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Thursday, September 24, 2009

To My Fellow Peer Tutors:

Hi everyone!

I am a student at MATC in Madison, WI and am a part of a peer tutoring practicum course. This course is brand new to the college and is geared at preparing students to become peer tutors in our school's writing center.

For this course, I am writing a research paper. My topic is on "The Growth of the Peer Tutor," and I am trying to find a number of peer tutors to fill out a short questionaire on their experiences in the writing center. I would love to hear from some vetran peer tutors about how they have been effected by their time in the writing center. (Or even some of you newbies, about what you've been observing.) The following is a couple of quick questions that I would love your feedback on! If anyone has the time to respond, it would be greatly appreciated. Just post your answers in the Comments section!

Thanks
-Angie


Peer Tutoring Questionaire:


1) What is your name, and may I use it when quoting sources in my research paper?


2) How has your work in the writing center influenced your own academic growth?


3) What are the challenges of tutoring a student in a field of study you are unfamiliar with?


4) Professionalism: How do you balance being seen as a “tutor” or “authority figure” in the writing center with being a “peer” or “fellow college student” elsewhere on campus?


5) Has peer tutoring changed the way you approach your own writing?

16 comments:

  1. Hi Angie,

    Glad to help!

    1) My name is Michelle Solomon, and you are welcome to use it as you see fit.

    2) I came to college slightly later in life (in my late 20s), after having worked some pretty terrible jobs. I thought I might want to become an English teacher, but after starting to tutor, I was convinced of it, so you could say that becoming a tutor clarified my academic, and therefore professional, goals.


    3) The biggest challenge when I began tutoring was my own unfamiliarity with other writing genre requirements, i.e., I knew what was expected in an English research paper, but wasn't yet acclimated to the requirements of tutoring across the disciplines (lab sciences, for example, or social sciences, which use different citation formats, or even require different overall formatting issues like headers, etc.). The more I tutored, the more familiar I became with other styles, and I learned how to ask and how to research other styles of writing. I also learned that I didn't have to an expert in everything; which would be impossible anyway.

    I think one of the things I learned the quickest was how to explain writing in cross-academic terms, such that students who weren't as strong when it came to writing could understand how to format an English paper if I could link it to their understanding of their major.

    4) Because I went back to college when I was 27, a lot of other students presumed I was a grad student, so professionalism was less of an issue for me. Even though I wasn't a grad student at the time, I did have professional, non-academic experience that other tutors, and many student writers, didn't yet have, so that allowed me to add a level of understanding that others didn't yet have.

    But I didn't really have much of an issue balancing those different aspects either, because I presented myself as someone who had more experience in writing and English studies - but that the student who came in for help knew more about other topics, and we were all students anyway. (I'm also a naturally nosy person, so I was curious about what they knew; they hopefully realized I know a little bit more about one topic, but I wasn't interested in being seen of as a Know-It-All.)

    5) I became much more aware of the revision process, actually, and much more likely to ask for others for feedback. (That was one of the best parts of job - free, easy, and quick access to others. "Hey, can you just take a quick look at this for me?" We all did it all the time - it was wonderful.) I became much more critically engaged (in a positive way) in my own writing and more able to analyze some of my own writing behavior. Ultimately, though, I would say that I've become more aware of revision as a process, and the need for revision.

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  2. Hi Angie! I'm a newbie at Boise State's center, but I

    1) My name is April Watts, and of course you can use it.

    2) Although I am new at our center, I have already found myself feeling much more involved not only in Center work, but college in general. Our center feels like my home on campus, and I feel like I actually belong somewhere, which is something I had no idea I wanted. I am even more engaged in my learning, especially my writing, because being more involved in the Writing Center has shown me just how interesting and varied writing can be.

    3) Initially, this is really intimidating! I don't look forward to the papers I know I will get that are about some obscure science thing about which I am clueless. However, I just have to remind myself that I am not expected to be an authority on all subjects on campus. I'm expected to know about reading and writing, and to offer a new perspective. That is a manageable task, and usually we can work around it if we aren't familiar with the topic. There is always something we can do to help.

