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Proulx 1 December 14, 2013 Emily Proulx Writing Sample

This assignment is a transcription analysis done for my Theory and Practice of Writing Consulting class—a requirement to become a writing tutor at the University of Central Florida’s writing center. The assignment was to transcribe fifteen minutes of a session between myself and another student. We then had to analyze the transcript using Laura Black’s features of talk and combine it with other scholarly research we have read throughout the semester. This paper displays my ability to combine and analyze primary research with secondary research and draw conclusions about the implications of tutoring moves.

Proulx 2 The “Moves” of Learning in a Tutoring Session Background: On October 15, 2012, I met with a literature student working on a paper for her Theory of Modern Literature course. The assignment was to pick one of the prompts and write an essay on the subject. The student chose to use a surrealist’s game to analyze a work of film. The assignment was due the following day, and the student had not yet begun. She entered the consultation with the idea to analyze the movie The Lion King using the surrealist’s game. However, she expressed a concern for the amount of sources that were critically analyzing the movie--a major requirement for the assignment. While looking through the UCF library database, the student decided to change her topic to the television show Dr.Who, from which she would choose a specific episode to focus on. In a way, that was the beginning of this session. For the first time, fifteen minutes into the session, the student had some direction and understanding of how to go about this assignment. Introduction: There were several features of talk, which prompted the student’s learning through the session. It was my experience in sessions that focus on brainstorming and the different moves I made as a tutor that led to the success of this session. . I am defining success as achieving the goal of the writing center, which is to facilitate the learning of the student, and to help them achieve the goals they enter the session with. This session had particular language markers because the student and I are involved in the same discourse community--the English department. This connection allowed for specific conversational markers and a line of

Proulx 3 questioning not available in every discipline. Overall, I have found within this analysis that it was my productive talking patterns that facilitated the writer’s learning. Questioning and Word Count: This session included a lot of questions by the consultant and answering by the student, which produced a very balanced conversation with few interruptions. JoAnn Johnson’s article “Reevaluation of the Question as a Teaching Tool” asked us to reevaluate the question, and I have. I have realized that in some aspects she holds a very solid point that questioning can have “an inhibiting power through the nature of their structure” because they “require, if not demand, a response for closure” (Johnson 36). However, I did not experience these results in my session. If anything my line of questioning did just the opposite by giving the power to the student, rather than inhibiting it. Simply because I was guiding her to her learning, does not mean I was in complete control of the session. Johnson also brings up an issue she has with the “why” question because the question “often receives a hesitant answer or the response ‘I don’t know,’ possible because it seems to imply error” (Johnson 37). To the contrary, in my session, this question was familiar to the student, as it is often asked in the English department. This meant that the student and I were able to converse as colleagues, which is a step above the goal of the Writing Center as peer tutors. At times, there is a danger in sessions of taking on the expert or teacher role, as Laurel Black forewarns in her book Between Talk and Teaching: “A word count…indicates that, overwhelmingly, it is teachers who talk” (Black 41). Although, in my session the student spoke 1609 words, while I spoke only 923 words. This shows that we had a more balanced discussion, where, in fact, the student spoke almost double what I spoke. Since we have learned that “learning is not something we do to students, but rather something students themselves do”

Proulx 4 (Ambrose, et al. 3), and I believe that discussion is doing, I would see that as a positive sign that this was a consultation that was conducive to learning. Questioning and Discourse Community Tutoring In lines 38 through 45 of the transcript, one can see the question of “why” coming from me, and the answer the student produces. This is a very different effect from Johnson’s idea that this line of questioning would produce little to no results. This is also backed up by the 84 words spoken in response by the student. By following her response with an additional question I was able to get another 180-word response from her. The why question can be considered disciplinespecific terminology because “the words…have special meaning in a composition or literary context” (Black 76). In the English department, we are often taught how to explain why things occur. Questions that are often asked of us in analyzing literature are “why is the author doing this?” and “why does that have such an effect on the reading?” These questions are often answered in short answer, discussion, or essay format. Therefore, in line 39 when I validate the student’s response with an “okay” and then continue with “why”, the student allows herself to embrace the question for the learning opportunity it presents.

