Annotated Bibliographies for Fall, 2000

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   These entries obviously need some format corrections--most of the errors were introduced when I pulled them from Word into a FrontPage HMTL file, but we're working on them.  

Orwell, George.  "Politics and the English Language."  In Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays.  New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1950.  Rpt. in George Orwell. September 10, 2000. 1-6.


      In this essay George Orwell attacks many of the aspects of modern language which annoy him most.  Orwell begins by introducing several passages from contemporary writings, including Communist propoganda, several professors and published essays. (1)  Orwell then dissects these passages and divulges the most basic problems with language that appear in each passage and continues to discuss how these problems reflect the "general collapse" (1) of English language (2).  Orwell breaks these problems down into the categories of "dying metaphors", "operators or verbal false limbs", "pretentious diction" and "meaningless words" (2-3).  Dying metaphors, as the author explains them, are instances of overused or misused metaphors that appear frequently in written and spoken language (2).  He singles out the expression "the hammer and the anvil" as erroneous because of the implication that the anvil "gets the worst" of the abuse in this instance, when in fact "it is the anvil that breaks the hammer" (2).  Operators or verbal false limbs are basically elongated phrases used in place of simple verbs, such as "render inoperative" rather then "break" (2).  Pretentious diction refer to using complicated or foreign words in place of simple words to add "an air of culture and elegance" (2).  The use of these pretensions results in "an increase in slovenliness and vagueness" (3).  Meaningless words, which appear most in certain types of writing "particularly in art criticism" are words which are overused or have several meanings which convolute an author's point. (3)

      After his attack on the stated parts of written and spoken language, Orwell continues and models a simple path of questions, which, if followed, should lead to an easier time in writing. (4)  Orwells' instructions include much of what has been covered in associated class reading.  First, he recommends asking what is to be said, "which words will express it", how can the idea be clarified, and are the words "fresh enough to have an effect".  (4)

      Orwell's writing, though he certainly does pose interesting and valid points about language, also purports the impossibility of flawless writing.  Many of the studies read in class attempt to break down writing to a simple formula.  Flowers and Hayes' demonstrates that the mental processes behind writing are more then likely far from simple.  Orwell here attempts to suggest ways to clarify language, to make writing more precise, and yet he finds himself making the errors that he himself has so vehemently condemned.  He blatantly classifies modern prose as being "away from concreteness" (3), which is a weakness, and yet several times in this article uses words or phrases that are far from lucid.  He refers to a "special connection" between "politics and the debasement of language" (4), and yet never clarifies what this connection is. This is not to say that Orwell's essay lacks brilliance or significance, as he even points out that he probably commits the mistakes he criticizes (5). 

      In studying how language is created, is important to understand that language can be tuned, shaped, clarified, improved, and yet can never be perfected.  Was language an exact science, the errors Orwell discusses could be eliminated, writing could be taught systematically and tutors would not be necessary; however, the inexactness of language is what allows for beauty and uniqueness and enhances the study of it thus.--Shauna Kelley, 9/10/00


Tompkins, Gail E. "Poetic Writing." Teaching Writing, Balancing Process and Product. Fresno: California State University Press, 1990. 153-197.


My interest in this particular chapter of what is basically a "How To" manual for teachers stems from the way that Graves struck me as well as my interest in creativity in young children. The chapter outlines several teaching methods for middle school- and high school-aged students and gives specific examples of how their creativity can be drawn out of them into a creative medium, in this case, poetry.

The author emphasizes the importance of teaching children how to "play with words." By giving them poetic tools such as multiple-meaning words (157), homophones (158), idioms (158), comparison (190), alliteration (191), onomatopoeia (193), repetition (193), and rhyme (194), teachers can make words work for the children. When they feel a comfort level with difficult words and word-concepts, they are enabled to have fun with the words, making the writing experience more like playing than like working.

I was especially drawn to the author's encouragement of allowing children to create their own words. A little skeptical at first, I realized how novel it was to teach a skill that required thinking outside one's own language. Students used compounding, affixes, coining, trademarks, acronyms, and clipping to create words that are not in the dictionary but were nevertheless relevant to what they wanted to write about.