    4) Maybe this is silly, but when I'm walking around on campus, I think a lot more about how I portray myself. What if one of the many people I walk by end up coming into the Center and recognizing me? I can only hope their memories of me are positive ones. I have no reason to believe they wouldn't be, but being an "authority figure" has made me more aware of these things. That being said, I generally don't see myself as an "authority figure", just a friendly person who can talk about writing. So I've found so far that the professionalism and fellow college student things coincide nicely!

    5) Revision comes much more easily to me now that I work in the Center. I used to be one of those people who got overly attached to my early drafts, and I didn't much feel like revising them on a larger scale. Now I see how much benefit comes from that, and it makes it much easier to revise my own work.

    Thought provoking questions- thanks Angie!

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  3. Hi, Angie-- hope my answers don't come too late...

    1) My name is Annie Paul (Univ. of Utah) and sure you can use it.

    2) Or, "How has working here NOT influenced my academic growth?" By helping others and listening in on my colleagues' own consultations, I've learned various tips that taken together, have also helped me be more focused in class and interact with various professors. This is actually my first job (ever!) and I believe I'm VERY fortunate at being able to help both others and myself improve their/my communication & writing abilities while learning about each other's life/school experiences.

    3) What are the challenges of tutoring a student in a field of study you are unfamiliar with? I'd say the hardest aspect would be the vocabulary/terminology of those fields. But the good thing is that once the student explains a certain term (when they know what it means), I mainly start focusing on what I've learned to look for: basic structure mistakes (or accomplishments) and other discrepancies... (Usually writing in English follows the same basic structure, so regardless of the field, the way stuff is written is pretty much the same all across the board.)

    4) Professionalism: How do you balance being seen as a “tutor” or “authority figure” in the writing center with being a “peer” or “fellow college student” elsewhere on campus? Actually, I’m also fortunate enough to be trusted on by my other campus peers to review their writings, which is why I always advertise the Writing Center and the fact that I’m a consultant there. But other instructors/TAs who don’t know about my, shall I call them “writing abilities” do just assume all students are bad writers and so it’s hard to work against hat stigma. Eventually, though, they learn ☺

    5) Has peer tutoring changed the way you approach your own writing? It has definitely re-enforced in me having to address a focus in my writing. Sometimes when I find that I haven't answered a question, I have to go back and check and generally start over b/c I find that I ended up not practicing what I do preach...

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  4. 1. My name is Molly Bovos and I am an Undergraduate Tutor for the Purdue Writing Center. You are welcome to name me in your paper.

    2. The best part of my tutoring experience has been getting to know a broad range of students at my school especially the international students. This experience has given me an new appriciation for taking classes in my first language.

    3.I primarily tutor students in the freshman composition class so I talk to students with a wide range of interests. Many of them with little or no interest writing. When I get a student working on a topic I'm unfamiliar with I take advantage of it by having the student explain their topic to me. It helps them because they have to think through things step by step and consider their audience. Plus I get the bonus of learning something new!

    4. I've never had much trouble with the balance because I tutor freshman and I'm a senior. They kind of look up to me imediately. When I leave the lab I leave the job.

    5. I understand the critical thinking behind resivion much better now. I've learned some revising and prewriting skills and I frequently use the lab myself, meeting with a graduate TA. It's be extremely helpful.

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  5. 1) My name is Georgia Davila. Please feel free to use it as you need.


    2) Working in the writing center has made me infinitely more aware of my study habits, writing process, and overall academic performance. Additionally, I was unsure of my choice of secondary education as a minor until I spent some time working as a tutor. For me, it has illuminated strengths I was unaware I possessed and made me more confident about becoming a teacher after graduation.

    3) At the university I attend, there are many criminal justice and agriculture students who are required to meet with a tutor. At first, this was nerve wracking because I know absolutely nothing about either of these fields and thought I would not be able to help them. However, I found that good writing is good writing, no matter the subject. Also, when I tell students that I know nothing about what they are writing, they seem to become more willing to discuss their writing. Knowing that they are knowledgeable about something makes them more confident and enables us to have a more productive session.

    4) This is a big issue because I attend a relatively small school. I am usually willing to talk to other students about their writing when they recognize me outside of the writing center and try to remember that, as a university employee, I am a representative, even when I am having a bad day. In general, working at the writing center has made me more outgoing, but also more cautious. I am less likely, now, to commit myself to outside tutoring. Our director always tells us, "Don't give it away! You're worth it!"


