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Francesca Murialdo at European Association for the Teaching of Academic Writing
19 June, Royal Holloway, University of London

Francesca Murialdo at European Association for the Teaching of Academic Writing

Francesca Murialdo, Lecturer in Interior Architecture, presented
a research co-authored with Ruth Bonazza (LET) and Peter Thomas (LET) at EATAW - the biennial conference of the European Association for the Teaching of Academic Writing, on 19th of June. 

Writing Spaces: a local and collaborative approach to educational design

When discussing centres and spaces catering to writer development, researchers have advocated for realisations which reflect both communities’ needs and variation according to place (Ganobcsik-Williams, 2011; Thaiss et al., 2012). For writing programme development purposes, exchange and critical discussions with other writing support professionals can encourage reflexive practice and a better understanding of the local. However, these exchanges can also lead to unintentional homogenisation through reproduction of dominant visual and/or conceptual themes. McKinney (2013) cautions against this trend, arguing that seemingly inoffensive design choices can marginalise the writers that a space intends to attract and that conceptual “grand narratives” about writing centres, although convenient when lobbying for institutional support, can overly reify image.  

This presentation outlines a new approach, collaboratively developed by an interior architect and writing specialists at Middlesex University, London, to facilitate the community in designing space to support a diversity of writer needs. Techniques are borrowed from human-centred design (Ideo, 2009), “sharing” design processes (Murialdo et al., 2016) and action research (McNiff, 2013) in order to: 1) identify community stakeholders; 2) clarify and challenge stakeholder desires through questionnaires and focus groups; 3) host a design workshop where interior architecture students turn the collected themes into design proposals and 4) feedback results and suggestions to the Middlesex community.  This critical approach gives space for the diverse cultural, linguistic and educational backgrounds at Middlesex University as well as the institution’s focus on integrating student voices into university planning. Although the results are location-specific, it is hoped that the approach could be of use to other groups that are interested in designing unique spaces.  


Ganobcsik-Williams, L. (2011) ‘The Writing Centre as a Locus for WiD, WAC, and Whole-Institution Writing Provision’. in Deane, M. and O’Neill, P (eds) Writing in the disciplines. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. 

IDEO (2009). The Field Guide to Human-centred design.??Available at:http://www.designkit.org//resources/1?(Accessed 15 June 2017). 

McKinney, J.G., (2013) Peripheral visions for writing centers. University Press of Colorado.  

McNiff, J. (2013).?Action Research Principles and Practice. New York: Routledge. 

Murialdo, F., Fern, D., Mortimer, J. and Westhorp, M. (2016) Draft one, process. InteriorsMDX.  

Thaiss, C., Bräuer, G., Carlino, P., Ganobcsik-Williams, L. and Sinha, A. Eds. (2012) Writing programs worldwide: Profiles of academic writing in many places. Perspectives on Writing. Colorado: The WAC Clearinghouse and Parlor Press.