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Published by Gina O'Neill

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Published by: Gina O'Neill on Oct 17, 2012
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Hi Gina,Thank you for sharing your assignment with me. I look forward to going over your roughdraft! This kind of assignment is always a particularly challenging one for me, because I think of myself as more of a “linear” writer… So we’ll see how this goes.
 I think I’m going to spend most of my time just asking you more questions to see if I canget you to tease out your thoughts a bit more, and build connections between your goals. It’s notas though everything I mention is stuff that I feel, as a reader, is missing from your paper (I willmake note of it if it is, and discuss this more at the end). I just hope that at the end of this you’llfeel like you have some tangible spots in your paper that you are inspired to pursue thoroughly,and perhaps you can note an overall pattern to help develop a concrete philosophy.If there is something specific you would like to work on during our conference, go aheadand make note of it. So let’s get started…
Gina O’NeillMatthew PearsonWRD 3968 October 2012
What I’ve learned so far in working with writers:
The most effective technique in conferencing and written feedback is to ask questions: ask questions to clarify the thesis or central argument first and foremost. Byasking questions, writers have to articulate their ideas verbally, forcing them to spell outtheir thinking process. What some writers do not comprehend is that thoroughexplanation is necessary. One issue I’ve noticed is that some writers are caught up in thedistinction between their voice as a writer and their voice as a human or arguer. For a firstdraft, that should not hinder their ideas. Once they explain their thought process to me, Iadvise them to get those words on paper and worry about fine-tuning it later. Even if thestyle is sloppy, the arguments turn out more developed. In addition, asking questionsallows for writers to revise on their own, with me, the reader, as the facilitator, not theteacher. In reference to Nancy Sommers’ article, questions are a key factor in not
appropriating a text.After writers explain their ideas, I praise them for their clarity and depth. Theyhave, so far, received the praise well, and it seemed to click for them that all they neededwas to dive deeper in their argument. I make the praise direct: “That’s great; I want to seethat thought process in your paper.” If they’re not clear after some preliminaryquestioning, I continue to ask questions.I noticed that John Bean’s article provides the most concrete, applicable advicefor commenting on a draft. While going through my first round of commenting, Ireferenced his list several times, and it alleviated some anxiety I had about having writerschurn out perfect papers. Verifying that writers have followed the assignment first andthen concentrating on the thesis are elements I focus on during both the written feedback and the conference, and the students seem to appreciate this.I have been asking students to jot down notes in the text during the conferences inorder to retain the ideas that stem from questioning and discussion. I advise them not toattempt to be eloquent in these revisions/notes because solidifying ideas is key, notmaking the perfect sentence.
Nathalia Oliveira
10/13/12 1:00 PM
Comment [1]:
In what ways?
Nathalia Oliveira
10/13/12 1:02 PM
Comment [2]:
How does this change as a resultof the modality you are using? Written Feedback does not necessarily offer you an opportunity for writers to explain themselves. Although you might benefit from having a conference with the studentlater so that they can explain things to you then, howcan you make your written feedback suffice as a“standalone” method that writers can work from?
Nathalia Oliveira
10/13/12 1:02 PM
Comment [3]:
Why do you do this? What do youintend to produce in the writer, how does it affect thetutorial?
Following that line of thought, I suggest writers do their revisions shortly after theconference in order to keep the ideas fresh in their minds. Then, drawing from the articleon heuristics, I advise them to let the paper “rest and incubate” for a while beforerevisiting it and editing for grammar and style.John Bean made an excellent point in deeming grammar and style lesser concerns.Unless an error affects overall meaning of a sentence or argument, writers should focus
on that later in the process.What I can take away as a whole from these strategies is that my main concern, asat tutor, is making sure writers possess clear, supported theses or central arguments.Without that, they lose credibility, focus and organization, and that overshadows the positive attributes of their paper. While that may seem reminiscent of the five-paragraphessay philosophy, I see a clear distinction. Every paper should make an argument; that
does not mean five uniform paragraphs are necessary.
