1. comment on the positive aspects of what the student has written
2. make suggestions not commands
3. try to ask questions to help student come up with answers/ideas instead of giving them
1. force the student to do anything
2. give away answers out of frustration
3. sound demeaning or condescending
I have not yet had many repeating challenges when working with students. While many students do want to focus more on grammar and sentence-level errors initially, I have had little resistance when suggesting focusing on the global aspect instead. It is hard therefore to have a particular strategy or strategies that help in challenging situations. For the most part, students have come to be prepared and with either specific questions are a willingness to focus on anything as long is it strengthens their papers. However, one particular example of a challenge (although not reoccurring), was a student who came in with her paper solely to work on grammar which she told me when I asked her what she wanted to work on. Because I have been instructed to focus on the global aspect of the paper, I suggested that we read the paper through first and see what organizational edits needed to be made before we focused on the grammar. The problem came when she said that she had taken the paper to her professor and made the revisions her professor had suggested. However, when we were rereading it, I noticed many organizational flaws that made the flow of the paper slightly confusing, especially in regards to the prompt. The student was convinced that her professor like her paper, although it was ridden with errors. I suggested that maybe we could focus more on revisions before grammar just to make the paper’s organization more clear to someone who was not in the class (like me). The student was very willing to work with me though, as so it was not a difficult challenge.
Set of Guidelines:
Establish what the student wants from the session
After the initial reading of the paper, comment on the positive aspects to establish an environment of trust
Do not force revisions or edits
Chapter 12 illustrated one of the main struggles that I have as a tutor. It is often really hard to be able to help edit/revise a paper when you do not know the content. Although I am aware that I am not a content expert, and this is always made clear to the student, it can be difficult to take this into consideration when listening to or reading the paper. This chapter, however, notes that this lack of content expertise can be helpful as it forces the tutor to focus on the “intrinsic logic of the student’s ideas” (159). I also found the list of advice/steps on page 162 to be a good general list to go by. The book suggests that making it personal in the very beginning creates an atmosphere that is sincere and trustworthy and thus makes the process more efficient. The next step is suggesting to start with the positive, which is something that I tend to do as well. I have found that I prefer when someone does this for me, as it makes the student (or me) want to listen to what the tutor us saying. This is because you feel as though your ideas are being listened to and that you are not just simply wrong. Another helpful suggestion is learning to respond as a reader and not as an editor. This helps to keep the student learning as the focus of the session and is something that, while I do know to do, is often difficult.
There have been many moments thus far that have made me question my ability to be a helpful peer writing consultant, and yet there have been much more that have made me think that maybe I am actually helping. Ms. Whites class was required to come see me for their species reports of which they wrote two for two different organisms. I was only required to help each student with one of these. However, the class did rather poorly in general and so I felt as though I was not very helpful to the students. When I met with them, I would have with me the grading rubric and a pen/pencil and while the student read their paper aloud to me, I would check to see if they hit all the required points on the rubric. We would then focus on what was missing/if anything and if the order and level of specificity were appropriate. For many of the students, they had met all the required points and because I was not a content expert, if their information answered the questions on the rubric and any I (as someone who was not an expert on the species) had, I felt that it met what Ms. White was looking for. Although I did make sure to clarify that I was unsure of how the grading would be, I presumed that so long as the students had the information required it was enough. Also, for some students, I found it difficult to help with the citations at the end because they did not seem to want help with it and so I focused more on what they wanted to work on. In this case, I don’t think that was as helpful because many lost points on their reference page. Taking this into account, I realize that maybe, even when the student wants to focus on something else I should make sure that they meet all the requirements first (this applies mostly to the lab students). In SASC, I have had experience with more diverse genres of writing. Students have come in looking for help with their organic chemistry lab reports, English papers, sociology papers, and philosophy papers. These different genres of writing were each a very different experience. The lab report was more difficult to focus on the global aspect as there were a lot of sentence level errors that made it hard to read. However, I was able to go through the rubric provided and with the student we made note of all the important information that neede to be included as well as questions that the students should as of their lab instructor. I found that I was better able to help this student with the report then I was with most of the species reports because I knew the content and I felt as though I could start from the beginning and work toward a final piece while making sure to include the necessary information. In one instance, there was a student who came in to have her paper edited for grammar. However, as she read it to me I noticed major global issues that were more detrimental to the paper than the grammatical errors. Together we went through and summarized her paragraphs and then noted everything she was trying to say, and in an outline form we figured out what information to include and where to put it in the paper.
Lab reports can be difficult to write, especially for the first time. It is important to remember that you are not trying to write creatively, and so sometimes it may sound dry and repetitive as the point is to explain the experiment and the results. It is also important to note that the lab report must be written the passive voice. The most important place to start when writing one is making sure that you understand the experiment. For this particular student, I would recommend either explaining the experiment to someone or writing down what she knows/understands about it. This will give her something to start from. Another thing that could help this student to revise her lab report is breaking it up into different sections. Instead of starting with the introduction, start with the methods. If her professor gave her a rubric then this would be a great resource to ensure she includes all the necessary information. If not, then she may be able to google what a methods section should include. When writing the methods (and all the sections) it may be easier to list out the steps in a bullet format. This will break down the information and allow her to see what she is missing. This can be completed with the results and discussion as well. Once the information has been laid out and organized, it will be easier to put it into passive voice.
As of today, I have not had much experience with the student’s reading other than when they read their papers to me. In general, I have observed that those who are confident when reading their papers (although not necessarily confident in their work), have better writing. I have not yet had to discuss reading strategies with any of the students that have come to see me. However, I have noticed that those students who have their prompts highlighted or marked up, generally have a better idea of what they are writing about. Because I have not had much experience with this, I am not actually sure what the relationship is between the students and their reading because of this, but I would assume that those who are more thorough, active readers would have an easier time drafting their papers. Personally, I am someone who likes to read with a pen and or highlighter. It is easier for me to understand more complicated texts when I read the piece a few times and then again more slowly with a pen. This allows me to pick up more and more information about what is being said. I believe that this strategy may be helpful to students who are struggling with interpreting what they are reading. This may help them put their thinking into writing. I think that the best way to get the student thinking is to ask them questions about the texts and from there aid there thinking with suggestions. While I have not yet experienced any of the examples on page 109, I was able to get a better idea of what I am supposed to do in those situations. I think it is important to make the student come to their own conclusions and ideas and not to do it for them.