Tompkins used several examples from the classroom in her writing and research, and one of the most common difficulties that teachers encountered related to the children's preconceived notion that poems should rhyme. She advised, "rhyming should never be imposed as a criterion for acceptable poetry" (169). She felt that, while rhyming does occasionally open doors for higher-level students, young students' expression would be lost when they tried to rhyme. In short, they came up with nonsense poems that did not really contain what they were trying to say. Unfortunately, similar notions of "how a paper should be written" may serve as obstacles for the students we will attempt to tutor.

Thankfully, Tompkins offered several solutions that involved re-teaching the children what a poem really is, or at least, what a poem is "in this classroom." She offered a step-by-step solution with class activities (186). She advised that before instructors ask their students to "write a poem," that they first teach the diversity of poetic forms, share poems written by children, review the poetic form, and write class collaboration poems. Only after such an extensive explanation (during which the teacher stresses how many different kinds of poems there are) will the students have all the tools to write their own poems and feel comfortable writing them as well.

While I chose this chapter because it related to the Graves article and my personal interest, I did find something that struck me as directly relevant to the act of tutoring that we will be undertaking. Just as children have a preconceived notion that poems should rhyme, many students that walk into the writing center have a preconceived notion of what a college paper should be. Though it seems like a tall order, it might be important for us to identify when something like structure or wordiness is taking away from the thesis of a paper. In this way, Flower and Hayes' perception of "the long-term memory" could be explicitly hindering the writer. That is, the long term memory contains notions that might work against the paper's goals. Rachel Loeper, 9/11/00



Sherwood, Steve.  "Censoring Students, Censoring Ourselves:  Constraining Conversations in the Writing Center."  The Writing Center Journal 20.1 (1999): 51-59. 


            In this chapter of The Writing Center Journal, Steve Sherwood closely examines the relationship between tutors and tutees, with respect to the censorship of ideas.  He feels that writing center tutors have a responsibility to encourage free thinking on the part of the tutees, while ensuring that the work produced will not be offensive to its readers.  Sherwood finds conflict in his need to simultaneously act as a "strict libertarian" (51) and also "prohibit sexist, racist, offensive, or profane speech" (52).  The author presents the example of a male student who comes into a writing center for help with a composition paper.  The student's comments in the paper communicate his extreme lack of respect and consideration for women in the corporate world.  Naturally, Mr. Sherwood is appalled by the statements made and struggles to decide what to do.  Do tutors truly have the right to censor the opinions of their tutees? 


            In light of his libertarian views, the author cites the First Amendment.  This amendment guarantees this student the right to voice his opinions, no matter what these opinions are.  Obviously, this writer will face opposition or criticism from his professor or classmates for his opinions, but that is not his main concern.  But the likelihood of greatly offending professor and academic classes is a main priority of those working in the writing center.  Sherwood is "bound by National Council of Teachers of English tenets prohibiting sexist speech" (52) and must consider the implications of taking a solely libertarian stance on this issue.  No matter how difficult it might be, tutors must find ways to protect students' rights to free speech while considering the rights of the readers. 


            But how do tutors evaluate what writing is offensive?  Determining whether or not writing is too abrasive is taking the tutors' personal opinions into consideration.  "Most of us would sooner censor ourselves - refusing to reveal our opinions on issues for fear of being too directive - than censor a student writer" (52).  Tutors must strive not to impose their thoughts upon the tutees.  After all, the finished paper should present the ideas of the students, not the tutors.  As for the issues of offensive content, tutors must act very cautiously.  Sherwood offers some interesting solutions to this very difficult problem.  He suggests explaining "that a primary purpose of academic writing is learning and testing ideas, not simply venting" (58) and giving "fair consideration to the perspectives  and experiences of others" (58).  Offering these suggestions might lead students to new realizations, without the fear of unfairly censoring the thoughts of the writers.  While assisting students in the production of good academic writing, tutors must also carefully avoid the infringement upon any students' rights.

