Tutoring Writing: Theory and Practice

English 329H: Tutoring Writing Theory and Practice

Course Description

This course introduces new tutors of writing to pedagogical methods for tutoring and the theory that informs them. The course has a dual aim: to explore the theoretical issues in the tutoring of writing and to connect those issues to current and future tutoring practices. During the course we will study not only tutoring practice but also research and scholarship into writing processes, the nature of academic writing, writing in multiple disciplines, and how writers from diverse populations may approach writing tasks differently. To help foster a writer’s growth as a tutor, we will rely on this research to help us investigate why writing matters; what it entails; how the immediate situation and cultural contexts affect a writer’s choices; how textual features reflect different writers and ways of knowing; and most importantly, how to talk with writers about their writing. We will also put our study into practice by tutoring in the Writing Center and use this work—as well as our personal reflections and original research into writing processes and contexts—to help us reflect/respond to the research and perspectives of others. Optimally, you will leave the seminar with not only an intellectual understanding of tutoring writing, but also an ability to articulate the tutoring practices that will further your own tutoring goals and values.

Throughout the course we will keep the following questions in mind and revisit them in discussion:

  • How might teaching writing as a peer or collaborator be complicated?
  • How is talking one-on-one about writing a distinct writing-to-learn experience?
  • Where does tutoring writing fit into the mandates of the university? Where does it fit into your academic identity?

Required Texts

Available at Amherst Books (and online)

  1. Robert Barnett and Jacob Blumner, Eds. The Longman Guide to Writing Center Theory and Practice. Longman, 2008.
  2. Dudley Reynolds. One on One with Second Language Writers: A Guide for Writing Tutors, Teachers, and Consultants. University of Michigan Press, 2009.

Course Assignments

Literacy Autobiography (4-6 pages)

In this paper, you will analyze a specific writing event and analyze it for what it implies about your writing processes, the context for which it was written, and its cultural implications in terms of literacy.

Tutoring Strategies: A Case Study (4-6 pages)

By the time of this second assignment, you will have visited the Writing Center yourself, observed another tutor, and read quite a bit on tutoring strategies and how to tutor. In this paper, you will analyze the tutorial session you observed in light of our readings about writing center philosophy and tutoring strategies. You might consider the use of materials and space during the session, how tutor and tutee negotiated the goals and outcomes of the session, how the tutor chose to use directive or nondirective strategies, what activities were carried out during the session, or any other aspects that strike you as noteworthy. You will not be asked to judge the tutor but instead reflect on what you see as effective tutor positions and tutoring strategies you hope to employ yourself.

Rhetorical Analysis: Writing in a Discipline (4-6 pages)

As a class, we’ll research writing expectations in different disciplines. For this paper, each class member will choose a specific discipline and investigate it by collecting writing from the discipline, interviewing students/professors, and/or researching the writing advice offered in the discipline. Each paper will look at several questions: What do audiences expect in the chosen discipline? What textual features mark those expectations? What is the logic underlying such writing? How are the writing features related to what is valued as knowledge in that discipline?

Final Project: Tutoring Philosophy (6-8 pages)

Everything in the course leads up to this final essay: a philosophy on tutoring writers. Drawing from your reading, thinking, tutor notebook, and short papers from the entire semester, you’ll write an extensive tutoring philosophy that illustrates your pedagogical values, your goals for working one-on-one with writing, and the methods and practices that realize those values and goals. Try to be as specific as possible, using examples from your observations, prior teaching or tutoring experience you’ve had, or from seminar readings.

Tutor Notebook

About every other week, you will be writing ungraded reflective analyses, responses to tutoring, or reflections on your own tutoring in a Tutor Notebook kept on Moodle. Notebook entries should be 250-300 words and are due at midnight the night before they appear on the syllabus. These notebook entries will be the generative writing for many of your papers as well as a log of your own tutoring sessions that will serve as data for your final project. Although they will not be graded, Travis and I will be reading these and keeping track of whether they are completed or not.

Tentative Course Calendar

Please note that the calendar is “tentative” which means it is subject to change. It’s difficult to predict how any one class will go, so occasionally things may be altered if I think the changes will better facilitate your learning. Notebook assignments listed as due should be completed for discussion on that day.

