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Thoughts on My Recorded Consultation

So, when our writing center director requested that we record one of our consultations with a writer, I carried the consultant permission slip around with me and turned the tape recorder over in my palm, but put it off until the second or third or fourth reminder . . .

Why the delay? Excuses aside, I'm guessing it had something to do with not liking the way I sound, longing for those (less-invasive?) good old days of crayon and pencil vs. technology--podcast episodes, photo stories, RECORDINGS, and--dare I say it--blog entries? Can't I just WRITE something for you without other aspects of performance? And maybe I prefer to self reflect behind the scenes. Yet, here I am blogging voluntarily . . . eventually, I recorded a consultation, too.

Finally, I did it. What did I learn? Something about the careful dance I do situating myself regarding written work (that is how I'm tying the recorded consultation to my above ranting). I asked the student what he wanted to work on and quickly learned that it was his first time to the center, and he was there because his instructor required him to come to the writing center because he missed peer review. Does this answer the question of what he wants to work on? . . . not really. Uh-oh, where do I go from here? Wellllll, I asked him what he thought of his paper, personally, and if there was anything he was specifically working on as a writer . . . or something to that effect. And he began to talk. Yay! It seems like reluctant writers often have a lot to say about their topics or assignments, or even writing challenges, even if they have an answer to "What do you want to work on today?" The trick then, is to figure out how to apply it to the project at hand, and turn the conversation back to the written work . . .

It seems like there's a constant push-pull of the writing project, focusing on the specific writing there vs. the big picture . . . vs. subject knowledge . . . vs. I don't know what. I do know that I try to step back from the draft itself at the onset of the consultation . . . and then, I need to make sure to work my way back in.

I'm still not sure what I want to say about my recorded consultation, but I made one, woo. And I made a blog post, too. Have other writing center consultants recorded a session? Was it with trepidation? What did you learn from listening? Or, what have you learned from listening to the recorded consultations of others/viewing transcripts, etc?

And, of particular interest to myself, how do you keep the focus on, or bring it back to, the specific piece of writing at hand, and make sure the writer leaves with a strategy for development or revision?


  1. As a new peer tutor at my college's writing center, I have to say that I've never seen a recorded session. I would probably worry that what I advised a student wasn't good enough or that I should have added so-and-so. That's stressful! But, probably pretty helpful in the long run I'd imagine. To answer your question, in our writing center we emphasize the act of writing by having students spend 10-15 minutes on this towards the end. Usually they leave the center with a revised intro. or conclusion paragraph that they started in those 10 minutes. This way in addition to having just a revision strategy, they also have some revised writing already completed!

  2. I had to record a session for the tutor training course I took my first semester as a grad student. I transcribed the session, and analyzed it, and I actually managed to make my findings into a poster presentation at the 2008 NCPTW Conference. The recording and analyzing of my session was something I had been dragging my feet in doing for years previously, but which turned out to be a really good growing experience (maybe even more so since I did so as an experienced tutor; I got more out of it analyzing my practices after years of tutoring).

  3. Anonymous11:49 AM

    For my session analysis I recorded two sessions on the day I chose to plug in the microphone. The first student I worked with seemed like she had gotten a lot out of the session. The second had felt like the worst session ever...The trick was, I was dealing with someone who mimicked my own weaknesses. The analysis of this session changed the way I hope to attack not only my tutoring, but also my own writing.

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