    5) Peer tutoring has made me much more critical of my own work. I am much harder on myself because, though I see the worst writing on campus, I also see the best. I am also more aware of what certain professors want from student writing now. I also have become more willing to participate in the revision and workshop process and much less shy about my writing.

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  6. 1. Kim Voss (yes, you may use my name.)

    2. My time in the Writing Center gave me direction. It brought out the "closet academic" in me. It also set me on my career path as I am now the Writing Center Coordinator at the Writing Center where I was first a peer tutor.

    3. Sometimes the technical vocabulary can throw me for a loop, and when it does, I kindly ask the student to define terms I don't understand. And if they can't define it in general terms, then they probably don't have a good handle on the material. Beyond that, if I can read the assingment, then I can understand what the instructor is having the students do and I pay close attention to that.

    4. Since I am no longer a peer, it's sort of hard to answer this. Though I must say, the change from peer to "authority figure" when I became the person to run the day to day operations was a little unsettling for a while!

    5. Oh yes! I like to ask my tutors to look over my writing. Sometimes they feel intimiated, but once they read thorough it (after I've explained the assignment and what I want feedback on), they give it a go. I've come to realize how collabortive writing really is.

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  7. 1) My name is Grace Boehm, and you can use my name as you like.


    2) Being a writing coach has increased my self-confidence as a writer. As a history student I have multiple papers and writing assignments a semester and coaching has helped me strengthen my own papers.


    3) When I coach students in other fields, I'm often unable to help them as fully as I would like. Many times they need help getting pointed in the right direction and I can only give them generic directions since I know nothing about the subject. This can cause a lot of frustration on both sides.


    4) Generally, I don't tell people outside the Writing Center that I am a coach. If I ever do meet anyone I coach outside of the Center, I never mention that I coach them. Also, my university is a commuter school and I'm a pretty quite person around campus and most of my friendships are based within the Writing Center.

    5) It has definitely changed my approach. Before I would dread writing, especially research papers, mostly due to citing. Since I work with it so much now, I can coach myself in a quarter of the time it takes to coach a student which makes writing easier and more relaxing. I'm now allowed to actually write, rather than spew facts onto a page.

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  8. 1) What is your name, and may I use it when quoting sources in my research paper?
    >My name is Rebecca Bilbro, and you may use it as you find necessary.

    2) How has your work in the writing center influenced your own academic growth?
    >I worked as a peer tutor for 2-3 years at my undergrad institution, and the reading and training put me in touch with the field of Writing Studies, which I ended up pursuing in graduate school. I have continued to consult for the last 3-4 years of my PhD program (at a different school). I see that my experience at writing centers influences many of my current doctoral activities: the way I teach writing/communication classes, the way I mentor new instructors, the way I respond to students' and academic peers' writing, etc.

    3) What are the challenges of tutoring a student in a field of study you are unfamiliar with?
    >I actually feel that working with writing outside one's discipline comes with more advantages than disadvantages; the notion of who is supposed to be the "expert" and who is the "learner" is problematized in useful ways. Additionally, as my dissertation research is on displinary modes of communication, I find that my writing center encounters with those from other fields has helped me develop and hone my research questions.

    4) Professionalism: How do you balance being seen as a “tutor” or “authority figure” in the writing center with being a “peer” or “fellow college student” elsewhere on campus?
    >I have never felt uncomfortable with this balance - I have cultivated a school/work identity that is kind of like the "approachable nerd," and I use it as a student, as a colleague, as a teacher, and as a tutor. I find it more difficult to read and respond to a close friend's writing or to my boyfriend's writing, since they fall outside my professional realm.

    5) Has peer tutoring changed the way you approach your own writing?
    >Yes, certainly, although the extent of the influence would be difficult to qualify and quantify. One key thing I have grown to incorporate into my writing process is explicit conversation; before working at a writing center, I would not have thought of discussion as "real composing." Now I do.

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  9. 1) What is your name, and may I use it when quoting sources in my research paper?

    Lihy Epstein, and yes feel free to quote.

    2) How has your work in the writing center influenced your own academic growth?

    I'm new to the writing center here at UIUC, but I have been using the resources for my own personal writing for the past two years. So far, I feel that observing writing sessions has helped me gain more of an understanding about how much tutors are able to help writers through a simple conversation.