-Charita Moore 9/14/00               


Anson, Chris M.  "Distant Voices: Teaching and Writing in a Culture of Technology." 

            College English, Vol. 61, No. 3.  January, 1999, p 261-280.


            Anson sets up a distinction between how we once lived and learned, and how we are beginning to live and learn based on technological advances.  His descriptions are fairly objective even as he discusses the ways in which the academic world will radically change due to technology.  He also discusses the various levels on which technology affects the academic environment, ranging from personal computers to multimedia classrooms, to distance learning.


            His general approach to the encroachment of technology is very sensible, saying, "The key to sustaining our pedagogical advances in the teaching of writing…will be to take control of these technologies, using them in effective ways and not…substituting them for those contexts and methods that we hold to be essential for learning to write" (263).  Basically, Anson believes that teaching methods have not changed much, but that the media through which we teach are changing.  He gives several examples of technological usage which already, in a year and a half since publication are outdated, proving further how technology-based academia has become. 


            Besides changing our learning environments, Anson expresses how "virtual spaces" can create physical isolation and "an entirely different order of interaction" (267).  Clearly, if the way students living in dormitories interact with each other changes, the way those same students interact in classrooms will change as well.  And Anson believes that the teaching of writing "is founded on the assumption that students learn well by reading and writing with each other" (267). 


            If the teaching of writing begins employing multimedia teaching strategies, the whole ideological approach to writing will have to change, because interaction is so fundamental to the discipline.  Anson seems to worry about the restructuring of the entire writing process but does not believe technology will endanger serious learning.  He also suggests several ways in which technology will enhance some education, providing students with opportunities for distance learning and contact with like-minded students at different universities.  Anson provides a clear overview of technological advances in the field of academia and how these can be useful tools if used in an actual classroom of serious scholarship instead of replacing that physical environment with teachers and classmates who only exist in cyberspace.  (Miriam J. Steinberg, 9/14/00)      



Sherwood, Steve.  "Humor and The Serious Tutor."  The Writing Center Journal 13.2  (1993): 3-12.


                In this article, Steve Sherwood addresses humor and laughter within the writing center.  He begins his article by quoting many scholars who "encourage an enlightened, collaborative environment in writing centers" (3), and believe that the stigma of going to a writing tutor should be eradicated.  Sherwood feels that the use of "intelligent and humane" humor can be the first step in creating such an environment, thereby eliminating the notion that writing centers are only for those who need remedial help.  Sherwood's objectives for humor in the writing centers are to "build rapport, calm fears, sweeten criticism, and enhance creativity" (11). 

                He addresses each of these points throughout his article, beginning with the building of rapport between the tutor and tutee.  He stresses that humor should not be used in a derisive manner, as the tutee is probably already anxious about the session in the first place (4).  Ridiculing and humiliating the tutee will not help to improve their confidence in their skills as writers.  Instead, humor should be used as a device to build a relationship of "respect, trust, even friendship" (6) in order to help them develop their skills and talents as writers (5).  A tutor can only help someone who is willing to be helped, but once a solid relationship is established, the tutee might be more inclined to return to the writing center or the same tutor. 

                Sherwood then relates the importance of humor in calming the tutee's fears, which could be a combination of many things from "deadlines, grades, parental (or spousal) expectations, and tough professors" to disapproval, rejection, or authority figures (7).  Laughter between the tutor and tutee can help to ease such fears, allowing the tutee to focus on the paper at hand instead.  He states that shared laughter is usually a result of people relating to each other on the same level (7).  As Turk discussed in her personal essay, it is hard to balance the "status as a student against the authority inherent in ... being a consultant."  This balance might be achieved and maintained by the ability to relate to his/her tutee with humor.