The student’s answer was not “I don’t know” as Johnson predicted, but instead began with “uhm because”, which Black describes as discourse markers. These markers are “ways of positioning a speaker either in relation to the information or another speaker, of responding to an

Proulx 5 earlier utterance, even of gaining the floor when speaking turns are contested” (Black 42). In this session the markers were used by the student to hold her position in the conversation as she thought of a response. There are several instances of this on both sides of the conversation. This could indicate that we were both afraid the other person would have taken our turn in conversation, had we not, but we had not yet formulated a response. Black uses this phrase when she describes power talk and how the teacher and student role often fight for power of the conversation. However, I feel as though, in this session, the student and I really did just need to formulate our thoughts. I do not feel as though as felt our turn was in danger of being taken, but we were so involved in the session that at times we spoke before we had our thoughts in order. My role in this session seemed to be more of a listener and facilitator. The student was lost in the beginning of the session with little to no direction. As my line of questioning directed the session, and initiated topics that were productive, the student began to be able to lead the discussion. This is why I believe my questioning was so effective. In this session, the student needed to talk out her ideas, why is why her word count was so much higher than my own. I was able to verify my role as the facilitator of the conversation by line 48. In this instance, the student stated, “let me think out loud”, while she spoke through a stream of consciousness. This not only showed the kind of worker the student is, but also showed that the student felt comfortable with me.

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Much of the session involved cooperative overlaps, which were used almost exclusively to “indicate acknowledgement or acceptance” (Black 41). This occurred on both sides of the conversation. The word “okay” was used over 33 times by me, and 16 times by the student. I would assume this had partly to do with the amount of talking the student was doing. I felt the need as the consultant to say these phrases, such as “okay” and “uh-huh” to indicate that I was listening to the student. However, I wonder if that made the student feel as though I was trying to gain control of the conversation. At times, such as lines 174-186, I was using “okay” properly during my turn in the conversation.

Adversely, in lines 122-144, I was interrupting her explanations, in order to use the word “okay”. Struggles of power are an often occurrence in talk, which can affect the learning that is done.

Proulx 7 Judging by the fact that these overlaps did not affect the word counts of either of our turns; I would say in this session it was not altered. For the sake of argument, there is a definite advantage to waiting for the student to be finished with a thought before acknowledging that I was listening with a discourse marker, such as “okay”. That way there is no confusion on whether or not I really agree with the student, or if I am simply trying to make them stop talking.

On the other hand, in lines 58-79 these overlaps were facilitating excitement in the session. In an attempt to keep our agenda set, as valued practice number four advises, I was listing over what we had achieved in the session so far. This was important due to the fact that there was so much we had to accomplish to put the student in a good place to finish her assignment on her own. The student became very enthused in our progress, and she expressed that through the phrase “yes”, checking off each accomplishment. This back and forth between the student and me was increasing our rapport, which is valued practice number one. She felt

Proulx 8 comfortable enough with me to become excited over the material. Then we were able to dive into the next section of our agenda. In short, at this time, I was summarizing our progress up to this point. This allowed us to reflect on what we had accomplished and allowed me to set an agenda for the rest of the session. In line 76 I used topic initiation, which Black usually examines between teacher and student or gender roles. Black directly relates topic initiation with control of the conversation, with whoever is the initiator, is the one who guides were the conversation goes (Black 80). My own topic initiation was used in the form of a question to keep the student’s learning continuing. After acknowledging the progress we have made in the session, I ensure more learning will take place by initiating another productive topic. This question is a tutoring move, which introduces a way to keep the agenda moving forward, while initiating praise for our previous progress.

