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Directive Awareness Catalogue


I just observed a session that screamed “directive.” I thought it might be useful to note some of the phrases that I found common in the session. Recognizing and acknowledging these phrases should help us better be aware when they accidentally (or intentionally) come out of our mouths.

Please keep in mind that the phrases listed here are not necessarily condemned. They all fit into different levels of directiveness. Sometimes they can be a good choice, we should just be aware of them.

“I think…”
“I think you need to…”
“I would try…”
“I think what he/she wants you think to think about is…”

These statements suddenly make the session about our opinion, whether we know it or not. While we may consider equal collaboration as an approach to the session, we shouldn’t forget about the other half (or more than half), the writer.

“What you want to think about is…”
“So you wanna think about…”
“So that’s what you wanna talk about…”
“So you wanna write…”

While these are more suggestive and less overt phrasings, they tell the writer what to do. We’re not in the business of telling (if at all possible). We’re in the business of guiding, discovering, and showing.

“So that’s really what this assignment is getting at…”
“So the (real) key question here is…”
“So it’s all about…”

If we ever find ourselves in the position of telling the writer what we think the point of their assignment is, it should only be through the journey that the writer’s own mind took. Be careful of these!

And here’s one that you might not expect:

“It’s totally up to you– it’s your essay.”

This is more of an internal thing for the tutor, I think. It’s a way of assuaging ourselves. Once we say this, we know that we’ve gone too far. We aren’t just trying to make the writer feel better, but we’re also putting our foot on the proverbial brake. It’s a logical phrase that reminds us of our role in the session. While the statement is correct, it’s an important indicator that some of the past few minutes could have been pretty directive.

Hopefully this catalogue helps you keep tab on your decisions in the session.

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