    3) What are the challenges of tutoring a student in a field of study you are unfamiliar with?

    I think the challenge that I have observed has to do with maintaining moderate levels of control between both the tutor and writer. If a writer feels that they are far more experienced than the tutor, this can been detrimental to the session because writers may not feel that the tutor is knowledgeable enough to assist them. However, tutors don't want to be viewed as the expert and need to find a way to given writer's control of the session, but not too much.

    4) Professionalism: How do you balance being seen as a “tutor” or “authority figure” in the writing center with being a “peer” or “fellow college student” elsewhere on campus?

    Since I don't have much experience yet, my answer is rather limited. When I have explained to peers that I'm in training to work at the Writers Workshop, they seem to assume that I'm an incredible writer. Some have even asked me to review their papers. I usually suggest that they make appointments because I feel like when they ask me to help them (outside of the center), what they're really looking for is an editor.

    5) Has peer tutoring changed the way you approach your own writing?

    Yes. When I was in high school, I tutored at our writing center called the Write Place. My favorite aspect of working there was being able to learn from other student's style of writing. Unlike UIUC, at my high school, students were required to come to the Write Place. I usually didn't like working with students who were compelled to come. Those that really were engaged with their writing usually came in on their own, and it was interesting to learn as they did. When someone comes to you for help, they're opening up the door to you to experience their writing (which can be very personal). This experience has given me the opportunity to learn why people do what they do in their writing. I feel that so much of the sessions that I have observed as well as those that I was part of in high school have impacted my writing by giving me more in my "toolbox" when it comes time for me to sit down and write my own papers.

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  10. Anonymous11:23 AM

    1) Heather from Whitworth University Writing Center in Spokane, WA-yes


    2) WC work is the reason that I decided to pursue an English major.I want to keep tutoring open as an employment option for grad school, and I just enjoyed the work and setting more than I expected.I tend to be a bit "jack of all trades" so I love interacting with all disciplines--it provides great resources for any interdisciplinary kinds of topics I am interested in writing about.


    3) Sometimes it is difficult to ask the right questions--I've found the more I ask the better, but I don't always know what kind of information to inquire after.


    4) Our school is relatively small and I've found that meeting in the WC is just another way to be acquainted. Relationships outside of the WC tend to be in the same tone as most other academic connections--classmates, etc. I've also found that good friends seek me in the WC, which is a bit challenging to stay on task sometimes; yet the WC context provides a tone which is naturally consultant to peer and is easily dropped to peer to peer outside the WC.


    5)Well, now I definitely seek out peer advice. Before tutoring, I never sought other opinions on my own writing, but now I am eager to use the WC resource.

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  11. Anonymous12:22 PM

    1) My name is Chris Dorn, and you are welcome to use it.

    2) Working in the Writing Center has helped me think more analytically and holistically about composition. Instead of simply writing the way that feels natural to me, I question with more intentionality my stylistic choices.

    3) The main challenge in working with a student from another field is having the same level of confidence that I have with English students. Whereas I can relate to an English student because I myself have written literary analyses, persuasive essays, and so on, I cannot so easily relate to, say, a Biology major writing a research synthesis paper. In these sitautions where I feel less confident, it is important to remember the value of resources and, just as important, humility.

    4) I play down the tutor-learner relationship as much as possible in the Writing Center. I approach consultations as a time spent with peers. The difference between me and these peers, of course, is that I have gifts and training in writing, as well as a fresh perspective. I find that if I treat consultees with respect and as equals in the Writing Center, we can treat each other with respect and as equals outside the Writing Center.

    5) As far as actual practices in writing, no, not really. But as I mentioned in question 2, I have developed my evaluative and analytical skills as a writer thanks to my work in peer tutoring.

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  12. Anonymous12:23 PM

    Chris Dorn here again. I forgot to mention that I go to Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington.

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  13. 1)
    Jake Herman – Go ahead and use it.

    2)
    The Writing Center has shaped the way I view my personal learning and the concept of learning. More specifically what learning is and how it takes place. Realizing that learning is going on in a writing conference made me realize that most of my learning actually goes on outside of a class. When I took Organic Chemistry a group of 5-6 students would gather in a small empty classroom to discuss the material and fill the board with equations, flow charts, and molecular structures. Those group sessions were crutial to my understanding material for tests.