Proulx 9 Observations about Discourse Community Tutoring: There was a difference between when I felt as though I was an expert in the subject we were discussing and when I wasn’t. For example, there was a part of the session where technology was integrated into the session. The student used the library database to find a critical analysis of her television show Dr.Who. It was useful to be able to use this resource in the session, so that we could properly identify a topic. Wait time was important during this section noted by the 11 seconds and 14 second pause in between talk. This was an effective use of wait time, which is valued practice number twelve at the writing center. It was important for me to be active in this situation and look at the material with the student, so that I wasn’t attempting to distract her from the research. These articles were a key part of the assignment, and since the student did not have a lot of time to complete it, finding them at this point in time was vital.

On the other hand, there were a few times in the session when I was talking over the student. At times, I was asking a question she was already answering, obviously attempting to take control of the situation. In lines 15 through 20 there were two instances of this occurring. In fact, in line 19 I blatantly cut her off to validate her research topic, which she may have done herself anyway. This is in the earlier part of the session when I am still trying to identify the

Proulx 10 situation. Perhaps, I am doing this because in the first fifteen minutes of the session the student seemed so lost. I felt that I needed to become directive in the session to establish control.

Interruptions, such as these, can be common in a shared discourse community. When a consultant is too familiar with the topic of the session, his or her own ideas for the paper could get in the way of the student’s learning. This is why many writing centers, such as the one at the University of Central Florida, do not schedule based on shared discipline. Since I had previous knowledge of this kind of assignment, I may have missed key factors of her understanding. Kristen Walker discusses these pros and cons in the article “The Debate Over Generalist and Specialist Tutors: Genre Theory’s Contribution”. This article examined the ways that discipline specific tutoring can help and hinder a session. Ultimately, it is important as generalist and specialist tutors to “be trained to learn about the culture of a discipline, communicate with faculty, analyze writing done in the disciplines, and pass valuable knowledge on to clients” (Walker 38). This is our goal as tutors, therefore it doesn’t necessarily matter if you are a discipline specific tutor or not. This transcription was able to point out of the advantages and disadvantages and I would overall say that Walker is right. Being in the same discipline just means you have to watch out for ideas that Walker discusses such as to “understand that different professors may have different expectations and requirements for different classes” (Walker 36). As long as a tutor is aware of these differences in expectations and doesn’t let their own

Proulx 11 knowledge interfere with their tutoring capabilities, than discipline specific tutoring can be very beneficial. Conclusion: There were various features of talk from Laurel Black’s book Between Talk and Teaching discovered during this session. In fact, there were even more that I could have used, but I chose to focus this paper on the ways that the features of talk worked with this discipline specific tutoring session. These ranged from using the question as a tool, to topic initiation, and cooperative overlaps. All of these observations were helpful to my analysis and allowed me to see the ways in which the features of talk can affect the outcome of a session. While reviewing my transcript, I was able to identify many moves that I made while tutoring. There were several instances where I did something that helped learning take place for the student. This correlates with Valued Practice Number Eleven, “prompt the writer to demonstrate learning during the consultation. Create opportunities for the writer to talk and to practice writing strategies and problem-solving”. In this session I used questioning, wait time, and topic initiation to create these opportunities for learning, which are all moves of the tutoring practice. Previously. I did these moves subconsciously without much thought to my practice as a discipline. This transcription analysis allowed me to dissect my practice and see how these specific features of talk work within a session.

Proulx 12 Works Cited Black, Laurel Johnson. Between Talk and Teaching. Logan, UT: Utah State UP, 1998. Print. Hall, Mark R., ed. “20 Valued Practices for Writing Center Tutoring.” Wordpress: UCF Writing Center. University of Central Florida Writing Center, 2013. Web. 27 Nov. 2013. Johnson, JoAnn. “Reevaluation of the Question as a Teaching Tool.” Dynamics of the Writing Conference: Social and Cognitive Interaction. Eds. Thomas Flynn and Mary King. Urbana: NCTE, 1993. 34-39. Print. Lunsford, Andrea. “Collaboration, Control, and the Idea of a Writing Center.” The Writing Center Journal 12.1 (1991): 3-10. Print. Walker, Kristen. “The Debate Over Generalist and Specialist Tutors: Genre Theory’s Contribution.” The Writing Center Journal. 18.2 (1998) : 27-46. Print.