                Sherwood's next point discusses how humor can help to soften the truthful criticism that must come from the tutor.  Once a good rapport has been established, the pain of criticism may not sting as much (8).  Humor is useful in keeping the tutee's "fragile ego" intact, while still allowing for honest insights and comments to be made from the tutor.  However, Sherwood emphasizes that each tutee must be regarded on an individual basis, and it is up to the tutor to gauge his/her reaction to humor.  If a tutee is not taking to one application of humor, another like self-deprecation, might be attempted.  It might be useful for a tutee to know that their tutors are fallible, and thus only human, as well (8).  This prevents the tutee from feeling completely inferior to the tutor, and the tutor from feeling too superior to the tutee.  It also gives both another point in which to relate to each other. 

        Sherwood's last point, which brings the article full circle, is on humor's "vital role in liberating creative potential" (9).  He gives examples, stating that research shows "a clear relationship between humor and creativity" (Greenlaw and McIntosh 135).  Furhermore, the humor shared between the tutor and tutee can be the initial step in a collaborative effort in creative thinking.  The freedom to laugh and be humorous can give way to creativity once the tutee no longer feels the restraints of academic rigidity.  This echos the personal essay of Koundajkian and her emphasis on using the personal/social voice when tutoring in the writing center.  Once formalities in the tutor/tutee relationship are blurred by humor, creativity and expressive ideas can emerge.  Ultimately, this can help the tutee become a better writer overall, instead of just improving one paper.

--Kristine Reyes 9/14/00 


Shulman, Polly.  "We'll Always Have Parrots."  Discover.  October 1996: 3037.  Wilson Web.    9/15/00.


            In this article, Shulman humorously attempts to find the right way to get around a creative block.  The first source she calls suggests graduate school, but she immediately dismisses it, unwilling to spend seven year studying math in order to solve a simple theorem.  She calls upon Dr. Perkins, Harvard graduate, to explain exactly what creative block was, and how one might go about solving it.  He explains the types, and the different ways she could try to break the block.  Fearing that there is more studying and school involved, Shulman decides instead to see if her local bookstore has anything to offer.  She buys several audiotapes, and takes note of the kernel of wisdom printed on her receipt:  "Attend to reality diligently. Receive all people w/kindness. Say little, do much."  She keeps it in mind but doesn't quite know how to follow the receipt's guidance. 

            She returns home and attempts to contact her spirit and find tap into her creativity through several tapes.  While she does find Polly, the parrot who repeats her until asking if she smells gas, she does not find anything that is able to restore her creative abilities.  Giving up on the tapes, Shulman calls Jonathan King of the University of California at San Diego, a cognitive scientist, to ask how it is that humans supposedly only use 10% of their brain as the tape suggests.  He explains to her the theory of the mind, and offers detailed technical information on myelin and neurons firing, but does nothing to alleviate her creative block.  The spirit guide, Polly, returns as Shulman attempts the audiotapes yet again.  She tried to have a heart to heart discussion with the bird, who merely asserts that "I am a creative person . . . I enjoy being creative in many ways."

            Finally deciding that nothing more can be done by "sharpening pencils and listening to tapes", Shulman sits down and begins to work out equations similar to the one that began the entire process.  Polly begins singing country song vaguely reminiscent of "Fur Elise", and Shulman is faced with the realization that "you just have to take what comes and go on walking along that dangerous road, keeping yourself safe with your song."

            Shulman takes the reader on the journey of an artist trying to do anything she can to break through creative block.  She attempts calling on other resources in various ways, and continues procrastinating until realizing that only the artist can push through creative block, and there is not a book on tape that can help you do it.  Understanding the theory of how the mind works is not going to help her create, and she most certainly is not interested in the idea of studying seven years of math at the graduate level.  Deep breathing and reciting to yourself in a mirror only leads her to question the sanity of the people telling her to do so.  Several tapes, phone calls and sharpened pencils later, she comes to the conclusion with Polly's help that creativity is not something that can be forced.  And when it does come, there "no fighting inspiration."  ~Jenna Morton-Ranney, September 15, 2000.


Markel, Mike.  "Behaviors, Attitudes, and Outcomes: A Study of Word Processing and Writing Quality Among Experienced Word-processing Students." Computers and Composition 11 (1994):  49-55.


