Rhetoric and Composition
Department Chair:
Laurie McMillin

Phone: (440) 775-6601
Fax: (440) 775-8619

Rice 116
10 N. Professor St.
Oberlin, OH, 44074

Tips for Incorporating Writing Tutors in a Course

Tips for Incorporating Writing Tutors in a Course

Some Tips for Incorporating Writing Tutors in a Course

Most of the following suggestions were derived from comments made by students in our "Teaching and Tutoring Composition" course.    

Meet with the tutor at the beginning of the semester to determine what his or her role in the course will be. You might want to discuss:

  • The balance between individual tutoring sessions and other responsibilities such as the ones listed in items below
  • Your approaches to critiquing student work
  • Any concerns either of you have

Encourage --or require-- the tutor to attend at least some class sessions, especially those relevant to paper topics. Students will feel more comfortable approaching a familiar face, and the tutor will have a better sense of what the students are dealing with as they approach their papers.

Generally, the more intensively involved the tutor becomes, the more satisfactory the outcome. However, there are some limitations to this guideline. Some tutors, for example, may be overwhelmed by requirements that they attend all classes, read all the books, respond to all the drafts, etc. We recommend working out a reasonable plan through ongoing consultation between professor and tutor.

Introduce the tutor to the students at the beginning of the course and clarify the tutor's function for them. This is a good time to let the tutor answer questions or add anything he or she wants to your introduction.

Try to keep up a real dialogue with the tutor as the semester goes on. You might keep in mind for discussion:

  • Any creative ideas the tutor has for enhancing the students' writing process
  • Any insight or information the tutor has about difficulties the students are having
  • Any feedback, critique, or suggestions you have for the tutor, including those you are hearing from the students

Encourage --or require-- all students to make use of tutoring. While some students may need to work with the tutor more than others, even the best writers can benefit from such interaction. Requiring all students to work with the tutor counteracts a tendency to attach a stigma to "being tutored."

There are numerous ways you can incorporate a tutor into the class besides just one-on-one work. Here are some possibilities you should feel free to use or not use, as you see fit:

  • Have the tutor hold idea-generating sessions with groups of students when a paper topic is assigned. This can help students feel more comfortable and creative with a paper topic.
  • Have tutor read and respond to journals, pointing out ideas that can be developed into papers and suggesting ways that the student might do so.
  • Have the tutor lead small-group or full-class discussion of particularly effective and ineffective sample papers. This works best when samples come from writing other than that required for the class. If tutors are willing, ask them to do this with samples of their own work.
  • Have the tutor lead small-group sessions to workshop drafts of student papers.
  • On at least one paper, require students to meet individually with the tutor more than once to discuss various drafts of the paper.

Final note: The tutor's role is primarily that of facilitator/catalyst of the writing and learning process. Tutors are not authorities on the discipline, even though they often have some expertise in it. Ideally, they usefully occupy a middle ground between the students and the professor. They should not be expected (by either the students or the professor) to be authorities on the material. Indeed, the more they become authorities, the closer they move toward the professional role, which can actually undermine their function as helpful peer readers by leading them to be directive rather than facilitative.