Annotated Bibliographies for Fall, 2001

* * * * *

Woolbright, Meg. "The Politics of Tutoring: Feminism Within the Patriarchy." TheWriting Center Journal 20.1 (1999): 16-30.

        Through the use of her analysis of a conference between a tutor and a student, Woolbright illuminates the conflicts that can arise when trying to advocate the feminist values of respect, trust and shared leadership within the patriarchal system of rhetoric. While the traditional patriarchal system uses the model of knowledge as power, she stresses that the feminist approach of using understanding to represent power would be more beneficial for the student and for the tutor within the context of tutoring. Feminist values of understanding should not be "dichotomized" completely from the patriarchal academy, but rather embedded within the academy, and it is when both of these values are interwoven that "a complex web of conflict arises" (17). The conflict surfaces when the methods behind the feminist perspective of a non-hierarchal and interactive environment are at odds with the tutor's perception of the "right" way of writing a paper or with the teacher's expectations.

        In Woolbright's chosen conference, the tutor is caught between focusing on cooperating with the student through her own emotional and intellectual response to the assignment and teaching her tutee to write in the more "correct" manner in which she herself would carry out the assignment. As the conference progresses, Woolbright demonstrates that as the patriarchal values arise in her methods, they subtly overwhelm her goals of feminist practice. While trying to maintain a hold on her own authority, the tutor begins to get carried away in her own ideas of how the paper should flow and she fails to notice the lack of participation or enthusiasm in her tutee. The conference moves from personal, respectful interaction to dishonesty to defiance and demonstrates the conflict that arises between the feminist and patriarchal models of instructing rhetoric. In dismissing the values of honesty, communication and equality, the tutor is inadvertently advertising a hierarchy and impartiality and teaching the student to ignore her own emotional reactions.

        Woolbright's emphasis on the feministic approach to tutoring writing directly coincides with Alicia Koundakjian's experiences presented in her article "Speaking with the written voice," and with the suggestions presented by Alice G. Brand in "The Why of Cognition: Emotion and the Writing Process." Both Koundakjian and Woolbright emphasize the importance of establishing a mutually respectful relationship throughout the tutoring process in the attempt to help students to realize that they have authority over their own work. Both of these articles are relevant in the writing center because they reveal a key step to making the tutoring session progress in a more smooth and beneficial manner for both the tutor and the student. By establishing the writing center as "a place for conversation among equals where knowledge is constructed, not transmitted," the tutee does not need to suppress any emotion or idea related to the assignment and the tutor should not feel the need to enforce the hierarchal structure of the patriarchal model (Woolbright 18). Woolbright would also agree with Brand on her assertion that emotion is a necessary and ever-present part of the writing process. Part of the feminist philosophy of writing is the inclusion of emotion into intellectual ideas and the non-neutral approach to a topic. Woolbright explains even further that in order for the student to feel comfortable with his or her authority over the validity of those emotions as a valid part of their assignment, equality between the tutor and tutee must be established. The methods established in Woolbright's article are especially helpful to writing tutors because they present the foundation on which to base the relationship with the student and how that foundation will benefit the outcome for both the tutor and the tutee.

9-20-01 Ralee Miller

Taylor, David. "A Counseling Approach to Writing Conferences." Dynamics of theWriting Conference: Social and Cognitive Interaction. Ed. Thomas Flynn and Mary King. Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English, 1993. 24-33.

        The author of this article examines the similarities between a therapy session and a writing conference. He states that the conference should be student oriented and the tutor/teacher should not take on the role of an authority figure but rather a growth facilitator. The three similarities that he cites between a therapy session and a writing conference are that the writing conference is a way to put the student back in control of his writing, which will enable him to move forward in the task. That the writing assignment at hand, once completed, will give the student skills that will help him once he is faced with another writing assignment. The third similarity is that the conference is a collaborative process, in which the tutor helps the student to write effectively. It is not based on the tutor being an authority figure but rather a growth facilitator/collaborator. These characteristics develop a helping relationship with the goal that the next time the student needs to write a paper, he will be able to do so independently.

        This helping relationship that Taylor writes about is comprised of three characteristics that the tutor should exhibit, empathy, warmth and caring, regard and respect. Along with these Taylor also mentions the importance of active listening because it helps to create an environment where the student feels comfortable, and isn't afraid of being judged - unconditional positive regard. The student feels that the tutor cares about his writing. The better the student feels about the distribution of power between the tutor and himself, the better the conference will proceed and the better the student will feel about his writing.

        Taylor hits on an aspect of the revision/evaluation process that sometimes gets forgotten. The emotions that the student goes in with into a conference are usually ones of anxiety, frustration, nervousness, and even perhaps anger. It is highly unlikely that someone who likes his writing will go to someone else to get help. Emotions will be a determinant in how the paper turns out in the end, and the revision/evaluation process is a step to that goal. In some instances students may not yet be at the revision process but emotion is an important aspect of the entire process from the first thoughts to the end product. Therefore it is really important to create an environment, as Taylor states, that makes the student feel at ease, and hopefully have them forget all those negative emotions and be able to focus on getting his ideas out on paper. Just starting a conversation about the topic of the writing can reveal that the student's emotions had been inhibiting his ability to think clearly and to write. Sometimes it helps to have someone to talk things out with, and that way realize where the holes are in the ideas. People talk to others about their everyday problems, dilemmas, and triumphs so it is normal that people should talk about their writing. However this may not be a natural or comfortable process. Another important aspect of creating a comfortable environment and a helping relationship is that writing is a very personal thing. It takes a lot out of a person and for many people it is something that they don't like to share. So by creating trust, the student will be less likely to hold back ideas, questions, concerns and will be more willing to engage in a conversation and critique with the tutor. Emotions play a very important role in the process of writing, as we examined in class through a revision of the Flower and Hayes' model, and the tutor can help to control the intensity and the variety of the emotions expressed by the student by the atmosphere that they make and the personality characteristics that they exhibit. Olga Wartenberg, 09-19-01

Peterson, Alice. "My Paper." Working With Student Writers. Ed. Leonard and Joanne Podis. Peter Lang: New York, 1999. 261-266.

        Alice Peterson writes how the conflict of a thesis-driven essay has negatively affected her writing. As a student at Oberlin College, she considers herself an experienced writer; she skillfully keeps within the rules of the academic prose. However, she deals with the issue of the amount of enjoyment she gets out of this style of writing she has dutifully mastered. She looks back on essays she wrote in high school, while she was learning and perfecting the conventional five paragraph academic essay. In all of them, she notes her effort at thinking outside the box and experimenting with the personal/academic mix, but none of them seemed to fulfill both writing styles in the same paper to her satisfaction. Despite the fact that her writing is at its best when she writes in a personal journal, she always seems to return to the comforting, rigid formula. Although it may sometimes shade the truth, and impede her creativity, at least she'll get an A. She struggles with the great conflict between her favored personal writing and her need for "the conventions of academic discourse to legitimize [her] essay."

        The irony of this paper is that Alice writes it in a completely personal style. She comments on her style in the midst, noting in parenthesis, "I like writing this paper, My Paper. Wow. It's been a long time since I've been able to say that." It's a shame that the standard structure in academic essay writing has deflated all enjoyment she would potentially get out of the paper. I understand her frustrations. I've gone through many different stages of writing while trying to conform to the rules. One bad method I've used in the past is to try to type the whole essay out in one, combining the ideas and the structure at the same time, and editing as I went along. This process is extremely onerous, and stops free ideas from surfacing, because the focus is on censorship instead of creativity. The most detrimental part is how much the rules inhibit and structure your free thoughts.

        When one draws a still life, the art teacher will always say to draw a light image of the whole piece before starting the details. Unless you have an idea of how the whole work will turn out, the perspective will surely be skewed with different parts out of proportion. In this same way, writing is a process. The first stage is where thoughts and ideas come without rules; there is a chaotic generation of ideas. The second stage imposes rules and structure on the creative bedlam so that meaning can show through. At the end of her essay, Peterson says, "I like this essay." She has enjoyed writing it, because she has found a comfortable medium between the two extremes of academic conventions and personal writing. Helena Flint 9/20/01

Peterson, Alice. "My Paper." Working With Student Writers. Ed. Leonard Podis and JoAnne Podis. New York: Peter Lang, 1999. 261-266.

        Peterson's essay is built upon her frustrations with the restrictions that her academic assignments place on her ability to write well. She refers to papers as "games of assembly," at which she is a "skilled assembler" (261). She develops her theses, creates outlines, writes coherent sentences, and still finds her writing to be undeveloped and boring. No matter what she is writing, Peterson is not able to see a direct connection between the words on the page and the person inside of her. She finds weaknesses in her writing, which can undoubtedly be blamed on the pressure she feels to write about something that she doesn't really care about. Peterson complains of being weary of the "flow" of her essays - she just wants to argue her point and express her views without fear of the teacher punishing her for not using academic language or a proper format. She is even trying to get away from her own preconceived notions of what an essay should be, and to the reader, she is successful.

        Peterson also briefly addresses the issue that many students face with assignments that are very open-ended, and therefore the specific subject matter is up to the students' discretion. The example that she uses for this is an essay she wrote in her junior year of high school, in a class where she was assigned to construct an essay out of a simple quotation. She chose to respond to the quotation out of personal experience, while other students may have decided to make up a short story, or write an analytical composition on the nature of the quotation. This example raises an interesting question for those who study the nature of writing: Why do we choose to write the things we do? Where do the topics come from? Where do the words themselves come from? Peterson may respond that they are based on personal experience - what we write about comes from our knowledge, and our knowledge is based on our experience.

        Peterson continues to analyze this one particular essay, recognizing that at the time, she was stifling a lot of how she really felt about this personal experience. Even though the assignment gave her a lot of freedom to choose what she wanted to write about and whom she wanted to write to, she still choose to see it "as an assembly game, sanitizing the events of my life to make them palatable for the artificial situation in which I knew I was operating" (265). Even though she had all the freedom in the world, she still aimed her paper at an audience; she made sure she didn't include too much information that would make anybody feel uncomfortable or disinterested. She knew she was writing in an academic situation, and that knowledge influenced not only the words that she chose, but the information she chose to include.

        Peterson's essay is a well-written rant on the difficulties of writing in an academic atmosphere, while still trying to maintain some teeny aspect of her personality. The essay is a fantastic example of feelings that all writers experience, especially in an academic atmosphere, where they are trying to develop their personalities and opinions and express them on paper. Peterson succeeds in making the reader feel free to be proud of their frustrations, and to dare to craft a paper the way they feel it should be. The essay is thoughtful and inspiring, and is a great resource to read for any student who feels the inner conflict between student and human being, academic and writer. Amy Bartlow 9/19/01

Axel-Lute, Miriam. "Consciousness, Frustration, and Power: The Making of Contextual Writer's Block." Working With Student Writers. Ed. Leonard and Joanne Podis. Peter Lang: New York, 1999. 151-168.

        In Axel-Lute's essay, she looks at the contextual Writer's Block, where a student can not bring themselves to write a paper for a class. The essay stemmed from her own inability to compose an essay for a class that she was not particularly fond of (Podis and Podis 152 ). She analyzes the Writer's Blocks of both students and professors at Oberlin College in Ohio, where Axel-Lute was a student. The reason for the blocks stemmed ranged from assignment limitations to feelings of alienation from the course. Eventually, the writers work through their blocks and the essay concludes with tips on how tutors can work with students who have contextual Writer's Block. A characteristic that Axel-Lute found of the people she studied was that they had a tendency to wait until the last minute to produce the paper for the course, which was not the usual method (163). The subject for the paper or the course did not hold their interest to where they could put an effort into writing the essay.

        One of Axel-Lute's examples, Judy, a student in a poetry writing class, was interesting in the fact that her professor had stripped her of her creative voice because of his restrictions and the classroom atmosphere. The course affected Judy's writing during and after the course, where she became more self-conscious about what she wrote (162). She could not write about the things that interested her, causing her abilities as a creative writer not to suffer because she could not develop her own personal style. In comparison to the other students in the study, the effects of the professor on Judy were more severe because the writing was personalized. In my experiences with creative writing, the writer's personality and soul go into their work. Judy became inhibited because she could not find the proper way to express herself that would satisfy her professor.

        As the essay later describes, the people Axel-Lute interviewed were able to break through their blocks. The student writers, including Judy, gained the confidence to write what they wanted to write. When the students were the most upset or frustrated over a class, the only solution could have appeared to be writing against the professor. How come the writers only were able to break through when their frustrations with the class or assignment were high? The excitement was that they experienced the thrill of ignoring the professor's standards. There is a release from all their pent-up aggression in that one act of defiance, which helped the students to infuse their work with the excitement that was lacking in that course during the semester. Louis Standish, 9/20/2001

Harris, Muriel. "Talking in the Middle: Why Writers Need Writing Tutors." College English 57.1 (1995): 27-42.

        By combining student reactions to the tutoring process with the array of services provided by the tutors, Muriel Harris emphasizes the integral role the writing center plays in students' education. As a third participant in the education environment, the tutor functions as a "middle person" (27), an intermediary between student and teacher. Harris attributes the unique nature of this transitional position as an essential piece to students' writing process. The relationship provides a student with a direct, "face-to-face" feedback system that delivers individual attention from an outside source in what Harris labels "encouraging independence in collaborative talk" (30). Harris's article outlines the benefits a student receives from a tutor as well as how the tutor promotes such learning. Devoting much of the article to describing the various ways in which students benefit from the tutorial experience, Harris also stresses that the institution benefits from a thriving writing center program. She asserts that the writing center experience is a necessary component to education that proves to be positive for all involved.

        The tutor-tutee relationship enhances the traditional education experience by providing a comfortable forum in which the tutee feels able to explore ideas and techniques without the anxiety of formal expectations (28). The "face-to-face interaction" of the tutorial is reminiscent of Alice Koundakjian's emphasis on dialogue between tutor and tutee. The dialogue is a response to "one-way street" approach to education. The dynamic of the tutor-tutee environment is comparable to a peer interaction. Therefore, it is not surprising that intimidated writers find this contact inviting. Nevertheless, the tutor sets the tone of the session; and while the relationship between student and tutor is less formal than the relationship between student and teacher, the tutor ought to define boundaries and adhere to them. Harris neglected to mention parameters such as these in her article. Having said that, as tutor-training techniques were not the focus of her article, this point does not negate her discussion. From a tutor's vantage point, it is important to remember that the collaboration Harris highlights in this process would not yield the self-reliance desired without mutually understood boundaries.

        In effect, tutoring transcends certain limitations of the classroom environment. The writing center acts as an extension of the classroom augmenting education. In Harris' opinion, tutors do not merely engage in beneficial conversation, but also act as models of the writing process for the tutees. In a sense, tutors offer a tap able resource for students. Harris believes "the art of the tutor is to collaborate with students as they acquire the practical knowledge they need" (34). By working with a tutor, a student can discover how to access his or her own resources. Having acquired a better understanding of the process of writing itself, tutees are better equipped to identify questions and concerns directly to the teacher eliciting a more direct response. Improved communication between the student and the teacher leads to a more prolific academic experience. 09/20/01 Leah Frank


Breen, Jennifer. "How Much to Tell? The Role of the Teacher in the Politicized Classroom." Working With Student Writers: Essays on Tutoring and Teaching. Ed. Leonard A. Podis and Joanne M. Podis. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc, 1999. 243-250.

        Breen's article tackles the question of how much - if any - personal information or ideology teachers should share in the classroom or work into lectures. She presents two arguments: one promoting the inclusion of ideologies, the other claiming that they hinder student development. On the pro side she quotes Patricia Bizzell, who believes that responsibility lies with teachers to spread "'beliefs conducive to the common good'" that "' displace the repressive ideologies an unjust social order would inscribe.'" After hearing of the "'ideologies that motivate [her] teaching,'" students will be "'better people'" than the apparently unenlightened ones who entered. Conversely, Maxine Hairston contends that teachers' sharing of political views "'violate[s] all academic traditions'" regarding "' the free exchange of ideas.'" Instead, teachers should "'encourage diversity,'" necessarily to the exclusion of ideology. The two only agree that through writing classes, students should learn to articulate their ideas (243). How much, then, should teachers influence what those ideas are?

        To clarify her own position on the issue, Breen has a three-sided conversation with herself in the three roles she currently embodies: teacher's assistant, student teacher, and student. Interestingly, each side has a slightly different view, and Breen never comes to a concrete conclusion. The more experienced and self-assured teacher's assistant in her believes that leaving politics out of the classroom creates a vacuum, and to leave it empty would be negligent. Instructors, she contends, have a responsibility to teach students what is and is not socially acceptable. The student assistant tends more towards Hairston, claiming that part of education is developing a sense of self, and that students must feel free to write anything without fear of reprisals. The student rests somewhere in the middle of the others: while, being insecure in her own beliefs, teachers' forceful opinions intimidate her, she appreciates them more than neutrality in lectures and evaluations.

        My own views tend towards those of the ST: students' comments or ideas should not be limited, consciously or unconsciously, by those of the teacher. Sharing views is natural, and the teacher should not censor himself; nevertheless, he should not make the student feel that she should either. It is not the teacher's - or tutor's - job to fill any vacuum; they can offer resources and encouragement but not ideology. We as tutors must be sure to keep our own ideologies out of others' papers and, if such sharing makes tutees uncomfortable, out of sessions entirely. We have to respect their right to hold views different from our own, just as we would want teachers to do for us. Sara Brown - 9.19.01

Vygotsky, L. S. "The Prehistory of Written Language." Mind in Society. Ed. Michael Cole, Vera John-Steiner,    Sylvia Scribner, and Ellen Souberman. London: Harvard UP, 1978.

        Vygotsky dissuades educators of children from teaching writing ("a complex cultural activity") as if it were a motor skill (117-118). Mechanical instruction, such as letter and word formation exercises and the copying of teachers' contrived greetings or other simple sentences, Vygotsky finds inutile in aiding children in the mastery of written language. Perceiving a need for the reformation of such a method of teaching written language, he protests, "Writing must be 'relevant to life'- in the same way that we require a 'relevant' arithmetic" (118). A child should write when he or she has a purpose, not when devoid of purpose (118). The other urgency of practical reform arises from his conclusion that "writing should be 'cultivated' rather than 'imposed'" (118).

