Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Friday, November 11, 2005
Each semester the director at my Writing Center encourages his tutors to either videotape or audiotape a session, listen to it (or watch it), and then reflect on it (in an e-mail to him, or the associate or assistant directors we have working with us this year). I have to admit that I'm truculent in doing this, because inwardly I'm worried about doing such a horrid job that I'll only get harsh criticism. (This is unfounded, of course.) I decided to keep the notes that my student and I typed as a means of communication, though, because of the comparative novelty of the situation. Halfway through the session I already knew what I could be doing differently, but it was difficult to shift gears so far into the session, so I decided to keep with it. The session wasn't my worst by any means, but I reflected later that I hadn't wanted to admit I wouldn't get as much "done" in the session; and that I would have to be better organized in choosing specific higher order concerns on which to focus.
I wonder if other tutors have had similar experiences, and what they've learned. And, more specifically, what those experiences actually were.
Friday, October 28, 2005
In that grand tradtion, I give you the first ever PeerCentered Hot Topic Friday[TM]! (It is not really TMed, but it looked funny to write that.)
Today's topic: Why don't peer writing tutors participate more in online forums (such as on writingcenters.org/boards) or in places like PeerCentered? Discuss....
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Can we, ethically, ever share our interactions openly?
Note I was going to write about an interesting experience that one of our peer tutors here at SLCC had with a student yesterday that was relevant to another discussion going on WCENTER currently, but thought twice about it upon remembering the previous discussion.
Monday, October 24, 2005
[Update: after discussion with Beth Boquet, I've decided to pull the clip for now.--Clint]
[Update 2: I've written to Professor Villanueva to ask his permission to use the clip. --Clint]
[Update 3: Professor Villanueva has given his permission to use the clip, so I've put it back up.]
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Saturday, October 22, 2005
3) Crossing boundaries
4) Discovering boundaries
6) Eyeing boundaries
7) Setting boundaries
9) Navigating boundaries
10) Navigating white water
11) Comfort & safety
12) Hurting the eyes
13) Exploring boundaries
16) Red wine
17) What's all this about comfort?
18) Photos, lots of photos
20) Where is the discomfort?
22) A saxophone in hawk
24) Spiders (Kidsmoke)
25) Shoulder cramp
Make of that list what you will. I suppose one could expect something more discursive. I'll try harder today.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
I mentioned that I will be meeting with other Western writing center directors. We're going to discuss how we can best deal with our massive geographic region (it consists of the left half of the US plus Alaska bits of Canada.) The issue is complex, of course, since it involves IWCA Executive Board membership. As it is, however, the current arrangement is untenable due to the sheer distance that we folks in the West have to travel to even have a simple director's meeting. California and the Pacific Nortwest have already made big moves to reorganize. We had a false start with a reorganization in the Rocky Mountain Region last year. Hopefully we can do something that works within the next few years.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
I've arrived a day early to get over to the U of M to do a little research and just visit with some friends I haven't seen in a while, as well as just to give myself a little room to breath from traveling before I start in on all the various meetings planned for the week. After my research time tomorrow, I'm meeting with folks from the West of the USA to figure out what in the heck is up with our vast region.
I haven't really even looked at the program other than for my own sessions. Oy. Well I'll do that tomorrow.
Friday, October 14, 2005
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
What was going through my head when I was writing each Conference Report?
It took me a couple hours in really thinking about this, because up to this point, I wasn't sure I'd been thinking anything specifically; I was often just trying to remember what I'd done well or badly in that particular session. I wasn't concerned with how I was phrasing my experience. But then I got to thinking about last semester.
Last semester I was inundated with reflection. I was doing so much of it - between my Methods class and tutoring (which my director always highly encouraged us to do, from the moment of being hired), between having to really look at what I was writing and analyze my thinking and rationale about what I felt was everything under the sun - that I was coming to a few realizations about myself that I had been trying not to see. (Or maybe, as I'm nearing 30, I'm finally allowing myself to see.) And I felt that something clicked in my head last semester: I was finally putting together some practical experience in relation to some pedagogical practices that both my director and my Methods professor had been teaching. In essence, a lot fell in to place, and a lot started to make sense. (Especially when I heard the same strategies from both professors!) I was able to see a more direct correlation between what I said and the student's response, and I was able to shift gears much more easily if I saw that something wasn't working.
At the beginning of this semester, my sixth as a tutor, I came in with a different appreciation for tutoring: all this reflecting that I had to do, all that I had to see in terms of my own writing and how my mindset and thinking was so innately connected to how and what I wrote, made me be able to appreciate my tutoring sessions so much more. I now knew from experience how painful reflecting could be, and how writing exposed one's own thinking to the world. Writing for me has always been such a closely tied connection to how I think that I really understand why many people are so protective of their writing. I look to see the way my student responds in the session: her posture, her facial expressions and mannerisms, how close she sits to me, how willing she is to answer questions, how closely she peers over her paper as we read through it together. These clues, as much as anything else, makes me stop to think about how that student, in that one session, feels about her own writing, and makes me really think about what I did in that session, what worked, and what I need to do to become better. I can then process what happened and (I hope) write about the session in such a way that's clear, concise, and readable.
