“This is how we write” response

Nicole Vassallo
Plangere internship
Presentation Response

Richard Miller and Paul Hammond, “This is how we write”

This presentation was about how advances in technology will affect the classroom. I was very surprised because it seemed like what Richard and Paul was showing us seemed so futuristic and unconventional that I believed that it wouldn’t be implemented into classrooms for at least a few years, but Paul said that he began teaching a class through these means this semester. I could not imagine reading a textbook on an iPad, and having, as the presenters pointed out, dozens of distractions coming at me per minute; however, this type of learning is coming into the mainstream quickly, so it would be best to educate ourselves about it so that we can have the best possible learning environment for our students.
The presenters opened with, as I have stated, a textbook on an iPad that had videos, moving graphs and pictures, and audio explanations of the text that interrupted the reader. They asked us the question, “How do we prepare for these distractions while reading?” The first thing that I realized while looking at the textbook was that my mind was going a mile a minute: I wanted to see every video, every chart, and every realistic picture on every page of the book. While I believe that it is good to excite readers and get them engaged in the text, I also think that these distractions have a way of taking away from the text. I found it hard to focus on one aspect of the book at a time, and without focusing and thoroughly reading through subjects, how is the information supposed to become engrained in our minds?
To answer this question, the presenters suggested a “hybrid approach:” one that is not solely text based, but enriched with multiple types of media. They showed us a project that had recently been done by one of their students that had the outline of an essay, but also included videos, pictures, and links to articles that corresponded with the student’s essay. This was extremely interesting to me, because I think that the more you can research about a topic, the more you will learn about a topic, and the videos and pictures must be a great break from reading scholarly articles. However, a problem that I thought of was the credibility of the sources of these videos, pictures, and articles. Many of them are likely to come from media outlets, and some sources of media are unfortunately biased; how do we know which information to believe? The student can be researching skewed information that comes from otherwise credible news sources and not be aware of the certain types of biased information. Also, it is possible that the students may find videos or articles that have no credibility at all; videos and articles which are not presenting the correct facts. Because the internet is infinitely large, is it possible to see to it that students do not obtain faulty information? An answer to this problem would be to create internet “databases,” much like scholarly databases that have been reviewed so that we know the information is correct, these databases would be monitored to only give access to credible sources and will have checked the facts of each video / article / picture. A problem with this is, as I have stated before, the internet is seemingly infinite, so this is probably not possible.
I was very intrigued by the description of the class that the presenter was in the midst of teaching, about which he stated that the syllabus is more of a guideline to nudge people in the right direction, and then the class collectively finds articles that they suggest to each other and to the teacher: in the end, the syllabus is “produced by students in conversation with each other.” He showed us how the class collaborated online and suggested articles to each other, which I found amazing because he allowed them to start with one topic and gradually move on to whatever aspect they found interesting about that topic; in the end, some had completely different topics than others. I suppose it is quite like picking a topic for a paper, but this class’s way was amazing because they were allowed to do thorough research and not only pick a topic, but pick a topic that they had underlying interest in and was guided to throughout the semester intrinsically. The presenter stated that this changes the classroom dynamic completely, because instead of conventional teaching where the student is supposed to have read before the class and the teacher then talks about it, (he stated the common problem of students not having read before class and therefore not having any idea of what was going on,) it is now that the student reads before class, discusses it online with their classmates, and the teacher not only knows that the students have read, but also knows their opinions on the topic, so he is able to modify his lesson and discussion to each of his student’s needs.
Though these new self-motivated, discussion-based classroom is amazing and revolutionary, I have two concerns: one being the time constraints of college. Some students barely have enough time to read the assigned readings, let alone find readings for themselves to read before every class. They could procrastinate and find articles that are uninteresting to them, which does not help them in the long run because they will not find interesting topics to read about and therefore not be intrinsically motivated anymore. It is also very possible that because the articles are new to the professors as well, the students will be able to make things up about them if they are in a time constraining situation, instead of actually reading and analyzing them. Given the broad range of topics researched and the hundreds of different articles the professor will have to read per class, there is no way the professor could be the “expert” of what he/she is teaching. If this is the case, then how are they to know what information is absolutely correct? Also, that the professor has to read through dozens of articles per class, (I say dozens because if a class of 30 students is finding multiple articles and sharing them with each other, that adds up!), how does the professor find time to read each article? I assume that they must read each article, because if they did not than they would not understand the student’s point of views and how they came to the conclusions that they came to. It seemed to me like it was a heavier workload to the professor, but our presenter seemed to be very enthusiastic about it so I’m sure that there is a way that the professor administers the class to make them remain sane.
What I learned through this presentation is that the world of education is changing with advancements in education, and it is changing fast! The thing I liked most about the presentation is the “essay” the presenters showed us that included different media sources. This was extremely interesting to me because throughout the semester I have realized that some students have difficulty putting their thoughts into words, so if they have an argument it is distorted and weak but they have the idea in their minds so clearly. The implementation of videos and pictures would work to focus the student onto one topic, and while I am by no means suggesting they use the videos to speak for them, I believe that by including other forms of media into their presentation they will eventually find a way to voice their opinion more clearly. Another think I noticed while tutoring this semester was that a lot of my tutees did not have a concrete “thesis.” They would begin writing with a broad idea and expect a thesis to come to them, but when their paper was finished it ended up covering a broad area of the texts without connecting them to one central focal point, and they had a lot of trouble going back and connecting everything they had written to their newly developed thesis. The presenters stated that the essay that was infused with different sources of media was different because the question of the assignment is not longer “what’s your argument,” but instead “how do I organize all of these elements into a ‘super idea’?” While I am not stating that this is harder or easier than formulating a thesis, I do think it is very interesting because the student is able to see the book/article/essay he/she is reading from many different perspectives, rather than focus on a close reading and be forced to say the same things over and over again.
I also noticed that when the essays that my tutees were reading were boring or they weren’t interested in them, their work reflected it, as well as their attitudes toward using the specific pieces, and when they were interested in the essay, (which was for the most part “Into the Wild” and the essay about crime in NYC,) they were very excited every time they came up with a new idea regarding it. By incorporating the elements of what the presenters called the “super essay,” the students would be able to find interesting articles or videos pertaining to the essays they were writing about; even if those essays had been boring to them at first they could find ways to look at them to make them interesting. I truly believe that when one is intrinsically motivated to do something, their work reflects it, and that is the greatest aspect that I can think of regarding the implementation of technology into student’s writing.