            Based on research studies, it has been found that "students who routinely use the Macintosh use it aggressively, have positive attitudes about using it, and believe that it improves their writing" (49).  This article cited a particular study in which 34 students each wrote 2 essays.  One was composed entirely on the Mac, and revisions could be made directly on the computer or by hand on a clean print-out.  The other was composed by hand and then typed into the computer.  Revisions were mad on a clean print-out.  Students also completed a survey about their computer usage habits. The results showed students who did poorly on the Mac written essay tended to do poorly on the hand-written essays as well.  These students had little or no experience using the Mac on their own and had had little or no training in using a word-processor.  They tended to use the Mac like a typewriter without a carriage return because they did not know how to use the computers editing features.  Students who did well on the Mac essay also did well on their hand written essay.  These students mostly had at least 3 years of using the Mac, felt very comfortable using it, and preferred it over traditional methods.  They also tended to do revisions completely on the computer and took full advantage of the word-processor's editing tools.  The experienced students found writing on the computer to be less anxiety inducing and more pleasurable.


            Markel states: "It stands to reason, as has been suggested by numerous researchers, that if students show more enthusiasm for writing, want to write more often, and are more willing to revise, the quality of their writing will eventually improve, at least to some extent" (50).  In a 1990 study, it was found that essays written on the computer were significantly longer with superior technical detail and content.  Once students become accustomed to using the computer for writing, they refer not to use old methods.  But oppositely, students who are not accustomed to using the computer reject the idea that it could improve the quality of their writing.


            We must keep in mind this article was written 6 years ago, and computers have come a long way as far as technology, user friendliness, and accessibility.  But it still remains true that students who are more comfortable with a computer will be able to use it more to their benefit.  Since papers almost exclusively must be typed these days, almost all students will use a computer to at least type the final draft, whether they have word-processing familiarity or not.  I think it is important, when tutoring, to assess the student's level of comfort with using a computer, because that could very well be a factor in the quality (as well as quantity) of their writing.  If the student is scared or inexperienced about using a computer for writing, I think it may help to tutor that student in using a word processor, if the student is willing and time permits.  I hope that more emphasis is put on using computers in the future of education.  If the studies cited in Markel's article are correctly indicative of the greater quality of writing computers produce, then it is very important to make sure all students are familiar, experienced, and comfortable using a computer and its editing tools.  Elly Zupko, 9/16/00


Marschall, Anne. "Power and the pen: the gendered politics of peer positioning within the writing process." Australian Journal of Language and Literacy 20.4 (1997): 303-18.


This article caught my eye after reading Lester Faigley's "Competing Theories of Process" in which he mentions all the implications of looking at writing as a social experience. Marschall stands in opposition to Faigley's view that "The focus of a social view of writing, therefore, is not on how the social situation influences the individual, but on how the individual is a constituent of culture" (Faigley 46). Marschall not only looks at the social situation as influencing an individual's writing, but she takes it one step further and delves into the implications of such socially-constructed writings.

Marschall uses excerpts from her second-grade students' "free writings" to illustrate the differences in topic choice between boys and girls. Like Graves, she found that girls tended to write stories about the home and school realms, while boys chose topics like violence, space travel, and sports (304). Additionally, she found that boys tended to have exclusively male characters in their stories, while girls included both male and female characters (306). Finally, she found that many of the characters within her students' stories fell into traditional gender stereotypes (305). In short, even though the children were allowed to write about anything they desired, their characters still conformed to stereotypical social roles.

Marschall used another device to explicate the social situation in her classroom. In a workshop atmosphere known as "share chair," the children shared their stories with their classmates (305). The other children gave feedback, suggested improvements, and shared their feelings about the piece. Within this public atmosphere, boys talked significantly more often. They also praised the other boys' pieces and criticized the girls' writings (311). In all the children's writings, Marschall noticed that the themes of love and vulnerability were avoided (314). She proposes that teachers should talk with students about gender roles and their implications within the students' stories, but she does not say that she did this herself (317).