        He utilizes his empirical studies on children at play, drawing, and writing, as well as similar research conducted by Hetzer, to outline a prehistory of written language (106-13). In the beginning of his scientifically explored prehistory, the seeds of written language are gestures (107). With these gestures, a child will attempt to "indicate" the general qualities of the object in question rather than attempt an accurate representation of the thing (107). A "sign" then often is no more than a "fixed" gesture (107). For example (my example), after fixation of the initial, indicatory, protesting gesture occurs in one's memory, a picture of a raised fist carries the significance of protestation and rage, henceforth independently of the previously mediating gesture (108-12). Therefore, whereas this picture would have been at first a second-order symbol (denoting the gesture, which denotes the concept of rage and protestation), development (a case of involution in that the mediating gesture becomes no longer necessary for the child to perceive the symbolism of the picture) ratifies the string or reference so that the picture falls from a second-order to a first-order symbol (the picture symbolizes now the word "protestation") (108-12). Vygotsky illustrates this process of sign fixation and its inherent metamorphoses ("evolution" and "involution") between "first-order" and "second-order symbolisms" in the context of child development, specifically playing, drawing, and writing, in order to suggest the nature, in which a child progresses from indicatory drawing with gestures to drawing speech (having pictorial or written equivalents of spoken words at one's memory's disposal, after the discovery made by gesturing), now with the capability to address and represent quantity (115). Vygotsky at this point says, "It was the need of recording quantity, perhaps, that historically first gave rise to writing" (115).

        The chapter is especially beneficial and pertinent to anyone, who is interested in the intricacies and difficulties of translation in Flower and Hayes' cognitive theory of the writing process; because one's considering the function and results of what Vygotsky perceived as the indicatory, gesturing stage of development and discovery of written language among children may even shed new light on the distinct, college dilemma of translating the conversational, "gesturing" voice into the independent, intelligible, academic voice, necessary to conform to the audience of the rhetorical situation at hand. Just as Vygotsky could influence children to perceive a clock to be a drugstore through an association of like gestures, it seems plausible that a tutor, when appropriate, could furnish a tutee with the academic equivalent (or juste mot) to his or her conversational word and help him or her to perceive the aptness of the substitute, by allowing for an exploration of the association of gesture; for it has to be felt by the tutee, since sign fixation is a personal process (109-10). Also, Vygotsky suggests that people will make connections, make meaning, when told to view something as something else. Just as the little girl could see the bottle as a wolf, by describing the mouth of the bottle as the wolf's mouth and the stopper as an object clenched in the wolf's sharp teeth, so it seems that a tutor could help a tutee through a tough metaphor by first supplying a succinct explanation and following it with an allowance of time for the tutee to recreate the meaning out loud, personally testing the aptness of certain nuances of the metaphor so as to make things clearer (110). It is really quite like the girl's analysis the bottle as wolf (110). Jared Fischer. September 19, 2001.

Harris, Muriel. "Talk to Me : Engaging Reluctant Writers." A Tutor's Guide : Helping Writers One on One. Ed.    Ben Rafoth. New Hampshire : Boynston/Cook Publishers, 2000. 24-34.

        Harris addresses the sometimes overwhelming issue of helping students who cannot talk about their work. She lists the various reasons that students may have problems talking to a tutor, including shyness, apprehension about sharing work, distraction caused by other problems, and general boredom with the writing process. Harris then goes on to to provide possible solutions to these problems, inlcuding sample conversations between student and tutor throughout her explanations. Some of her suggestions for improving the quality of the tutoring session are restructuring the goals of the session based on the student's attitude, leaving introverted students time for quiet reflection, and offering a friendly ear to other problems. She also notes that, because both the tutors and the students bring varying personality traits and writing styles to the session, her solutions will not be universally successful.

        Harris's article is much like Koundakjian's in that they both suggestgetting to know the student in a social setting if communication seems to be a problem. However, Harris is quick to point out that the student may become overly reliant on the tutor as a pseudo psychologist and that distratcion from the task at hand sometimes diverts attention completely away from the paper. The problems that Harris identifies could be found in any college student, so her article holds relevence for learning how to communicate with tutees. Her solutions are also plausible, although the hypothetical conversations she includes are somewhat hokey. Overall, the article makes solid points about the importance of recognizing diffferent learning styles in the tutoring process and also offers simple solutions to solve problems that arise when a student is not willing or able to talk about his or her own work. Michelle Ruddle, 09-20-01

Podis, Leonard A. "Training Peer Tutors for the Writing Lab". Working With Student Writers. Ed. Leonard and Joanne Podis. Peter Lang: New York, 1999. 45-51.

        In his article Leonard Podis lays down the foundation for what I understand to be the class that our class is loosely based on. His class has three main goals: to give future tutors extensive knowledge about "language, discourse, and composition", to give them a familiarity with "various helping pedagogical styles", and to give them experience through field work in the lab (Podis & Podis 45). Podis' process of choosing participants is very similar to Goucher's (he gets nominations from the faculty, for instance). His class differs from ours in that "most tutors are junior or senior English majors" (Podis & Podis 45-46).

        I think our class has tweaked the model, for better, in that area; most of us are sophomores and not all of us are English majors. It makes sense to train tutors that will actually be around longer to tutor, and also to have a greater distribution of majors to draw from (every once in a while we'll need Dan to help someone with a bio/chem paper). Podis emphasizes the tutor as a guide and not "as a guard righteously defending the English language against those who would defile it" (Podis & Podis 46-47), a notion I think our class understands and is fairly safe from. The desired products of the class are tutors who have developed "a style which allows them to be as positive and encouraging as they can while still directing the tutee to work in areas needing improvement" (Podis & Podis 49).

        In essence, for all of us to become good tutors, we will have to learn to walk that fine line between teacher and fellow student. Podis ends his article with a note about how the administration appreciates having an elite group of tutors running a lab that helps students in their writing and, subsequently, teachers in their reading. It was only until reading an article from the professor's point of view that I saw us future tutors as partners with the faculty and administartion. Another line to walk I guess. ---- Mike Manglitz, 9/20/01


Schambelan, Elizabeth. " Defining a Persona within Academic Boundaries". Working with Student  Writers. Ed. Leonard Podis and JoAnn Podis. New York: Peter Lang, 193-198.

    Elizabeth Schambelan in this essay strikes an interesting chord as she comments on her personal battle between conformity and iconoclasm in academic writing. Her first effort involves breaking from the mold of the five-paragraph essay. Her teacher rejects her attempt, dismissing it as too confused. Elizabeth's retorts by later submitting a perfect five-paragraph essay on torn loose-leaf paper that she had typed up on a typewriter and onto which she literally cut and pasted paragraphs. The "awful-looking manuscript" received an A, and marked the first clash of pressures for acceptance and success within the academic community and her sense of integrity. Schambelan describes how her problems stemmed from prose in "high" academic discourse that required her to be an evacuated author for the purposes of finding an essential truth that would be lost if the author had emotion. This persona of "Intellectual as God" never sat well with her, because it subdued her actual persona. She goes on to explain how over the years, at Oberlin College, she found more subtle ways to express her self in academia. For instance, she peppered a dry paper on Lewis Carroll with quotations from Marquis de Sade and 120 Days of Sodom to illustrate sadomasochistic imagery in Alice in Wonderland. Comparing these quotes to graffiti, Schambelan, nevertheless, refers to this paper as her first success in integrating the two personas she felt was indelibly separated. She concludes that in order to survive in academia we all must defer to the "Intellectual as God persona", but by writing with this problem in mind we can simultaneously justify the deference and build a unique persona.

       I found this article to be particularly relevant to last weeks readings and our class discussion on Tuesday. Schambelan raises the question of "where does emotion fit into writing model" and "why does good writing entail the author being aloof from his work in a different form. If universal truths don't exist, or if the author simply doesn't believe in them, what is the point of assuming the "Intellectual as God persona"? Why has the emotionless author become so embedded in academic discourse? Perhaps, we make generalizations to preserve order and sense(value).

        I am sure that there is a "knee-jerk individualism" that everyone must overcome to exist in Academia as evidenced blatantly by the simple act of someone going to the writing center and accepting the tutelage of the "rules". Likewise, we should not become slaves to the acceptance of academia, reducing ourselves to collegiate worker bees. Regardless, we should face the fact that we enrolled in Goucher College voluntarily, and recognize that the graffiti described bove may receive attention, but also defaces your environment. Dan Pinnola 9/20/01

Flower, Linda and John R. Hayes. “The Cognition of Discovery: Defining a Rhetorical Problem.” Landmark Essays on the Writing Process. Ed. Sondra Perl. Davis, CA: Hermagoras Press, 1994.

        In this article, Flower and Hayes elaborate upon part of the model for the composition process described fully in “A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing,” asserting that process of writing consists of creating meaning, not merely extracting, or finding, meaning from various internal and external forces. The authors seek to eliminate the “mythology of discovery,” which allows writers to believe that the creativity is a painful process of extracting ideas and meanings from long-term memory and previously acknowledged ideas. Instead, the authors postulate that writing is an act of problem solving, in which the writer tries to get from point A to point B, from an established problem to a reasonable solution. This means that a writer must determine his/her own problem-in other words, the writer must create a self-imposed goal-and from that problem (i.e. essay assignment) respond. The authors call this the rhetorical problem. The rhetorical problem provokes some questions of the writer: namely, the individual writer’s unique response to the determined problem, and whether or not the development of the problem itself helps to generate new ideas/solutions. The authors conclusions are based on a series of protocols, taken from writers categorized as “good” or “poor.” Good writers tend to have more experience as writers, having received NEH fellowships, while poor writers tend to be labeled “novice” and came from an introductory college background.

        The authors break the rhetorical problem into two main parts: situation, which consists of audience, actual assignment, and their constraints, and goals. Four main goals are identified, including how to affect the reader, the creation of the voice or persona, the construction of meaning, and the production of the text itself. The authors break down the presentation of meaning into “stored problem-representations” and “unique representation.” When information comes from “stored” mental faculties, there are established conventions to which the writer conforms. The authors use a “thank-you” letter as an example, for a writer is expected to use specific tone and content appropriate to the stored form. However, for classroom assignments, a “unique representation” of information is necessary, a more developed use of problem-solving the key to responding to the rhetorical problem. A writer’s goals determine whether the composition will be unique or come from a repository of knowledge about how the work is supposed to be.

        The authors find that developed, or “good,” writers tend to think heavily about how to affect their target audience, imagining a more complete picture of the audience’s mindset and how to influence its thoughts. Good writers also think about their voice (although the persona is more apt to be a “stored” construct) and can alter tone and word choice to affect the audience to a greater degree. Good writers also tend to use the process of composition to create meaning. They start with the generation of ideas, but unlike poor writers, they use the generation process to express ideas found in memory, and to find contradictions and more problems, goals that need to be solved. Hence, good writers constantly think of new goals and new ways to structure all of their goals. Good writers make more precise technical composition decisions, employing rhetorical devices to draw the reader in. The authors point out that writers who are also well-read have a greater base of “stored” rhetorical tricks, because they have seem more employed in the writing of others. Good writers are able to “juggle” their situation and goals, creating more depth of thought in the process. In the end, good writers have a better understanding of how to create a problem that needs to be solved, and poor writers have difficulty constructing a problem to begin with. The authors conclude the good writers are good at “problem-finding.” The authors also maintain that goal-setting is a “teachable” skill, and that poor writers can be taught to find problems, to define and explore their goals, to “create inspiration instead of wait for it.”

        Having read “A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing,” this article elucidates the part of the model that the authors call the “task environment.” The task environment interacts with the other components of the model, the actual writing process and the writer’s long-term memory. This article clearly expresses the authors’ ideas of what makes a truly good writer, and gives hope to the tutor that even so-called poor writers can be taught to skills necessary to become a so-called good writer. Therefore, the tutor’s job becomes the facilitation of the problem-solving process, what the authors believe is at the heart of beginning the composing process.

        Before idea generation can take place to a great extent, the writer must first have a goal or clearly defined question. The tutor is in a position to help the writer explore the given assignment, or problem, hopefully finding some sort of issue that needs to be addressed. The tutor can encourage the writer to tackle different perspectives, creating problems that antagonize each other and require solutions that are more complex. Hence, the tutor is not merely checking a written document for errors, but helping the tutor strengthen the entire writing process, an idea that sounds incredibly good in theory, but may be harder to actualize in the writing center setting. In her essay, “Speaking the Written Voice,” Alicia Koundakjian points out that tutors should be an “interpretive audience” for their tutees, and emphasizes the importance of the spoken voice, in addition to the written voice. Hence, a good social dynamic between tutor and tutee may help to establish a connection that can lead to complex discussion about developing problem-solving skills in general, and how they can be applied to the “unique representations” of each paper. Hence, it may in fact to be easier to help the writer move from a large, general composing concept, and how it can be applied to all compositions that follow. Of course, learning these problem-solving skills is not as neat and tidy as described, but can surely be tackled with enough patience, if both the tutor and tutee are willing to try.  ~Nicole Baer, 09-20-01

Bartosenski, Mary.  “Color, Re-vision, and Painting a Paper.”  The Writing Center Journal.  12.2  (1992):  159-173.

             Bartosenski’s article brings up an innovative way to look at academic writing: through color.  In March of 1990, Mary Bartosenski began tutoring a young woman named Marianne at the Colby Writers’ Center.  Marianne came to their first session, tearful and angry, clutching a copy of an unsuccessful essay exam she had taken.  She explained that she was being tested for a learning disability and that she and writing just didn’t seem to click—she easily lost her train of thought, and what she wrote on paper was never clear enough.  Her “sentences always seemed to turn around what she’d meant to say” (160).  She simply wanted to be able to write what she wanted to communicate as easily as she could say it.  Bartosenski took into account the fact that Marianne was an artist and suggested that she try writing with colored pens, an idea that she’d come across in a learning disability article.  Together, they tackled Marianne’s rough draft, discussing unclear parts.  Bartosenski asked her which parts made sense and which parts didn’t so that she could stand back and analyze her own paper.  Marianne then made fuchsia and turquoise marks with her colored pens, scratching out extraneous sentences and making notes in the margins.  She could look at the sentences that she colored and focus on them, one by one, and not get overwhelmed. 

            As time went on, and Marianne made more and more revisions with all sorts of different colors, she got positive feedback from her professor.  And her tutor definitely saw drastic improvement—now, Marianne caught mistakes in her writing before Bartosenski could question them.  Marianne could speak freely about what exactly she wanted to accomplish in a specific passage of writing as she slashed fuchsia marks on the page.  She saw her paper as a whole with lots of layers.  She would use one color as she went through her draft once, and then go back and use a different color to show that her paper was constantly expanding and layering toward her desired product, a concise paper.  Seeing the colors also made it easier for her to see the changes she made.  Using different colors made revising interesting, even less serious and foreboding than the normal blue or black ink marks on typed paper.  And she felt in control when she could underline or scratch things out, a way to “fine-tune her points” (170) so that she could get her point across. 

            Reading this article reinforced just how much we as humans bring to the writing process.  As we’ve been discussing in class, we can’t be separated from our emotions, no matter what step of the writing process we’re working on.  Emotionally, writing used to drain Marianne.  She felt so frustrated that her written language didn’t jibe with her verbal language.  So she used her visual language to access her written language.  The colors she used were “fun,” and they spoke to her emotions, which consequently rose from dejectedness to confidence in her writing.  We’re not all artists, but I think that the color approach has something important in it.  Sometimes our thoughts are so difficult to organize, and the corrections we need to make to create a readable paper are intangible.  That little bit of color therapy could make such a difference.  Highlighting questionable parts of our papers focuses on that one aspect so that we can fine-tune, piece by piece, until the entire paper is what we want it to be.  We are visual; why not make paper-writing a visual process? Turn a dry topic into Technicolor.  Revise, layer by layer, to create a paper of a different color.  –Maggie Butler, 9/19/01

Rose, Mike.  "Rigid Rules, Inflexible Plans, and the Stifling of Language: A Cognitivist Analysis of Writer's Block."  Landmark Essays.  Vol 7.  Ed. Sondra Perl.  Davis, CA: Hermagoras, 1994.  85-97. 

            Rose presents and examines several reasons why some students routinely suffer from writer's block while other students rarely encounter this problem.  He observed the writing habits of ten undergraduate students at UCLA.  Although all ten students possess the same level of skill, five of the students experience frequent writer's block and the other five do not.  Rose's study differs from other studies examining writer's block in that he disregarded clinical interviews and testing and focused on the disability from a purely cognitive perspective; in other words, he focused on the composing process instead of on the completed text.  Rose concludes that what separates the two groups of students is that "the five students who experienced blocking were all operating either with writing rules or with planning strategies that impeded rather than enhanced the composing process" (86).  Also, the group of students that did not experience writer's block utilized less rigid and more functional rules when writing.

            The writing process, which Rose likens to a mathematical problem, is divided into three separate stages: the introductory period which takes place when the problem (or writing assignment) is first presented, the processing period in which the mathematician/writer contemplates possible solutions, and the solution period where the answer is attained.  According to Rose, writer's block generally surfaces in the processing period because "past learning and the particular…direction or orientation that the problem solver takes in dealing with past experience and present stimuli have critical bearing on the efficacy of solution" (87).  In other words, writers that adhere to overly rigid rules of writing are more likely to suffer from writer's block than writers that focus primarily on the content of their writing and secondarily on textbook rules of writing.

            The processing period is further subdivided into rules and plans.  Rules are what "guide response to the myriad stimuli that confront us daily" (87).  Rules are a fixed set of instructions as to how to solve specific problems.  In writing students are taught to abide by rules such as "grab the audience's attention" and "focus on three points in every essay."  An algorithmic rule is one that presents a specific set of instructions (e.g., "when x happens, do y and z.")  Heuristic rules, on the other hand, "allow varying degrees of flexibility when approaching problems" (88).  Heuristic rules are like finding a solution through trial and error, while algorithmic rules present an unchanging formula for producing a given result.  Rose also found that during the planning stage students that request feedback from professors, peers, writing center tutors, etc. are less likely to suffer from writer's block because they expose themselves to a variety of opinions instead of clinging to textbook rules of writing they learned in high school.  According to Rose, "dysfunctional rules are easily replaced with or counter-balanced by functional ones if there is no emotional reason to hold onto that which simply doesn't work" (97).  When students suffer from writer's block, Rose suggests that the writing center tutor ask them what writing rules they learned in high school and then introduce students to more flexible and functional rules that will strengthen their writing instead of inhibit it -- Aliza Epstein, 9/20/01    

Podis, Leonard A.  "Peer Tutors: What the Teacher Can Learn."  Working With Student Writers.  Ed. Leonard A. Podis & Joanne M. Podis.  New York: Peter Lang, 1999.  59-65. 

            Leonard Podis describes what an excellent source of information tutors can be on tutees, and what insight they can provide faculty about their students.  Podis was surprised to find that "tutors assigned to work in writing-intensive courses across the curriculum report that, even when students are able to start projects a few days ahead of time, they are generally quite pessimistic about the possibility of creating much more time in their hectic schedules for additional drafting and revising" (59-60).  In such situations, many parts of the Flowers and Hayes process are severely neglected, and writing can often be forced to take on a very linear pattern.  Podis suggests that faculty follow his example in giving longer time periods, shorter assignments, and intermediate due dates to foster a greater spirit of revision and recursive writing.  In the article, Podis uses the example of a tutor who felt badly about preaching the power of revision when he himself rarely revised his own writing.  Trying out the New Paradigm proposal for one of his papers, he found that "the thrill of revision had been so inspiring that I took home the final draft, opened it up again and found myself doing another radical revision.  Each time I reread it, I found things that, I came to see, had to be changed" (62).  Podis ends his article reminiscing over how he, like his present tutors, had at one time struggled to learn and adopt the new teaching and writing theories.  For us 221 students, we not only have the opportunity to acquaint ourselves with these ways of teaching, thinking, and writing, we have the chance to make some of our own.---Mike Manglitz, 9/27/01 

Sherwood, Steve. "Censoring Students, Censoring Ourselves:  Constraining Conversations in the Writing Center." TheWriting Center Journal. 20.1 (1999): 51-60.