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“This Is How We Write” Richard Miller and Paul Hammond’s presentation 11/17

I went to Richard Miller and Paul Hammond’s presentation “This Is How We Write” and the main focus was how technology is changing our classroom interactions. Whereas in the past there were only books to gather research from, today we are quickly transitioning into a more tech-savvy environment. Although some may be hesitant towards this change, Richard and Paul made it a point that this was not so much a choice as an almost inevitable transition. The central topic was how classrooms are moving away from books and heading towards mobile devices such as iPad’s. Whereas students used to carry heavy loads of textbooks everywhere they went, today they can hold entire libraries in the palm of their hand. Not only do they have the entire library, but it is presented in an organized fashion as well. Whether alphabetized and categorized by subject students are able to browser through books in seconds and find other books related to that subject.

Although the benefits may seem astronomical, there are still those who are hesitant towards making such dramatic changes. One problem that arises is the ability to use the technology. Students today can figure out how to manipulate a device in very short periods of time, but older folks take much longer to understand how our current technology works. This creates a bridge between professor and student that can slow down the learning process. Obviously as more young professors and teachers begin to be put into the school system the quicker the transition will be. In addition, there is also the problem of attention. With such a powerful device such as an iPad it becomes extremely easy to lose focus when trying to do an assignment. I can attest to this, where even when I am sitting down to write a paper I find myself checking facebook every half hour or so. It becomes so much harder to keep focused on an assignment when there are other more intriguing things I would rather do that can be accessed with the click of a button. To add, with this ability to find so much information so quickly it is hard to truly take in the knowledge at hand because it is so overwhelming. Most of the time you will find that students will just breeze by their work or skim through an article rather than spend the time trying to analyze it. The dependence on technology can also be bad when things begin to malfunction. What happens when a student cannot do an assignment because their mobile device has caught a virus or is damaged? I am not saying the transition from book based classrooms to technology based ones is a bad thing, but that it has its obvious flaws.