If nothing else, this job is preparing me remarkably for the day that New York State gives me that teaching certification.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Clark continues: "When gifted students are placed in mixed-ability groups for cooperative learning, they frequently become tutors. Other students in these groups may rely on the gifted to do most of the work and may actually learn less than when the gifted students are not in their groups. When gifted students work in their own cooperative learning groups from time to time on appropriately challenging tasks, they are more likely to develop positive attitudes about cooperative learning. At the same time, other students learn to become more active learners because they are not able to rely so heavily on the gifted students. When the learning task focuses on content some students already know, those students should be learning how to cooperate in their own groups on extension tasks that are difficult enough to require cooperation. When the cooperative task is open-ended and requires critical or divergent thinking, it is acceptable to include the gifted students in heterogeneous cooperative learning groups."
I've posted some pictures from the 2005 Summer Institute here. Institute attendee Susan Mueller has posted some here.
Peer Tutoring Issues
While the Institute is generally aimed at issues for writing center directors/professionals, we did focus on several issues relevant to peer tutoring. Carol Severino and I lead a discussion of developing staff education curriculum. Even though staff at writing centers are more broadly-based than just peer tutors, we had participants consider more fully the needs of their audience in regards to staff education. This, of course, differed markedly from peer tutors to, say, faculty tutors, and we discussed approaches and methodologies that could be used for each group.
Frankie Condon and Harry Denny then discussed on-going staff education emphasizing the need for an activist agenda in the WC. Michael Pemberton and Carol Severino later discussed writing fellows programs, and, finally, we heard from a group of KU tutors who discussed their perceptions of writing center work.
Monday, July 18, 2005
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
2) Beth Boquet and Ben Rafoth next gave the group a primer on writing center theory.
3) Carol Severino and I then lead the group in a discussion of development of curriculum for staff education. It is a big subject and Carol and I decided that we should focus on needs assessment of the audience. We let the groups discuss the various issues of whom they were training. There was some amount of resistance to separating by difference. I can see why, but I think it is important to focus on difference in order to determine what the education needs are for our writing center staff. I wish we had more time to talk about methodologies one could employ for training. We probably should have cut down the discussion a bit, but then the great ideas people had would not have been expressed. Hmm. Anyway the idea is that we provided a place to start from. Maybe we should have conducted more of a round table to talk about curriculum issues and ways of helping folks to learn about WC work.
4) We’re writing now. I started brainstorming about the piece I want to create about CC writing centers. It is slow going. I’m not even sure what questions to ask at this point, realy.
5) There were various SIGS last night, and folks are getting used to long days of WC conversation in July.
Sunday, July 10, 2005
Tonight we're having the openning BBQ in the Bob Dole Political Institute.
I had a long trip in from Salt Lake City: my plane was delayed and eventually cancelled because of bad weather over Denver. Luckilly my airline could get me on another flight directly to Kansas City. I arrived at 1:30 am. Not bad, but not exactly the height of the social hour and all food service at said Holiday Inn was closed. I spent a hungry night reading.
Today we meet as institute leaders and then have a social with the participants.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
Hopefully this will also jar me to get off my PeerCentered vacation and post some entries. (Ah summer!)
Saturday, May 28, 2005
We'd like to share this handout by our Director Dr. Kathryn Evans.
BSC Writing Studio
Strategies for Writing Studio Consultants
By Kathryn Evans, Bridegwater State College
Many consultants find that the following six strategies—when done before, during, and after the “meat” of the discussion—can help students learn significantly more.
1. Start with self-assessment. Ask writers to
· use the professor’s evaluation criteria to self-assess their work
· tell you what specifically they would like feedback on
Beginning the session like this helps you target your feedback to the writer’s needs.
2. Identify and prioritize patterns. When you read the writer’s work, look for (and encourage writers to look for) patterns of issues instead of individual issues. After you’ve identified several patterns, prioritize:
Which patterns are more serious? Do some patterns undermine the writer’s credibility more than others? render an argument less persuasive?
Note that if you give feedback intermittently as the work is being read, it’s harder to identify patterns and next to impossible to prioritize them. Instead, try taking notes on the work while you are reading it and save the discussion until after you’ve read the entire paper.