            By addressing the political, educational and personal problems that can arise when confronting a student with a piece of writing that is less than politically correct in its statements, Sherwood explains how the tutor is placed in a position of authority that can inadvertently lead to censorship of the student's ideas.  The role of tutor in the writing center, while being more peer-oriented, is still a role of leadership, however limited it may be.  "Most of the students that come to the writing center are eager to make their papers more acceptable to their professors," and in the face of this need for approval, a suggestion from the tutor could be seen as the "right" way that the ideas should be presented or even the "right" ideas to present.  Through the honest desire to help the student, the tutor may actually be encouraging self-censorship in the student, which may inhibit his or her exploration or discovery of new and valid ideas.  Sherwood also suggests that we as tutors are not in a position of authority that would validate our wish to censor less than ideal ideas or opinions, nor should we, as tutors whose main concern is helping the student develop his or her writing ability, wish to.  By censoring a student to a view considered "correct," we are basically coloring in half of that empty slate available for the student to work with.

            Along with illuminating the ways in which a tutor can put pressure on the ideas of his or her tutee, he also presents a solution to this conflict between the tutor's "own political or ideological agendas" and the First Amendment rights of the student.  As opposed to restricting the writer to the views that we accept as correct, Sherwood concludes that we as tutors should subjectively, without being judgmental, challenge ALL of their ideas, not just the questionable opinions, causing the student to validate them and possibly call "their ideas, ideals, and lines of reasoning into question." 

            I chose this article because of the title.  As a big fan of literature, especially the classics, I have always been aware of censorship and the evil that it can create in the literary world.  So out of this appreciation my interest was sparked by the concept that censorship could enter the writing center environment and my actions as a tutor could have that type of influence on the writings of others.  Throughout the reading of the article, many questions were raised by Sherwood's ideas on censorship within the writing center but Sherwood clearly and understandably tackled all of the doubts that cropped up in my mind as I read the article.  Not only did he address all of the social, political and educational conflicts that arise when censorship is brought into the writing center, but he also possessed a certain amount of passion about censorship himself, which helped when he was conveying his points using personal examples.  He was particularly adamant about not restricting the options of the writer through censorship and allowing him or her to explore their own ideas no matter how dangerous those ideas may be.  To quote Ray Bradbury, "you've got to jump off the cliff all the time and build your wings on the way down."  It was Sherwood's conviction in this concept that helped him to convey his thoughts so effectively.

This article is especially applicable to our class because is reflects how our actions as tutors can fundamentally affect the writing process of our tutees.  The article is helpful because it not only warns again censorship but it also provides advice on how we should approach a situation where censorship could possible occur in our tutoring.  Ideally we as tutors should approach the writing of each student neutrally, considering equally their ideas and their possibility of development, overlooking any personal qualms that we may encounter in their opinions.  But just as one of our earlier readings by Alice G. Brand explains, "the very idea of being both human and impartial is a contradiction in terms."  So to make the best of our own partiality toward some ideas over others, we should question their ideas so as to promote growth and exploration in those ideas, because it is the exploration of foreign and strange concepts, concepts that go against the norm, that creates great writings.

            And just for fun  and because it kind of applies: "Every dimwit editor who sees himself as the source of all dreary blanc-mange plain porridge unleavened literature, licks his guillotine and eyes the neck of any author who dares to speak above a whisper or write above a nursery rhyme."Ray Bradbury  Ralee Miller 9-27-01 

Bishop, Wendy.  Writing from the Tips of Our Tongues: Writers, Tutors, and Talk.  The Writing Center Journal.  14.1 (1993) 30-41.

    Communication, Bishop states, is important in a writing center, because of  the opportunity to enrich one's writing skills through discussion (Bishop 31).  While communicating, the student has a dialogue with he tutor about writing.  That dialogue allows the tutor and the tutee to talk freely about how the writer can improve his work.  In some of my visits to the Writing Center, I have been asked to read my work out loud.  Reading the material out loud helped me to gain a different perspective on what I had written than the one I would have after reading my essay on a computer screen.  When I read an essay out loud, I could pinpoint many of my errors.  The tutor acted like a guide, asking as I read 'How can you change that?'  When typing, not all the mistakes are visible, but hearing the words spoken opens the writer's mind because he is not writing at the moment; his role is to be a listener and a reader.  After he finishes speaking his piece, the tutor and the tutee talk about the paper.  Now that the tutee has gained this other perspective, he is more aware of the piece's weaknesses.  Throughout the session, the tutor and the tutee should always be able to bring up a point or idea for the paper.  The atmosphere must be open so any ideas can be discussed openly.  If the tutor and the tutee can't talk freely analyze the paper together, there is no effect from the session, the dialogue is then lost, and the tutor can't help the student.      

            A point that Bishop stresses is collaboration.  Collaboration is important because the tutor and the tutee are working together for the goal of making a piece of writing fluent.  Collaboration can become hazardous if both voices are not equally heard, or there is no communication between the two voices.  The benefit to collaboration is that the tutor and the tutee can play off each other, coming up with new ideas as they work together on the piece.  The writer is not struggling on his computer to complete the piece himself.  Without the two voices, then there is no collaboration, only one sole voice deciding on a direction for the piece.  When Bishop mentions the creative writer and the collaborative process, that type of writer is often reluctant to collaborate because he wants to work to be solely his, or that he feels like his work is better than average composition (Bishop 34).  If a creative writer feels like this, the writer has this fear that the 'baby' is not his, that in some way, they lost control of his baby, that what he wanted to say was pushed aside.  The creative writer may also feel that his sense of accomplishment is diminished because he has to go to a writing center tutor to be sure that his writing was fluent and comprehendible.  The accomplishment is not diminished because the ideas came from the writer; the tutor's role is to work with the student to improve on what was written.  

            Further in the essay, Bishop states that a writing center should be a place where student writers come to talk, and engage in discussions on writing (33).  Bishop's ideas were similar to the class discussion on how to improve the Writing Center.  Bishop's idea of the community of writers was intriguing, which reminded me of Professor Sander's comment that the Writing Center should become 'A Language Cafe.'  This free flow of ideas from one writer to another, talking about craft, debating over the meaning of a line in a piece, should be the purpose of writing centers.  The group discusses each other's work and develop their own writing abilities in the process.  They talk and hear what people thought what worked and what did not work in the paper.  In order to establish that community, Bishop's ideas of communication and collaboration must be incorporated.  The community is a valuable tool in teaching writers how to improve their skills because they are hearing the processes and critiques of others.  The writer can then look at their own arsenal of skills and determine how his skills can improve.  Another function of the community is to act as the support when a member is afflicted with Writer's Block.  Members of the community can help the struggling member work through the block and return to writing.  The community becomes a training ground and support group as each member starts a new assignment.--Louis Standish, 9/27/2001 

Lehr, Fran. "Revision in the Writing Process". Reading and Communication Skills. 1 Jan. 1995. ERIC Digests. 26 Sept. 2001. <http://ehostvgw19.epnet/delivery.asp…hr&startHitNum=1&rlStartHit=1&delType=FT>

            In this rather boring article, Lehr examines the use of revision in the writing processes of middle-schoolers to college students. Revision, she found, usually connotes to students failure or mistakes in grammar or syntax. Rarely is it used to develop or expand upon ideas. Instead, most students see it as a series of "cosmetic changes rather than as rethinking one's work." She contends that it should be seen not as a process of fixing grammatical mistakes but rather one in which "ideas emerge and evolve."

            To support her claims, Lehr cites research which found that from fourth grade to college-level writers, revision mainly focused on "surface changes." She blames this partly on the classic definition of the stages in the writing process, where revision is the final step apparently used to fix mistakes: this, in my view, is just more evidence of its inadequacy. This strictly structured approach often used to teach writing, she believes, leads to poor revision skills. In think the cognitive model, with its ongoing revision, would lead to a better-developed paper ultimately and should be utilized more often.

            Lehr believes that teachers play a vital role in changing these skills and students' negative attitudes towards revision. She advocates collaborative writing and revision between the teacher and student throughout the entire process. Teachers' (or tutors') questions, for example, about specific parts of students' texts can lead to a revision or expansion of ideas. We must be careful, however, not to give suggestions that lead to the work being "focused… on those [purposes] of the teacher:" such suggestions make it more the teacher's work than the student's result in a general loss of interest. This point reinforces my belief that teacher should allow students to choose, within the limits of the assignment, topics that interest them. Implicitly acknowledging the power of the audience, she recommends that public readings or viewings may motivate students to do their best in regards to both grammar and ideas. I like this idea: it gives the student more to work for that just a high grade and teacher approval. She concludes by insisting that teachers "emphasize the whole text over its parts" to help students realize "the power of writing… [in] shaping ideas" rather than earning a grade. Echoing what I said last week, I believe that this, rather than plugging the right variables into some sort of literary formula, should be the goal of writing: to learn and teach about oneself and the world, to explore ideas and learn to think critically about the world. *sara brown* 9.26.01 

Kellogg, Ronald T.  "Competition for Working Memory among Writing Processes."  American Journal of Psychology 114.2 (2001): 175-191. 

            Using Linda Flower and John R. Hayes' Cognitive Process Theory as a framework for his research, Ronald Kellogg designed an experiment to examine working memory in relation to the writing process.  Extracting a definition of writing processes from Flower and Hayes' model, Kellogg classifies the processes for the purpose of his study "as planning, translation, and reviewing" (176).  Kellogg establishes in his article a background concerning previous research related to his experiment.  In this respect, Kellogg illustrates the historical development for his study.

            Kellogg's experiment echoes Flower and Hayes' tape recording sessions where the writers voice their thoughts aloud as they type.  Unlike the original experiment, Kellogg appears to discover that which Flower and Hayes ignored through his examination of the effect composing has on working memory.  Whereas Hayes and Flower acknowledged that memory played a role in the writing process, Kellogg's approach investigated how the writer uses his or her memory during the writing process.  Kellogg determines his study  "experimentally manipulated the demands of planning and the motor execution phase of translating performance on a written composition task and directly tracked the use of working memory resources by planning, translating, and reviewing" (176).   The researchers instructed the students in the study to "[categorize] his or her thoughts at the time of the probe as planning, translating, reviewing, or other unrelated processes" (176).  During each composition at various time intervals, a tone signaled (the probe) the writers to categorize their process while the researchers observed a probe reaction time (RT).  He attempts to ascertain how the brain utilizes the working memory, whether or not the three processes compete for memory resources.  Writers in Kellogg's study used both writing longhand and typing on a word processor and composed "narrative, descriptive, [and] persuasive text" (177). 

            Kellogg found that the RT data "support the hypothesis of a common resource but also suggest that it is not divided equally in all cases" (181).  Nevertheless, Kellogg reviewed the data from various angles.  He clearly discusses the various reasons for the particular occurrence of the observed data.  Relating back to previous research, Kellogg's "analysis of processing time" supports the "typical patterns" of earlier findings (183).  Providing a thorough analysis of the methods used to conduct the study, Kellogg creates possibilities for future researchers to further investigate.  His study does appear to substantiate the pattern described in Flower and Hayes' cognitive theory model of writing.

The study applies itself to teaching and tutoring in a subtle, but no less important respect.  The methods used in the experiment by the researchers can manifest themselves in teaching techniques.  By familiarizing students with the cognitive theory and by educating students to categorize their processes as they compose, teachers give students the tools by which they may gain a better understanding of their personal writing process, and gain an awareness of their process in their writing.  Perhaps, or ideally, students could learn to make better use of their working memories, but a better understanding of such means needs examining.   9.27.01 Leah Frank 

Murphy, Christina. “Freud in the Writing Center: The Psychoanalytics of Tutoring Well.” The Allyn and Bacon Guide to Writing Center Theory and Practice. Ed.            Robert W. Barnett and Jacob S. Blumner. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2001. 296-301. 

Christina Murphy takes a very different look at the interaction between a tutor and the student. Murphy makes an argument for the presents of Freud’s theories of psychoanalysis in the writing conference. She claims that the students that come to the writing center are expressing their desire for help with their writing and tend to display emotions of anxiety, self-doubt, negative cognition, procrastination and general insecurities about their writing. Murphy states that it is part of the tutor’s job to establish a comfortable one-on-one relationship. Where the student will feel comfortable talking to the tutor about his ideas and perhaps be able to articulate the possible reasons for his difficulty in writing the paper, as well as the goals for the particular writing assignment. As he is expressing these thoughts and emotions, the student places himself in a very vulnerable position to the tutor. By being so expressive the student makes himself vulnerable to the tutor’s judgements, agreements, disagreements, acceptances, and misunderstandings. According to Murphy, it is the tutor’s role to establish an environment in which the student will be able to articulate himself freely and “awaken individuals to their potentials and to channel their creative energies toward self-enhancing ends” (299). If the tutor is successful, he will not only help the student with his writing but also give him a clearer understanding of himself.

            It is important to bare in mind when tutoring students that it takes a lot of courage for the student to realize that they need help and then to go seek it. As Murphy states at the beginning of the article, the student who goes to the writing center wants help with his writing. The next step is to break down the walls of reservation while conferencing. The student, in a sense, puts himself in a very vulnerable position. He reveals his writing to another peer, in some cases one who may be a stranger or worse one who is a good friend, and has to explain the assignment and his thoughts on the topic. This makes him liable to be judged in many ways by the tutor and that is a hard idea to overcome for many students. The students who seek help, will find ways to justify the reasons for not writing well and needing to seek help. This facilitates them to overcome the fear of being evaluated by the tutor, especially if they feel the evaluation is negative. Once again Rogers concept of unconditional positive regard is mentioned, reminding the tutor that the act of writing is very person and that any sort of value judgements made by the tutor regarding the student’s work will have severe repercussions for the student. For example he may not want to go to the writing center again, he may be discouraged to write, or feel that his writing is worthless. The creation of a positive relationship between the tutor and student will help the student reach the ultimate goal of bettering himself.

            When Murphy writes about students who come to the writing center she lists particular characteristics that make the tutoring process harder: anxiety, self-doubt, negative cognition and procrastination. Personally I would have to argue that although procrastination has been always viewed in a negative way, for some people it works. Through the papers that we’ve written about how we write and from personal experience, sometimes what is needed is the pressure of the clock weighing down on the person to make them write. Whether the writing that is the product of that type of situation is good or not, is hard to judge since it’ll dramatically vary from person to person. However I don’t believe that procrastination is always a bad thing, although it limits the revision and evaluation process, it also forces the student to focus. Although I’ll admit that in a tutoring setting it does not leave the tutor with a lot options but instead limits the work that can be done.--Olga Wartenberg, 09-26-01 

Howey, Noelle.  “The Dilemmas of Grading.”  Working With Student Writers.  Ed. Leonard and Joanne Podis.  Peter Lang: New York, 1999.  95-100.

Unlike Peter Elbow, Noelle Howey is not talking so much about an inhibitive audience leading to a case of writer’s block in her essay.  Her mind doesn’t blank out as a protection against failure; her more expressive thoughts are completely smothered in the effort to earn an A, the only acceptable letter grade.  “Personal experience or even alternative readings of texts were not permitted to enter [her] papers.”  In some high schools, the strict impersonal writing rules are like the ten commandments of the English Department.  I can picture the stone slab up in my 12th grade English Classroom: “Thou shalt not say I in the 5-paragraph essay.”  Howey describes the separation between the academic and personal voice as “dangerous for all students.”  If learning is about understanding oneself and one’s world better, why is writing in High school and first year College comp. Courses  so much about detaching that self from the work?  Everything we learn is related in our minds to everything else.  It should not be punishable through a lower grade the way Howey explains her school did, when writing, to provide a personal view or story to the thesis.  It makes the essay more interesting for the writer to write and for the reader to read.  The most interesting articles I have found this semester have been the ones that make a point through a story, not by stating the idea and methodically listing the points underneath in a formulaic pattern. 

Although grades are often a means of incentive for a student to learn information they might be interested in, but couldn’t be bothered to learn otherwise, they are also detrimental in certain areas where it is impossible to lay out a specific set of rules to follow.  In cases like these, in to which essays fall, Howey argues that evaluations are the most productive means of grading, whether written or oral.  At the end of her essay, Howey says, “In the end, the most important thing that needs to be communicated about the grading system is its insignificance.”  Personally, I have had great success on essays when given the chance to hear a teacher’s analysis in person.  The chance to explain ideas and reason points out one on one is a superior technique in teaching and grading.  This is a good reason why tutoring and writing centers are a very helpful way to help every English student improve as a writer and not as an A seeker.  -Helena Flint, 9/27/01 

Fulwiler, Toby.  “Provocative Revision.”  The Writing Center Journal.  12.2  (1992) 190-204. 

Fulwiler’s article addresses the intimidating process of revision.  According to Fulwiler, “teaching writing is teaching re-writing” (190).  He recognizes that, to many college students, revision means some simple spell checking and rearranging.  But he claims, “revision is the primary way that both thinking and writing evolve, mature, and improve” (190).  He says that limiting, adding, switching, and transforming are four components of “provocative revising,” revising that.  Limiting involves narrowing a topic from broad generalizations to specific instances with telling details so that the reader can get a closer look at the problem.  For instance, if the writer is describing what goes on behind the scenes of a high school play, it’s more desirable to tell what occurs on a particular performance night rather than tell what usually occurs.  Adding simply means introducing new information and better explanation, but it does a great deal.  Adding dialogue and interviews can spice up dry information and help limit action, place, and time by putting real people in the scene (196).  Switching, or writing the paper from a different perspective, can also introduce more information that wasn’t in the paper before.  Switching point of view and voice reveal the problem from a fresh angle and can add more details that the first angle couldn’t.   Finally, transforming the paper offers an exciting experiment that can do away with any research paper “staleness” (201).  Changing the paper from a formal report to a set of diary entries or a fictional filmed interview is a way to make the process more enjoyable for the students to do and the teachers to grade.  This article shows the inventive side of revising that makes the paper the writer’s own.  It attempts to do away with the impersonal five-paragraph structure so that the writer is visibly present in his or her work. 