On the brighter side this transition to tech-based classrooms provides many benefits. For one, students are able to share ideas and documents much more easily, and can help each other much quicker. Most times students will not interact outside of the classroom, now they can share stuff via the Internet. This helps because now there is much more learning that can take place outside of classroom time, although they may not be physical interactions the interaction is still there. Students are working together and helping each other out. There is also the fact that students can now access all the resources they need and others around the world right in their lap. Although there seems to be many benefits that arise in the writing and English department, what was not mentioned, and what I think could be the most interesting aspect, is how these mobile devices can shape the learning environment in other subjects. A prime example is the sciences. With this kind of technology students can interact in a completely new way with how they learn. Rather than looking at pictures from a book of what the human body looks like and does, students will be able to get 3D models that they can interact with. They can peel back the layers of the skin, click on a muscle, and get a detail description on its functions. Math textbooks can be made significantly simpler by showing students step by step how to solve problems and equations. Architectural courses can make 3D blueprints. The benefits of technology in the classrooms, I believe, will be more significant in other course other than writing and this is where the transition from book based classrooms to technology based ones will have the greatest impact.

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My Tutoring Philosophy

Final Paper
Plangere Writing Center Internship

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Presentation Response

I attended the tutor presentation on Wednesday, November 9th.  The first of three presenters discussed her women’s and gender studies thesis, the second broke down the article “The Myth of Laziness” into a PowerPoint presentation, and the third talked about her future career in occupational therapy.  These three topics seem unrelated, but I felt that they actually fit together really well.  The overall theme that I took away from the three presentations was one that I could apply to my tutoring sessions; the importance of understanding the individual needs of each tutee.

The first presenter explored the reasons that people feel uncomfortable when they write, and concluded that it is because they have trouble encountering their ‘self’ in their writing.  I think that this is a really common problem with the Expos students that I have tutored.  Some students, because they are not allowed to use the word “I” in their essays, have trouble voicing their own opinions and understanding the relevance to the issues they are writing about in terms of their own life.  This becomes even more difficult when students try to conform to a very academic sounding style of writing.  As tutors, we need to help students become more comfortable writing, and I think that comes by helping them find their own voice.

The second presenter talked about “output failure.” According to Levine, some students who appear lazy may actually suffer from output failure, which comes from some hidden handicaps that make it extremely difficult for a student to be productive.  I think that this is true of many students I have worked with.  They have interesting ideas and good intentions when they think about their assignment, but something happens in processing stage which affects their final paper.  I think that one of these handicaps, similar to the first presenter’s idea, is that these students encounter difficulty locating themselves in their writing, and they are not sure of the expectations of their professor.  As a tutor I try to encourage the students I work with as much as possible, in order to decrease their negative emotions toward writing.

The third presenter explained the goal of an occupational therapist, which is to help their patient become independent.  That is similar to what we do as tutors; we give students the tools to become better writers, who are able to recognize the weaknesses in their papers and know how to fix them without relying on a tutor.  Therapy changes depending on the client, so as a tutor we must change in order to help each tutee in the most effective way.

Overall, tutoring is a form of therapy. For therapy to be effective the therapist—or in this case tutor—must personalize their approach in order to connect with the person they are working with.  Sometimes, the best way of connecting with students is to just help them feel more comfortable writing, by listening to their problems and being a figure that cares about both them and their writing on a personal level.