3. Favor depth over breadth. Just as readers are less persuaded by writing that crams many brief points into one argument, so too can students be less persuaded by feedback that rushes through superficial coverage of many points. Compare:
“Here you have a fragment. In this next sentence there is singular-plural mismatch. Here is a comma splice. This next paragraph could use more evidence. Here’s a fragment. This paragraph could also use more evidence. I wasn’t sure what you meant by this word? Here is another fragment. Your last paragraph could also use more evidence. Don’t forget to include the page number when you quote, just like you did in your other paragraphs.”
“There are a couple of issues that I think you’ll want to look at. First, let’s talk about your evidence. [In-depth discussion of how the writer might add more evidence.] Great, now that we’ve tackled evidence, let’s talk about fragments. [In-depth discussion of fragments.]”
Note that to favor depth over breadth, you’ll generally want the session to be organized around the limitations of the work rather than the chronology of the reading (e.g., “let’s talk about X and Y problem” rather than “let’s look at your first paragraph and talk about it; then let’s look at your second paragraph and talk about it.” Students will learn more when you favor depth over breadth, and issues that aren’t in scope can be addressed in future sessions. (At the end of the session, briefly mention the remaining issues and encourage the writer to sign up for another session.)
4. Respond as a reader rather than an objective judge. Compare:
“This paragraph could use some more evidence.” [objective judge]
“You might want to add more evidence here.” [implied objective judge]
“When I was reading this, I felt like you were making good points but that I couldn’t be fully persuaded without more evidence.” [an unpersuaded reader]
“Readerly” response helps students see the reasons underlying revisions. (“Why should I add more evidence?” While the first two scenarios don’t answer this question, the third one does: “I should add more evidence so that my readers can be persuaded.”) When students understand the reasons underlying revisions, they are more likely to remember those revision strategies in the future.
5. Ask students to solve problems. To leverage the “comprehension checking” advantages of oral feedback, consider having writers do on-the-spot revisions to solve particular problems. You might, for example, do the following:
· Point writers to contrasting examples and ask them which one they think is more effective and why. You could say, for instance, “Look at the paragraph on the bottom of p. 2 and compare it to the one on the top of p. 4. Which one do you think offers more evidence to support the claim?” You can then have the writer revise the less effective example to make it better approximate the effective example. This approach offers two benefits. First, students have a chance to apply—and thus reinforce—the targeted writing strategy. Second, students’ on-the-spot revisions allow you to engage in comprehension checking—to gauge how well the writer has understood the targeted writing strategy. This knowledge is key, since it tells you whether you need to spend more time on a concept or whether it’s okay to move on.
· If no contrasting example can be found, try modeling what a possible revision would look like and explaining why you think it is more effective. You could then ask the writer to choose another sentence or passage with the same issue and revise it. This offers the same benefits described above—if the writer’s revision is effective, you know to move on to the next point; if not, you know you need to spend more time on the same issue.
6. Ask students to summarize. When students are asked to summarize the discussion, they are more likely to remember it. Encourage writers to frame their summaries in terms of their future writing rather than in terms of the specific paper. Compare:
· "I have X and Y problems in this paper."
· "In my future writing, I should focus on improving X and Y."
Framing the summary in terms of future writing can often make the feedback seem more relevant and important. Students' summaries also provide a final comprehension check, giving you one last opportunity to influence what they focus on in their future writing.
Talk abt. the option to read silently (probably in #2).
Being encouraged to write down a solution is both a morale-booster and a memory aid.
Your body paragraphs could be more explicitly related to your thesis.
You might want to more explicitly link your body paragraphs to your thesis.
When I was reading the body paragraphs, I kept getting confused about how they related to your thesis.
· rather than overwhelming a writer by pointing out ten different errors, you could note that there are only two or three patterns.
· More than one sol’n to a problem; have s’s pick the sol’n that fits their intent.
· Positive feedback (not just once but intermittently). PE a part of this
· Read aloud once then silently
· What does s do if consultant reads silently
· Don’t be afraid of silence
· Ask s’s to re-read and / or you re-read
· Can have s’s make an outline of the paper
· When focus is a problem, 90% of the time evidence is a problem too
· When both focus and evidence are a problem, generally better to deal w/ focus first
Good example: one paper (Amanda Clay’s) said early on that Zinsser describes four types of pressure in college: economic, parental, peer, and self-inflicted, but s went on to only discuss economic and parental. Problem: reader expects paper to deal w/ all four. One consultant pointed to problem: I’m expecting all four to be treated equally, but they aren’t…the student (me in role play) said, Oh, I just wanted to talk abt. two pressures…and we figured out how to solve the problem: omit reference to all four pressures [student decided to start first body para. with “Zinsser over exaggerates this point…Economical pressure has always….”]) and change thesis to read “…Zinsser is correct when he states that there is pressure in college yet his essay is a vast over-exaggeration of the pressures facing the everyday college student, especially parental and economic pressure” [student added part in italics]. Another consultant, however, told me that I needed to discuss all four pressures equally. My choice taken away.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
The Writing Studio consultants encouraged students to submit their work in a drop-box at the Studio. Consultants took turns reviewing the submitted pieces and chose several of them for presentation at the Writer’s Café. Students were welcome to submit either works of fiction, poetry or essays.
