“We are not a ‘fix-it shop’”: The writing centre as a uniquely configured learning space

Puleng Sefalane-Nkohla, Thembinkosi Mtonjeni


For decades, writing centre practitioners have contested and protested against the demeaning characterisations of their pedagogic space. The Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s (CPUT) Writing Centre has endured stigmatisation as a “clinic”, “laboratory”, “fix-it shop”, and “remedial agency for removing students’ deficiencies in composition” (Archer and Parker 2016, Drennan 2017, Moore 1950, North 1984). Although writing centre practitioners and theorists have described these centres as hubs for nurturing and enhancing students’ intellectual and linguistic capacities in order to engage and master disciplinary literacies and genres while contributing to the transformation of educational projects, such a value tends to be misrecognised – by both lecturers and students at CPUT – as focusing on improving grammatical competence. This article contributes to the discourse of redefining the writing centre as a space with unique transformational pedagogies in the context of a university of technology, namely CPUT.


Underpinned by the Academic Literacies approach (Lea and Street 1998), this study views the institutional spaces in which our writing centre operates as “constituted in, and as sites of discourse and power”. The research purpose is to determine how the CPUT Writing Centre is viewed by the students who make use of it. Employing a mixed-methods approach, the researchers sought answers to the following two questions: (i) How is the CPUT Writing Centre configured to support learning at a university of technology? and (ii) How do students characterise the CPUT Writing Centre as a learning space with its own unique pedagogy? The article reports on students’ perceptions and assumptions about the Writing Centre as a learning space at a university of technology in the Western Cape (CPUT). It also examines the permutations of a uniquely configured learning space, the impact of its attributive conversations, and the extent to which it is (mis)recognised as a transformative agency.


Writing centre, academic literacies, learning space, student writing

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5842/57-0-807


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ISSN 2224-3380 (online); 1726-541X (print)

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