Before reading this article, I shuddered to think of revision; I skirted it by checking for sentence structure and changing a few words around.  “Revision” was just a scary word.  It meant rewriting the paper that had caused so much pain to write, so I merely disguised the old paper as a new one.  But when you break the word down, its parts are benign, even beneficial—it means re-seeing.  In the Flower and Hayes article, revising, or reviewing, is a “springboard” to new dimensions of writing that we didn’t know existed.  They say that we can find “new cycles of planning and translating” when we take a different view (374).  Fulwiler writes that the first draft is general and incomplete (194).  His revision methods treat the research paper as if it is an exciting exploration: “re-seeing writing in a different form is, at the same time, generative, liberating, and fun” (201).  We can see a new vision of our papers if we treat them as creative projects—using interesting details, changing points of view, and changing the form of the paper.  And the final draft becomes complete in the sense that through seeing our paper in a new way, we have actively taken part in it, not just churned out another cookie-cutter formal essay.  –Maggie Butler, 9/25/01 

Parks, Steve and Eli Goldblatt. “Writing Beyond the Curriculum : Fostering New Collaborations in Literacy.” College English. 62.5(2000) 584-606.

            Parks and Goldblatt discuss the current state of programs defined as WAC (Writing Across the Curriculum) and the future of such programs in institutes across the country. They acknowledge the importance of extending college programs beyond the classroom and into other areas of study and community-based projects and praise the efforts of WAC courses to “think more about the context and nature of student learning than they might within the traditional content-driven model of college teaching” (584). In this article, Parks and Goldblatt also call for a reformation of the program to become even more inclusive of different schools of thought and academic communities. They maintain that, “if compositionists reframe WAC to reach beyond university boundaries, we can foster cross-pollination and interdisciplinary discussion of how knowledge is shaped and conveyed in culture” (585).

            They first deal with the problems associated with the integration and expansion of the academic community. The authors define jealousy or lack of respect among academics as a major issue in their movement, as well as lack of respect towards students who are education majors. They also make reference to the increasingly negative attitude of our society towards high-priced liberal arts schools and education programs that seem to produce less-qualified teachers. There is a discrepancy between the higher expectations of incoming college students and the lack of funding for the types of programs they are suggesting.  Parks and Goldblatt insist that an “integrated and productive educational environment requires an active dialogue between educators, neighborhood members and students about the future of their region,” even suggesting that discourse between high school and college instructors would increase the success of WAC (593).

            Their solutions to these problems and the overwhelming problem of how to reform the education system include not only increased interaction between academic colleagues, but also an overall increase in the contact with the community and outside world.  This applies not only to students, but to all educators and members of organizations dealing with education. Parks and Goldblatt encourage participation in “actual community politics” and support the idea of a “broad, integrated educational community” (596).

            The article ends with stimulating questions pertaining to the relevance and difficulty of their proposal, including their three defined problems of “maintaining focus, gathering support, and building alliances” (600). They also tackle the issue of college students who are trying to combine the goal of getting an education mainly to increase salary after college (or, as Parks and Goldblatt call it, “5 to 8 years of indentured servitude in exchange for their degrees” (601)) with the overriding goal of instructors to educate for the sake of education. Parks and Goldblatt also outline the next steps their program should take, including a more intense “graduate training and prep” programs for teachers (601).

            While this article seems to be geared mostly toward college instructors and other academics who make important decisions about the course college programs make, I found it to be extremely interesting and relevant to our class and Goucher’s educational system. The goal of Parks and Goldblatt to “reconceptionalize WAC” is an important one to any academic institution (592). The proposed efforts to reach beyond our sheltered educational community and into the ‘real world’ are valid to any program that professes to enhance the knowledge and abilities of students. Bringing the article closer to home in our efforts to become better writers and tutors, I found the stress on interaction among colleagues to be pertinent. An open discourse will be required to communicate with and aid students with their writing. Even in Goucher’s Writing Center, there needs to be an open line of conversation between students (be they tutors or tutees) and the ruling academic community. It ensures the proper information is being relayed and also encourages students to become more open to talks about their writing with other peers or instructors. I also thought the article encouraged thought about the future of the Writing Center and others like it and its large role in the future of education. The focus of Parks and Goldblatt on community outreach also affects our Writing Center. Perhaps now, as both writers and tutors, we can focus on the Writing Center and college writing in general as a link to the outside world and not isolated within Academia. Michelle Ruddle 9-27-01 

Elbow, Peter. “The Teacherless Writing Class.” Writing Without Teachers. London: Oxford UP, 1973. 

        Though seeming quite absurd, when heard out of context, Elbow’s dramatic, italicized charge that “in writing, anything can do anything” encapsulates two ideas central to his understanding of writing as “business” or “transaction” (77-97). First, he claims that readers “experience” texts and respond to “time-bound, subjective but factual” questions, arising from their “perceptions” and “experiences” as readers (85). Second, he dissuades readers and writers from operating (which includes criticizing, evaluating, discriminating, revising, censoring, etc.,) under the strictures of certain, polar couples, namely “right” vs. “wrong,” and “good” vs. “bad” (80). Rather, he suggests the usefulness of replacing these couples with another more pressing one: “it works” vs. “it doesn’t work”  (80). Implicitly, what works (or that is to say, what receives lucid perception) for one reader may not work for another (80). In this way, Elbow depicts the high degree of subjectivity innate in one’s experience of reading and in one’s interaction with language (80-82). Is it not logical then that writers are constantly in dire need of “feedback”- do not they constantly have provocation to test-out exactly how their social comments, ideas, voices will be perceived, experienced by diverse readers? From this vantage, in an effort to provide a practical reality, capable of meeting this need, so central to all writers, Elbow promotes the novel “teacherless classroom” (78). One may ask, why not have a teacher? A (singular) teacher is by far, in truth, too narrow of a source of feedback; he or she hardly represents the average reader, the wider audience of a text- nor, as Elbow adds, does he or she usually describe adequately his or her experiences and perceptions of the texts, but instead he or she is somewhat quick to correct mistakes and attach a grade (77). Elbow talks about texts “getting into reader’s heads,” and probably, one would desire feedback, which would acknowledge that more heads than just that of the teacher are reachable by a certain text in view (77-78).  So Elbow conceives that a class, meeting without a teacher, with students all of whom are committed to writing something each week and to reading all the others’ works (or listening to them being read aloud), would (almost therapeutically) promote a well distributed and diversified source of feedback (78-79). He adamantly encourages interaction between the disciplines and genres, so long as seven to twelve people meet and are committed to listening to each others’ experiences of the texts and thereby learning better to understand and anticipate the typical or wider audience (78-79).

It is made clear that no reader-reaction is irrelevant, though some are more productive than others (97). Often, he says, one may ask a reader to work backwards from an ambiguous reaction to find the latent validity or truth of the statement- and in this way, discover which “parts” of the text (rather than the whole) encourage the reaction, experience (97). Responses based on the temporal reading experience are more productive (in terms of expressing what worked or did not work) than those based on (often “dubious”) theories; however, the reality is that, though theories are often counterproductive to the reader, when solely describing experience, theories tend to pollute (or saturate) perceptions (97).   Pointing to words, summarizing, telling, and showing with gestures or drawings an unclear thought or impression, all these Elbow finds to be relevant and productive modes of supplying a writer with needed feedback (76-106). The writer, in listening, learns what to trust about the audience and, conversely, what to trust about his or her own self or writing (101).

Considering the practical value of this chapter for our college, our course and our writing center, I am convinced by Elbow's writing that such a teacherless classroom (meeting group or club) would be ideal and productive for Goucher students in that feedback would become as ready as a hamburger at Pearl Stone Café. Maybe the writing center could group-up those individuals, interested in writing feedback -in groups of seven to twelve and have them meet once a week and, basically, carry on as Elbow describes. Maybe we would have them even read Elbow as an assigned text for the club or class Theatre majors could help poets by experiencing, out loud, the tone of a poem, the voice of a poem, for example. Also, this would resituate writing as a social event, as business, and as an expressive event and would, hopefully, pull students away from the rigid confines of having only teacher-student relationships, where fear of grades lurks over one’s every waking thought, rendering the relationships quite uneasy. If one gets feedback from seven students (all in the academic discourse community), which tell him or her that his or her prose is lucid; then, most likely, that prose piece will be somewhat lucid for the teacher. So, with a teacherless meeting group, students may test the waters and build their confidences as writers. Though Elbow wrote in the seventies, I would strongly suggest that Goucher appropriate his teacherless classroom design. Note, this does not necessarily mean the removal of professors from courses, it means setting up meeting groups, associated with the writing center to supply writers with hearty, useful feedback of all kinds. - Jared Fischer September 27, 2001      

Brown, Jean; Stephans, Elaine. “Writing as Transformation: A New paradigm for Content Writing.” Clearing House, Sep/Oct 95, Vol. 69 Issue 1. Pgs 14-18.

            Brown and Stevens, in their article "Writing as Transformation", urge a few basic tenets: writing is a way of knowing, clarifying ideas, and using new information to synthesize information already part of one's schema. They agree with Brand that the old linear process model of writing is antiquated, and the new paradigm must be a recursive model. The theory of Writing as Transformation encompasses three facets: Writing as intuition, writing as metacognition, and writing as a change agent. These principles may function concurrently or separately, but are not hierarchal by nature, as opposed to the Flower and Hayes model. The "common foundation" for this model is that authentic writing results from the fusion of thought and emotion. When the writer combines cognitive and affective responses they begin to make connections; this merge represents the construction of meaning that transforms the author.

Writing as intuition stems from the latent desire of the individual to express himself, to harness the power of communication from the written word. Examples include making lists, copying instructions, or recording observations, personnel use only comes onto play as a means of communicating with others. Metacognition refers to a vehicle for reflection. Writers gain understanding of what they learn, apply this knowledge, and learn how to solve problems. Writing as a change agent is simply the result of the aforementioned processes. Increased perceptions and knowledge, provides the impetus for change inside of and to the surroundings the individual.

"Writing as Transformation" displays an interesting model of writing, but in my opinion doesn't represent the writing process so much as the Flower and Hayes model, but better describes why reasons for writing arose and the benefits of it rather than what thought processes govern actual writing. Nonetheless, the paper touches upon some important, pertinent topics. In short terms, the three facets mentioned above combine independently or in conjunction to produce original thought, a must in "good writing" according to past readings, which transforms the writer. However, I think a better way to say this the writing process is really a growing process. I would rearrange the model to state intuition leads to creation, which leads to growth, or transformation, which may be the driving force in nature. Growth may also be an organization effort for the purpose of making sense (value) to reality. There is a hypothesis built from Einstein's Theory of Relativity that states time is a function of entropy, and the passage of time is a movement towards higher entropy (less order) in the universe. Perhaps the will to write and growth inherent in human nature is an attempt against disorder and thus time itself.  - Dan Pinnola 9/27/01   

Murray, Donald.  “All Writing is Autobiographical.”  Landmark Essays on Writing Process.  Ed. Sondra Perl.  Ann Arbor:  Hermagoras Press, 1994.  207-216.

            Murray writes about writing as a personal experience that is expressed autobiographically, no matter what the topic or medium is.  Murray identifies writing as a personal process, one which people often do as therapy, to help them understand their experiences.  We each choose our different topics for different reasons, and we write about them in our own “language,” which is a product of our experience.  Murray’s main point is that we take bits and pieces of our own personal experience, coupled with our own creative, fictional ideas, and bring them together into something meaningful on paper.

Murray uses many examples of his own writing to prove his point.  In one example, a novel that he is beginning to write, he cites ideas in the novel that are completely autobiographical, and other events that are merely based on ideas he has had.  Generally, the things that are autobiographical are those attached to great emotion, such as his feelings for a wife (whose name is changed) or memories of war.  He asks, “Is the setting real?” and responds with Herman Melville’s quote:  “’It is not down on any map; true settings never are’” (212).  The response emphasizes Murray’s point by showing that although the details of a story may be changed, the premise and setting remain true because they are a part of him; they are based on autobiographical events.

Murray also notes that writings which are at first imaginary later become autobiographical.  His poem, “Black Ice,” was originally based on a childhood memory but due to an impulse of creativity, it soon became completely un-autobiographical.  Of course, after the poem was completed, it became autobiographical because the images of the poem struck him so much that he could not escape them in his real life.  This proves even further that writing is a personal process because Murray created something even greater than himself or his own memory – and it affected him in a very personal way.

Murray concludes by stating that writing becomes an autobiographical experience for the writer because they can learn from the experience of professional writers who write about their own experiences, and they can also apply the experiences of others to their own lives, thus making writing autobiographical from all levels and perspectives.  His thesis is relevant to students of composition theory because it proves how writing is very personal and how everybody has a different standard of writing, based on their own experience.--Amy Bartlow 9/27/01  

Podis, Lauren.  “No Voice, No Vote: The Politics of Basic Writing.”  Working with Student Writers: Essays on Tutoring and Teaching.  Eds. Leonard Podis and JoAnne Podis.  New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1999.   

              In “No Voice, No Vote” Podis examines the way in which expository writing programs and peer-run writing centers fit into the larger academic setting, finding that both are generally regarded as inferior to critical literary studies.  Podis begins by explaining her position within the academic hierarchy; she grew overhearing her parents’ conversations about “discourse communities and paradigm shifts.”  Her unique position as the daughter of Oberlin’s Leonard Podis allows her to see the dynamics of academic hierarchy from the writing center’s point of view.  Podis makes two claims: 1) expository writing programs are important and 2) expository writing programs are not well respected. 

            Podis explains her father’s involvement with Oberlin College and his struggle to validate the importance of the Expository Writing Department and the “bias toward its existence.”  Podis contends that most faculty view composition as useful, but that it is intellectually inferior to literary criticism.  A general distrust of expository writing instruction exists because of the “idea of remediation which they seem to imply.”  To most students and faculty, the writing center and expository writing classes are places to send writers that are having difficulty composing and are commonly considered “poor” writers.  Another stigma associated with the programs consists of the belief that expository writing classes are harboring “unfit” students, creating tension between those in expository classes and those in literature-based classes.  Because of this rift, Podis claims that composition instructors suffer smaller salaries, hold a greater number of part-time and temporary positions, and teach a higher volume of course loads.   Essentially, many teachers and students consider composition a “vocational education,” that does not have bearing in high academic discourse.  Writing then becomes a necessary evil—a tool not “an end in itself.” 

            Podis also sees political and social ramifications in the disrespect accorded expository writing courses.  Expository writing classes now teach New Paradigm methods that stress the composition process—not actual product, the importance of learning from error, and that anyone can achieve proficiency in writing.  Non-traditional approaches may seem threatening to literary scholars who obey certain methods to maintain an academic voice.  Podis hopes to break the boundaries between the two English establishments, making writing programs permanent members of academia, and not part of the “academic ghetto” to which they are currently relegated. 

            Podis’ concerns about expository writing instruction are important to consider, for writing center tutors must deal with many of these problems.  Unfortunately, people who consider themselves proficient and talented writers do not really feel a need to visit the writing center, emphasizing the perceived remedial nature of writing center tutorials.  Watching a writing center session recently was rather boring—the tutor on duty reported that the writing center usually only gets strong business during the weeks of midterms and finals, a fact that highlights the use of the writing center as a last-ditch resort in the writing process, when it should be one of the first.  The problem becomes a matter of changing popular opinion about what the writing center actually does.  It would be interesting to think about the ways in which the work of the writing center could be incorporated into the curriculum, perhaps allowing peer tutors to lead in-classroom sessions, or offering their services to the writers of literary magazines and newspapers.  If people knew that the writing center’s goals are applicable to just about any type of writing, it may achieve status greater than that of the academic ghetto.-Nicole Baer, Sept. 27, 2001

Bell, Diana C. and Mike T. Hübler.  "The Virtual Writing Center: Developing Ethos Through Mailing List Discourse." 

Writing Center Journal.  21 (2001): 69-77.

             Bell and Hübler present a study of a writing center's incorporation of a mailing list as a form of communication between the tutors.  The purpose of this online discussion was to encourage interaction between the tutors (67).  Bell and Hübbler monitored the postings throughout the year, seeing how much each tutor contributed and how the dialogue between the tutors progressed (63).  The use of this technology as a tool is similar to the public folder discussions in English 211 and 221, in that students have the opportunity to reflect on a topic, or start a dialogue.  As in the 211 and 221 postings, the online discussion allows for a freer, open-ended discussion.   A problem that arises with an online discussion is that some participants may not be comfortable enough to post regularly.  In the study, this was especially true for newer tutors.  The chart on page sixty-six says that the tutors who were not frequent contributors to the discussion were newer tutors.  In addition to newer students not contributing often to the discussion, the director and the teacher of the Writing Center also did not contribute frequently.  If the faculty positions contributed regularly to the discussion, they would appear to be interested and following the discussion.  The faculty positions should not always lead the discussion, but should have enough of a presence to let the tutors know that they are interested in the conversation.  A presence can demonstrate to newer tutors unfamiliar with this type of discussion that there is a wider support system in addition toe the student tutors and that the faculty are interested in ways in improving every tutor's skills. 

        The experienced tutors contributed more because they were comfortable enough with the technology and their ideas to post.  When the online discussion stared, the first postings were tests to see how much the tutors' skills were developed (65).  This period in the discussion is difficult because the tutors are testing each other and trying to assess each other's abilities.  One of the veterans, Carmen, posted a question, and the post following her question did not directly answer her inquiry (67).  This avoidance by the other tutors illustrates how the tutors wanted to muster up some intelligent words so they can feel like an equal with a veteran like Carmen.  A tutor may struggle for days trying to think of something to say in the discussion.  As conversations develop, some tutors like Carmen may dominate the discussion, because they are so used to the technology.  Tutors who are not as comfortable with the online discussion may not feel that there is a place to contribute their ideas, or they do not want to interrupt the flow of the discussion.  Those tutors may feel that they are on the periphery of the conversation and that they are not included on what is happening.  When the inhibited tutor does think of an idea to contribute to the conversation, the topic may have already changed.  The inhibited tutors may be reluctant to post because the post is available for everyone to see.  Posting on an online discussion leaves the inhibited tutor vulnerable and open to the scrutiny of new and veteran tutors.

            There are benefits to the usage of an online discussion board, such as the tutors having that open discussion about tutoring.  A support system is created for the tutors to use in order to ease them through difficult tutoring periods, or when they are stuck on a particular aspect of tutoring.  The online discussion also allows the tutors to relax and talk informally.  A running joke within the postings was a new tutor named Josh proclaiming himself a king and the other tutors taking on the position of queen or lord (73).  Camaraderie was established between the tutors because the discussion was not solely oriented on a serious discussion on tutoring.  The posts became informal as some of the students started using abbreviations such as btw, which stood for 'by the way' (71).  The informality that developed between the tutors exhibited the community that formed as a result of the posting.   Bell and Hübler did not mention any efforts on the parts of the more contributing tutors to include less vocal tutors in the postings.  Tutors who have more articulate voices should try to find ways to help the quieter tutors post more.  The discussion board's environment has to be one where everyone can feel that there is a chance to participate.     -Louis Standish, 10/24/01

 Russell, Scott.  “Clients Who Frequent Madam Barnett’s Emporium.”  The Writing Center Journal 20 (1999) : 61-    72.