I think it is important to remember the social implications of our writing, especially since gender roles are taught from such a young age. An example of this occurs when a woman tries to write a story in which the main character is a man. Unless she can disassociate in some degree from her femininity, she will not be able to paint a believable character. In order to reach the largest audience, writers should be constantly aware of their social background (in relation to race, gender, and class) so that we can make sure incongruent elements do not leak into our characters and our work. (Rachel Loeper, 9/18/00)


Saramago, Jose. "Jose Saramago: The Art of Fiction CLV." The Paris Review, 40:149 (1998) 55-73


In this interview, Donzelina Barroso speaks candidly with Jose Saramago about his writing process and the extent to which his Portuguese heritage and the history of Lisbon and the Portuguese people are evident in his fiction.


Beginning with a brief account of Saramago's life and literary accomplishments, Barroso introduces Saramago as the first Portuguese writer ever awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Saramago was twenty-four when his first book, Land of Sin (Terra do Pecado) was published, followed nineteen years later with his first collection of poems, The Possible Poems (Os Poemas Possiveis). In the sixties, he worked as a journalist before the publication of his second novel, Manual of Painting and Calligraphy. Since 1980, Saramago has written a number of successful novels, gaining international attention. His novel The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis received the Portuguese PEN Club Prize and the Independent Foreign Fiction Award from Britain. One of his more recent novels, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, received the Portuguese Writer's Association Prize and a nomination for the European Union literary contest Ariosto. The Portuguese government banned the book from the competition, however, after being subjected to pressure from the Catholic Church. Barroso explains that, shortly after the controversy over The Gospel, Saramago and his wife moved from their home in Lisbon to the island of Lanzarote in the Spanish Canary Islands.


Right away, Saramago expresses his "quite normal" approach to writing. When asked if he had difficulty adjusting to his new work space after the move from Lisbon, Saramago explains that he did not and that he lives his life "without dramatizing things." This very sensible, very cognitive approach is stressed throughout much of the interview. Saramago seems eager to separate himself from writers who struggle, muse, and "romanticize the act of writing."


This is the predominant theme throughout the first part of the interview. Saramago goes into great detail when describing is simple writing process and makes it sound effortless. He discusses both the cognitive process and the actually act of typing his stories. When he writes, he "arrange(s) words one after another, or one in front of another, to tell a story, or to say something that I consider important or useful, or at least important or useful to me." He says he does this with ease, simply because it is his job.


Logistically, Saramago requires himself to write two pages a day and he always prints each page he finishes. He works directly on a computer, claiming that the switch to a keyboard from a typewriter did not effect his writing at all because the computer does not effect his style or his vocabulary. The only revision he does includes only small changes and he claims that ninety percent of his work is the first writing he puts down.


He says that he usually has an idea of where his stories are going to go, but never any rigid plan, or else the "book would be obliged to exist before it existed." He envisions his characters to be on strings; they are not independent of him, yet he keeps them true to their own personalities. He reflects on his belief that writers see their characters as real people.


Barroso asks Saramago where his ideas for two of his books came from. As for his book Blindness, he says, he was sitting in a restaurant when he suddenly thought, "What if we are all blind?" His idea for The History of the Siege of Lisbon came about a bit more elusively. Sometime in 1972, he had an idea of writing about a besieged city, but was unsure of what city and what siege. He combined this with the notion of the "truth of history," did some research, and developed the idea from there.


I was fascinated by many of Saramago's responses, specifically in relation to our own reflections on how we write. I found it interesting that this man simply views the act of writing as his job, supposedly never experiences writer's block or any other form of anguish, and claims to have no "odd habits." I am a bit skeptical, though. Does writing always come so easily to him as he says? Is revision really such a small part of his practice? If the information given in this interview is the truth, though, then maybe some people would benefit from this distance approach to writing. Remove emotion, loosen the strings on and the  attachment to characters, and view the process as you job, and maybe writers would experience less turmoil as Saramago does. (Jenna Pearson 9/17/00 - I'm not sure how the indentation got all off!)