    3) What are the challenges of tutoring a student in a field of study you are unfamiliar with?
    My biggest challenge is format. Some disciplines require very specific structure, which I may not be familiar with, almost always a writer will understand and be able to explain his content (i.e. diciplinary jargon) to me. The problem arises when a writer is new to a dicipline and he may understand his content, but have no clue about how to oranize it.

    4)
    I don’t think of myself as having any authority. In my mind, a writer has full authority over his paper and his professor has full authroity of his grade, I don’t factor into it. I try to convey this to writers by identifying with their struggles like difficult assignments, overwhelming schedules, and general woes of university life. A brief chat about your respective days before starting a conference helps set a tone of two people working together rather than some authority figure providing all the answers.

    5)
    I am more likely to use the Writing Center. I also try to do less revisions while writing and instead just get my ideas out, then revise. I also do much more brainstorming now.

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  14. Stephen O'Guin12:54 PM

    1)My Name is Stephen O'Guin and you have my permission to use me as a source in your research paper.

    2) Working in the WC at WWU this quarter has really affected my communication skills in a positive way. I have become a more keen listener and I am able to connect better with what people are say to me. For example, when listening and taking notes during a writing conference, I have been able to discern what is important and what is as important. This new found skill has greatly increased my note-taking abilities in my other classes as well.

    3)When tutoring a students working on something outside of my field, the most challenging part is being fmiliar with the works that the writer is using. However, I have found that even though I may not know what the writer is studying, I can still follow well thought out ideas (if they in fact are well thought out) or I can ask for clarification in places that sound like they may need work.

    4)I take great pride when fellow students learn that I am a tutor at our WC. I try to carry myself in the most professional manner at all times, primarliy because I hold two jobs on my campus(Writing Assistant and Dining Services worker), both that require many fellow students to see and/or communicate with me.I just say to myself that fellow students will connect my face with the writing center so I am conscious of my appearance, actions, and word choice most of the time. I would have to admit that I act this way because I want to leave people woth a good impression of me, but it does in fact carry over to me being a tutor.

    5)Peer tutoring has definitely impacted my own writing. I have learned many strategies to get started with an assignment, brainstorm more ideas, polish a draft, or finalize a project or paper. Plus, I know I can come into the WC and get tutored by a peer which is something I did not know I could do prior to being a writing tutor.

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  15. DungPhuong Do7:02 PM

    1- My name is DungPhuong Do, and thank you for using my name very much.

    2- I has been working like a tutor in the Top Nail & Hair School since 2007. This is the first time that I work in the writing center in Salt Lake Community College, but it will influence my own academic growth for my speaking ang listening are increased quickly because it is in the forced situation.

    3- It is unfamiliar with me to understand all of vocabularies in a writing immedately to reponse and to make suggestions to the author, so that is the one of the chalenges of tutoring a student in a filed of study.

    4- I have been familiar with the image of a professional tutor who must use both languages English and Vietnamese to explain to the peers for six years, but this time I try how to balance being seen as a tutor or authority figure in the writing center with the peers by using only in English language.

    5- Surely I will meet different peers who came from different countries and I will approach the writings in the various ways. I think it will make affected to my own writing because of my knowledge is absorbed more style, more struture, and more ideas from diferent authors.

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  16. DungPhuong Do11:35 PM

    1- My name is DungPhuong Do. Thank you for using my name with your research paper.

    2- This is the first time for me to work as a tutoring student in the writing center. This is a chance for me to know how much English I have, how much skills of working I share to others, and how much the influences between I and others during the time we work together on academic growth.

    3- How to understand immediately what the author would like to express on the paper to response and to correct is the one of the challenges of tutoring a student in a field of study that I am unfamiliar with.

    4- My job has been like as a tutor at Top Nail & Hair School since 2007, so it is familiar for me to balance being seen as a tutor or authority figure in the writing center with peer or fellow college student, but it is not easy for me to speak in English with professional way for explaining to peers.

    5- Peer tutoring will change the way I approach my own writing because I will meet many different students who came from different countries or culture to write their writing with many various styles, and it will open my knowledge more, will increase my sight to the world.

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