Writing Tutors Must Remember ...
We are student-centered
Our primary concern in Writing Services, in all of the University Learning Center, indeed in the entire Division of Student Affairs is, obviously, the students. The work of Writing Services, particularly your work as a tutor, is uniquely able to “de-center” traditional teaching approaches in order to focus on the student as a writer and learner. That is, rather than learning taking place in a classroom setting with a “voice of authority,” tutors are able to work with students on their writing and learning goals in a non-evaluative (and so, non-punitive) setting. You are able to empathize with student anxieties and apprehensions while showing them that even class assignments (aimed at a group) provide opportunities for individual learning.
We support and tutor the entire University student population
Though most current writing tutors come from either the English Department or the Creative Writing Department, you will be tutoring students who are writing papers in all disciplines across the curriculum. You might get flustered at first when faced with a paper discussing the photo-oxidation of triglycerides or the nesting habits of marsh terns. Do not be afraid! Whatever the subject, the principles of focus, audience, organization and development apply, and the standards of sentence structure, punctuation and grammar are required. At the same time, it would benefit you (and your tutees) to become familiar with the writing expectations of different disciplines. Utilize resource materials in our office and online to learn about different academic writing styles.
We help students build and develop skills
Your expertise as a tutor is not subject content, but writing skills. While each discipline may have different requirements of and expectations for style or citation standards, these too are skills to learn. As experienced readers and writers, you know how to meet these kinds of expectations and you can help students develop their skills in adapting to new writing situations and requirements. In general, the basic writing skills you have can be applied to any document. Specifically, the skills needed for various disciplinary requirements can be quickly learned. Remember, if you’re not sure, the best thing to say to a student is, “I’m not sure, let’s find out.” This models how successful students work – and learn.
We engage the student in collaborative learning
The perfect place for collaborative learning to occur is in a tutoring session in the University Learning Center. Collaborative learning situations dissolve the feeling that students are lonely individuals struggling to learn in a situation where only the teachers have the answers. Instead, students rely on each other, thereby working within a cooperative framework. This cooperation reduces many of the anxieties that are connected with writing and learning. Kenneth Bruffee, an early advocate of Writing Centers and peer tutoring, introduces two models of collaborative learning that we actively employ in Writing Services: Paired Interviews and Reading Aloud.
- In paired interviews, the key is for the tutor to ask open-ended questions and engage the student in conversation. Modeling for the student how one questions assertions and develops ideas to improve a draft is the goal of this conversation.
- Reading aloud is a key strategy used in Writing Services and is an important way to create a collaborative atmosphere. Not only is it an excellent revision practice, it is also a way to establish trust and emphasize to the writer that she/he is always writing to an audience.