The Writer’s Café was a great success, and many clients read their pieces to a receptive and eager audience. We provided food and beverages to help create a more relaxed and comfortable environment. The positive atmosphere of the Writer’s Café prompted enthusiastic feedback from both faculty and students.
We believe the Writer’s Café added an enjoyable, stimulating aspect to our Writing Studio. The Café offered an outlet for those clients who wanted to share their writing, and allowed for a new level of consultant/client interaction.
Due to the excellent response we received, the Writer’s Café will be held once per semester.
Bridgewater State College Writing Studio
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Friday, April 29, 2005
So why then, with all this emphasis on computers and technology, do Writing Centers still struggle with our computers? It seems as though we tolerate them as a necessary evil - a tool for creating legible drafts and a requirement for quality final drafts - rather than embracing the opportunities they give us both as tutors and as writers ourselves.
It seems that by far the most common discussion related to technology in Writing Centers surrounds the issue of Online Writing Labs (OWLs) and whether or not a face-to-face pedagogy is translatable to the online setting. I'm not sure this is the right question to ask, because like it or not, the computers are not going anywhere. Online drafts are the wave of the future and being prepared to meet that demand (as well as the challenges that go along with it) seems vital to the continued success of Writing Centers.
Unfortunately, Writing Centers' dislike of computers does not stop at OWLing. The majority of training for tutors in my Writing Center focuses on hands-on, verbal, or otherwise very low tech strategies for working with writers. Personally, I am thrilled by this practice because it means I don't have to think of my writing as being tied to a keyboard and desk! And yet, we have all these beautiful computers in our Center, all equipped with software that could take some of the pencil and paper strategies and give them a whole new dimension of usefulness, that are just sitting idle for most of the day.
Perhaps one motive behind our discomfort is that maybe we don't all know how to use the computers as well as we think we should. I have discovered that many of the questions related to footnoting that come into our Writing Center also require an explanation of how to physically create a footnote in a document, but when I asked other tutors if they know how to do it themselves the majority had to admit that they do not. And I know that I don't make use of some of the editing and brainstorming software in our Center because I don't know how to use it well enough to teach someone else. Is it possible that even growing up with technology has not prepared us to use it effectively in this setting? How much work would it take to make the computers as useful a tool as the highlighters and scratch paper we have all come to know and love?
Thursday, April 28, 2005
My experience so far with STRATA students has been very positive. Often when I begin conferencing with these students I’m initially intimidated (since they’re older than me- I wonder if I really can give them valid feedback). It’s just the notion that wisdom is in age and it somehow intimidates me in the beginning. Most of the students are eager to get back into school but are often apprehensive about getting back into writing. Particularly, most STRATA students come in with grammar fears, citing woes and are worried about meeting the expectations of their professors. Like one LA pointed out, sometimes a session with a STRATA student can feel more like a “therapy session” once you’re through. Often with these students once we get through talking about their LOC’s they are more than ready to dive into talking about ideas in their paper. I’ve had some of my most interesting conversations with these types of students, and sometimes the conversations are more geared towards being back in school, dealing with life pressures and having a balance than about their paper. It is because of those added pressures that STRATA students have, that I wonder what writing centers can do to help them outside of conferencing (or holding therapy) with them.
Most writing centers pedagogies strive to be all inclusive and diverse- but what about the diversity of ages? Do we take time in our writing center classes and training to discuss how to work with writers of differing ages? I wonder if STRATA students could benefit from more specific resources tailored to their needs. One LA is collecting data about this but I wondered if this topic has been addressed at other schools and if there are any tactics to dealing with STRATA students or resources. It all comes down to the fact that, STRATA, ESL, ELL, LD, any student, or LA at the conference table- we’re all just people trying to better our writing but I’m curious to see if there’s been any research done about STRATA students and about making their transition easier back into school through the writing center. If you have any ideas or experiences- please share!
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Think for a moment of the cornerstone values of writing centers: peer to peer interaction, discussion based learning, lots of probing questions, etc. Now, recall how many writing center conference sessions are run: lecture. Case in point: at the last conference I attended, three of the five the sessions I attended we lecture (one of them even consisted of the presented just reading from her work). If 60 percent of the sessions I attended we lecture, that means half the sessions had NO interactive learning in them. Clearly, these sessions are a stark departure from writing center pedagogy. Just imagine if we worked with students the same way we work with each other at conferences, never letting the writer speak and dictating all the answers!
