Results to E-Survey

The results to my e-survey were varied. The different personalities of my peers lead to very different writing styles among them. The differences ranged from writing six drafts of a paper and having several people, including the professor, read and comment on it, to writing the whole paper at once, revising as the paper is being written, and having no one else see the paper. Some of my peers feel more comfortable doing all the work themselves, because they are very confident in their writing ability, or have not found the right person to read and revise their paper. Usually, the first person one of my peers will take their paper to is their professor. Over and over again, I found that students feel it helps the most when the professor helps them with their ideas and/or their draft because the professor will be the one grading the paper. This is logical, but I was disappointed that more people do not try the writing center. Sometimes the center is more convenient than meeting the professor because of scheduling, or the center can be a good way to revise before students bring the paper to their professor.

I found that none of my friends reported any major fears or anxieties going into the writing center, or going to their professors. The only problems they worried about were that the tutors or their peers who they asked to read their paper would not be critical enough of their writing to help them. I do not know if all of my friends are simply very confident, or if most students today feel the same way about their papers. In Jennie Nelson's article, "Reading Classrooms as Text: Exploring Student Writers' Interpretive Practices," she conducted a case study on one college freshman named Kate, who kept a journal for her writing class. In her journal, Kate wrote about going to the Writing Fellow, "he'll probably tear it [my paper] apart anyway" and "I honestly dreaded going to see my Writing Fellow," but after all of her worrying, she "was pleasantly surprised" (Nelson, 414). Other examples of anxious writers are a few of the freshmen who have visited the Writing Center while I was apprenticing who have said, "My paper's really bad." This lack of confidence is something we try to restore in the writing center and according to a few friends that I surveyed, they have left the writing center here, or at other schools, more confident about their papers or at least more motivated to write and/or finish the paper than before. This is a reinforcement of what Kenneth Bruffee purports that conferencing is talking about the paper-its not necessarily "working" on the paper (Bruffee, 91). Conversation is an activity most people like, especially when they are talking about their own work. This conversation is what drives students to work on something that they probably had not yet thoroughly discussed with someone else and is why peer tutoring is so beneficial.

There were a few problems with our writing center that perturbed me. One problem that was identified by a UR senior and English major, who is now a Writing Fellow herself, was an experience at the Writing Center with her first core paper. The tutor told her a lot about how a paper should be written, but did not address if "what I had intended to do had come out clearly," (Mary Mittell) which is what the student really wanted to know. This may be a result of miscommunication between the tutor and the tutee since the goal of that session was not clear to the tutor. Another UR student had went to the writing center because he was required to. His comments were "I was looking for conceptual help, like with my main points and development . . . I found that I just didn't like their ideas, they [the tutor] were on a different train of thought than me. I didn't want to change the whole thing for them" (Thomas Bagge, junior, Business major). A scary thought is that our writing tutors may be spoon-feeding ideas to students. This student did not use the tutor's ideas because he identified them as not his own, but other, less confident writers may simply take the tutor's advice. This conference could have been a fluke, but it may be a dangerous sign that tutors try to give students ideas and do not focus enough on the student's organization and the conceptualization of ideas.

An important task of the writing tutor is to look past the content of the paper and focus on the organization and the clarity of the paper, which is what Thomas's tutor should have done. Through my survey, I found that some students are afraid that tutors or others who help in revision will not understand the ideas in their paper. For example, a UR senior and Computer Science major wrote that "I almost never have someone else look over my paper on the grounds that it would take them too long to figure out what the paper is actually on and if I am doing a good job" (David Heidt). How can tutors look past the content of a paper in order to help students who come to the writing center?

Click here for some suggestions in my section on conferencing strategies.
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