There seems to be a need for robust conversations around directive versus purely collaborative tutoring, not only in the realm of tutoring nonnative speakers, but across the spectrum. Shamoon and Burns, in “A Critique of Pure Tutoring”, from The Saint Martin’s Sourcebook, provide both data driven and anecdotal support for deconstructing the orthodoxy of pure, non-directive tutoring in writing centers. There is a disconnection between the views of social constructionists and practices applied in writing centers – practice not matching theory.
To paraphrase what I understand to be our mission: we aim to improve the writer, not necessarily the paper. Shamoon and Burns note that “…students at different stages in their education, from beginning to advanced, are developing different skills and accumulating different kinds of information, thus making them receptive to different kinds of instruction and tutoring” (178). This comment, reinforced with research in acquisition of cognitive skills, seem common-sensical. If our goal is to improve writers, and more directive approaches benefit students at various stages, why would we not utilize more directive models?
I believe that we are constricted by both the connotations and denotations of the term “appropriation”. It is an important issue; we do not want to be “ghost-writers” for students, resulting in plagiarism. However, that seems to be slippery-slope argumentation. Is it not possible to employ alternative practices in the tutoring of writing, as these scholars have demonstrated work well in other disciplines? I don’t see writing as so very different from music and art. If pedagogies have proven beneficial, is it not incumbent upon us, as writers striving for excellence in both writing and tutoring, to explore more directive models deployed in other disciplines?
I am brand-spanking-new to tutoring and the conversations around writing center pedagogy; I can make no claim to expertise. That said, I am not new to life and professional endeavors and have participated in process improvement groups, led small projects, and trained new employees. In reflecting on that work, I discover I’ve typically used a combination of modeling, collaboration and directive teaching to obtain the best results.
I would love to hear from other tutors who may be exploring, or have experience with, tailoring pedagogies to students.