I would think that our pedagogy ought to be reflected in how we run our conferences, which means I believe writing center conferences should be highly interactive: work shops, small group discussions, chances to challenge the ideas shared. One thing that struck me about the last conference I attended was how quite it was, which means no one was talking. If anything, writing center conferences, if they are displaying writing center pedagogy, should be one of the loudest places in town due to all the conversation!
So why do writing centers abandon our pedagogy when we get together at conferences? A good friend of mine thinks it is because writing centers, traditionally marginalized by academia, are attempting to appear more “scholarly” in the eyes of the university, and thus adopt academic rhetoric in the form of lectures. I offer a challenge to writing centers; instead of waxing academic, I propose we stick to our pedagogical guns. Studies consistently show lectures are one of the least effective learning environments; why not run our conferences in a way that best fosters learning – in interactive sessions?
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
To echo Jen in the last post, I too have recently participated in a writing center conference. Unlike Jen, however, who is a seasoned veteran at leading conference sessions, I was a newbie. I was working with two fellow writing assistants (tutors), and our conference was on gendered communication in the writing center.
I must admit that to me, gender dynamics, like Hamlet, are everywhere in our lives. Not everyone agrees with me, however. Many people participating in our conference thought that gender had absolutely no effect on their practice as members of the writing center community. Most people pre-conference felt that both their own gender and the gender of the person they were working with didn't really matter when it came to writing and tutoring.
At the Western Washington University writing center, however, we found some pretty interesting numbers involving our own staff and the demographic of people who use our writing center. Although our campus is 55% female and 45% male (pretty standard around the nation), we found that 72% of writers using the center were female. Interestingly, almost 70% of our staff is female as well, and on a larger scale, national writing center Directors are 80% female.
Why do we experience this disparity? Is it because writing center pedagody is geared towards a type of communication that is more stereotypically associated with women? Are women more willing to ask for help on their writing? Is it that writing centers in general are targeted for the humanities rather than the sciences, where women typically make up the majority? What other factors play in here?
Monday, April 25, 2005
While I certainly gain tremendously from all the sessions I attend, I find myself blown away by how much facilitating teaches me. With the recent conference being the third under my belt, I have come to learn what works for me, and what I really need to improve upon. At my first conference, I had already spent a year practicing giving directions as a student coordinator, and found I could do this fairly well in my session. But I had difficulty drawing the participants’ attention and dealing with unexpected comments. An issue of presence, I came to think of it, and have since worked on how to develop my skills as one presence more energetic than the group! I took these lessons to the national conference, where I presented the same workshop, and found huge improvements.
At this year’ regional conference, I facilitated a workshop with two other writing assistants (our name for tutors). Because our session was on using play at the conference table, we wore extravagant hats and goofy accessories to lighten the mood. And it worked on many levels: the audience felt encouraged to play, and I felt my presence take on a fun spirit rather than remaining forced and stunted. For me, learning how to create a presence as leader in a group is crucial because I want to teach. And when trying to facilitate a class, nothing works better than a professor with an engaging presence.
So my main plug is to encourage any tutors out there, undergraduates especially, to try out facilitating a conference session. Just going to a conference is fabulous, but I realize now that allowing tutors a venue to facilitate is one of the greatest opportunities a conference can offer.
Saturday, April 23, 2005
"Those offices include the Academic Achievement and Access Center, the office of the dean of students, the department of student housing, the Freshman-Sophomore Advising Center and the KU Writing Center. Others include the Office of Admissions and Scholarships, the Office of Student Financial Aid, the Student Involvement and Leadership Center, and the KU Career Center.
'The objectives are to educate the Latino population in western Kansas of the importance of college, encourage students to consider the University of Kansas as a transfer student, and answer questions in Spanish regarding higher education, with a family perspective in mind,' Pena said." (DodgeCity.com: Dodge Globe: Local News: Stories)
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Three of the five have just returned from presenting at the PNWCA [Pacific Northwest Writing Center Association] conference last weekend. Four of the five are currently student coordinators or will be next year.... They are all really fabulous tutors and human beings!Looks like it will be a great week! Join in, by commenting. If you or your writing center compatriots want to guest blog, let me know.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
"'We encourage peer tutoring - studies with people of the same age group, sitting down together and saying, 'let me show you how to do this', and so on,' [Clifford] Senior explained" (Support for St Ann youth - JAMAICAOBSERVER.COM, 11).