Welch, Nancy.  "Playing with Reality:  Writing Centers after the Mirror             Stage."  CollegeComposition and Communication, Vol. 51,             No. 1.  September 1999, p 51-69.


            Nancy Welch approaches ideals for a writing center environment from a psychoanalytic perspective.  She talks about Freud's division of the psyche into ego, superego, and id and how, "Just as ego psychological practice is defended as providing its analysands with social empowerment, such a writing center practice is defended as providing students with academic empowerment" (55).  In opposition to the classroom, many people view the writing center as safe from the same types of academic pressure.  While in the classroom students may be stifled, in the writing center they are free to express themselves in their own way.


            In one particular argument, "the classroom is marked as the site of the alienating discourse, the pressures of the symbolic order, while the writing center is imagined as reprieve from and protest against that order" (56).  However, the writing center must still help students to write, and cannot be free from all structure and modes of productivity.  Thus, Welch introduces the idea of play into the tutoring experience.  Rather than a lax student to student relationship where nothing gets accomplished, or a harsh and intimidating teacher to student relationship, playing with the writer's pre-established comfort zones can lead to many new approaches of writing tutoring. 


            For example, a student came to the writing center, pronounced herself blocked and "no writer."  The tutor asked and found out that the student enjoyed writing poetry, and together they used her comfort with that medium as a starting point for her text-based paper.  Another student came to the center and said her writing lacked structure.  By examining written items in her life which were necessarily structured (grocery lists, memos), the student and tutor, "thus play not only with the possible relationships between genres of writing but between spheres of living" (63).  By taking the pressure off the immediate assignment at hand, tutors can help writers explore what they already know about the writing process.


            Because she is using a psychoanalytic structure, Welch cautions against the tutor becoming analyst to the tutee.  That is not her intention.  Instead she believes that by working together and playing with different structures and ideas, tutor and writer can reach the goal of improved and more comfortable writing.  The tutor and student "both go to work on the rhetorical situation as in need of analysis" (61).  By allowing the student to be an outsider to the problem at hand, which is at once hers and not hers, she can then observe the situation objectively without the personal pressure often inherent in writing assignments.


            Welch warns though, that this type of situation is not easy for tutors.  She says, "This kind of play does take practice.  The pedagogical moves made by the tutors…didn't happen through chance but resulted from ongoing consideration of how to play against apparent limits" (64).  She then talks about the importance of tutors meeting together and discussing various approaches, successes and defeats.  By tutors examining what is beneficial about play and passing that joy along to their tutees, a space can emerge where writers pass naturally through Freud's stages of development, but in the context of writing. 


            Specific students "may not match an initial ideal image of the writing center student, but they carry into their tutorials excessive experiences, questions, and desires that go far beyond the stated wish for grammatical perfection" (66).  By delving into what other desires the writing center student has, tutors can assess what type of approach would best serve their needs.  Certainly, as this article reveals, play can be an extremely beneficial method of dealing with students who are resistant to their own capabilities.  Perhaps we could never create the ideal writing center, however, Welch provides us with a wealth of ideas on how to create ideal tutoring sessions. (Miriam J. Steinberg 9/21/00)


Podis, JoAnn M. and Leonard A.  "Improving Our Responses to Student Writing: A Process-Oriented Approach."  Working with             Student Writers: Theories on Tutoring and Teaching.  Ed. JoAnn M. and Leonard A. Podis.  Peter Lang Publishing Inc.: New             York, 1999. (85-95)


            Is the traditional system of grading used by many writing teachers today becoming outdated? Podis and Podis acknowledge here that a recent survey indicates that the "traditional evaluative response" is still dominant (85); however, this approach is losing credibility as comments are "confusing to the students because they … [fail] to differentiate between low-level and high-level textual problems". (86)  In this approach, all comments, whether noting a major structural problem or just pointing out a slight grammatical error, are given the same emphasis.  Podis and Podis propose a new approach to grading in which the "attitude" of the grader and the awareness of  "rhetorical or structural problems that might signal legitimate intentions rather then simple failure" would aid in "encourage[ing] student potential" (86). 

