Thursday, September 01, 2011

Tutoring Expectations and Experiences

One of my initial anxieties about working in the writing center was the worry that the tutees might just want me to fix their papers rather than cooperating and trying to recognize their strengths and weaknesses and how they can prevent or correct problems in their writing. So far, this hasn’t been the case. Students who have visited the center have been very open to suggestions and revisions. However, perhaps students with more negative attitudes are more likely to come during crunch times like midterms and finals rather than the first couple weeks of school. Even if students just want short-term improvements and aren’t interested in identifying mistakes they are likely to keep making, our discussion in class yesterday was a reminder that the students are in charge of their own work and decisions. As such, there is no point being worried about this situation. All a tutor can do is try to help as much as the students will allow and keep the environment welcoming so that the tutees may be more inclined to keep coming and continue making progress.

In observing several sessions, the tutoring process seems fairly straightforward which is what I expected. The tutor begins by addressing the assignment and asks the tutee about any difficulties experienced while working on their assignment. Then they discuss the best way to approach the paper and what they hope to address. Once those three things have been covered, the tutoring beings. At the end of the session, some tutors summarize what has been discussed and review primary problems in the paper and positive aspects in the paper. I think this is really helpful because it can help students to leave with a sense of direction about how to tackle issues in the paper and feel good about the things they did well.

Another part of the tutoring process that I noticed during the sessions is that they are pretty flexible. If a student has not come to get help with a written paper but help starting a paper, a tutor can look over the assignment, allow the tutee to read aloud difficult passages of text that the paper will be addressing, and listen to possible ideas the tutee can write about. I really like that we are free to help the students with any aspect of the writing process. It really reflects the writing center’s desire to serve the students and not get caught up on the students’ work.

While I did not get to tutor this week, I have led a few workshops. Although many educational research studies argue against teaching grammar, I can see the need for students to be familiar with some of the terminology their teacher’s will be using when providing feedback on their paper or explaining why some of their sentences are unclear or incomplete. Though I don’t know how well the students attending the workshops will retain the information reviewed during the sessions, there is a general improvement in their scores on the posttest when compared to the pretest. Overall, I think the workshops are beneficial to those in attendance.


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