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A Comprehensive Look At The Tutorial Experience

Matthew R. Polito

Plangere Writing Center

01:355:396:01

 

A Comprehensive Look at

The Tutorial Experience

 

 

 

Throughout the duration of the internship with the Plangere Writing Center, I have learned a myriad of techniques and new ways of approaching the tutorial experience.  Consequently, facilitating my students to not only perform better in their academic courses, but also to feel more confident when approaching writing in general. Each student has individual needs and expectations when entering the tutorial experience and it is crucial as a tutor/intern to understand and manipulate the tutoring experience, such that, it causes the student to not only feel like they have learned something but that their work is being improved as well. During the internship, we were required to read several articles which were designed to improve our tutoring skills and perhaps heighten our understanding of the tutorial experience overall.  Although difficult to understand at times, these reading assignments coupled with various presentations that were made available to interns and tutors, fostered an environment well equipped for continual learning. No matter how prestigious and elaborate ones career or academic title may be, there is always room to learn new things, it is with this knowledge, that we as tutors were able to restructure and manipulate our tutoring techniques to better assist our students. Culture, College Writing Expectations, and the notion of grammar inclusion all have played a crucial role in the formation and manipulation of my tutoring techniques throughout the course of the semester.

Culture often defined as a set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization, or group, and often plays a crucial role in the academic achievement of individuals. Muriel Harris sheds light on the importance of cultural influence on academic performance in Cultural Conflicts in the Writing Center: Expectations and Assumptions of ESL Students. Using ESL students as the primary example, Harris discusses how the tutorial experience is often plagued with frustration and miscommunication when dealing with a student who is not a native English speaker. Imploring the idea that culture has a significant effect on the expectations, overall productivity and success of the tutorial experience. Unfortunately, I wasn’t afforded the opportunity to work closely with a student who’s first language wasn’t English, however during one session a girl by the name of Saraga-a sophomore at Rutgers, of Chinese decent. During the hour session that I had with her, I noticed a disparity between the expectations and motivation of the majority of the students that I tutor and Saraga. Her main concern was learning as much as possible about the tutorial experience, and seemed to be extremely self-motivated- a trait commonly absencent in many students where English is there first language. Research suggests that productivity is the key to success, thus creating a disparity between individuals who have the ability to successfully initiate and complete tasks and those who can’t. Mel Levine, author of The Myth of Laziness proposes a new perspective on the notion of laziness. Utilizing the phrase “output failure” Levine supports the idea that patterns of laziness and production inadequacy is a direct result of a “hidden handicap” that disrupts their output capabilities.  Upon reading the article, I was in almost complete disagreement with Levine.  I agree with the notion that some individuals have a difficult time completing or even initiating tasks and that a lack of fundamental communication competencies can often be a result of a mental or personal handicap. However, I implore those who read this article to dissect the notion of “output failure” as it correlates with laziness since in my opinion people don’t need to suffer from a mental dysfunction or disconnect to produce patterns of laziness.  Perhaps this self-motivation or lack there off comes from a innate desire to not only receive high marks in her classes, but to also learn as much as she can about the English language as possible. The feedback that I gave to Saraga, was clearly reflected in immediate changes in her writing style and formation of paragraph structure. Harris discusses the disparity that exists between various ethnic groups acquisition of knowledge and expectations of the tutorial experience. When surveyed Latin students said that they expected “to be motivated and told they are doing a good job” while Asian American students stated that they expected “the problem areas within their paper to be addressed, as well as writing editing” (Harris 212). This clear disparity between two different ethnic groups forms the crux of Harris research and investigation. Imploring that, both tutors and students need to be on the same page when embarking on the tutorial and that in order for the best result to be achieved it is crucial that tutors understand that all students need to be approached, taught, and corrected in different ways. Using the knowledge I learned from Harris’s and Levine’s articles and first hand experience with various ethnic groups during the tutorial experience, I have now have a better understanding of how to approach each student, insuring that each students needs are equally satisfied and maximum results/progress is achieved.

