Thursday, September 20, 2012

Student Expectations

I have actually had many experiences where the student had strange expectations of the writing center. The most common thing I've encountered is students who desire to have someone proofread their paper. For the most part the students are fine with looking at other things once you are able to sit down and have a discussion with them, but every once in a while I have come across tutees who really just wanted their paper to be edited for grammar mistakes and grammar mistakes alone. I find it strange that the students who make these requests usually have much bigger fish to fry than spelling mistakes and misplaced commas. Anyhow, I have found that the best way to handle these sessions is usually just to have an open dialogue with the student about the goals of the writing center. Sometimes the students are using terms such as "edit" or "proofread" when they simply mean they want someone to work through the paper with them. Having a conversation with the student will often reveal that the student wants help on the paper as a whole but just doesn’t know how to voice their concerns specifically.

Another thing that students will sometimes expect is that they will leave the writing center with a perfect paper. They are often under the false impression that we are here to fix every aspect of their writing and that by making the effort to walk in the writing center that they have earned the right to a flawless essay. Perhaps the thing that is even more frustrating for me as a tutor is when a student walks in and says that he or she is just there because they have to be, and that they don't really care about or want to work on their assignment. It isn't right for students to expect for us to give them a brown slip for a session that they don't participate in. I have learned that a good way of dealing with these students is to still have them identify the things they want to work on or are concerned about. If they can't or don't tell you what they want to work on, then sometimes this gives you an opportunity to mention some things that are often weak in papers that you could focus on in the session.

The best specific example of an encounter I’ve had regarding student expectations was with a student who came in during summer semester. He was working on an extremely long research based paper, and clearly he had already put in a lot of work on the paper. I could tell that he was burned out on it, so it came as no surprise when he wanted me to go through and just catch his grammar mistakes and spelling errors. His expectation was that the session needed to be as long as it took to work through all of the pages, and that because he had already done such a huge amount of research that he should be exempt from having to edit for such simple things. The simple remedy to this situation was to discuss with the student what some more realistic goals for the session could be and explain to him that we needed to try and keep the session to about 30 minutes long. Everything worked out in the end, and I think he left feeling pleased with his experience. I guess the main thing that I learned from that situation was that the best way to bridge the gap between student and tutor expectations is to be honest and politely explain that the goal of the writing center is always to help create better writers, and not just to help make better papers.


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