             Had I been told that, a couple of years ago, someone compared writing center tutors to prostitutes, I would have expected to see such a skit on Saturday Night Live, not an article in The Writing Center Journal.  At first scan of the article, I laughed out loud.  It seemed so humorous that a writing scholar would compare reading students’ papers in the writing center to turning tricks.  But through deeper reading, I found that the similarities studied showed the stark reality of the usually negative connotation that the writing center has.  And, even though the article offered a very extreme extreme of what we can find in the writing center, it shows that some clients can be downright pathological. 

             Russell thought that exploring the similarities between prostitution and tutoring would be an amusing experience, but he found shocking parallels that revealed truths about how the public sees the writing center and how tutoring has changed him personally.  First, he states that “both tutors and sex workers have to deal with multiple clients, often strangers, for purposes that are ostensibly for the client’s gratification.  Both workers deal with aspects of the client’s performance that are intimate in nature and involve the client’s ego” (62).  Russell came up with three main groups of clients.  The Occasional Client is an average, achieving student who drops by the center when he gets a bad grade on an English paper.  He has difficulties with the normal technicalities of writing, like numbering pages and some rhetorical devices, and his interaction with the tutor goes smoothly.  The Habitual Appointment has favorite tutors and brings in assignments that are due the next day.  When the tutor makes proofreading suggestions, her paper looks the same when she brings it back.  She comes to the center right before it closes, and she only meets with male tutors.  She has problems with structuring sentences, so she finds tutors that are responsive to her specific needs.  The Compulsive Writing Center Groupie uses his writing issues as a way to tell his life story.  No matter how the tutor tries to get him back on track, he always finds a way to talk about something else.  He is looking for a personal connection with someone, and the intimate atmosphere of the writing center attracts him. 

         Within these three main groups, there are four subsets of writing center tutees.  The Brutal Drop-In is rushed, frantic, and aggressive, asking, “So what do I write?” The tutor offers suggestions, but she is rude and demands immediate satisfaction.  She is convinced that writing is out to make her look inadequate.  The Punctuation Fetishist’s paper is basically one long sentence saying nothing, peppered with semi-colons and dashes.  He is convinced that simple sentences with periods and commas are “lowly,” and that he must write in a very complex, almost nonsensical manner in order to be on the “high” end of academia.  Finally, The Moral Imperative comes to the center almost undercover because his dad is a science professor, and he will be incensed if he finds out that his son is getting writing help.  The father’s opinion on getting help with writing taints and stymies his son’s relationship with writing—the son feels that he should be ashamed of asking for assistance. 

         Of course, these generalized groups of students are extremes.  Even though we all experience the pathological panic attacks inherent in college writing, there could be the possibility of a really difficult tutee.  We can’t let this article wig us future tutors out.  These groups of students come in many different dosages, and hopefully most will be small.  When I visited the writing center last year (yes, admittedly, I went for help only once), I went knowing that what I took from the session depended on what I opened up to.  I also half-hoped that the tutor would lend me her magic writing-clarity hat and that I would learn all there was to know about making my paper splendid during my time with her.  There was no magic, but I felt a good deal better about what my fascist teacher wanted to get from my paper (sorry about that…but she was a bit on the dictatorial side).  The writing center “fix” turned out to be what I needed. 

         What really interested me about this article was what it showed Russell about the center and himself.  He discusses how law treats prostitution and the writing center.  Unlike prostitution, the writing center is by no means illegal anywhere, but it is a “fringe” system, an intimate place set apart from the norms of the classroom, which universities “legalized” so that students could learn to write well enough to graduate (70).  Also, just as legalized prostitution in Norway made it possible for “ugly” or “disabled” men to have relations, the writing center has made it possible for “disabled” writers to have another chance at writing (69).  The writing center is a perfectly legitimate place with a perfectly legitimate purpose for everyone, but the society of the university has given it a shady reputation, as if only the outcasts who have a snowball’s chance in hell of faring well in their writing classes go there. 

         Russell also found that, just as prostitutes become desensitized to intimacy after a few years of hustling, he too became desensitized to the quality of his writing.  He couldn’t tell when he needed help with his own writing because he had been such a godhood to students.  Prostitutes put up certain emotional blocks so that they don’t get hurt or attached in the show of intimacy with a client.  The writing tutors also put up emotional blocks against certain types of tutees so that they don’t get too attached or taken up in the struggle of the tutees. 

         Society deems prostitution wrong because it undermines the purity of sex between people who care for each other.  Perhaps the university doesn’t always see the writing center as legitimate also because it gets in the way of the sacred relationship between the professor and his devoted students.  But with writing, the more people who are involved, the more pure it is.  As we have read in the past articles, writing is a social activity.  It gathers emotions and constructs and views into one huge mound, and we have to root through the pile with others’ input and ideas to find what we want.  Talking with multiple writing partners is good.  Writing should even be an orgiastic experience, because everyone is involved.  –Maggie Butler, 10/24/01

 Sansevere, Samantha.  “On the Use of ‘I’ in Academic Writing.”  Working With Student Writers.  Ed. Leonard Podis and

         JoAnne Podis.  New York:  Peter Lang, 1999.  251-260.   

            In her essay, Sansevere makes an excellent case for the use of personal pronouns in academic writing.  She cites several reasons why it is important for students in particular to use “I” in their writing.  The most important reason, according to Sansevere, is that it benefits the student’s development of an individual voice in his or her writing.  Since writing is such a creative process, Sansevere believes that it is nearly impossible for human beings to be objective under any circumstances, and especially in writing; consequently, the experiences about which people write, as well as their goals for their writing, are subjective.  According the Sansevere, “A voice is to writing what a personality is to a person” (254).  Voice and personality affect each other to help the student develop a unique sense of self within his or her writing.  She argues that stability is essential to good writing; if the author’s voice cannot be clearly recognized in every piece, then her identity is lost within her writing, and she is approaching identity crisis and conflict.  Sansevere argues that individual voices make reading unique, interesting, and ultimately more concise.  Voice (and the use of “I”) also gives the student writer credibility and authorship that is not already given to them by a title within an academic field.  In turn, this gives them more confidence and self-assurance, and, and as a side effect, produces better writing (258).  Sansevere writes that in the learning atmosphere, “Growth is key.  Student writers need to realize their own voices.  They need to feel stability in their writing.  They need to feel responsible for their words…Including themselves in their work will help them fulfill all these needs” (259).  Without the use of “I” in academic writing, Sansevere believes that students will lose themselves to the academic atmosphere and essentially not learn anything. 

This essay is helpful because it is geared toward both students and professors.  Sansevere makes a convincing argument, and finishes in a tone that convinces readers to decide what works best for them under their circumstances.  Although I think that objectivity may, under some circumstances, give the writer more authority over the subject of his or her writing, Sansevere’s desire to allow the student to explore his or her individual voice is relevant to all classes, in all subjects, and the use of “I” may help students develop this voice.--Amy Bartlow 10-25-01

Fawcett, Emily.  “Like, it was, you know what I mean?”: Conversational vs. Presentational Speech in Student Academic

Discourse.” Working with Student Writers: Essays on Tutoring and Teaching.  Eds. Leonard A.  Podis and JoAnne M. Podis.  New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1999.  73-83.

         In this essay, Fawcett argues that writers should be given more opportunities to escape the boundaries of traditional academics by using a more exploratory approach that centers on the “conversational” voice.  The author begins her article with an account of student teaching.  Filling in for a professor in an introductory poetry class, Fawcett attempted to stimulate class discussion through a series of well-planned questions about Keats’ “La Belle Dame sans Merci,” but failed to get a positive response because, despite her endeavors to remain a part of the student group, assumed a position of authority to the students in the class.  Those that answered the questions directed their responses to Fawcett, the primary questioner, and meaningful discussion did not occur because the rest of the class was not engaged.  However, when Fawcett announced that she was out of questions, the class sat in silence for a few minutes, until they started to discuss their personal reactions to the piece, which grew into a larger conversation about the work’s meaning, characters, and imagery-the intention behind the original questions. 

Using this story as an example, Fawcett explains the difference between conversational and presentational voices in academic discourse.  When the students initiated their own discussion, they used “the flexible voice that’s not afraid to take risks” (75), the conversational voice.  They explored ideas, presenting thoughts to the rest of the class, revising their opinions after they heard those of others.  Fawcett states that the conversational voice can be utilized in papers as well, for by recounting her story, she is engaging in conversational, yet relatively academic, discourse. 

Fawcett describes presentational writing as the “emphasis on explaining rather than sharing” (77), the mode in which most academic writing takes place.  Fawcett claims that this type of writing leads to boring, “safe” theses and ideas that do not stray far from the ideas the professor has presented in class.  Presentational writing is therefore dependent on the “intimidation” of students, who may fear the repercussions of stating their ideas to a professor, an “expert” in their field of study.  The authority of teachers sometimes “perpetuates the myth that one answer is more correct than others” (81), thereby eliminating the desire to explore other ideas in a “conversational” manner. 

Fawcett’s suggestions are useful, for she proposes using first person narrative examples more often in academic writing.  This technique allows the conversational voice to coexist with the academic, striking a balance somewhere in between.  As a student, it’s often hard to keep your first person voice out of a work, and sometimes it is even detrimental to do so.  I oftentimes can relate the topic of an essay or paper to the events of my own life-in fact, I’m doing so right at this moment-and it aids the explanation of your point.  Of course, the anecdote could be completely irrelevant (the main pratfall).  Perhaps the conversational voice should be viewed as another rhetorical device that helps writers explain their theses in a more approachable and coherent manner.   –Nicole Baer, 10/25/01

 Fawcett, Emily.  "Like, It was, you know what I mean?": Conversational Vs. Presentational Speech in Student Academic

Discourse, from Working With Student Writers, ed. by Podis, Leonard A. & Podis, JoAnne M.  Peter Lang

Publishing, Inc. New York: 1999.

                     In this article, Emily Fawcett pits what students are most comfortable with against what is commonly expected of them in regards to self-expression in the classroom.  Sitting in for a professor of a writing-intensive poetry class that she was peer tutoring, Emily faces the task of leading a class discussion.  She relies on a list of prepared questions to begin the discussion on a Keats poem.  None of her questions elicit an enthusiastic response; in fact the students meet most of them with short answers followed by lengthy silences.  Emily runs out of questions less than a quarter of the way into class.  Admitting to the students that she is at a loss, Emily is finally saved by someone who "began to give an opinion of the poem while looking at some of the others in the room who had spoken earlier" (74).  For the next twenty minutes, the discussion takes on a life of its own to such an extent that Emily can't get a word in edgewise.  Comments are formulated, opinions are shaped, interpretations conflict, opinions are modified, more comments are formulated, etc.  Afterwards, Emily directed the discussion to the other Keats poem on the day's agenda and stupidly (she says so herself!) started asking her other set of prepared questions.  The class ended as drily as it began, but at least Emily, for a short time, oversaw a genuine, vibrant class discussion.  Emily puts forth an attempt to analyze how and why such an event occurred, since it seemed that she herself actually had little to do with it, "although the questions I asked at first might have sparked some ideas that came out later during the more fruitful part of the class" (75). 

                    Emily ultimately attributes the successful portion of the discussion to an emergence of the class' "conversational" voices, voices that are "not afraid to take risks", "interested in what everyone else is saying, and interested in rethinking and modifying what it has to say to address others' concerns" (75).  A conversational voice is inherently flexible, and defines or redefines itself with regards to other voices, or "a larger discourse" about the subject.  Emily holds that conversational voices can exist in writing, and that exercising "such discussions also lead to more interesting papers" (76).  Conversational voices tend to disappear "if the professor tends to dominate discussions, fielding all student comments and spending a large proportion of the class period developing her own opinions" (76-77).  Obviously, it would be difficult to learn how to adopt a conversational voice in a paper for a class that doesn't allow for conversational voices and lively discussions. 


                    If a conversational voice explores, describes, and shares, than a "presentational" voice analyzes and explains.  Students, when expressing themselves to a professor, whether through a discussion or a paper, are expected to adopt a presentational voice.  A presentational voice is to academic discourse as a conversational voice is to social discourse.  Hence the "like, you know" sentence fragments that hinge on an implied reciprocal understanding with one's audience.  Emily addresses a comfort level and a willingness to take risks (and even fail) that exists in a conversational voice.  Conversely, the passive, formal, and technical aspects of a presentational voice can often find their roots in nervousness or a deep concern for appearance, rather than in a concern for learning.  Ultimately, whether in words or on paper, a conversational voice can help students to "think for themselves" and "explore writing as a process" (81).  A sense of authority helps fuel a conversational voice.  A boss can make jokes and start conversations about yesterday's game; an employee must address his or her boss with respect and a recognition of the boss' position.  The less a teacher or professor infringes on a student's authority as a speaker and an author, the more freedom the teacher allows the student in the realm of academia.  A particularly annoying high school basketball coach of mine frequently told my team that there are only two ingredients needed for success: opportunity and motivation.  He said that he had done his part in giving us the opportunity; it was up to us to supply the motivation.  Teachers (coaches included) always need to make sure that they are actually supplying their students with proper opportunities.---- Mike Manglitz 10/25/01

 Haas, Christina. "Beyond ‘Just the Facts’: Reading as a Rhetorical Action". Hearing Ourselves Think. Eds. Penrose and

Sitko. Oxford University Press, New York. 1993.

        This article interested me because it touched upon the inverse of a topic we discussed around week three or four. We had talked in depth about the thought processes behind writing, but not the processes of reading, the primary act engaged in at the writing center by tutors. In the beginning, I thought there would not be much, or not nearly as much, to say about this topic as writing, but this article encompasses some interesting ideas. The crux of the article addressed the different rhetorical strategies used by readers to manifest a consistent meaning from texts by understanding certain "cues" given by authors. Examples include how some readers may construct content to "fill out" meaning, or ignore ideas deemed irrelevant by the reader in order to gain consistency in their cohesion of the specific piece. Haas breaks up reading interpretative strategies into three categories: content, function, and rhetoric. Content, usually an initial strategy, focuses on the simple facts and what the text is "about". Function strategies are applied by readers when exploring the main points of the piece, and what the author tries to prove with the facts presented: a progressive enlargement of the reader’s vision of the text. Finally, rhetorical strategies use pertains to the readers attending to the author’s purpose, context, and audience, and the reader has acknowledged the author’s intentions.

        From this article, it seems that not only writers, but readers as well, cooperate in, as Bartholomae would say, a commonplace of conventions, information and expectations in order to construct meaningful discourse. Much like the Flower and Hayes model, readers go through the steps listed above in a non-–hierarchal manner with a constant self-monitor. I know that it is impossible, as well as frustrating, to completely understand an author’s motivation and thoughts, but after reading "Beyond Just the Facts" I feel that we should add the "readability" of a text, and the ease in which the author’s points, strategies, and purpose of the composition are absorbed by the reader, to the list of traits that constitutes "good" writing.

        We all have to realize that as readers our interpretations of texts may be skewed by certain biases however small of the students that may enter the writing center. If I may make an example in hyperbole, I think that all of us would view the same text very differently if we were told Martin Luther King wrote it, than if Charles Manson did, or if it was John F. Kennedy or Timothy Leery. We also have to look beyond what is just on the paper to understand the points the tutees are trying to make so that we can help them use the correct tools to communicate their points. Dan Pinnola 10/25/01

Wingate, Molly. "What Line? I Didn't See Any Line." In A Tutor's Guide: Helping Writers One to One. Eds. Bennet and Ben

Rafoth. Plymouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers, 2000. 9-16.

         In this article Wingate tackles the problems that arise when tutors overstep their roles, leading to unproductive sessions: what conditions create such situations? Can they be prevented? Is it possible to redirect them? The tutor's multifacted role as the "ally, the coach, the commentator... the counselor" (10) provides many opportunities for him to overstep his bounds and take control of the session. The writing center can only produce better writers, argues Wingate, when the writer controls and guides the session.  

        To insure that the writer controls the session's direction, Wingate gives suggestions originally proposed to Christina Murphy and Steve Sherwood (10):

            -honestly point out the tutee's strengths and weaknesses

            -help her enhance the strengths and minimize the deficiencies

            -remember that each session, piece of writing, and tutee is different.

     To avoid taking over the session during editing, Wingate suggests that tutors teach proofreading rather than just doing it for the student; this way, the tutee can use the skills on later papers. If the writer asks for information specific to a topic, tutors should maintain - whether truthfully or not - that they know nothing about it. To prevent plagarism, she suggests giving a "variety of choices... some examples that are parallel but not appropriate" (10) or simply speaking too quickly for the tutee to copy word-for-word.

     Basic editing, though, Wingate sees as presenting less danger for tutor control than giving help with ideas or organization. In the name of "helping," tutors will debate the sides of an issue, a method which, while helping with the specific paper, does not teach skills that can be used later with other assignments. The tutee in this situation ends up feeling "left behind as the tutor pushed onward toward a better paper, not a better writer" (11). She identifies several types of "over" sessions: overempathizing, in which tutors listen to tutee's problems so much that they lose focus on the paper; overwhelming, or giving so many suggestions so quickly as to leave the writer "disheartened" (12); and overtaking, where the tutor, interested in the topic, answers her own questions while the tutee sits inert.


        How, Wingate asks, can tutors avoid such situations? And if they find themselves in one, how can they get out? The signs, she says, of a tutor-directed session, include the tutor doing all of the talking, the writer not appearing or acting interested, the writer blindly taking all of the tutor's suggestions, the tutor being tired at session's end, and the tutee projecting his disinterest through body language. To reverse this trend, the tutor must stop her controlling behavior and draw the writer back into the process. Asking the tutee how he feels about changes or suggestions creates "opportunities to change course" (13) if need be. At all times tutors need to keep the paper and the session student centered and "follow the writer's lead" (13).

         To gauge a session's success, Wingate proposes that the tutor ask questions about it's nature. Was the writer in control? Did the tutee find the time productive? Did he learn something about writing that can be applied to future papers? And, most importantly, was the session "co-created" (15)?

         Her suggestions, I think, will difficult to adhere to but helpful. Taking over sessions is a particular worry of mine; I find myself doing it even when helping friends. I'm afraid that they will be hard to follow, however. In the long run, teaching proofreading is most beneficial to the student, but most writers come to the center for help with a specific paper, not general writing tips. This misconception - that the writing center is primarily a group of human editors - should be cleared up. Tutees asking about ideas do not worry me, as I probably won't know much about the topic anyway. But that presents another problem: how can I help brainstorm if I know nothing whatsoever about the topic? I also worry about tutoring the student who doesn't want to be there but is directed by a professor. Wanting to get out as quickly as possible, he will be happy to have me speed-proofread and fix all his mistakes with minimal participation on his part. I, likewise, will want to end his and my misery. What should I do in that situation? Is it worth trying to teach him proofreading, or should I simply ignore Wingate's suggestions for writers like him? He, though, would hopefully be the exception; ideally most students visit the writing center of the own accord. And for them, Wingate's tips will prove indispensable.—Sara Brown, 10/25/01

Barthes, Roland. “Is there any Poetic Writing?” Writing Degree Zero. Trans. Annette  Lavers and Colin Smith. New York:  

        The Noonday Press, 1967.   

