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On Location

On Location: Theory and Practice in Classroom-Based Writing Tutoring

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 262
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  • Book Info
    On Location
    Book Description:

    Classroom-based writing tutoring is a distinct form of writing support, a hybrid instructional method that engages multiple voices and texts within the college classroom. Tutors work on location in the thick of writing instruction and writing activity. On Location is the first volume to discuss this emerging practice in a methodical way. The essays in this collection integrate theory and practice to highlight the alliances and connections on-location tutoring offers while suggesting strategies for resolving its conflicts. Contributors examine classroom-based tutoring programs located in composition courses as well as in writing intensive courses across the disciplines.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-501-4
    Subjects: Education, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

    (pp. 1-14)
    Candace Spigelman and Laurie Grobman

    In filmmaking parlance, actors work “on location” when they move from the sound stages, where the bulk of movies are filmed, to sites where geography and social life more closely represent the director’s intentions. The clear connection between the notions of “on location” and “on the scene” suggests the film crew’s submergence in the local environment, community, or culture. When one is working “on location,” exigencies are less readily choreographed; variables, such as climate, local inhabitants, or political conditions, cannot always be controlled. Our title, On Location, marks the movement, or relocation, of tutoring to the classroom, a setting beyond...


    • [PART ONE Introduction]
      (pp. 15-16)

      Fostering diplomatic relationships, building bridges, creating intensive-care communities, establishing trust and common ground: these are the concepts that resonate through part one of On Location. They point to the many connections that are fostered by and through the hybridity of classroom-based writing tutoring programs, and they emphasize new relationships formed between writing centers and students, tutors and faculty across the disciplines, tutors and students. These associations, in turn, yield additional benefits: writing group facilitation assists students to create knowledge together and improve their writing abilities; tutors develop their writing, critical thinking, and social skills; writing centers witness increased respect for...

    • 1 DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS: Peer Tutors in the Writing Classroom
      (pp. 17-30)
      Teagan Decker

      Of the many things that define a writing center, one of the most crucial is the relationship it has with those who assign the writing in the first place. Some centers, especially those connected with basic writing programs, are thoroughly intertwined with the classroom and may serve as labs that students attend as an extension of their composition classes. Others are more autonomous and may have spun away from their home departments altogether, housed in a central location such as a library or undergraduate center. Many are connected with a department, usually English, but are autonomous within that relationship, free...

      (pp. 31-43)
      Mary Soliday

      With the rapid expansion of writing across the curriculum (WAC) programs, many of us wrestle with understanding the differences between teaching writing in composition courses and teaching writing across the disciplines. While a lively debate has long existed over whether we can teach writing effectively in composition courses, it has gained fresh life from WAC scholars like Aviva Freedman, who “question the value of GWSI,” or general writing skills instruction (1995, 122). A similar debate has also spilled over to tutoring programs, where scholars and program directors wonder whether tutors trained in GWSI can cope with the more distinct forms...

    • 3 BUILDING BRIDGES TO ACADEMIC DISCOURSE: The Peer Group Leader in Basic Writing Peer Response Groups
      (pp. 44-59)
      Laurie Grobman

      David Bartholomae’s landmark essays “Inventing the University” (1986) and “Writing on the Margins: The Concept of Literacy in Higher Education” (1987) locate the basic writer outside academic discourse, lacking the authority academic writers possess. This exclusion is manifested, among other ways, in peer response groups, where basic writers often shy away from critiquing substantive issues of content or organization in each other’s work. Their hesitancy is understandable, given that the university has told them (by virtue of their placement in a “remedial” writing course) that they do not know how to write.

      The theoretical support for peer response groups in...

    • 4 WRITING AND READING COMMUNITY LEARNING: Collaborative Learning among Writing Center Consultants, Students, and Teachers
      (pp. 60-71)
      Jim Ottery, Jean Petrolle, Derek John Boczkowski and Steve Mogge

      Columbia College is located in Chicago’s South Loop, which is a rapidly gentrifying commercial and residential downtown area. Columbia has been an anchor in the South Loop for three decades, and with its student population of nine thousand it is recognized for the opportunities it provides to young men and women who aspire to careers in the arts and communications. While it graduates talented artists who go on to “author the culture of our times,” as the school’s mission declares, it also graduates, and too often fails to graduate, fledgling artists and future employees in communications fields—students who may...