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
"It's a tremendous loss -- Craig had a wonderful voice...president of Breakfast Serials, a literacy-boosting program whose original, serialized stories are delivered to young readers through the nation's newspapers. "He took on difficult subjects and his poetry was able to cut right through everything to the reality of what he was writing about. The public really responded with deep emotion." (link 4)
IWCA President Jon Olson recalls a happy meeting with Crist-Evans at last November's NCTE:
Consider the inscription Craig wrote when I bought a copy of his book.... What he wrote is a toast to writing centers, to all of us who work in them as he did. In memory of Craig, please join me in raising a glass, literally if you have one by your screen as you read this or figuratively. This is from Craig: "Here's to all the words and all the fun we have in Writing Centers!" (personal correspondence)
Monday, April 11, 2005
I had a brilliant moment in one of my tutorials today. Too bad it didn’t come from me. A master’s student came in to discuss part of her thesis and she seemed nervous from the very beginning. She explained to me that English is her second language and that her paper seemed so great to her before she came into the Writing Center, but as soon as she sat down with a tutor she started realizing all the mistakes she had made. She is a regular here, and the way she was talking made it seem like coming in for a tutorial was a form of self-flagellation. I did all I could to assure her that many tutees (ESL or not) have that realization when they come in for tutorial, that we were here to help her improve rather than criticize her writing, and that everyone (even me! even tutors!) makes mistakes in their writing. She laughed a bit, but I wasn’t sure she believed me, and I continued to try to make her at ease and make the tutorial enjoyable.
In the course of our tutorial, another regular came in to peruse our bookshelves for instructions on how to write a letter to the editor. He was reading close by, and when he stood up to leave, he leaned in to our area to tell my tutee that he struggled with the same writing issues that she did. While their cultural backgrounds are rather different—he is Puerto Rican, she is Korean—both of them seemed visibly relieved to realize that there was someone else out there struggling much the same way. They chatted for a few minutes, he went on his merry way, and she turned her attention back to our tutorial—with a much more relaxed attitude and increased comfort as we discussed her paper. It dawned on me that neither of them seemed to realize that tons of students walk through our door every day with the same problems with articles, progressives, and translating from their first language—even though we tutors are certainly aware of that fact. The experience got me thinking about how to ensure that all of our students—ESL, ELL, EFL, 1.5s, native speakers, learning disabled, etc. etc.–are aware that they are certainly not alone and don’t need to get down on themselves. In particular, I want to make sure that the power hierarchy between tutor and tutee is disrupted in these situations. Have any of you out there had luck with group tutoring for ESL students? Or does anyone have further insight about non-native tutors? I realize that there are not simple answers to my questions or concern (as discussed in other blogs, some students self-identify, others don’t, some like my student appreciated the chance to talk with another ESL, others would want to distance themselves from other ESLs), but I am open to ideas about making tutoring a positive experience for everyone involved.
Another topic on my mind is weather. It’s somewhat of a joke around here, but weather has a large—and sometimes just plain shocking—impact on the number of students who show up for tutorials. If it’s snowing or raining, we have tons of cancellations and no-shows. If it’s sunny and warm (especially after a mid-west-esque cold spell), we have tons of cancellations and no-shows. This might seem like an issue of far less gravity than some of the others brought up by my colleagues, but having people miss their appointments means that we are simply not able to do our job. Does anyone out there have similar problems? What are the cancellation/no-show policies for other tutoring centers? Is anyone having any luck with theirs?
Sunday, April 10, 2005
In some preliminary conversations I’ve had with folks here at Ohio State we’ve come to the very tentative conclusion that early intervention in rich media projects is essential. This is primarily because the technological learning curve is so steep and the investment in terms of time is so great that traditional revision practices are to some degree not possible. That being said, there is still a lot of work to be done in helping clients winnow down hours of audio records, interviews, or video footage into a compelling project. It is at this level that tutors can the most help.
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Anyway, my point is that sometimes I wonder how, with my current course of study, I ended up getting this job (besides being the only one to apply for it), and what I actually bring to the WC. Regardless of how I ended up here, I know that I’m excited about my position and look forward to coming into work more days than not. I like the different hats I get to wear around the WC– tutor, friend, mini-manager, etc., and I think this position has allowed me to think about some of the larger WC issues in addition to the day-to-day operations.
Something that’s been on my mind recently is this ultra-American idea that “bigger is better.” In the business world, it seems that you have been growing to be considered successful and productive. But does that notion necessarily hold true for writing centers? Should we be striving to “supersize” writing centers? What do we have to gain? To lose?
It seems to me that having more members of the university community come to the WC does have a positive connotation – more people interested in their writing, exploring the writing process, working through their thoughts and improving their ability to communicate with others. But there’s also a flip side. In only the two years I’ve worked here, there have been some subtle, but significant, changes. For starters, we are happily growing. The number of tutors working at the WC has increased, we now serve clients online as well as face-to-face, and we have an online system of scheduling appointments and logging employees’ tutoring hours. While all of this is commendable, I do think growth, if not properly planned for and accommodated, can lead to a more sterile and business-like environment, which is something I’ve always found refuge from at the WC.