Understanding the difference in expectation and motivation levels in students based on cultural and environmental factors makes tutors/interns more prepared for the myriad of students they will encounter during the course of the year. A common misconception that seemed to persist was the idea that “college writing” restricted self-expression and forced students to write in a manner, which seems foreign and alien to them. Personal writing can be defined in a multitude of ways, each author constructing their own interpretation of a text, which is then, reflected in their subsequent response papers.  Students are asked to use the texts they have previously read, formulate a stance, and create a response that demonstrates a clear understanding of the text while simultaneously keeping their voice present throughout the paper. Bawarsh and Pelkowski implore that “college writing” promotes structure that compromises student’s ideas and true voice, being replaced by rigid and acceptable modes permitted and often required by academic institutions. While reading this I couldn’t help but notice the direct correlation between the notion of “college writing” and Expository writing. Many of my students criticize the writing style required in expos, claiming “the rigid structure required in their papers coupled with a myriad of complex readings, which in their opinion often have little correlation to one another, makes it difficult to formulate a clear and concise paper” However, I believe that these types of writing courses actually facilitate a higher level of learning, not only helping students write a clear and concise paper, but foster a greater understanding of the texts, which more often than not lacks a explicit correlation. Ergo, students must be able to find underlying meaning within the text, take a stance on that meaning, and then find support within the text that supports their argument. All while following a rigid structural rubric which teaches students how to keep their paper organized yet complex. Although the majority of my students have felt that their voice was lost in the paper, I encouraged my students to stay aligned with the text, create a structured paper that not only incorporates the texts but also presents a stance that is clear and evident throughout the entire paper. My philosophy on writing is, whether writing a free write, poem, article, novel or response paper, the authors voice should always be prevalent. Structured writing only forces students to think deeper and analyze subliminal similarities between texts, which facilitates a better understanding of the texts and solid argument.

The formation of a clear and concise paper posses a daunting task for some individuals. More often than not, the use of grammar is identified by students as the principal challenge that often complicates their papers and cause readers to be lost when reading papers. With that in mind, I implore teachers to teach their students about the rules and implications of grammar. It is important to guide students on how to use grammar properly during the practice of writing, rather than teaching grammar as a separate entity. Grammar can be taught and perfected during the duration of writing perfection, that is to say, that the rules governing grammar are most effectively taught when students can actually see its implications within their writings. This is Rei R. Noguchi’s main point in Grammar and the Teaching of Writing.  Noguchi argues that teaching grammar in isolation is counterproductive, especially as it applies to the mechanics and quality of writing. Instead, use “writing grammar” techniques that eradicate that notion of “formal grammar” instruction, and allow students more autonomy, which will improve individual writing skills while simultaneously facilitating individual’s grammar usage.  When approaching the topic of grammar with my students, I only address issues that seem to persist throughout their paper, so no to overwhelm them with a myriad of corrections and error marks all over their paper. Instead of approaching grammar as an isolated issue in student’s papers, I highlight problem areas in my student’s papers and then at the end of the paper offer advice on how to fix these issues. For instance, if I see that one of my students is having a difficult time with run on sentences, I would highlight, asterisks or star areas in their paper where I see errors in sentence formation. Then at the end of the paper I would use this key, to provide examples of how to reconstruct or manipulate the current sentences to make them flow better while avoiding run-ons.

By and large, I believe that there are many factors that go into the productivity of the tutorial experience, but understanding how culture, college writing expectations, and the notion of grammar inclusion all individually impact a students writing capabilities makes it easier to approach the notion of writing in general. Using these three factors as the foundation for the formation of my tutoring philosophy, I have not only created an environment specifically designed for each of my students but one that allows each student to reach their maximum potential throughout the tutorial experience.

 

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Cultural Conflicts

Taylor Westerlind

Harris’s enlightening insight to the goals of ESL students in “Cultural Conflicts in the Writing Center” opened my eyes to the differences in focus between non-native students and native American students.  While I have had extensive experience with ESL individuals with a wide range of differences in ethnicity, age, education level, type of education, etc., that interaction was relatively informal and not in the focused academic setting of a writing center.  In reading Harris’s essay, I was able to think back to my informal, relatively conversational situations, with ESl individuals and see how their focus on the way they presented ideas was notably different than my focus.

