). Then they join the class in small groups of roughly 4 at tables.
- Instructor reviews the key assignment points on the Assignment Breakdown Whiteboard: For the benefit of tutors and writers, so everyone is on the same page and has a visual reference during the workshop, the teacher talks through the key elements of the writing assignment they want the class to brainstorm about and writes them up as a bullet list on our Assignment Breakdown WhiteBoard.
- Seated brainstorm: Writers brainstorm silently in response to the teacher’s prompt on half-sheet posters we provide for about 5 minutes.
- Gallery Walk part 1: Tutors invite half the class to tape up their brainstorms, and explains the role of the “interested listener” to the other half. For about 10 minutes, interested listeners (classmates and tutors) circulate and ask the presenters to talk about their ideas on their posters, showing interest and asking questions, helping writers identify what is compelling about their ideas and where are opportunities for development.
- Gallery Walk part 2: Tutors cue the class to switch roles.
- Seated debrief: Tutors invite the class to rejoin their small groups. On debrief handouts, the writers brainstorm next steps and takeaways for about 5 minutes, and tutors facilitate a small group discussion.
After the workshop, time permitting, a tutor will check in with you again for a quick debriefing on how it went.
Our research suggests that this workshop format, among other things…
- Demystifies the Writing Center as resource: Many writers who would not have otherwise sought tutoring help have said that after being in the space and meeting our tutors, they felt comfortable coming back for 1:1 visits–it felt less intimidating a prospect.
- Normalizes conversation with an outside reader as an important part of the process for all writers: Many writers who feel shame and stigma around help-seeking based on past experiences have said that after experiencing our tutors’ commitment to meeting writers wherever they are at without judgment, they felt more comfortable coming back for help.
- Offers nonjudgmental input when writers can most benefit but are least likely to seek it: Many writers have expressed that they are ashamed to seek help with writing early in the process before it’s “good enough” to show, for fear of being judged–but this early phase is where talking through ideas can have the biggest impact.
- Gives writers a safe space to air questions about the assignment: Many writers have expressed and tutors noted that students will disclose confusion about an assignment to a peer tutor in a small group that they would not be disclose to an instructor in front of the whole class.
- Introduces some to the idea of becoming tutors: Some of the students who enroll in our tutor training course, English 222, say they got the idea when they saw our tutors in action at a Gallery Walk.
A: We’ve experimented with a lot of different class workshop formats over the last decade–and feedback from writers, tutors, and teachers suggests that this particular timing (brainstorming stage, pre-draft) with this format (a mix of tutor-facilitated small groupwork and individual presentations) is the most productive and inclusive option for the most number of writers.
For feedback on drafts, we encourage writers to come back for a 1:1 tutoring session (30, 60, or 90 minutes, in person or online). Writers who have a good rapport with a Gallery Walk tutor often opt to book a follow-up session with that tutor.
During finals week: Kim O’Neil, our workshop coordinator, builds the next semester’s schedule and sends out the invitation to book a Gallery Walk brainstorming workshop to all instructors who’ve expressed interest.
Between finals week and the Wednesday before classes start: First come, first serve, teachers can follow the link in the finals week invite to book a class visit date on our wconline schedule. They have from the time they receive the finals week invite until the Wednesday before classes start to choose a time (that will be Jan. 8 for spring 2020). That allows us to tailor our staff tutor schedule to Gallery Walk demand.
Gallery Walks are offered between Wednesday of week 5 and Friday of week 12. That allows us the time to train new staff at the start of term and to accommodate the increased demand for 1:1 tutors at end of term.
A: Our tutors advise that the optimal time to bring classes is during the brainstorming phase, at the start of a new project: after students have chosen their topics and engaged with whatever readings or research they’ll be writing about, but before they’ve completed a draft. That way they can get the full benefit of talking through their ideas with an audience while those ideas are still in flux and receptive to input.
A: Students bring nothing–just prepare to jot down their ideas on a paper we provide in response to a brainstorming prompt you give for a new assignment. Ideally, as mentioned above, writers are at the stage where they’ve engaged enough with the texts or research that they’re prepared to brainstorm their ideas, but they haven’t yet developed drafts.
A: In our staff meetings, tutors have shared that some things instructors can do to help the Gallery Walk go smoothly are:
Schedule the visit at the brainstorming stage–when most writers have finished enough readings to generate ideas, but before they have full drafts. This ensures writers have ideas and are motivated to seek input about them. It’s hard for tutors to give attention to multiple full drafts in this short timeframe; and it’s hard for them to draw out writers about ideas if they haven’t yet chosen topics or engaged with readings.
Review the assignment with the class and tutors together on our Assignment Breakdown Whiteboard: Tutors say that it really helps them to have a visual reference of the assignment’s key elements during the workshop–and that even if we instructors think we’ve explained the assignment to death already in class, there are invariably writers who are still confused and benefit from the review.
Circulate and help writers stay on task as needed: Tutors have noted that very occasionally there are writers who don’t respond to tutor cues–don’t stand and post their brainstorms when asked, have phones out during small group work etc. It’s helpful if instructors keep a watchful eye out throughout the workshop, circulate, and are prepared to nudge as needed so that tutors can maintain their peer role.
Break up interested listener “clumps” during the walk: Tutors have said that sometimes writers, when acting in the “interested listener” role, tend to move in clumps–so that a clique of several writers will drift herd-like from presenter to presenter. When this happens, it’s helpful if the teacher can help disperse the clump, and direct its members to unattended or under-attended presenters; that way no presenter feels overwhelmed by a big audience, and no presenters are neglected.
Accommodate writers with disabilities who may need to share their work differently: Tutors noted that to be inclusive of all writers, we should be mindful of language like “everyone stand up” and offer options for neurodiverse writers to present differently; for example, some writers with sociocommunicative issues may feel extremely anxious presenting solo to an unpredictable, changing group of listeners, but prefer instead presenting as a team with a peer they’re friendly with, or presenting to a single tutor rather than a group of classmates.
Debrief with tutors after the workshop, time permitting: Some tutors will need to leave promptly after 50 minutes to get to a next class. But if there is a tutor or two who can stay a bit longer, time permitting, they will approach you after the workshop to share observations on how the session went–for instructors bringing other sections later that day, this may helpful information to apply to upcoming visits.
A: At this time, we can offer one visit per class per term. This allows us to accommodate as many different classes as possible (we now have over 100 requests per semester) and still maintain the staff needed to meet the demand for 1:1 sessions.
A: If your class is longer than 50 minutes, your class is welcome to stay and use the space for the remainder of the class. This can be a good time to for students to register with us online and book follow-up tutoring sessions–we have computers, and the desk person can help anyone who wants a show-and-tell on how to create a Writing Center account and make an appointment.
Please reach out to Kim O’Neil, our Assistant Director who coordinates workshops: email@example.com.
She will add you to the email list for the invite that goes out in finals week of each semester, inviting teachers to book a Gallery Walk workshop date for the upcoming term.
We welcome classes from all disciplines–TAs and instructors alike!
Please note that when you book your workshop date on wconline, you’ll be prompted to paste in the course description paragraph from your syllabus–tutors have expressed that it’s helpful to have this general context about the course theme.
Also, you’ll be asked your class size; for classes larger than 24 students, our ability to offer a workshop will just depend upon the availability of extra tutors to run a larger workshop, and the physical limits of our space. We will do our very best to accommodate you, and will let you know either way in advance.