Right now I’m working through some of these ideas and don’t have any clear answers or even suggestions. I know that I look forward to our weekly staff meetings where all of the tutors get to sit around and chat about their experiences and thoughts. We’ve also started having WC potlucks and meeting out for dinner and drinks after work sometimes. That helps, but I’m wondering if there is more I can do with the daily operations of the WC to help us maintain some of the comfortable, laid-back, open feel that I believe is an integral part of the WC environment. For now, that’s my larger focus. Any suggestions?
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
-Eve R. (tutor and master's student)
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Group tutoring is fundamentally different, I think, than a doctoral (or master’s) writing group. With such a “workshopping” model, each member is considered equal, and there tend to be fairly specific do’s and don’t’s designed to protect this equality. However, the tutor in a writing classroom (remedial or otherwise) is automatically imbued with a sense of authority, whether or not it is desired. The tutor is positioned (culturally, phenomenologically) as a sort of “sub-” or “pseudo-” instructor – that is, as “between” the instructor, who has the ability to evaluate (i.e. “grade”), and the students. The tutor is considered a writing “expert,” with the knowledge to advise and, in fact, influence the student (and his/her writing).
This is, of course, not much different than many of the situations we find ourselves in when tutoring one-on-one. Much of our time thinking about the writing center is spent considering the ways to “de-politicize” (even “de-colonize”) the tutor/tutee relationship – to eliminate the power dynamics inherent in “teaching” (at least the Western conception of it). In a group tutoring environment like the one our tutors found themselves in, this proved to be nearly impossible (at least for me): the roles and expectations had already been established and the students seemed unwilling to take control, or even participate. Indeed, the primary complaint among the tutors, at least anecdotally, was that the students “don’t do anything. They don’t seem to care.”
I believe there are real benefits to utilizing these predetermined power dynamics and adopting at specific times a moderately directive philosophy. It can be advantageous, first of all, for the tutor to use his/her authority to get the students involved. The tutor can do this by outlining an agenda, exercising control of the group discussion (by selecting a topic or merely guiding the conversation through direct questioning), or by assigning specific writing tasks to complete within the tutoring time. Tutors can also rely on “talking,” instead of merely asking. Talking, I think, can take two forms, both important. Tutors can provide tools students can use and general information about writing (generally how do writers research or deal with theses, transitions, or organization); tutors can also serve as a model for good peer input. The tutor does not merely model good discussion, but also “how to do school,” immensely important in the remedial writing classroom.
It is important to not concede to the extreme. The group tutor must also use the group – that is, discussion should not be one-one-one. The tutor can counter this by posing questions to the group as a whole, or, when one student has a problem, turn to the group for solutions. In general, tutors should ask open-ended questions. I found it best when I asked questions that I didn’t necessarily have an answer for; this allowed me to become one of the group, instead of a teacher searching for “the” correct answer.
Interestingly enough, I found that this combination modeling good peer participation and non-directive but “powerful” (recognizing and using, when appropriate or useful, your inherent authority) tutoring can actually inspire students to take control of the group. After a few sessions with a pre-arranged agenda, the students and I together began to prepare for the next session at the end of the hour. Although they still at times turned to me, more and more often they answered each others’ questions. As they become more involved, and more familiarized to the college environment and its expectations, the students took control of their writing, and of their participation in the writing group. Unexpectedly, I had moved to the periphery of the group.
Monday, April 04, 2005
The Ohio State University Writing Center will be Guest Blogging for this week. My name is Doug Dangler and I run the Online Writing Center at OSU (www.cstw.org). I tutor online via a synchronous system a few hours a week, and more during the weeks before midterms and finals. I’m always fascinated by the theorietical aspects of writing center communications and how the work done there gets interpreted in a variety of ways. (For example, online writing center issues frequently surface on the writing center listserv, wcenter: http://listserv.tamu.edu/cgi/wa?SUBED1=wcenter-l&A=1). Last Friday, I was part of an East Central Writing Center Association (ECWCA: http://www.sienahts.edu/~eng/ecwca/ecwca.htm) panel discussing online tutoring and the influence of the language used to describe it, especially metaphors. Tom Savas, a graduate tutor at OSU, talked about the impact that electronic technologies have had on Andrea Lunsford’s metaphors of the Garret, the Storehouse, and the Burkean Parlor. For my at bat, I talked about why I’d like to see the OWL acronym altered to something more descriptive of online writing center work. And the final presenter, Kay Halasek, the Writing Center Faculty Coordinator at OSU, discussed administrative issues associated with online writing centers. All in all, provocative ideas were presented and a good discussion followed, demonstrating once again that conferences can be great places to question long-held assumptions and practices.
Friday, April 01, 2005
Students at Notre Dame are known for their hard work and dedication in the classroom. However, the University also recognizes them as hard workers outside of class - in on-campus jobs ranging from secretary to sandwich artist. (1)
Writing Center tutor Curtis Leighton states that "I have one of the best jobs on campus.... Flexible hours, human interaction and good pay' are all positives for working at the Writing Center..." (17).