Something I like but has not worked 100 percent of the time / Things I don’t know:
 In asking writers to draft a thesis or make revisions to a sentence in theconference, some are willing to do so and some are reluctant. I’m still figuring out how togo about that without sounding demanding. What I have been saying is, “I would love itif you would draft a thesis right now so that you can walk away feeling confident in your argument.” I don’t know if I should be more assertive or if that’s already appropriating
the text.Going along with that, in regards to Brooks’ “Minimalist Tutoring,” asking thewriter to do some writing or revising and then walking away while they draft has beendifficult. Some writers have been eager to forge new arguments and sentences, but somehave felt uncomfortable and under pressure. Finding the right way to give them space isdicey. Sometimes I’ll say, “I’m going to look at this on WC online for a moment,” butother times, I don’t know what to say. How can I do this effectively? Is asking the writer to construct a thesis then and there effective?
I don’t want them to feel pressured.I try to ask the “so what?” for every draft
in order to assign and spark more
interest in their writing for them. I have always felt that every piece of writing shouldcontain a point that’s still pertinent today. For the majority of the time, asking thisworked, but sometimes, writers were too caught up in explaining the “how” instead of the
“why.” How do I make it clearer?When writers want to concentrate on grammar and style — when the other aspects of their paper are so strong that we can look at the lower-tier concerns — how doI approach this without appropriating the text or sounding like a know-it-all? In myexperiences with talking about grammar, because I’m knowledgeable of the conventionsand rules, I feel like I sound arrogant. I say, “When you do this, you have to use a comma because…” But in what other ways can I say it? I’ve tried the reading out loud technique,and that can help writers identify places where they paused in reading but not in their writing (through punctuation). I’ve also tried identifying the error in one sentence andthen asking the writer to find it in the rest of her paper. Bean suggests doing this or goingthrough the paper and marking each sentence that commits the error. Is that too harsh?Telling them directly puts me in more of a teacher position than that of a tutor, but
wrong to be direct? I’ve been grappling with this issue through some of my conferences.
Nathalia Oliveira
10/14/12 10:46 AM
Comment [4]:
How do you think this affectswhat a writer might be expecting a tutorial to look like, or wanting to work on?
Nathalia Oliveira
10/14/12 10:46 AM
Comment [5]:
I have a very similar philosophy. Ithink one thing I would consider are the underlyingassumptions about the types of papers that arecoming at you. It makes sense in most academic pieces, but do you still feel like someone is trying tomake an argument/prove a point in a resume? Acreative piece? It really might be the case that theystill are, so it’s not like this defeats your purpose. Iwould take a moment to think about refining your words and thoughts here to show me how it appliesto a great spectrum of things, if you think it does.
Nathalia Oliveira
10/14/12 2:50 PM
Comment [6]:
Have you thought about asking thewriter what s/he would like to do? Most of the time Ifind that they’re happy to get a thesis down if theydon’t already have one they like.
Nathalia Oliveira
10/14/12 2:50 PM
Comment [7]:
I’m not very sure how that is.
Nathalia Oliveira
10/14/12 2:53 PM
Comment [8]:
This is great insight. The thingabout minimalist tutors that I’ve worked with is thatI notice they are very comfortable with silenceswhile others (myself included) are always feelingtempted to break the silence somehow. I think a lotof the empowerment writers get from minimalisttutoring is that they are allowed to come to their ownconclusions/epiphanies about writing.
Nathalia Oliveira
10/14/12 2:51 PM
Comment [9]:
Again, I think that a lot of this can be navigated through a direct conversation with thewriter themselves.
Nathalia Oliveira
10/14/12 2:54 PM
Comment [10]:
This reads a bit awkwardly tome, what do you think?
Nathalia Oliveira
10/14/12 2:56 PM
Comment [11]:
I’m not sure I’m following youexactly; this is something perhaps we can discuss atour conference as I’m not sure what the distinction ishere.