    • 5 Tutors’ Voices—Building Trust and Community in Peer Writing Group Classrooms
      (pp. 72-84)
      Casey You

      Every semester, thousands of college students encounter their first experience with college writing. Most of them have no idea what is expected from them at this academic level, how to write using appropriate college discourse, or how to become better writers. If they are basic writers, their difficulties and anxieties are that much greater. This is why many writing teachers arrange their developmental writing students into peer writing groups, where they are given the opportunity to read their papers aloud and to develop their ideas with the help of others. Much research has shown that peer groups can be an...


    • [PART TWO Introduction]
      (pp. 85-86)

      The essays in part one highlighted collegial, institutional, interdisciplinary, and discursive connections that classroom-based writing tutoring may foster. Yet, as a hybrid genre, those same intersecting forces that provide transformative possibilities simultaneously create new hurdles for students, tutors, faculty, and administrators. In this section, our contributors describe the day-to-day operational decisions participants must address when tutoring takes place in classrooms. (We deliberately bracket issues of power and authority, which serve as the focus of part three). These decisions are often at odds with deeply entrenched alliances and beliefs about the “right” kinds of tutoring practices, which are, in turn, tied...

      (pp. 87-100)
      Barbara Little Liu and Holly Mandes

      Stephen North’s essay “The Idea of a Writing Center” (1984) stands as the touchstone for much subsequent writing center theory and writing tutor practice. The essence of North’s essay (and, hence, of most writing center philosophy) is summed up in this oft-quoted idea: “[I]n a writing center the object is to make sure that writers, and not necessarily their texts, are what get changed. . . . our job is to produce better writers, not better writing” (438).¹ The work of a writing center tutor, then, is not to help the student writer “fix” or “correct” the current draft of...

    • 7 BRINGING THE NOISE: Peer Power and Authority, On Location
      (pp. 101-111)
      Steven J. Corbett

      A few years ago we started getting serious about the idea of sending tutors into classrooms for peer group response facilitation, presentations, and what became special writing workshops here at the University of Washington’s English Department Writing Center (EWC; a semiautonomous center staffed mostly by undergraduates). The excitement and critical pedagogical issues that emerged from our experimentation led me to write a short article in the Writing Lab Newsletter, “The Role of the Emissary: Helping to Bridge the Communication Canyon between Instructors and Students” (2002). In that essay I talk about how writing center tutors, as writing coaches, can expand...

      (pp. 112-125)
      Melissa Nicolas

      In this (post?) postmodern era, it has become de rigueur to question definitions that fix meaning and create rigid categories. Even a cursory review of the current literature in rhetoric and composition shows scholars “questioning,” “troubling,” “refining,” “refiguring,” and/or “redrawing” conventional definitions and categorical boundaries. One of the ways compositionists have challenged traditional ways of thinking about the teaching and learning of writing, for example, is by developing pedagogies that decenter teacher authority and privilege collaborative learning. Indeed, in the last two decades or so, writing center tutoring and peer group work have come to play an increasingly central role...

    • 9 Tutors’ Voices—Active Revision in a Peer Group: The Role of the Peer Group Leader
      (pp. 126-136)
      Kelly Giger

      Typically, college composition students receive responses to their writing in the form of margin and end comments written by their professors. These comments are filled with suggestions, praise, criticism, and reactions. It is then the students’ responsibility to take these comments and incorporate them into their papers. Because understanding response and revision is often difficult for basic writers, it is common practice for their teachers to organize them into peer writing groups (Bruffee 1998; Spear 1988; Willis 1993; Brooke, Mirtz, and Evans 1994a). However, if students are going to make the best use of their writing groups, peer readers will...


    • [PART THREE Introduction]
      (pp. 137-138)

      Perhaps even more than practical concerns, for those involved in classroom-based writing tutoring, issues of authority and role definition reveal the colliding theoretical perspectives emerging out of this hybrid instructional genre. In various ways, the essays in this section expose the rich and complex theoretical undergirding of on-location tutoring projects. Oppositions like tutoring sovereignty versus institutional dependence, nonintrusive versus directive tutoring methods, traditional process-oriented strategies versus writing group pragmatics, tutors as peers versus tutors as specialists, and tutors as students versus tutors as “teachers” appear again and again in the many configurations discussed in these chapters. We see that, among...

