Where do writing center tutors/writing associates come from?
Every year faculty in the Rhetoric and Composition Department offer a course called The Teaching and Tutoring of Writing (RHET 401/ENGL 399). Course enrollment is limited to 12-14 upperclass students; these students, along with others who previously took the course, are employed by the College as writing associates. In a given semester, the writing center staffs 60 tutor hours a week or more.What are writing associates trained for?
In RHET 401 students explore a variety of tutoring concerns, ranging from practical questions about how to hold a successful tutoring session to theoretical questions about writing instruction and the implications of a writing associate's role.
Associates in the Writing Center can help students at any stage in the writing process -- from brainstorming, to drafting, revising, and editing.
Writing Center tutors use a basic formula when they go over a paper with a student. In a typical session, a tutee brings in a paper at some stage of completion -- usually with specific questions or concerns. Associates often ask the writer to read the draft aloud to the writing associate. Rather than simply editing or proofreading the paper, the writing associate generally asks questions to help students clarify their thoughts; the writing associate attempts to guide the tutee toward a plan of action rather than telling them the "right answer."How can the teacher facilitate the session?
If you ask a student to go to the Writing Center, try to be clear what you him/her to focus on, for example, a tutoring session might focus on generating a thesis, organizing ideas, understanding the passive voice, grammatical issues, developing ideas, or gaining some proficiency in the discourse of a particular field. These are all very different tasks, so it is very helpful for both student and associate if you are clear about your expectations. Putting something in writing can really help.
If a writer should deal with several writing issues, it may be useful for you to try to prioritize them, and ask them to make regular or multiple visits to the writing center.
Because writing associates tend to keep the same hours week after week, it is possible for writers to develop relationships with individual associates. They simply need to coordinate schedules, keeping in mind that service at the center is given on a first-come, first-served basis.How do you get a student to go to the Writing Center?
First, it's important to emphasize for students that all writers shares drafts with readers -- that's the way writing works! Some teachers have found that requiring all their students in a small class to go to the Writing Center early in the semester is helpful; you can have the tutor sign a form discussing what they covered in the session. It's important, though, that students have a reason for going -- something they want to work on.
Other faculty members require some students to make regular visits to the center; others will leave it open. It must be said, though, that many students aren't aware of what writing associates do, or of how a session in the writing center might help them. Encourage them to think of such consultation as a regular part of the writing process. Once they have a directed session or two with a tutor, most find the interaction valuable.