            Barthes explains that discussions of a poetic mode of writing (a linguistic convention) should be reserved for the classical writers; for, he finds it “vain” to speak of a “mode of writing,” when discussing modern poetic language, which “radically questions Nature by virtue of its very structure, without any resort to the content of the discourse, and without falling back on some ideology” (Barthes 51-52). Instead, what he finds, in modern poetry, are “styles, thanks to which man turns his back on society and confronts the world of objects without going through any of the forms of History or of social life” (52). He cites the free verse of Rimbaud as the “spring” from which modern poetry comes (42).  Barthes argues that classical poetry operates under the assumption that “Nature is a plenum, that it can be possessed, that it does not shy away or cover itself in shadows, but is in its entirety subjected to the toils of language” (49). In this way, classical poets expect their “written” language to be “immediately social” and “akin to speech” (49); these writers “suppose a collective consumption” of language among readers and writers (49). Barthes mentions the historical context of the classical writers and their works of art: “classical literary art is an object which circulates among several persons brought together on a class basis… [Classical poetic language] is essentially a spoken language, in spite of its strict codification” (49).

            Conversely, modern poetic language “implies a reversal in our knowledge of Nature. The interrupted flow of the new poetic language initiates a discontinuous Nature, which is revealed only piecemeal” (49-50). Barthes finds the place occupied by modern poetic language to be “exalted” as well as “terrible” (50). “Nature becomes a fragmented space, made of objects solitary and terrible, because the links between them are only potential” (50). Distinguishing modern thought from classical thought, the words of modern poetry are no longer thought to carry “privileged” meanings: “Nobody imposes a hierarchy on [the potential meanings of a word], nobody reduces them to the manifestation of a mental behavior, or of an intention, of some evidence of tenderness, in short (50). Words in modern poetry become “static things” or “absolute objects”: “The Word is no longer guided in advance by the general intention of a socialized discourse” (49-50). Barthes says that these words are reduced to a “zero degree, pregnant with all past and future specifications (48). This is what separates modern poetic assumptions from the assumptions of classical poets: classical poetic language is entirely “relational”: “Overworked in a restricted number of ever-similar relations, classical words are on the way to becoming an algebra where rhetorical figures of speech, clichés, function as virtual linking devices” (46). However, in modern poetry “the spontaneously function nature of language” is “destroyed,” leaving only its “lexical basis” standing (46). In this way, grammar becomes a “parody”, a diminution “bereft of its purpose” other than as “an inflexion which lasts only to present the Word” (47); however, Barthes follows, “this void [where “connections” are reduced, parodied] is necessary for the density of the Word to rise out of a magic vacuum, like a sound and a sign devoid of background, like ‘fury and mystery’” (47). About this state of modern poetry, Barthes concludes, “Nature becomes a succession of verticalities, of objects, suddenly standing erect, and filled with all their possibilities” (50). His argument then reaches its most perverse moment: he says, “These poetic words exclude men: there is no humanism of modern poetry” (50). This modern poetic language is neither relational like classical poetic language nor is it expressly, immediately social: “This erect discourse is full of terror, that is to say, it relates man not to other men, but to the most inhuman images in Nature: heaven, hell, holiness, childhood, madness, pure matter, etc" (50). 

            In terms of how this chapter from Barthes’ Writing Degree Zero may help writing tutors at Goucher, I think, despite the fact that the article is dense with theory, one can glean from it the notion that language, on the level of words, is so very rich with lexical possibilities; therefore, we must defer our belief in a privileged “mode” of writing and consider the “styles” of our tutees, observing how they bring intellectual thoughts out of their writing acts, their dealing with the objects of nature and the terribleness of words (43). We should not have them force “ready-made” thoughts into a privileged mode of writing— thereby reducing writing to the translation of a stale, pre-formed thought into a privileged bunch of signs (43). We should tell them to write; let their style and writing govern the shaping of the thought—do not let the thought direct the shaping of the writing (43). Barthes says, “In classical art, a ready-made thought generates an utterance which ‘expresses’ or ‘translates’ it… in modern poetics, on the contrary, words produce a kind of formal continuum from which there gradually emanates an intellectual thought or emotional density which would have been impossible without them” (43).  We see that, for practical purposes, we must lecture our tutees to, at least, try writing before a thought is completely formed in their heads. The words themselves, in the process of writing, will offer distinct possibilities for expanded thoughts (43).  When intention is removed from the equation, one can try free writing (as Elbow would suggest) and then the lexical possibilities of the words on the pages will ballast the writer’s next thoughts, next words— the words are springboards in shaping thought. JARED FISCHER October 25, 2001

Dale, Helen.  “How Coauthoring Impacts the Writing Process.”  Paper presented at the American Educational Research

Association Annual Meeting, Chicago.  25 March 1997. 

Helen Dale’s paper examines the effect of collaborative writing in a classroom setting on the writing process.  Dale’s research took place in a ninth grade English classroom where Dale “co-taught the course with Carol, a ninth-grade English teacher…who would remain [the students’] teacher the rest of the year” (4).  Extending over the first quarter of the school year, Dale gathered empirical data from audio taped sessions, “a Likert-type questionnaire filled out by the entire class after the last co-authoring experience… [and two] retrospective interviews” (6).  Dale incorporated the experiment into the structure of the class forming eight fixed groups of three students in heterogeneous “writing triads” (4).  In an attempt to prevent students from labeling other students as “smart”, Dale and Carol grouped students according to “gender, race, and verbal ability/leadership” with little emphasis on writing ability (4).  Despite the three collaborative writing assignments performed during the course of the experiment, Dale uses only the data from the final assignment in her study.        

Through her study of collaborative writing, Dale found student coauthors “spend a far greater percent of their energies on planning and revising than solo authors do” (7). Dale relates the characteristics arising from student collaboration to those apparent in “expert writers” (7).  Drawing from Linda Flower and John Hayes’ model of the writing process, Dale studied the effects of group writing on the planning and revision stages of the writing process.  The research suggests that by working with peers to produce a single piece of writing for each assignment, students learn new strategies for organization and planning which enables the students to gain a broader perspective of the material and the writing process.  Due to the nature of group work, the process of revision occurs as the students write, rather than solely after a draft is completed.  Disagreements about word usage and sentence flow caused the group to work out uncertainties before continuing to write.  Dale concludes “the interactions necessary for coauthoring…give [students] specific and analytical attention to their own writing processes as well as those of others” (14).  Dale suggests the application of her research offers a possible method for “effectively” teaching students the writing process (15).      

While the paper focuses on collected data and methodology, it lacks discussion of the possible effects of co-teaching.  In her paper, Dale mentions co-teacher Carol only once (after the initial introduction) when describing the formation of the writing groups.  The reference suggests a collaborative effort between the teachers, but the paper never addresses this effort.  Given the suggestion for application of her research in the classroom, it would be useful to know more about the incorporation of the experiment in Dale’s class, as well as Carol’s perspective and role in the study.  The paper only discusses positive outcomes for collaborative research, Dale does not provide instances where coauthoring is ineffective or counterproductive.  The study loses some validity in the paper’s lack of balanced analysis.    

Although Dale’s research is less scientific in the traditional sense, the practicality of her approach merits attention from both teacher and tutor.  Specifically for the writing center tutor, Dale’s paper reinforces the benefits gained from interaction about a piece of writing.  Even though the tutor does not function as a coauthor, adaptations of the collaborative writing process may produce similar outcomes for both tutor and tutee.  The study implies that a greater awareness of the writing develops from the necessary approach to the paper from a global perspective (coming from two different perspectives the tutor and tutee must negotiate a common ground).  For the tutor, the research shows the importance of the tutee’s evaluation of ideas to improve his/her writing.   Leah Frank 10.24.01

 Friedmann, Thomas. "Teaching Error, Nurturing Confusion : Grammar Texts, Tests, and Teachers in the Developmental

     English Class." College English. 45.4(1983) 390-399.

      In this article, Friedmann identifies many problems of developmental writers and discusses the usefulness of traditional teaching methods. He questions the use of "error-based instuction," in which students identify grammar and syntax errors to determine the correct way to write, as a way of teaching grammar and usage (391). To open his argument, Friedmann uses several examples of learning from errors in fields other than writing, including basketball and music. He goes on to state that English teachers impede the learning of the "correctness of mechanics" by "[omitting] essential instruction or [providing] students with models and methods that teach 'wrongness'" (390-391). Handbooks and grammar guides also offer misleading information and tasks for students, according to Friedmann. Because many teachers base grammar and mechanics lessons on the information in mass-produced handbooks, teaching methods have remained much unchanged in spite of the changing needs of basic writers.

     Friedmann identifies several areas that writers often have problems with : sentence fragments, commonly confused terms, apostrophes, exceptions to the rule, and other grammar rules that are taught without context. He offers a solution to each of the problems as well, in each case suggesting teaching methods which rely on teaching the correct way to fix the mistake as opposed to learning by error. His suggestion for students with sentence fragment problems stresses giving "lessons in completeness," focusing on how to make a fragment into a whole sentence instead of pointing out fragments in a prewritten "minefield" of fragments and full sentences (392). He argues that without learning correct sentences, "students will never develop that internalized sense of correctness that enables the proficient writer to compose automatically in complete sentences" (392). For "commonly confused terms," such as the affect/effect, lay/lie, there/their, etc, Friedmann reccomends teaching the words separate from one another, arguing that linking the words over and over causes "words that are meant to be kept apart [to be] deliberately associated in the minds of students" (393). He mentions the possibility that "most students are perfectly capable of telling these terms apart when they are placed near each other. Their difficulty arises when you must use one of those confusing terms during the writing of the essay" (393). He offers this technique for the teaching of apostrophe use as well. Friedmann scoffs at the teaching of the excpetion instead of the rule, saying that "basic as well as other students have difficulties with the basic rules, not the excpetions" (396). He ends the essay by calling for "experimentation with new methods and... testing of alternate exercises," pointing to newly-designed handbooks and work in ESL classes as models (399).

     Friedmann's article impacts the Writing Center and personal writing in several ways. A product of the kind of instruction he frowns upon, I can vouch for his description of the problems that arise. After learning so long in a particular way, it is even harder to overcome the effects of "error-based instruction." He touches on may of the issues discussed in class, so obviously this experience is not exclusive to me or the students in Friedmann's article. We are likely to see these types of problems all of the time in the Writing Center, possibly in the work of students who have never been taught any other way than through this method of instruction. His suggestions for overcoming the problems are all plausible and easily employed, although old habits remain hard to break. Perhaps if a student comes to the Writing Center with these issues, the tutor can step into the role of an instructor and actually change the bad habit for good, as opposed to fixing it in the context of one paper. Friedmann also points to the necessity of engaging the whole body in the writing process, as we've discussed before, instead of having students passively underlining incorrect phrases or writing in single word revisions. This suggestion also carries over to the Writing Center. The rewriting of a sentence may not help much if the student does not understand the reason it is being rewritten or is not fully involved in the rewriting of it. Keeping Friedmann's suggestions in mind may result in clearer definitions for the student, or ourselves as writers, as well as correcting chronic mistakes.

     Although I found his article informative and sensible, I still find it hard to separate completely the process of teaching correct form from the process of learning from incorrectness. Many students learn from their own mistakes. Perhaps this is the difference : learning from one's own mistakes is much more helpful than looking at mistakes made by others and trying to correct them. As Friedmann points out, "if a commonplace exists in the teaching of writing it is that one learns to write by writing, not by hearing someone else talk about writing or choosing among someone else's correct (and incorrect) words or sentences" (397).  Michelle Ruddle, 10/25/01

Pennebaker, James W. and Anna Graybeal. "Patterns of Natural Language Use: Disclosure, Personality, and Social

Integration." Current Directions in Psychological Science 10.1 (June 2001): 90-93.

In this particular journal article, the researchers were concerned with whether there is a correlation between particular word patterns used by writers, their personality style, and a prediction of their health. The hypothesis was based on the widely believed psychological assumption that writing helps people deal with traumatic and emotionally upsetting experiences. This hypothesis was tested using journal entries of emotionally upset people, along with writing samples of emotionally healthy students, and a control group who wrote about superficial things. A computer based text analysis program called the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LWIC) was developed and used to categorize the words and tabulate their frequency. It was found that linguistic styles are reliably and consistently stable across different discourse. This means that how one writes in a journal will be very similar, linguistically, to the way that one writes their academic papers. It was also found, in the students who's writing was analyzed, that their language use "is reliably correlated with physical health, alcohol use, and grades in school " (92). This further implies that a person's linguistic style can be a marker for that person's personality. Finally, it was noted that emotionally triggered writing will bring people to change their objective social and linguistic behaviors in the real world.

             Although this article is based primarily on research done with traumatic and emotionally writing, it carries over to the concepts of tutoring. Writing is not merely words on a piece of paper, whether we are aware of it or not, the words that the writer chooses and the style that they write in reflects their writing personality and becomes their trademark. Although the writer's actual identity may be masked, as has been mentioned before that the writing has no face, the writing becomes identified by the writer's style. Therefore every paper that comes into the Writing Center will be very different and distinct from the previous one. This concept goes against the belief of some that there is only one academic discourse. If this were true, then each writer's writing would be very similar to one another and writing would become a mechanical process, a process in which papers are put out like things on a factory assembly line. Each is like the one previously produced and will be like the next one to come. Each of us has a very certain writing style that represents our writing. This style is very personal to each individual because it is a combination of one's background (as was talked about in reference to socioeconomic levels in Podis) education, experiences, and failures. For these reasons it makes no sense to force someone else to use your writing style because then it only becomes a bad copy. The goal is to help someone improve their style, become more comfortable with it and along the way learn from it, perhaps even about themselves.

             The results obtained are interesting, however I fail to see the connection between one's language usage and physical health, alcohol use. There needs to be more research on how words influence our behavior and thoughts. Or is it the behavior and thoughts that influence the choice of words/ linguistic style? I prefer the latter option only because I'd rather have control over the writing rather than have the writing control me. Although I can imagine and remember situations in which I felt like the writing that I was doing had possession of me. I also feel that somewhere into all of this context and syntax must fit in. The LWIC is too simple of a way to analyze writing especially since these results prove that there is a lot going on cognitively and psychologically when writing is produced. Also I wonder if we don't have more than one linguistic style depending on the type of discourse. The data states that it carries similarly through all of it but I feel like there is a difference between the way one thinks and writes academic papers compared to personal journal entries. When you stop consciously thinking about what you're writing and just write your true voice comes out. That's very different than the constantly revaluated and edited voice of an academic paper. There are many unanswered questions and further research needed to fully understand writing's impact on the individual. One thing to be considered when tutoring, by reading someone else's writing you are getting a glimpse of their personality, their logic and opinions. The writer is letting you into their world and that is a very scary thing for many people to do.--Olga Wartenberg, 10-24-01

 Fawcett, Emily.  "'Like, it was, you know what I mean?': Conversational vs. Presentational Speech in Student Academic

         Discourse."  Working withStudent Writers: Essays on Tutoring and Teaching.  Eds. Leonard Podis and JoAnne

         Podis.  New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1999.   

         The language used during conversation is vastly different from the language that students use when writing.  Through descriptions of her own experiences tutoring and leading a class, Fawcett asserts that students would benefit more from making use of their conversational speech when writing.  She explains that as opposed to exploratory speech, students write using "presentational speech" as a way of merely describing their conclusion instead of developing or exploring it even further.  When writing papers, students use their language in response to their audience, and in most cases that audience is the grading professor.  Fawcett claims that fear becomes the prevalent contributing factor in a student's use of language as they strive to demonstrate knowledge, intelligence, and organization on a topic that they may not be an authority on.  Presentational speech is used to restate what the student knows but it also inhibits the student's exploration of and freedom with the topic.  By shifting to conversational writing, Fawcett explains that they student would be able to better explore ideas in the same way that he or she would when discussing the topic with a friend or equal.

         This fear of presenting the wrong image not only applies to students; professors or, even more relevant to this class, tutors can also feel this pressure.  Fawcett describes the fear of presentation as a circle that begins when our professors are students.  Students have a desire to present a topic in an authoritative manner in order to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding.  The pressure they feel to do this is then carried over to when they begin teaching, only now it is a pressure to present this knowledge and understanding to their class.  In effect, their students develop their own fear of appearing less intelligent or knowledgeable, and the circle begins again. 

         Fawcett begins her essay by following her own advice, which greatly contributes to the clarity of her argument.  She describes a situation in which the students in a class that she was tutoring felt restricted in their speech until all authority figures were removed from the situation.  In this case, the students felt free to explore their own ideas without being hindered by any fear of presenting themselves as knowledgeable.  By incorporating her own experiences into her essay, she not only makes use of her own advice, but she does so in such a way that she further demonstrates her point.  And her point is a relevant one to this class.  The essay is helpful because it provides a method of helping tutees expand and explore their ideas.  However, Fawcett offers no precautions about this exploration.  I think that the use of conversational speech would be better restricted to a pre-write activity as opposed to a paper that has a continuous exploration of ideas, but not direction or conclusion.  The use of conversation in the writing center as a means of clarifying or exploring the paper has been emphasized in many of the articles that we have read.  I think that Fawcett continues this emphasis through her idea of incorporating conversation into the actual writing, but her essay contains no reflection on what could be wrong with it. --Ralee Miller 10-25-01

 Honigs, Jane.  "Personal Revelations in the Tutoring Session."  The Writing Lab Newsletter.  25.5 (2001) 9-10.

         Jane Honigs in her essay, Personal Revelations in the Tutoring Session, has some good advice on how much the personal life of a student matters in a tutoring session.  She discusses two specific students who both had the need to talk about personal matters in a session.  The first student's issues were unrelated to the paper itself, whereas the second student's problem was a part of her paper.  There is a difference between a person like the first student Honigs discusses, who does not want to go over her essay as much as talk about her life, and Sue, who wrote about some problems she's had in her life, and needs to feel that it has worth in the eyes of the readers.  She wrote it for the reader to understand her, it was a very personal essay, and therefore her feelings were an important part of the tutoring session.  The difference is that Sue's problem is linked with the class and the essay she is writing; the first girl's problems are not.  In the first case, the student is not at the center for her paper; she would rather use this session as a counseling session, knowing this stranger has her full attention.  This leads her to her number one rule: "Tutors aren't psychologists or counselors."  However, in Sue's case, the problem of her peers ignoring the amount of herself she put into her essay caused her to doubt her self worth.  Honigs needed to address this issue before starting the essay, because the problem was directly affected by the paper.

