Team Effort: Contrasting Collaboration

Howdy, Phil and Rick here from the BSU 303 class. A couple of weeks ago we had an irregular session (as if any could be regular), and we wanted to get some input from the peanut gallery. Don't let the third person throw you off...

A student had an appointment with Rick to go over grammar and structure in his paper. The student was an ELL writer, and came to the appointment having already worked with Phil on a similar paper. During the session, the student repeatedly reminded Rick that the paper was due in an hour, and that he just needed to know what was wrong and how to fix it. Rick resisted the idea of straight out telling him what to do. For awkwardly worded phrases, Rick decided to ask the writer to think about other ways he could word them, without telling him what the 'correct' way to phrase them would be. The writer became increasingly agitated with Rick, and was not engaged with the session. He asked several times if Phil was free, and if he could work with him instead. After about a half hour ( the session was scheduled for an hour), Rick decided to ask Phil if he could join the session. Phil was confused at first as to why the writer would seek assistance from someone other than Rick. While observing the interaction between Phil and the writer, Rick realized that Phil was a lot more forthcoming than he had been regarding the writer's grammar and word structure. As Phil's part of the session went along, he realized the writer just wanted him to write the paper for him. When the writer asked for help with his conclusion, he expected Phil to tell him explicitly what to write. Phil, aware of this, after explaining the concept of a conclusion, informed him, "I'm not going to write it for you." The writer insistently told Phil, "What do I need to write?" Phil had to re-enforce that he wouldn't and couldn't write the paper for him. The writer soon stormed out, obviously frustrated with Phil as well, because Phil wouldn't write it for him.

In the end, Rick decided his approach of trying to let the writer use the language that he had to revise his phrases may have been too distant. But the idea behind his approach was the same as with native speakers: that they should be the authors of their own work.

Phil uses a more forth-coming, direct approach in the hopes that the writer will begin to recognize where they can improve on their own as they go along. While he hasn't dramatically altered his approach, Phil has since become more aware of writers expecting him to do the work for them throughout the consultation.

How forthcoming can you be until it becomes evident that you're doing the work for them? Does your mindset change if you're working with someone without the same command of the language as you do?
Has anyone else faced a similar dilemma of having to seek help from another consultant in a session?


  1. Anonymous2:57 PM

    You make an interesting point. But I don't think having to seek help should be considered a dilemma. (Although I am also guilty of thinking this way.)
    I think any collaboration in a consultation is good. It is interesting to see everyone’s different consulting style; we all have our own strengths and weaknesses. I haven’t done many collaborative sessions (I have done one with RE) but I think they are great! In our consultation I think things went really well. Our styles really complemented each other; RE was much quicker on her feet and came up with good suggestions, I think she was able to help the writer get more out of the consultation, while I am a little slower and I usually let the writer direct the consultation. Although our consultation styles were almost opposite, I think the result was quite good!
    And as for asking for help, I am often asking for help with things that I don't understand. Especially with MLA, APA, and so on. I guess in some ways it can be a little embarrassing – maybe it feels like admitting defeat. It is important for me to remember though that asking for help really isn’t about defeat; it is about utilizing the excellent resource I have in other consultants. (It is silly to feel embarrassed about it, right? But it is honest nonetheless.)


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