Showing posts from February, 2013

Peer Tutoring: The Essential Contact Zone

I've posted the keynote address I gave at the recent South Central Writing Centers Association Conference in Corpus Christi, Texas over on my blog, The Undersea World of Clint Gardner .  Here's a clip: Peer tutors are a contact zone:  they are the place where change happens and change can be observed.  Bruffee, in naming his article “Peer Tutoring and ‘The Conversation of Mankind’” was onto something.  Peer tutors do build connections with other human beings beyond just helping someone learn to be a more proficient writer.  They often cross Mike Rose’s boundaries and see what it is like on the other side.  

Student-Run Writing Centers at High Schools

This just in from Amber Jensen: Hi all, I wanted to pass along some exciting exposure of high school writing centers in the national media: Four high school writing centers in Northern Virginia -- the Edison, Centreville, McLean and Oakton High School Writing Centers, will be featured on the National Writing Project (NWP) Radio at 7 pm EST on Thursday, February 28, 2013. Listen in to hear tutors, directors, and principals from these schools talk about how the high school writing center movement in Northern Virginia builds leadership opportunities and impacts writing school-wide. This show does a great job showing the energy and results of high school writing centers from multiple perspectives. We hope you will listen in and contribute to the chat room conversation! Tune in at this link if you want to hear the live podcast: The show will also be available in mp3

The Road to Somewhere

It’s amazing what a bus and a conference can do for a writing center. From February 21 to 23 in Corpus Christi, Texas, writing center consultants gathered at the South Central Writing Centers Association 2013 Conference. Texas A&M University Writing Center (UWC) leaders encourage their consultants to submit proposals to the multiple conferences held each year, and so far they’ve presented in San Diego, Chicago, and approximately 25 consultants presented at SCWCA’s conference. Depending on everything, a trip from College Station to Corpus Christi probably drains four-and-a-half hours from your life. UWC conference-goers rode a charter bus, and the trip took nearly five hours. Typically in the UWC, whoever you work with is who you will establish a professional (and sometimes personal) relationship with. This hinders what I consider the main goal of a writing center—which is to collaborate not just with students and faculty but also with colleagues.  Because work sc

Writing to Learn: Reasons to Implement Writing Across Disciplines

Recently I have been doing a lot of thinking about writing across the disciplines. I am in school as an education major, specifically for middle level math and science. My work in the Writing Lab has caused me to begin to think about how I can best implement writing into my future middle school math and science classes. I think that it is important to integrate writing into all of the disciplines whether at the middle school or college level. However, if I am to be an adamant supporter of writing across the curriculum, I need to be able to answer the question, “Why is it important that students are given the opportunity to write across disciplines?” This is a question that I have never really fully considered. For myself, learning to write at a young age and in a variety of school subjects helped me to become a better, more effective writer. I become a better writer the more I write. Is this the only reason to implement writing across the disciplines? Is the purpose of writing ac

Consulting with International Students

How many times have you struggled to explain a difficult concept of the English language to International students, such as why we say “report on” rather than “report in,” or why we park in a driveway and drive in a parkway? We tell them that’s simply the way it is, and there’s no logical reason why because it’s English. Other times, the waythey’ve written something doesn’t quite make sense to us in English, so we tell them to write it a different way because, frankly, it’s “wrong.” This is a problem because it probably sounded correct in their native language when they wrote it; they just have trouble translating it the right way into written English. Often, we tutors might think the best solution is to give our clients an example of how we ourselves would write it and let them model their own writing after our given example. The problem with this, however, is that some students may just take the advice at face value and not actually learn from it. They will simply just take

NCPTW 2013 Call for Proposals: The Year of the Writer

The call for NCPTW 2013 is out: NCPTW 2013 is The Year of The Writer .  Recent conferences have identified the different roles that the tutor must play--turnabout is fair play.. It is in Tampa this year.  Ah.