         It is important to acknowledge in a student's paper if he or she has written something that is personal.  That way, the student doesn't end up feeling the way Sue did when her peers did not seem to understand that the paper meant so much more to her that her previous papers.  Honig's rule #4, to "restrict your comments regarding personal problems to subjects students write about" is important to know as a tutor.  The reason that it was important not to let the first student Honigs writes about talk about her personal issues is because they were unrelated to her paper entirely.  In that case, it was a distraction instead of a progression towards understanding how to improve the paper.  It seems that there is a subtle line in tutoring between being a friend and being a teacher.  Because of the informal setting, it is easy to fall into casual conversation (this must be especially true in writing centers run by students where they tutor their peers); the tutor must remember the real reason the student is there.  -Helena Flint 10/25/01

Sommers, Nancy.  “Between the Drafts.”  Landmark Essays.  Vol 7.  Ed. Sondra Perl.  Davis, CA: Hermagoras, 1994.    


            In this article Sommers argues against the typical third person removed tone of academic discourse and promotes the use of first person in academic writing.  Sommers, writing in the first person, begins the article by reminiscing about her childhood and what it was like growing up as the daughter of two immigrants from Germany.  When Sommers was eight years old her parents decided to teach her and her brother German, and “not trusting their own native voices, they bought language-learning records with an officially sanctioned voice of an expert language teacher; never mind that they spoke fluent German” (218).  This experience first introduced Sommers to the notion that the academic voice must be somewhat removed from the topic in order to sound authoritative, a notion that Sommers initially embraced.

              When Sommers began her career in studying revision, she hid behind a removed academic voice when presenting her findings both in her writing and in her public speeches.  She became an “anemic researcher, who set herself apart from her most passionate convictions” (221).  It was not until Sommers bought language-learning records to teach her own eight year old daughter Italian that she realized the problem with the removed academic voice: it attempts to teach the reader about a particular topic “out[side] of the context of life” (219).  Sommers argues that first person writing is an appropriate form of academic discourse because it is grounded within the context of real life and is endowed with the authority of the author’s lived experience.

            Sommers relates this back to her fascination with studying revision and asserts that the first person academic voice emerges through the process of revision.  When writing an article or a speech, Sommers hears “Bob Scholes’ and David Bartholomae’s voices telling me to answer them, to make them anew.  In a word, they say: revise me.  The language lesson starts to make sense, finally: by confronting these authorial voices, I find the power to understand and gain access to my own ideas” (223).  During the process or revision, Sommers finds the courage to “enter the dialogue on my own authority” (223).  Furthermore, Sommers notes that people generally write with more confidence when writing about themselves or topics related to their lives as opposed to hiding behind the façade of removed academic discourse.

              Since the article is written in the first person, it is in itself an illustration of Sommers’ point.  Although some parts of the article (particularly towards the beginning) focus exclusively on Sommers’ childhood and are not immediately related to the article’s academic argument, the article is clearly academic and possesses an authoritative tone.  Sommers even makes a joke at the end of the article about writing essays published in “professional journals claiming authority to tell stories about…families and…colleagues” (223).  Writing in the first person allows Sommers to include such humor in the article, making the piece entertaining a memorable. - - Aliza Epstein, 10/25/01   

 Leibowitz, Brenda and Kenneth Goodman.  “The role of a writing center in increasing access to academic discourse.” 

Teaching in Higher Education 2.1 (1997): p. 5-30.  Academic Search Elite.  31 Oct. 2001


            In this article, the authors discuss the difficulty that student’s from working class backgrounds have in accessing academic discourse and how the writing center works to increase that access.  To demonstrate how not only background but also a student’s first language can affect their ability to adjust to the academic world, the authors highlight the University of the Western Cape in South Africa and how this institution is trying to adapt to the student’s situation.  This university serves as a good demonstration because a “coupling of the second language issue with that of the differences of discourse has both complicated the issue of acquisition of academic literacy and clouded it.”  The authors claim that a former program implemented  by the university is not accomplishing its mission of “democratising education”  because it is not providing the students with access to knowledge or academic discourse.   In response to the program’s lack of success, the university decided to begin a writing center to provide the students with the research that results from one on one interactions with other students.  The authors also used this university in their article because the writing center has to operate under harsh realities:  a lack of resources and large student need.  The authors then proceed to critique this particular writing center on the necessity of the writing center at this university and its impact on the members of the university.

            Although this article is an evaluation of one writing center in particular, it contains information about writing centers in general that could be relevant to any writing center.  The article stresses the importance of one on one collaboration, such as in the writing center, as an integral part of the learning process.  The articles presents a similar case for collaboration as seem in the article “Peer Tutoring and the Conversation of Mankind” by Kenneth A. Brufee.  Brufee presents collaboration as a social interaction that aids in the acquisition of knowledge.  In this university the students are using the social environment of the writing center to acquire the knowledge that they need to get caught up with the academic world.  The article also stresses the importance of another type of collaboration:  a collaboration between the writing center and the professors.  As an important part of the university and of the learning process, the students that attend the writing center would be able to benefit immensely if the writing center was integrated into their classes.  By remaining in close communication with the writing center staff, professors would be able to help their students prepare assignments in a way that would not only benefit their grade, but also their educational experience. Ralee Miller 11-01-01

 Reeves, LaVona L. “Minimizing Writing Apprehension in the Learner-Centered Classroom.” English Journal. 86.6

(October 1997): 38-45.

     LaVona Reeves explores what makes writers apprehensive about their writing and the reasons that certain students are apprehensive writers. She has found that one of the major reason’s for writers to be apprehensive is that they are afraid of the self-exposure, criticism, ridicule and failure that may accompany any particular piece of writing. These students then tend to look at writing as an approach-avoidance conflict state. Reeves goes on to list the different attitudes and behaviors exhibited by apprehensive writers and the ways that their written products look. She continues by stating that the best ways to lessen the anxiety experienced by writers is to first de-emphasize the importance of grades and to help the student understand that writing, like anything else, must be practiced to make it better. Also, that making mistakes is part of the process and that mistakes are going to happen no matter how good one is at writing. Reeves also suggests that the students be taught to take ownership of their writing, by writing in the first person and making the process more personal to themselves rather than a removed experience. For example using personal experiences within the writing. This can be aided by having the student work in small groups with their peers or by having one-on-one meetings, where the student talks about their writing with a tutor or a teacher. This will lessen their apprehension and self-doubt. Reeves states that interpersonal and intrapersonal communication is important to lessening apprehension and anxiety, and in boosting self-confidence.  Finally Reeves mentions that apprehension in writing has shown to differ between the two genders. Females are seen to take more of a passive, other-centered approach in their writing and have also been seen to experience longer writing blocks. Males, on the other hand, rarely write about their feelings and are usually the center of all the action in the writing. According to Reeves much more research is needed into how gender, socio-economic factors and location affect writing apprehension.

Throughout the article Reeves stresses the point that writing takes a lot of courage and that for many students having to complete any sort of writing assignment is great torture. One can look at their response to this pressure as the natural human instinct of flight or flight.  For the most part, a human being who is very anxious and apprehensive of something and has lots of self-doubt in himself will attempt to avoid the situation as much as possible. This can also be viewed in a psychological fashion as an approach-avoidance conflict, where the student tries to avoid any sort of dealings with writing. The problem for a tutor, when dealing with apprehensive writers, is that many of these writers will not seek assistance until the very last minute because they are avoiding the situation for as long as possible. So the only thing that the tutor can do for an eleventh-hour writer is to help the writer with the places that appear to be the weakest, usually mostly surface errors. Although this type of tutoring may improve the grade the writer receives, it does not help them in dealing with the apprehension that they face every time they must write.

            The best approach would be to help the writer realize that approaching the writing early will make it easier to fix more errors and to learn from those errors. Also establishing a relationship where the writer feels comfortable talking to the tutor about their writing will help the student to gain more confidence and alleviate some of the apprehension that always accompanies writing. Part of turning self-doubt into self-confidence involves the improvement of interpersonal communication, which will then lead to improving intrapersonal communication. Although Reeves does not talk much about the roles that gender and/or socio-economic level may play into writing apprehension, it would be a good idea for the tutor to bare those in mind as factors that may be causing the apprehension. The tutor should realize that the apprehension isn’t something that the writer was born with, but rather something that was acquired because of a negative experience with writing. If somehow the tutor can address the experience and help the writer see it as a positive rather than a negative thing, then the apprehension may very well be alleviated. ~ Olga Wartenberg, 11-04-01

Young, Beth Rapp and Emily Dziuban  “Understanding Dependency and Passivity:  Reactive Behavior Patterns in

Writing Centers.”  Writing Center Journal.  21.1 (2000):  67-88.

     Young and Dziuban discuss the Long Research Model, designed to study adolescents’ writing patterns, in order to discover more about students who do not seem motivated enough to work and to improve their essays.  In the Long model, there are four traits that are combined to identify certain types of writers (Young and Dziuban 73).  The four traits in the model are aggressive, passive, independent, and dependent.  The Long model identifies where most students fall, but there are some students who do not fall into the categories, such as the student who is self-motivated, but procrastinates and does not bring the paper until the deadline is close.  The student wouldn’t be considered a passive dependent, a student who procrastinates and is dependent on the professor’s expectations, because the student is usually motivated to do work and does not wait until the last minute.  The student simply did not have a vested interest in the essay.  Long’s model is placed into a category of models that study student’s performance, where the focus is on the student’s performance, and not a concrete numerical measurement.  

            Dependent students, whether passive or aggressive, have the overwhelming need to want approval from the teacher or from the tutor (73).  In a survey conducted by Young and Dzubian using the Long model, the most common trait was the aggressive dependency trait (77).  The student may consider his own authority not important, only the professors’.  Aggressive dependents would be afflicted with the demand to please the teacher because those students are typically workaholics and are always working to accomplish more (73).  The student never takes advantage of his own skills as a writer to develop his own ideas and feel confident enough to write a paper by his own guidelines.  The student functions contently under the servitude of the teacher’s guidelines.  Young and Dziuban suggest that sessions with aggressive dependents should concentrate on simpler topics such as organization (81).  The tutor should also try to help the student to invest more of himself into the material, and not aim for simply the high marks, but also for learning and appreciating the material (80).  As discussed in essays such as Axel-Lute and Dyehouse, the places where diverging from the professor’s expectation is appropriate is hard to determine.  An aggressive dependent cannot or do not want to try to determine where he can diverge. The comfort zone is the teacher’s guidelines, and the aggressive dependent likes to stay in that zone. If the tutor or the professor gives the answers, then the tutor may think that all he has to worry about is keeping within those guidelines.

            The concluding pages of the essay discusses how tutors can interact with the tutees who have the different traits, a guide so the tutors have an idea of how to deal with the different personalities that tutors may encounter.  One dangerous session would be when a passive dependent tutor encounters an aggressive independent tutee.  The session would go horribly because the tutee is too firm in his ideas and will be unwilling to consider much revision beyond grammar.  The tutor will have a difficult time convincing the tutee because he is unsure.  The authority that the tutor should have would be lost because the tutee does not want to change his ideas.  If the session involves two aggressive independents, then the session would be a struggle over dominating the other person, and not necessarily strengthening the paper.  The tutor would have to reiterate that he is there to help the tutee and that the tutee’s best interest would be to at least listen to the tutor’s suggestions.  However, aggressive independents might not come to the center as tutees too often because they are confident that the essay is correct.  An aggressive independent as a tutor may be dangerous because he will say what is on his mind (72).  When training aggressive independents, directors will need to help the tutors to soften their words and find alternative ways to tutor the students. -Louis Standish 11/4/01

 Hemley, Robin.  “Teaching our Uncertainties.”  The Writer’s Chronicle Feb. 2000: 61pars. 31 Oct. 2001


For many English teachers who also happen to be writers, it is difficult to advise students on the subject with the right amount of confidence in their methods.  These teachers often feel conflicted between their own struggles with writing and making the students feel comfortable with their writing.  This is one of the many issues that Hemley addresses in his essay about the difference between uncertainty and insecurity in teaching.

            Hemley uses personal anecdotes to stress the importance of the teacher’s influence over the student.  He starts out with an anecdote about his mother, in which a teacher concludes about another teacher, “He isn’t a mature artist and should be busy learning how to work rather than teaching his own uncertainties” (par. 7).  Hemley argues that this attitude is exactly the attitude we should not have towards teaching; any artistic process, he writes, is constantly evolving and constantly uncertain.  Hemley feels that teaching insecurities has more of a profound negative effect on students.  Teaching insecurities happens when teachers allow themselves to become victims to selfishness; for example, by paying more attention to their own writing than the students’ or over-criticizing people’s works without offering any new or different methods for learning.  He writes about a teacher he had in graduate school who had a tendency to unnecessarily damage self-esteem in the workshop arena, but offer better suggestions within individual conferences, or through unique assignments.  It is this kind of teacher, Hemley writes, who students really learn from. 

            Hemley makes suggestions for teachers to “teach uncertainties.”  Teaching uncertainties means offering straightforward answers to students’ questions about their writing, admitting to your own questions about the writing process, and recognizing this process as “an ongoing experiment” (par. 33).  He suggests using “any new approach, any new way of seeing the world or one’s work” to inspire students to write in new ways, and in ways truly unique to them (par. 39).  Finally, he suggests making oneself available to students, to talk, brainstorm, or simply do nothing – the more time teachers give to their students, the more support the students will feel from their teachers to do good work.  Hemley also prefers to think of students as “uninformed peers” because it means “the students and teacher are all after the same thing while acknowledging that the teacher has more experience, and techniques and insights worth imparting” (par. 31). 

            What I like the most about this article is how it recognizes teachers as writers first, and teachers second.  It reminds teachers that writing, as well as teaching, is an ongoing process, best learned when experienced and practiced over time.  Outside of the realm of teaching, it can be applied to tutors in the writing center, who often learn from their own mistakes better than they learn from the mistakes of those they tutor.  Hemley offers helpful suggestions on how to make writing more interesting and beneficial to the student.  He also suggests that by being open about our uncertainties, we can help others to be talk about and hopefully conquer their own fears about writing.--Amy Bartlow, October 31, 2001

Podis, Leonard A. and JoAnne M., eds.  Working with Student Writers: Essays onTutoring and Teaching.  “ No Voice, No

Vote: The Politics of Basic Writing.” New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., 1999.

Lauren Podis, the daughter of two college level educators, Leonard and JoAnne Podis, reflects on the difficulties of her parents’ job in this essay.  From years of tagging along to MLA and CCCC conferences and hearing long, painful conversations about work over dinner, Lauren realized that teaching expository writing was terribly important and received a disproportionate amount of respect.  In fact, the universities treated it as a second-class job. 

Leonard Podis, already an established member of the Oberlin faculty, began teaching a required composition course after it had been phased out in 1972.  The administration warned him before he began that the previous teacher complained to the president every day about feeling mistreated by the faculty.  After teaching the class for a while, he discovered that, at faculty meetings, he had a “voice” but no “vote.” 

As Lauren Podis writes, “the Expository Writing program…has a good reputation among students and is generally deemed useful by the faculty, [but] there is still an innate bias toward its existence.”  Educational institutions recognize its necessity, but they see it as “intellectually second-class.”  They don’t trust the basic writing course because they see it as remedial and an insult to the curriculum.  The nation sees American education as lowering its standards all the time, so the universities think that if “secondary schools were doing their job,” the basic writing course wouldn’t be necessary.  The introductory writing course, then, is a stain on the white, pressed, button-down shirt of the university.  The presence of such a course means that intellectual degenerates are worming their ways into academia. 

I was shocked to find that the writing center isn’t the only passively shunned structure in the university.  The basic writing course, the root of all college English, is almost taboo.  But how else do students learn what they need to learn about college writing? Lauren Podis believes that part of the universities’ problem with basic writing courses is the fact that the courses are designed for people “who are believed by some to have no place in a traditionally-defined academy—non-native speakers, students of color, students from different socioeconomic backgrounds, mature students, etc.”  Perhaps these students are merely taking up valuable space in the scholarly institution; “if they truly belonged in the university in the first place, then they would not need such frills as writing labs and peer tutors.”  What malarkey! I can’t believe the amount of prejudice against inexperienced, socially different students. 

Reading this article made me think about the real importance of the basic writing course.  Yes, I hated it, but I learned how to communicate what I really wanted to say more effectively despite the painful process.  I don’t see how high schools can implement a college writing course any better than they do now—it all depends on the writing teacher that students have in high school.  Expository writing in college is necessary, and the disrespect that it gets from upper-level professors makes me question their fitness as professors.  They are in the university to assist the enrichment of writing, and if they truly see writing as merely “a means to an end, not the end itself,” then why are they teaching writing?

The teachers who teach the basic writing course have to deal with lower pay, part-time teaching status, and virtually no say at faculty meetings.  This excremental payback to such a difficult task is an even bigger crime when the teacher truly cares about the basic writing course, knowing that it is a fundamental building block that ensures a sturdy writing foundation.  The expository writing teachers have such a difficult task because they have to help all types of students establish a strong yet comfortable writing ability in a semester, without having the time to delve into issues such as social background, race, gender, and general emotional difficulties that affect writing.  And what does the bad reputation that basic writing has do to the professor’s feelings about writing? If I were teaching a basic writing class and I was looked down upon by the administration, would I begin to hate writing? It is true, I would be teaching students and dealing with their processes.  But I would be involved with the dirt of writing, the unformed stuff that helps beautiful and essential things to grow.  And the dirt is universal, no matter what the stuffy upper level professors say.  We can’t just gloss over basic writing and label it a waste of time.  The Good Writing faerie doesn’t sprinkle her dust on the people who are meant to be good writers.  Teaching and learning the fundamentals can’t be ignored.  Universities need to stress it more.  They have a bigoted opinion, but what besides a shift in education patterns can change it? Are the New Paradigm followers enough? ---Maggie Butler, 11/1/01

Howey, Noelle.  "The Dilemmas of Grading".  Working With Student Writers.  eds. Podis, Leonard A. & Podis, JoAnne M. 

New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1999.

                          Noelle Howey criticizes our methods of academic evaluation in her essay "The Dilemmas of Grading."  She includes many stories of how, in high school, she "consciously altered the depth and range of my writing to appease my conservative teachers and to obtain the necessary grades" (95).  Reading her essay brings up memories of Elbow and the frustration a writer has when unable to write for himself or herself.  Noelle admits having continuing experiences of "grades anxiety" for her assignments in college, although not as strongly as she did in high school.  She acknowledges the purposes of grades: having an efficient method of ranking, providing incentive for students, and allowing for competition, which is necessary in a capitalistic culture that subsumes the educational system.  Noelle points out, though, that what the grading system gains in competition and efficiency it loses in holistic learning. 

                         She offers a couple of suggestions for alternative grading systems.  The first involves written evaluations.  Written evaluations offer much more reflective, thorough, and cooperative feedback than traditional grades, but often put too much work on the teacher, especially in large classes.  In some situations, applying written evaluations would be practically impossible.  Noelle also proposes oral evaluative conferences, which "would allow for even more honest communication to occur, and it would help to break down the barriers inherent in classroom power dynamics" (99).  Oral evaluative conferences also are very time-consuming however, and are still very difficult to implement in large classrooms.