    • 10 CONTEXTUALIZING ISSUES OF POWER AND PROMISE: Classroom-Based Tutoring in Writing across the Curriculum
      (pp. 139-156)
      Marti Singer, Robin Breault and Jennifer Wing

      This chapter begins with the true tale of two tutors, Jessica and Julie. The names and departmental affiliations have been changed to protect the innocent. Both tutors worked for the writing across the curriculum program at our institution as writing consultants for writing-intensive (WI) courses during spring semester 2002. Our WAC writing consultants function mainly as classroom-based tutors who conference with students on writing assignments for the courses; however, they are also expected to attend approximately 50 percent of the class meetings and work with instructors to develop WAC exercises and support materials. In addition, they collect student writing samples...

    • 11 CLASSROOM-BASED TUTORING AND THE “PROBLEM” OF TUTOR IDENTITY: Highlighting the Shift from Writing Center to Classroom-Based Tutoring
      (pp. 157-173)
      David Martins and Thia Wolf

      In academic year 2000–01, the institutional support for writing across the curriculum at California State University–Chico solidified in the form of a tenure-track hire. Although WAC workshops for faculty in the disciplines had a long history at our campus, the hire of a new WAC coordinator made it possible to broaden the outreach and establish new programs for faculty. Based upon work begun by Judith Rodby and further developed by Tom Fox, a “Partnership Program” that joined faculty with WAC specialists and brought experienced and novice writing tutors into classrooms throughout the university became the principle means of...

    • 12 “I’VE GOT NO STRINGS ON ME”: Avoiding Marionette Theater with Peer Consultants in the Classroom
      (pp. 174-184)
      Susan Hrach Georgecink

      Our writing center’s first forays into classroom work began unceremoniously, without any conscious thought given to the philosophical ramifications of going “on location.” A faculty member from the education department called one day during the writing center’s (and my) first year on campus and asked if I might be able to send a consultant to her evening graduate class to help her students “get off on the right foot” with their research projects. At the time we had on our writing center staff a senior student who was one of the finest all-round English majors the department had seen in...

    • 13 RECONSTRUCTING AUTHORITY: Negotiating Power in Democratic Learning Sites
      (pp. 185-204)
      Candace Spigelman

      I am greatly attracted to peer relationships in the teaching of writing: I used writing groups in my composition classes before they were popular, I directed a learning center where knowledgeable peers offered various kinds of writing assistance, and several years ago I introduced classroom mentors into my basic writing classes. One reason that I emphasize peership activities has to do with my own discomfort with too much classroom authority. Yet I appear to be in good company, for as Susan M. Hubbuch points out, academics in general and writing instructors in particular tend to feel guilty about assuming power,...

    • 14 Tutors’ Voices—Institutional Change and the University of Wisconsin–Madison Writing Fellows Program
      (pp. 205-218)
      Jennifer Corroy

      Writing fellows are a unique brand of peer tutors who work closely with both university faculty members and other undergraduates. Writing fellows are chosen from a diverse pool of applicants in many majors and serve in many disciplines. They are carefully trained to work across the curriculum helping other students improve their writing skills. In their first semester, fellows enroll in a special training course on the theory and practice of teaching writing. A writing fellow works with twelve to twenty students in a course whose professor has requested fellows’ support. Writing fellows comment extensively on student drafts and meet...

  5. Conclusion: HYBRID MATTERS: The Promise of Tutoring On Location
    (pp. 219-232)
    Laurie Grobman and Candace Spigelman

    We have argued that on-location tutoring should be understood as a hybrid instructional genre that incorporates features, practices, and conceptual frameworks from at least four significant “parent” writing initiatives. We have also emphasized that the products and processes of classroom-based writing tutoring result in a blurred form, exhibiting characteristics of each of its parents but operating in its own distinctive space, neither synthesizing nor rejecting related theories. Indeed, classroom-based writing tutoring “violate[s] decorum and trouble[s] hierarchies,” in some of the same ways that Wendy Bishop and Hans Ostrom advocate for contemporary genre theory (1997b, xii): it operates amid contradictions within...