Working with ESL Writers in the Writing Center

Have you ever worked with ESL students in your writing center before?  Have you asked questions such as:  What strategies can I use when helping ESL writers?  Is the writing process the same for an ESL writer as for a native speaker of English?  Do I need to use a different approach when helping ESL writers? Working with ESL writers in the writing center adds a whole new dimension to peer tutoring.  While sessions may be similar in the sense that peer writing consultants help students to become better writers through a collaboration experience, the individual concerns addressed are vastly different because their language proficiency is not the same as a native speaker of English.  Issues that native speakers of English do not normally deal with arise quite frequently in sessions with ESL writers.  Ultimately, the approach is the same, but the strategies for helping ESL writers based on their individual concerns are different. Where do we start?  In the article entitled “Tu

The Writing Center - Official Trailer [HD]


PeerCentered Privacy Concerns

Due to privacy concerns, it is very important that we do not use names of real persons--either tutors or clients when describing sessions.  This admonition includes sessions that are positive in nature--not just the bad sessions. Please indicate in any post describing a specific session that the names are pseudonyms.  If there is no notice given, I will edit the post to allow for anonymity.

From Discouraged to Inspired

--> My last post had me feeling a bit sad so I thought I would add an observation experience that left me feeling more positive.  My last observation was completely different from my previous experience.  The tutor's name was X---- and the student's name was Y----.  [The tutor] introduced herself and smiled warmly at the student as they were walking back toward her desk.  The first question she asked was about his assignment.  He described to her that his professor wanted them to create a bibliography for a research paper they were going to do in the future.  Next X---- asked to see his prompt and after reading it suggested that they both take turns reading paragraphs.  By this point, Y---- had started writing his research paper but he was unsure about some areas.  They read through the introduction paragraph together and she noticed he didn't have a thesis.  She let him brainstorm and write a few ideas down about what he would like his paper to say while sh

Feeling Discouraged

I have recently finished my observation sessions for my peer tutoring course and am hopefully going to have my first tutoring opportunity this week.  In the mean time I would like to reflect on some of my sessions and what I saw that went well and what did not. My observation was unnerving to say the least.  The session started on time and the student brought in a paper on a scientific subject.  Once again, it was something I was not familiar with.  The student explained to the tutor that she was feeling uncertain about the way she formatted her paper and the tutor proceeded to get her an APA paper guideline located in the writing center.  For a few moments the tutor and student discussed what was written on the sheet of paper. When the student had questions the tutor seemed like she didn't know the answer to she started to explain that she had looked online at other papers and this seemed to be the correct formatting.  However the tutor just suggested to her that she

Management 101 for Writing Consultants

Recently, I had a consultation with a graduate student who had never been to the writing center before. He brought in a paper his advisor had refused to grade until he had “fixed” his overuse of prepositional phrases. He was clearly stressed. Though a student and consultant sit down at the same desk and look at the same paper, they each bring their own goals and expectations to a consultation. I’ve realized that a big part of what I do as a peer-consultant is manage those goals. In the consultation I described earlier, this client’s head was probably full of different, competing goals: get through this entire paper during this session, cut out all prepositional phrases, make sure this paper is error-free, satisfy my advisor (or else), get an A in this class… the list goes on and on. On the other side of the desk, I’m thinking about how to improve this student’s writing skills, how to boost his confidence, and how to satisfy his expectations all in forty-five minutes.

The sneaky student tries to strike again

Do students assume you do not know they are trying to pull a fast one on you? We have a specific rule in our WRC about not helping with take home tests or short answer homework questions but we have a repeat client that insists on hiding all of the assignment from us. We know that she does this, and every time we catch it we send her away but she chooses someone else the next time and tries to fish the answers out of that tutor. We're a small, close group so we know exactly who she is and how she works. Is this not insulting to us as tutors? I understand that people want and need help with their writing but we have certain limitations for a reason and this particular student has not yet grasped the concept of our rules. I'm sure other WRCs have similar problems but at what point can we refuse to help her when she insists on trying to skirt the rules?