Nathalia Oliveira
10/14/12 2:58 PM
Comment [12]:
 Not necessarily. I’m sure you’vealready come across pedagogical literature out therediscussing directive tutoring. Neither do I think it’sfair to really dichotomize yourself/all tutorials asdirective/non-directive only. I think you can pushyourself to go deeper here and explore the concept of directive vs. non-directive tutoring and their benefitsin different circumstances.
Nathalia Oliveira
10/14/12 2:59 PM
Comment [13]:
I’m always still grappling withthis too.
What I want writers to take out of this experience:
When writers ask me, “Does this sound OK?”, how do I answer withoutappropriating the text? “The Idea of a Writing Center,” one article we read, speaksspecifically on how tutors and writers should collaborate. As tutors, we are observers. It’shard for me not to make the decisions for them. I want them to see me as an equal who
has the upper hand only because I’m not the author of the paper. I want them to realizethat it is easier for an outsider to sort out the positives areas of an essay from the areasthat need work.I want to strive for my remaining fellowing conferences to be more student-guided. I usually come in with a list of things to work on and questions I have, which isnecessary in order to not walk into the conference blind, but I feel like students rely onthat. Is that necessarily wrong? I always ask them if they have specific things they wantto work on, and usually,
they go from what I mentioned in my comments. I don’t wantthe focus of their revision to be based solely on my suggestions, but how can I changethat? There have been times where students have said, “Yes, I totally noticed that,” or,“Your comments made so much sense to me. I know I have to work on this, but you took this further…” While I feel like that is a natural product of commenting andconferencing, I don’t want students to develop a habit of depending on me as the sourcefor what they should revise. How do I make it more of their idea instead of my own? Inthe conferences, as we work on revising single statements (i.e. the thesis) or even ideas, Itry to ask questions to prompt their revisions. I find myself saying, “I think this wouldmake your argument stronger,” but I want them to realize that of their own accord. WhenI ask questions that are too specific, I feel like I’m making the choices for them on whatto include or remove.
How do I formulate my questions and advice to be general enough
to allow them to guide the revisions and include their own ideas?I want them to walk away feeling confident, but I want them to have theconfidence to know that it’s due to their own work, not mine. For example, after thisclass, I want them to be capable of going through the same process of revising without atutor, remaining cognizant of areas they should improve on and revise in their future papers.Hi Gina,I think you do a fantastic job of really pulling on the real experiences you havehad both shadowing and working as a Fellow so far. I think this is fantastic because itgives you the foundations of being able to build tangible, actionable steps for your tutorials moving forward in the direction of achieving some greater goal. If you haven’tnoticed it already, Matthew is huge on actionable steps.
 One thing I felt you can do more with is your conversation between directive andnon-directive tutoring. You certainly seem to already have some thoughts on which youthink is more effective or better, and as this is an exploration of your personal tutoring pedagogies, I would really strive to devote more time to these important conversationsthat we continue to have in the discourse. I think you can apply your real experiences tothis stuff you’re learning in class more concretely and still make some great theoreticalobservations from which you can deduce more opinions and come to your ownconclusions.
Nathalia Oliveira
10/14/12 3:00 PM
Comment [14]:
Do you think this is redundant tomention at this point? Remember your audience.
Nathalia Oliveira
10/14/12 3:00 PM
Comment [15]:
This is an interesting languagechoice; I didn’t really understand what you weregetting at until the next sentence.
Nathalia Oliveira
10/14/12 3:01 PM
Comment [16]:
I think this is sometimes a bitinevitable. One thing I like to do is encourage folksto do is come up with some of their own concerns or thoughts or questions in my comments. That gives agood starting point for conferences.
Nathalia Oliveira
10/14/12 3:03 PM
Comment [17]:
These are all fantastic questions.I wonder what your ultimate “end goal” for writersare as a result of you wanting them to develop their own thoughts/abilities to self-revise.
Nathalia Oliveira
10/14/12 3:05 PM
Comment [18]:
Again, great points. Just be waryabout repeating yourself too much – particularly asthis is such a short paper. And what is your final,overarching goal for the writers you work with thatdirectly relate to your desires of what you want themto walk away knowing/being able to do?

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