As the first student-led, secondary writing center in China, the Dalton Writing Center does not exist in a single location but rather takes place throughout the nooks and open spaces of the school, where students can talk about writing, reflect on writing, and in turn, become better writers. The existence of programs like the Dalton Writing Center challenges the notion that writing experts have to be native, English-speaking experts who withhold the knowledge on what makes good writing. When students face the intimidating task of helping a peer with writing, they surrender to a process that is egalitarian, collaborative, reflective, in which both the writer and consultant realize their own insights, strengths, and areas of growth. Consultants generate thought-provoking questions about the piece, and writers articulate responses about audience and purpose. From this point, the pair of students discuss and determine possibilities and strategies for revision.
From brainstorming to polishing, from speeches to research papers, consultants offer feedback at any stage of the writing process on a broad spectrum of writing projects and topics. The low-stakes, inclusive environment lowers the façade that shields vulnerability, fosters the development of interpersonal skills for both the consultant and the student, and improves writing from within the student body. In the coming years, the Dalton Writing Center will continue to train students to lead learning with the Education Theory and Practice elective. This class prepares students for the many experiential learning opportunities such as enlisting as a teaching assistant, becoming a writing center consultant or facilitating a student-led elective—a competitive, school tradition in which students can propose, prepare, and teach a half-credit class.
Dalton Academy, the international department of The Affiliated High School of Peking University, seeks to challenge the norms of education, establish a vision for the future of learning, and innovate practices along the way. The Dalton Writing Center, a writing initiative with Chinese characteristics, exemplifies a true blend of thinking, language, and culture by creating opportunities that develop personal awareness, enhance academic experiences, and foster peer-to-peer learning. At Dalton, we recognize the manufactured, transplanted model of Western-style education causes prepackaged content to be neither relevant nor appropriate. International education must come from collaboration, accommodation, and innovation with and for the populations of students we serve. Adapting Writing Center practices for our students at Dalton crosses boundaries, challenges conventions, and offers learning opportunities that are diverse, inclusive, personalized, and rooted in experience.