As a person who worked in a writing center as a student, and as a Writing Center Director I would tend to agree with Leighton. While working in the Writing Center as a student I found myself actively engaged in the job not only as a tutor, but as a learner. I come to look on those days as a crucial time in my life when I decided really what I wanted to do. I kept that writing center job as long as I could (and you might say since I have always directed a writing center that I never really left it.) As a director I have seen student peer tutors/consultants do the same thing. Writing center work seems to keep people around. I think the shortest period that someone worked for a writing center I have been involved with was 2 weeks and that was simply because the person had to move out of state. Most of the folks stick around for at least two years (I am at a community college) if not for three or four.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
I was just looking through Google news (news.google.com) and a disturbing story out of Texas A&M popped up (link).
In a nutshell a candidate for student body president is proposing doing away with fees paid to services such as their Writing Center since it is "not used by all students" and "could be changed to being paid for based on usage instead of a blanket fee for all students." When I went to the A&N WC web site, I discovered that students fees for the service for everyone is $8.00 per semester. So all undergraduate students are paying $16.00 per year to pay to keep the Writing Center open. Now granted this person has not won election and (as we all know) student body officers cannot necessarily make such sweeping decisions on their own (but I'm not familar at all with how it works at A&M), but it does sound an alarm to me that attitudes like this can affect the work we do.
I am curious if others have faced such a situation as the folks at A&M are now apparently facing, and how you dealt with it. Is this a problem with using student fees for funding services like the writing center rather than having a straight-line budget from the institution itself?
I didn't want to sound alarmist, but I wanted to start a discussion of funding sources and whether using student fees really works well. Aren't students always going to say "I don't use that" therefore it should be a pay-as-you-go service?
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
"This outreach program (Librarians on Location) is one of the most visible ways our librarians demonstrate their commitment to providing access to information resources to SHSU students," said Ann Holder, director of library services.
"We have sent librarians to a number of locations this past year and the Writing Center has proven to be our most successful venue; it is an obvious pairing and we encourage library use while demonstrating that the Newton Gresham Library, its resources, and librarians, are primary sources of information." (link , 3-4)
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Monday, March 21, 2005
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Thursday, February 24, 2005
“The students speak in their own voices and you get a real feel for their interests and concerns,” [Writing Center Assistant Director Wendy] Goldberg said. “You get a real cross-section of students and interests.”
The "Celebration of Writing" sounds like a great way for a writing center to reach out to its community.
They are a rare breed who love the complex process of thesis development, the endless variety of sentence structure and the art of the perfect transition. Their majors range anywhere from psychology to women's studies. They feel no student should conquer writer's block alone, and their lust for writing has put drive and passion back in UW students' pens. They are the writing fellows.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
In a bonus "Tutor's Column," Kelly Wisecup of the College of the Ozarks reports on an interesting experiment in writing center outreach. The program, entitled "Tutors in the Classroom" (TIC) (11), allowed the tutors to work with students in their classroom setting. The program not only allowed Wisecup to learn about instructor expectations but seemed to allow the tutors to model the benefits of individual consultations to the instructor.
College sophomore Sammy Magzoub spends a couple of hours a week in the writing help lab at his university. Before he got to college, Sammy didn’t realize that English isn’t the only class where a good paper can mean the difference between passing and failing. (Sinclair, Carla. "The Write Stuff", 2)
Back in the college writing lab, Sammy says it wasn’t too difficult to improve his writing.
Magzoub said, "it didn’t take me long to realize that if you even change a word in your sentence, it could make a huge difference, or if you even change the order of the words, it makes a huge difference." (12-13)
Thursday, February 10, 2005
Over the next while I will also be paring down the contributers list to those who actually post items. I know this will change over time, so I'm arbitrarily assigning a six month rule: if a contributer doesn't post in a six month time span, they may be deleted from the role.
I feel a bit silly making such pronouncements since PeerCentered is so stagnant, but I am going to start advertising on WCENTER again the opportunity that we have to share our ideas with others.
So the modified purpose/mission is posted above.
Monday, February 07, 2005
The state recently cut all funding starting next semester for the hours that students were spending in the Success Centers on campus.Apparantly the Success Centers include writing centers on campus as the story later offers a quotation by Robert Rundquist, Writing Center Instructional Specialist: "'The college is very committed to the centers....I have no concern about it'" (20). Students at Chaffey, however, don't seem to share Rundquist's optimism.
According to the Vice President of Instruction, Dr. Linda Howdyshell, the cut came because the state was questioning the idea that students were getting "something for nothing" from the success centers and labs. (Cangialosi, Mark. "State Cuts May Doom Campus Success Centers", 3-4)