My Motivation

A fundamental question that came up when I was apprenticing with Kelley Kazor in the Writing Center is: What should a writing tutor do when a student's paper is based on a difficult text? How can we still help the student writer with the paper, yet not completely understand the text?

The job of the writing tutor is to work through a paper with a student until she feels more comfortable working with the paper herself. The experience that Kelley and I had was frustrating. One student, Mike (this is not his real name, but I am concealing his identity), had to write a paper on Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The three of us spent almost the entire hour discussing Rousseau's philosophies about the "savage life," even though I have never read Rousseau, and Kelly read him two years ago. We did not feel that we helped the student much, and we were frustrated by this. In the end, instead of debating what Rousseau was saying, we tried to ask the writer exactly what he wanted to do in his paper, and we helped him with his organization from there but this still proved somewhat unsuccessful.

Another question that came up from a personal experience I had is: Who should hold the power in a writing conference, the student or the tutor? My French composition class created a frustrating conferencing situation. Students hand in a paper every other week to the professor, and she hands them back with comments to be revised for a second grade. One or two papers are chosen every other week to be revised by the class, either in small groups or by the whole class. So, three or four students sit in a circle and comment on one student's composition. The writer is not given much control in this situation, which is a problem. Basically, the commentators hold the power of where the revising session goes. Many of the commentators have been unmotivated in marking the papers, which produces an awkward conferencing situation. A problem with my French class conferencing is that the majority of corrections made are grammatical. In a foreign language, this grammar correction is necessary; however, global or conceptual problems are hardly ever addressed in class. Part of this problem is that the students in my class do not have the training of half of a semester of English 376, so they have not studied commentary techniques to the extent that I have, and therefore do not realize their error in only focusing on local issues. The other part of the problem is that the students in class do not get to read the compositions to be revised before they sit down in class with the writer to give her feedback. When my paper was being revised, by chance, the commentators received my paper before the group revision. I found this process worked much better, because some of my peers addressed global issues they saw as possible problems in my paper. I was happy that they were not just correcting grammar, as they had in all previous conferences, but that they gave me some real issues to think about for my paper. I also attempted to make the session more writer-based by asking questions if certain parts of my composition were clear or if I needed to change a verb tense.
The problems I have identified with conferencing are how to address papers on difficult texts in conferencing, and, determining in whose hands the control lies in a conference.

To My Proposal

To My E-Survey Questions
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