Week 1 T 9/2 Introduction to course and to one another, Discuss Summerfield, Bouquet
Th 9/4 Notebook 1 due, Discuss North, Lunsford, Hafernik & Wiant
Week 2 T 9/9 Discuss Brandt, Pitchman, Writing memories 
Th 9/11 Notebook 2 due, Discuss Lu, Brodkey, Alexie, anonymous literacy narratives
Week 3 T 9/16 Literacy Autobiography draft 1 due, Writing workshop (bring draft to writing center before final draft due) 
Th 9/18 Notebook 3 due, Discuss Bruffee “Peer Tutoring,” Ede/Lunsford “Collaboration”, Rhetorical situation
Week 4 T 9/23 Literacy Autobiography final due, Discuss Trimbur, Moore, Leki 
Th 9/25 Notebook 4 due, Discuss Gillespie/Lerner, Harris “Activities”, Newkirk, DaikerWorking in the Writing Center
Week 5 T 9/30 Discuss Brooks, Murray, Working in the Writing Center continued, review handbook, How to observe (Start writing center observations)
Th 10/2 Notebook 5 due, Discuss Shamoon and Burns, Carino, Watching tutoring
Week 6 T 10/7 Discuss Tseng, Minett, Matsuda & Cox, Bartholomae “The Study of Error”
Th 10/9 Notebook 6 due, Observation notes due in class, Discuss Sommers, Grammar in Context
Week 7 T 10/14 (Monday schedule—no class) 
Th 10/16 Discuss McAndrew & Reigstad, Ferris, Slocum, Olson
Week 8 T 10/21 Case Study draft 1 due, Writing workshop (Start writing center shifts)
Th 10/23 Notebook 7 due, Discuss Reynolds
Week 9 T 10/28 Discuss Reynolds, Practice feedback 
Th 10/30 Case Study final due, Discuss Reynolds
Week 10 T 11/4 Discuss Gross, Watch WID faculty discuss writing
Th 11/6 Notebook 8 due, Discuss Faigley/Hansen, In-class rhetorical analysis of samples
Week 11 T 11/11 (Holiday—no class)
W 11/12 (Tuesday schedule), Rhetorical Analysis draft 1 due, Writing workshop
Th 11/13 Discuss Keidasch and Dinitz, New Dinitz, Leverenz, Notebook 9 due
Week 12 T 11/18 Discuss Bartholomae “Inventing”, Condon 
Th 11/20 Discuss Horner et al., and “Students’ Rights”, Notebook 10 due
Week 13 T 11/25 Rhetorical Analysis final due, Writing philosophies
Th 11/27 (Holiday—no class)
Week 14 T 12/2 Discuss Grimm, Harris “Talking in the Middle”, Tutoring philosophy draft 1 due, Writing workshop 
Th 12/4 Discuss Bruffee “What Being a Writing Peer Tutor,” Cronon
F 12/13 Final Tutoring Philosophy Due 

329H Reading List

Writing Centers in Universities

  • Summerfield, Judith. “A Long View”
  • Bouquet, Elizabeth. “Our Little Secret”
  • North, Stephen. “The Idea of a Writing Center”
  • Lunsford, Andrea. “Collaboration, Control, and the Idea of a Writing Center”
  • Hafernik and Wiant “Our Students”

Becoming a Writer

  • Brandt, Deborah. “Accumulating Literacy”
  • Lu, Min-Zhan. “From Silence to Words: Writing as Struggle”
  • Brodkey, Linda. “Writing on the Bias”
  • Alexie, Sherman. “Superman and Me”
  • Pitchman, Adrien. “Historical and Institutional Literacy Sponsors: A Love Story”
  • Anonymous Literacy Narratives

Tutoring as Collaboration

  • Bruffee, Kenneth. “Peer Tutoring and the Conversation of Mankind”
  • Ede, Lisa, and Andrea A. Lunsford. “Collaboration and Concepts of Authorship”
  • Trimbur “Peer Tutoring: A Contradiction in Terms”
  • Moore, Leanne Michelle. “Revising Trimbur’s Dichotomy”
  • Leki, Ilona. “Before the Conversation”

Tutoring Practice and Strategies

  • Gillespie and Lerner. “The Tutoring Process”
  • Harris, Muriel. “Conference Activities”
  • Newkirk, Thomas “The First Five Minutes”
  • Daiker, Donald. “Learning to Praise”
  • Brooks, Jeff. “Minimalist Tutoring”
  • Murray, Donald M.  “The Listening Eye:  Reflections on the Writing Conference”
  • Shamoon and Burns. “A Critique of Pure Tutoring”
  • Carino, Peter. “Power and Authority in Peer Tutoring”
  • Tseng, Theresa Jiinling “Theoretical Perspectives on Learning a Second Language”
  • Minett, Amy Jo. “Earth Aches by Midnight”
  • Matsuda, Paul Kei and Michelle Cox. “Reading an ESL Writer’s Text”

Error and Revision

  • Bartholomae, David. “The Study of Error”
  • Sommers, Nancy. “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers”
  • McAndrew, Donald and Thomas Reigstad “What Tutoring Is”
  • Ferris, Dana. “Responding to Student Errors: Issues and Strategies”
  • Slocum, Sheryl. “Working with ESL Writers”
  • Olson, Bobbi. “Rethinking our Work with Multilingual Writers”

Tutoring Across the Curriculum

  • Gross, Alan. “Does Rhetoric of Science Matter? The Case of the Floppy-Eared Rabbit.”
  • Faigley and Hansen, “Learning to Write in the Social Sciences”
  • Keidasch, Jean and Sue Dinitz. “Look Back and Say “So What”
  • Dinitz, Sue and Susanmarie Harrington “The Role of Disciplinary Expertise”
  • Leverenz, Carrie. “Citing Cyberosurces: A Challenge to Disciplinary Values”

Why Tutor Writing? Why Writing Centers?

  • Bartholomae, David. “Inventing the University.”
  • Condon, Frankie. “Beyond the Known: Writing Centers and the Work of Anti-Racism.”
  • Horner, Bruce, et al. “Language Difference in Writing.”
  • “Students’ Rights to Their Own Language.”
  • Grimm, Nancy. “Rearticulating the Work of the Writing Center”
  • Harris, Muriel. “Talking in the Middle: Why Writers Need Writing Tutors.”
  • Bruffee, Kenneth. “What Being a Writing Peer Tutor Can Do For You.”
  • Cronon, Bill. “Only Connect.”