I was especially pleased with one of Harris’s focuses: learning about the culture of the student.  There were many overlapping differences in learning and communicating between native speakers in American and ESL students who may have studied in other countries for the majority of their education.  However, Harris did well in giving specific examples of how we as tutors cannot oversimplify the complexities that ESL students face coming from a variety of backgrounds.  Just as we cannot treat every native speaker equally regardless of the specific needs they need, we must be able to recognize the nuances of the individual as a writer.  We would be doing more harm than anything to the student by saying that we understand that as an ESL student they immediately struggle with X, Y, and Z.  We need to try to remain as open and aware when working with ESL students so as to not group together the focuses and needs of these students, but rather work to create open dialogue that will lead to a better level of understanding the roles and expectations of both tutor and student, as Harris argues.

(I would like to note that the page said it wasn’t submitted and entered as a draft somehow, although I did try to publish this several days before the due date.)

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FINAL ESSAY

Sophia de Baun

December 19th, 2011

 

Conversation in the Writing Center

Plangere Final Essay

            Writing, today, is a necessary skill to have in order to enter into many fields; children learn how to write in school from the time when they are in pre-school up until college where they are required to take writing-intensive courses or pass some sort of examination that proves them proficient in writing.  As an intern at the Plangere Writing Center, I have learned about the problems and different philosophies with teaching writing and have encountered first hand what students struggle with and how they think about writing during the tutoring sessions.  What I have discovered is that the best tutoring sessions are conversation-based, and therefore the best way to teach writing in a writing center is by talking.  This may seem a little backwards, since it would make sense that the best way to teach writing is to write.  However, when students are struggling with the pencil, the best way to communicate and to start getting them thinking and organizing things in their mind is by talking.  What students scribble on the page all comes from their heads, and the easiest way for a tutor to get into their heads and get things working is by communicating verbally.  Most students have already spent their whole lives building up social skills since they were born, and so it is the most direct way of communication and therefore should be the central focus of the tutoring sessions from which the students can pivot in different directions as to work on different aspects of their writing.

When talking about how to teaching writing and how to run tutoring sessions, it is extremely important to take into account how one begins their session from the time the student walks in through the door.  This is important because what new information students end up leaving with after a tutoring session does not only depend on what the tutor tells them.  Students will learn differently depending on the environment, the students attitude towards tutoring, the tutor’s attitude, and the tutor-tutee relationship, so it is important to take advantage of those first few minutes before the start of the session so that the tutor can mold the environment in order to maximize learning during the session.  The first thing I do when my students come to session is ask them how they are, or perhaps how their weekend went.  The reason I do this is because starting a session with a friendly conversation will show the students that the session is about collaboration, like a conversation, and involves two people helping each other develop ideas.

Many students, especially ESL students, as Muriel Harris describes in her article “Expectations and Assumptions of ESL Students”, are used to the teacher being their superiors.  Often classes are lecture based rather than collaborative, and students are expected to listen and understand everything the teacher says and then be able to regurgitate it during examinations or when writing essays.  However, writing is not about regurgitating other people’s ideas; often this can be considered breaking copyright law.  Writing is about forming one’s own ideas and expressing them in one’s own style.  However, students often have trouble formulating ideas, or when they do, they have trouble expressing them.  This is where the tutor comes in; the tutor’s job is to facilitate the formulation of ideas and the student’s expressing of those ideas through writing.  It is a collaborative job by nature, and so the tutor should prepare the tutees for this collaborative-style session and get rid of any prior conception that will stunt learning by taking a few minutes to ask the students how they are doing before starting.  Also, by starting off the session with a conversation, it puts students at ease and perhaps makes it more comfortable in order for them to ask you questions and express what they are having trouble with.  The more comfortable and open the students are in expressing their problems, the better they will be able to learn and improve their writing.

Going along with the idea of collaboration, after we establish what the students have prepared (rough draft, second draft, perhaps only a paragraph or two), I ask the student to explain what they have written, or what they are trying to express.  Even though this seems obvious, many tutors do not practice this and they go straight to reading what the students have written, or perhaps to answering students’ specific questions.  The reason this is important is because a tutor can get some sense of what the student wants to express so that it is easier to then guide and facilitate writing with the end goal in mind.  It allows the tutor to see how developed the tutor’s ideas are and whether to focus on developing ideas and their organization first before focusing on things like grammar or citing passages as evidence from required texts.