                         Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont is one of the colleges to abolish the traditional grading system.  They rely exclusively on written evaluations.  If a college's main purpose is to prepare their student body to make contributions to society, written evaluations seem to make sense, as inefficient as they are.  After all, not many contemprary work places involve GPA systems.  Written evaluations are much more specific in pointing out students' strengths and weaknesses.  Compared to grades, they are more oriented towards real world performance.  Even students from traditional colleges who are looking for their first job after college ask professors for reccomendations as opposed to simply relying on their GPA or a class rank.

                          Noelle Howey admits that the traditional grading system is deeply entrenched in the American educational system and in American culture itself.  She suggests that perhaps it could reform itself through teachers simply allowing students to understand their specific methods and procedures for arriving at particular grades.  After all, if a student gets a grade, bad or good, but has to guess why he or she got that particular grade, the grades do not achieve any purpose.  Noelle concludes her essay by reiterating that grades do not define a student or even a student's intelligence or diligence.  Students should simply have confidence in their intrinsic worth as human beings regardless of their grades, and look at school as a source of accomplishment, discovery, and learning, not harsh personal criticism.----   Mike Manglitz 11/03/01

Gamboa, Gina, Mark Perry, and Alexandra Duarte.  “Did Anyone Ever Ask Why?: Students Talk About Society and    

        School.” Educational Horizons 78 (2000):  93-96.

             This article highlights a Chicago-based program that gives Latino students a second chance at high school.  Fewer than fifty percent of Latino students graduate from the Chicago school system, because their socioeconomic status creates many obstacles in the path to graduation, including gang violence and teen pregnancy.  An alternative school, Latino Youth (LY), offers a writing-based program that helps the students to develop a personal voice without fear of judgment or being “put-down.”  Many of the students who enter the program initially state that they do not like writing, but the open environment eases their fears and turns writing into a personal exploration, not the “necessary evil” it once was.  For the first time, students are allowed to write bilingually, and are encouraged to read aloud and to discuss and critique each other’s work.  Both teachers and students find this program “fuller, more relevant, and [a] qualitatively more useful learning experience.” 

            The article includes short pieces from four students in the LY program.  Each of the pieces responds to the question, “Did anyone ever ask why?”  The students explore why traditional education did not fulfill their needs as Latino students from a different cultural background and a different economic status.  One student, Alexandra Duarte, praises the respect teachers have for students in the LY program, and the way “student opinion counts.”  In the LY program, students develop their own individual written voices, so they are not anonymous students anymore.  For Duarte , writing now represents validation of her past experiences and freedom to explore any topic, while other students write about the unique culture of their ethnic communities and write poetry in Spanish. 

            The LY program teaches students to embrace writing as means of communication; the students communicate to their inner author and their external audience. Obviously, writing is something these students have learned to love, and have worked to improve.  How can this love (or at least liking) for writing be fostered in the writing center?   Like the LY program, it would be helpful to learn the background of individual writers to understand what influences their writing process.  As discussed in class previously, tutors should probably refrain from asking specific questions about gender, race, and economic status.  However, it may be fruitful to ask students about their high school programs, and the kind of writing they did before entering college (and that would probably elucidate some issues surrounding race, gender, and class as well). 

            In the writing center, it is possible to help student writers find their personal voices, just as the LY students did.  While academic writing restricts writers to a certain degree, each writer can develop a particular style within the academic context.  At the writing center, tutors can help students understand how to use personal stories and examples in their writing, and bring new perspectives to academic issues.  Most students could probably use a specialized program like LY, but find themselves in traditional classroom settings.  The writing center represents a step away from traditional methods of teaching and writing, and can be used by students from different educational backgrounds to develop a personal style within an academic context, so that their individual needs are hopefully being met.  –Nicole Baer, 11/04/01

 Keys, Carolyn W. "Writing Colloborative Laboratory Reports In Ninth Grade Science : Three Case Studies Of Social

Interactions." School Science and Mathematics 96.4(1996) : 178-187.

      This articles focuses on a study done by researches which sought to further investigate the benefits and processes of collaborative work. In her overview of the study, Keys points to Vygotsky's theories as a main guide for researching collaborative work. She paraphrases his ideas as "Vygotsky's conception of the zone of proximal development suggests that there is additional cognitive space for learning in which studies may be successfuk at problem solving with the help of more capable peers" (178). She also states that "writing is a natural language activity, which along with talking and reading, translates learning experiences into verbal symbols" (178). The main focus of the study was to answer the question of how collaboration provides "cognitive support for the report writing process" (179).

     The study consisted of three pairs of ninth grade science students, with the groups being diverse in gender and race. The students were to perfom laboratory experiments and produce a co-written lab report every two weeks. During the writing of these reports, the researchers studied the collaboration process and videotaped the interactions between the students. In all, the researchers watched nine writing sessions. In each session, they would "code" certain behaviors the students exhibited while working collaboratively and compare the number of times each behavior occured in each group. The five types of interactions were listed as "sounding board," defined as the times when one student talked out a response to a question and the other student responded accordingly; "peer teaching," in which one partner would act as the teacher and give information to the other partner; "incorporation," characterized by the "co-composition of text with partners completing one anothers' sentences; "debate," wherein each of the students argued his or her idea; and "supplies answer," which occured when one student would act as the orator, speaking aloud his/her ideas and the other would write down what was said with little evaluation or editing (182).

     Keys found that sounding board interactions were the most prevalent among the students, allowing them to discuss ideas with the other group member and conceptualize the objectives of the experiment before the writing process began. Incorporation was also seen in many of the interactions, as the students enhanced or clarified one anothers' thoughts. The debate interactions were seen primarily in one pair which consisted of two boys, Daniel and James. In her conclusion, Keys notes that "when [co-construction of text during incorporation interactions] occured, students created text by elaborating on each others' words, usually resulting in a more scientifically accurate statement" (185). She also concludes that "the data imply that teachers should carefully consider group composition, so that one partner does not dominate the other" (186). Keys ends the article with possibilties for future studies on collaboration, including interactions between different genders in group pairing, and research on the interaction of individual students in a collaborative group situation.

     Although this article focused on ninth graders, the results Keys obtained can be applied to any age group, including college students. It would interesting to see how the interactions change when the students are older and more mature in their collaboration skills. This article also offered some insight into the often-discussed (among our class, anyway) issue of scientific writing versus writing for the humanities. In this case, there seems to be little difference between the co-composition of a scientific paper and the processes that would produce a collaborative or peer-aided paper. However, further research either with students of the same age or a comparaitve study of college students in both areas would better elucidate those findings. The article also relates the work that takes place in the Writing Center. By coding the different interactions, Keys has given several options on how to conduct a collaborative process. While a tutor's work would consist mostly of what Keys and her researchers call "sounding board," there may be times when the other interactions, even "debate" could be sucessfully employed. Keys points to a theorythat has been established as an essential part of the Writing Center : talking out concepts before the act of writing takes place. In almost all of the coded interactions, the ninth grade students spoke to one another and discussed their thoughts about the concepts before or during the writing process.

     Keys's study also leaves open many different areas of research. On a broad scale, it would be interesting to see if a study of a larger or more diverse group of students would yield the same results. Also, the same sort of coding could be used to discover if students, young or older, write the same way in papers for English or other humanities classes. Keys seemed interested in the gender differences in composing, an issue that could reach into a college atmosphere as well. Does gender or race play a role in the kind of tutoring that the Writing Center should offer? Other studies could look at the individualistic part of a group project, exploring how different personalities react in a group setting. There are many aspects of collaboration that should be studied in order to provide teachers with some basis of how to structure their classes and what set-ups are most beneficial to different kinds of students. Michelle Ruddle. 11-04-01 

Spigelman, Candace. “Argument and Evidence in the Case of the Personal.” CollegeEnglish. 64.1 (2001): 63-87. 

 Candace Spigelman, relying on feminist critiques of positivism as well as Aristotle’s suggestion of using “brief stories” (experiential narratives) as punctuating evidence in rhetorical arguments, ventures to qualify personal or experiential narratives as rhetorical modes of scholarly argumentation (Spigelman 63-84). In the 1980s feminists exposed the inaccuracy of regarding patriarchal, scientific scholarship as objective (66). Supposedly objective, experimental, research strategies and modes of literary criticism are inherently subjective: feminist Heather Dubrow states that “turning an object into evidence is like gift-wrapping it: the agent performing the action defines and delimits the significance of the object” (66). Therefore, the personal narrative more accurately details the research and its findings, because in such a narrative the agent’s assumptions, race, class, gender, and motivation are made apparent to the critics (66-67). However, though feminist scholars and ethnographers have created academic spaces, communities, in which the personal narrative enjoys a credibility among likeminded scholars, Spigelman informs one that the use of experiential narratives in more traditional fields will be ill met by classically trained scholars (69).

In the article, Spigelman depicts the personal mode of writing as one of strategy.In the 1960s and 1970s students used the personal voice in academics to subvert dominant ideologies (69-70). One could strategically dissent against political, social, and cultural norms through experiential narratives, that if persuasive enough could drive the reader to ethos and pathos and thereby compel him or her to join in dissent and rebellion (70). This is where Spigelman’s use of Aristotle’s discussion of examples and enthymemes supports her call for personal writing. It is the audience who must be persuaded by the examples: if an example or enthymeme drives a group of people to recall similar life experiences of their own, that example may render persuasive the reasoning of the argument in that it would bring forth the audience’s ethos and pathos, creating a common point of view between the audience and the rhetorician (73).

            However, opponents of experiential narrative in academic discourse question how the teachers and critics will be able to test the validity of personal experiences (77). One particular fear is that accepting an infallibly of personal examples in arguing will silence all critical voices that make academic institutions strive for excellence (79). Spigelman says, “[the personal narrative] is problematic because the uninterrogated and unevaluated personal narrative is seductive and consequently, dangerous” (83). James C. Raymond suggests that students “identify and interrogate assumptions, ‘both explicit and implicit, that the presumed reader of the text is expected to share, and to locate the paradigms, if any, that form the basis of the argument’” (80). The validity of an example should not be questioned; rather, one must consider what must first be believed in order to find the argument persuasive (80). This is one method of critiquing personal narratives; another method involves considerations of “narrative probability” (“what constitutes a coherent story”) and “narrative fidelity” (“whether the stories [the audience] experience ring true with the stories they know to be true in their lives”) (80).

            There we see a problem to be treated in our writing center sessions: should a tutor encourage the personal voice in the tutee’s academic papers? Spigelman says that classical scholars claim that by encouraging personal writing, the instructor robs the tutee of the experience of learning and cultivating the highly formal languages and discourse strategies historically fundamental to academic life (70). Conversely, She mentions Elbow’s conviction: “I have faith that if students attend more closely to their experience, they will gradually, be led to sounder questioning and thinking” (63). However, Bartholomae, in critiquing Elbow’s teacherless classroom, argues that “…[such a classroom of purely personal writing] is an expression of a desire for an institutional space free from institutional pressures, a cultural process free from the influence of culture, an historical moment outside history, an academic setting free from academic writing (70). I feel that we tutors should temporally encourage personal writing so as to get the tutee thinking rapidly and making personal connections with the text in discussion; however, then it becomes more dangerous: if the student is in a field that praises the personal voice, I would encourage its use. However, knowing that science praises objective modes, free from the personal, and knowing that students must pass their courses to keep their scholarships, I would encourage those students in historically conservative fields, with specific rules governing argument and writing, to move from the personal voice allowed at the writing center to the formal writing of the field. We may help them cultivate the right diction and language and discourse style by reviewing, with them, examples of scholarly articles within their fields. But again, if a student wanted to be subversive, in spite of grades, I would support his or her efforts–Jared Fischer, November 4, 2001.   

Goldbort, Robert C. "Scientific Writing as an Art and as a Science."  Environmental Health March (2001) : 22-25.

         It is unlikely that heads of college and university writing centers across the United States will read Robert Goldbort's article. Nevertheless, this inaugural column (called "The Effective Writer") in the Environmental Health journal focuses on the very skills cultivated in a college writing program. Arguing against the traditional assumption, "that the complexity of science itself makes scientific writing necessarily difficult to read" Goldbort believes that "complex scientific information and concepts certainly can be expressed in ways that facilitate rather than impede readers' understanding" (22). Addressing his colleagues in scientific fields (Goldbort is actually a professor in an English department), Goldbort attributes "successful scientific writing" to the author's ability to reach his or her audience and relates writing "as both a product and a process…as both a science and an art" (22). Golbort divides his column into two sections: "Scientific Writing as a Science" and "Scientific Writing as an Art" and offers an amalgamation of the two ideas as his conclusion.

    In the 'science' section of the article, Goldbort cites examples from an article written by Judith Swan and George Gopen. The Gopen and Swan article examined the importance of writing in scientific writing, and according to Goldbort, "they offer a methodology for producing clear scientific writing that is based on certain key reader expectations of how scientific information should be presented, the goal is to maximize the chances that the intended meanings will indeed be derived" (22). Using examples of scientific text, Goldbort demonstrates the need for grammar attention for clarity and emphasis. The examples and Goldbort's revisions illustrate "how scientific writing can be viewed usefully as a science" (24).

       The 'art' section of the article centers around an author's style and its effects on the reader. Goldbort notes "the unique and creative ways in which scientists use written language to convey the results of their research or theorizing may actually mean the difference between a clear understanding or acceptance of their work and obfuscation to the point of impeding its usefulness for readers" (24). Goldbort equates art with creativity (24). While some may disagree with his definition, Goldbort's aim is to show his peers how style factors into scientific writing. Harnessing and tweaking one's personal style may promote better writing and consequently greater audience understanding.

    While Goldbort's article offers no new revelations in the field of writing, his writing functions as a reminder to writers (whether technical or creative) to pay attention to their writing from the perspective of the intended audience. In a slightly less significant facet, Goldbort incorporates witty quotations on writing from the science community that appropriately if not stylistically emphasize Goldbort’s argument. With out the quotations, the article reads like a watered down version of a writing handbook, but the purpose of the article is to inform rather than to entertain. Although the head of a writing center may not gain new insight into the function of the center after reading Goldbort's report, a writing center tutor may benefit from the opportunity to see a real world example of the skills they help strengthen in tutees.

    For some, writing is a talent or a passion. For many writing is a skill. Whether or not students formally recognize the importance of effective writing in a world beyond the classroom, the ability to write and write effectively in a given field provides students with a valuable resource. The importance of developing writing tools in college whether one studies education or biophysics demands for a constant reevaluation and adaptation of the college writing curriculum. Just as it is important for a writing center tutor to take the tutee's passion and relate it to writing, it is equally important for the entire school community to support, respect, and use the writing center. A writing center should serve as a hub for the entire community, not just as an offshoot of the freshman writing program aspect of an English department. This seemingly simple article demonstrates the power and promise of a college writing center.  Leah Frank 11.4.01

Ferri, Beth A., Gregg, Noel.  “Profiles of College Students Demonstrating Learning Disabilities with and without

Giftedness.”  Journal of Learning Disabilities, Sep/Oct 1997, Vol. 30 Issue 5, p552-561.

     This article is a case study of students with learning disorders, who were classified as gifted or ungifted. Diagnosis came from a clinical assessment that included standardized and informal measures of cognitive, social/emotional, oral language, and achievement abilities. Evidence qualifying students as LD were in broad terms: academic underachievement relative to the individual’s cognitive ability, cognitive processing deficits, no indication of sensory impairment or mental retardation, and no indication of a primary psychiatric disorder. The mechanism instrumented in this study was (sorry I’m going to have to use the passive voice a bit in this paper) the WAIS-R and the WAIS-full Verbal and Performance tests.

    The findings in this experiment suggest that students who are gifted with a learning disorder exhibit, on average of course, high verbal comprehension and abstract thinking. Also, they found that G/LD possessed a higher degree of variability on their test scores than Non-gifted/LD. College students with G/LD were less likely to be identified in grade school, and usually identified in college. Similarly, the recognition of verbal domain strengthened students usually occurred in college, while students with performance domain strengths were identified in grade school.

    This paper’s importance pertains to the fact that I want to study Learning Disabilities in writing for my research project. Although I do not yet have a clearly outlined topic, I felt I should at least get my feet wet with an article on the subject. Gregg and Ferri’s main data stemming from conducting this experiment seems to elucidate the startling fact that many individuals possessing giftedness and a learning disability go undetected by traditional testing, and become labeled as average thinkers. It’s unfortunate to think about how many students learning disability can depress placement scores, disqualifying them for special treatment. Along the same lines, high intelligence may disguise a student’s learning disability resulting in "[an] average student who is not an average thinker". Particularly with the verbal domain strengthened students, who seem to go unnoticed until much later in their schooling careers. I’d like to study something concerning the assessment of giftedness hidden by learning disabilities of college students or "successful" adults, and specifically its relation (or manifestation) in the writing arts. -Dan Pinnola 11/4/01

Nola Kortner, Aiex (1988). "Using Film, Video, and TV in the Classroom." ERIC Digest Number 11. ERIC # ED300848.

 [In this annotated bibliography, I will focus only on the section of the article that pertains to writing]

     In this summary of the uses of the media in the classroom, Nola Kortner offers suggestions and examples of how and towards what goals visual media can be used in regards to writing. Teachers can use movies, TV shows, or news segments to "generate topics" and "foster critical thinking." Teachers can use, for example, something seemingly un-academic but about which students have a "passionate devotion:" soap operas. Students in the class cited start by describing the characters, next move on the the acting, and eventually think critically about the plot. After discussion, they write analytically about the show. This approach of using shows to interest students who might otherwise remain uninterested in writing makes sense to me: TV is much less threatening a topic for the reluctant writer than "great literature." Rather than seeming obscure and difficult, TV shows are accessible and provoke strong reactions among many students. I would suggest, however, that once students are comfortable with thinking critically about TV shows, teachers relate those shows' plots to works of literature: easing them in this way, students will realize that analyzing literature isn't really as frightening or overwhelming as it seems.

     Nola Kortner offers a model to examine TV shows and introduce students to critical thinking. First, she suggests, teachers should talk about the genre in which the students will be writing, i.e. argumentation. After students have to opportunity to ask questions and give comments, the class watches the show. During and after the viewing, students should make an outline for their essay which they write during the next class.

     Visual media, this article maintains, can be used to "generat[e] enthusiasm" for subjects that might not otherwise interest students. I think that it would be particularly useful, though, for students who would not ordinarily be interested in school at all. TV and other media are "an integral part of [the] environment," something to which students can and do relate to easily. Media will probably, especially in students who are not normally interested in literature, generate more opinions and interest than books and poems. If watching and analyzing TV can "channel a student's enthusiasm and route it to a... useful goal," it justifies its use in the classroom: crtical thinking about media, even if it does not lead to the desired goal of critical thinking about literature, is a necessary social skill for all citizens. –Sara Brown, 11/4/01