After each tutoring session at the Writing Center the tutor completes a report to be sent to the student's professor. This report is another type of commentary on student writing. Its purpose is not to directly to assist students, rather to inform professors of the areas the student and tutor worked on and discussed. Professors usually view students who voluntarily visit the Writing Center in high esteem because these students care enough about their writing assignments to do their best and have taken the effort upon themselves to receive the assistance that our university offers.
In the report the tutor writes what occurred during the session. The best way to begin is to state why the student came to the Writing Center. A tutor receives this information from the brief worksheet the student fills out at the session's beginning and/or from interactions with the student; the tutor may ask the student more about the assignment, the progress made on it thus far, and the student's plans about what to do next. Initially explaining in the report why students came for help describes their own goals for the session, and lets professors know with which areas their students had difficulty. Recording students' assistance needs may have a long-term benefit. If a student comes to the Writing Center repeatedly with the same problem, it might alert the professor of a potential learning disability that would call for additional help.
Next in the report the tutor explains in some detail the areas on which she and the student worked. What were the problems and how were they addressed? Did the tutor's assistance seem to help the student? Was the student able to fix these areas with the tutor's guidance? One may also want to mention the student's general attitude towards the session. Was he/she motivated? Interested? Responsive to the tutor's advice? If the student had a good attitude stating it in the report is helpful because the professor is made aware that the student is concerned about the writing assignment and wants to put in the effort to do well. However, if the student is not very cooperative, is bored, or resistant to the tutor's instruction, deciding whether to put this in the report can be based on the following guideline: if the student's lack of cooperation hinders the tutor in giving assistance and thus noticeable progress is not made on the paper, the tutor should mention the student's unhelpful attitude in the report.
The Writing Center has a responsibility to help students; if a tutor cannot help the reason should be stated in the report. Mentioning a student's uncooperative attitude also protects the Writing Center. If such a student is unhappy with the final grade given by her professor, she could accuse the Writing Center of not offering her proper assistance. However, if the report states that the student was uncooperative and it was her attitude that hindered the tutor from giving her thorough assistance, the Writing Center is protected.
If noting a student's bad attitude in the report, it is important to do so cautiously and respectfully. Reports are always written with a courteous tone of voice to show respect for the student and professor. A tutor should refrain from any language that could be viewed as insulting or condescending to the student or professor, just as in other forms of written commentary. The tone should also be professional because the tutor represents a university-sponsored organization. Note the difference between the tones in the following two reports. Noting a student's bad attitude is difficult to do in a tactful manner. Click here to see an excerpt of a Writing Center report of a troublesome tutorial, in which the student became defensive and resistant to the tutor's suggestions. Even though the tutor was frustrated he explained the student's difficult attitude calmly and respectfully.
The well-written report with the respectful tone is an example of how Writing Center reports conclude with a brief discussion of how the session ended. Did the student feel comfortable enough with the received assistance to go home and revise the paper on his own? Or did the student require additional help and sign up for another appointment? A tutor should also mention any problems that occurred during the session. Were the tutor and student able to address all the major problematic areas in the paper, or were there troublesome spots left untouched due to time constraints? Stating any problems, again, protects the Writing Center. The well-written report is also a good example of how reports can show that the Writing Center tutorial is a collaborative effort between tutor and student, and the goal is to improve not only the student's draft, but to improve the student's writing habits.
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