In Bawarshi’s and Pelkowski’s article “Postcolonialism and the Writing Center”, they describe how certain styles of writing are legitimized by and engrained in dominant cultures and so students from different backgrounds with different ideas and styles of writing are acculturated early on to write in the dominant style, or else they are punished in school and in the workforce.  This is detrimental because it restricts people to certain manners of expression and it undermines the point of writing as an art form and expressing oneself through writing.  The authors write how, “hegemony succeeds when it convinces members of a culture that its affiliative structures ¾ for example, the Eurocentric literary canon it privileges and teaches in the university at the expense of other, non-Eurocentric texts ¾ are legitimate representations of natural, filial systems.”  This is exactly the problem with teaching writing that I find especially in writing centers when tutors cannot look at other’s work without looking through the lens of their own writing style which they believe to be the most natural and therefore the most superior style.  Often tutors sit down to correcting a student’s paper with a red pen and rewrite sentences that they do not like to fit their own style.  This does not help anyone; it assumes the tutor’s writing style to be the superior one over the student’s and therefore restricts the student’s ability to express his or herself.  It also does not facilitate learning and instead pushes the student back a few steps because the must now correct their writing style and spend their time and energy adopting the writing style of the tutor.

Instead, the tutor should have an idea of and respect what the student wants to express and how by asking them to explain their paper or explain their ideas and what their goals are, and then proceed to facilitate and guide that student through the different obstacles they encounter in order to reach their goals.

Not only is it helpful to the tutor to ask students to explain their goals and the main ideas they want to express so that the tutor knows how to help the student, but it is also extremely helpful for the student when they have to organize and then verbalize their ideas, and often the simple act of telling somebody their ideas can clear things up that they previously had problems with.  This is the wonderful thing about verbalizing, and this is why I truly believe that the best tutoring sessions are conversation based.

Not only must a tutor set up his or her lesson with conversation, but the tutor and the tutee should be communicating verbally throughout the whole lesson.  Often tutors will start their sessions off with conversation, but then will just go over a student’s paper and the student will just sit their until the tutor is done marking it up.  However, as is stressed to all the tutors before they start working, students should be doing the writing and the work, not the tutor; so, most tutors know not to just sit there and correct papers, however instead what they tend to do is give their students writing assignments and sit there while their students are writing until the session is over.  This is also wrong, because there is no feedback and no collaboration.  Instead, tutors and tutees should constantly be making conversation about writing and there should be constant feedback from the tutor after smaller intervals of writing.  But how would you have a conversation about, say, grammar?

When it comes to grammar, which is one of the big reasons why students come in for tutoring in the first place, tutors often think that the only way to correct grammar is by physically taking a pen and correcting the grammar on the sheet.  However, this does not help students learn grammar at all since most students would simply correct the mistakes on the computer and not actually learn from them.  What needs to happen is a conversation.  This will allow tutors to guide the students in correcting their own grammar and therefore students will actually be learning from their mistakes.  Also, in Noguchi’s article “Grammar and the Teaching of Writing”, he stresses that children actually already have an unconscious knowledge of the rules of grammar simply because talking and verbal communication is stressed from a very early age.  He believes that teachers can, “decrease the classroom hours spent on formal grammar instruction by showing how to capitalize on the already-acquired yet unconscious knowledge that all native speakers have of their language” (viii).  Surely if students have this knowledge, the way we would dig it up would be through talking.  We can utilize what we know that students know about grammar by understanding the way they talk and try to transfer it to the page.  As Levine expresses in her article “The Myth of Laziness”, perhaps it is not that a student is stupid or lazy, but it is a case of output failure where a student simply fails to produce.  With this knowledge, we can collaborate with the students and help them use what they know in order to produce something like a coherent essay.

There are many different ways to run a tutoring session, however I believe that tutors must utilize the social and verbal backgrounds that most students have in order to achieve the maximum learning potential.  Making conversation the basis of tutoring sessions and encouraging the verbal expression of ideas will not only help develop the ideas because this process is necessary in order to speak, but also it will facilitate collaboration and provide a comfortable, encouraging, and productive learning environment for students.

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