            The main focus of the new system Podis and Podis present seems to be taking a flawed writing and viewing it as a springboard for improvement rather then as flawed.  (88)  The present three examples of disorganized or juvenile writing and also present the  types of comments that many teachers would be tempted to offer; however, they then find a strength in the piece and use this to encourage the writer to improve (88).  One of the examples is a paragraph which is "disorganized and uncertain in focus" but view the sloppy nature as "the messy residue that can accompany writing as discovery". (87)  So rather then reverting to a "mean-spirited marginal comment" the teacher decides to point out that this paragraph is a strong first attempt, though by no means a finished product (87). 

            The idea that one must 'accentuate the positive' to be cliché is truly old hat.  Very few children have ever escaped growing up without being scolded not to say anything if they can't say something nice.  The idea that this concept so seldom enters into a grading situation, especially when considering something as sensitive and personal as writing, is a bit shocking.  Robert Herrick identifies words as his children in his poem "Upon his Verses".  The relationship between a writer and his or her prose can be very personal, and so when the idea of the looming red pen and criticizing demanding professor arises, this can be a very intimidating experience.  In his article "Closing My Eyes as I Speak" Peter Elbow discusses how the anticipation of audience can so influence a writing that the author becomes intimidated or defensive in tone; therefore, the ideas presented by Podis and Podis are excellent. 

            Bad grades can be discouraging, this is obvious, but even more discouraging and frustrating to many students is the "traditional single submission, evaluative response system". (89)  Turning in only a single draft, especially for new and evolving writers, does not allow for learning the professor's particular grading strategy, or for the errors which most people make on the course of becoming a proficient writer.  A multi-drafted system might be far superior; however, this does raise the problem of laziness.  For students who just want to pass, the multi-drafted system is ideal as they can sloppily concoct a first draft, allow the teacher to do much of the revising for them and rewrite the paper for a better grade then they deserve for the effort put forth.  A viable option would be a 're-write by invitation' system in which teachers can aid those students who seem to be honestly attempting to write well and allowing them to re-write and improve, while those that would merely take advantage of the system would suffer in regards to grades.  With so many personality types, the problem of finding a 'perfect' grading system is perhaps one that will forever be unsolved. Shauna Kelley, 9/21/00


Nancy Rost Goulden.  "Implementing Speaking and Listening Standards:  Information for English Teachers."  English Journal 88.1 (1998) 90-96.


            Nancy Rost Goulden wrote this article in regard to the new standards that the National Council of Teachers of English and International Reading Association have implemented.  The standard emphasizes "listening, speaking, viewing, and visually representing in the overall goal statement and includes terms that refer to the oral language arts in nine of the twelve standards.  A study that examined twenty-nine state standards documents revealed that every program included both speaking and listening as part of the state standards" (90).  More than just teaching the basic elements of writing and literature, there is now a stronger focus on developing students' other skills.  Teachers will also constantly emphasize listening and speaking skills.  Further developing students' scope of knowledge is obviously a wise idea and a worthwhile venture.  The classroom should not be a place where students mechanically produce written assignments in order to satisfy course requirements.  Students should emerge from the school system equipped with the skills and developed talents necessary to succeed in this quickly advancing world. 


            But surely, speaking and listening are already taking place in classrooms all over the country.  How will English teachers know if they are meeting the criteria for enhancing students' abilities in these areas?  "Without a professional definition to guide them, teachers may erroneously assume that any vocalizing is speaking and any silent, passive behavior is listening" (90).  Should students simply sitting in the classroom observing the activities around them be credited for 'listening'?  The answer is no.  The Speech Communication Association outlines more detailed descriptions of 'speaking' and 'listening'.  They describe 'speaking' as "both spontaneous informal speech and prepared formal speeches" (90) and 'listening' as being "centered on a person's engagement in a complex active process"(91). Just as 'speaking' in the classroom must enhance the discussion taking place, 'listening' must be active and lead the listener to a greater understanding of the occurences in the classroom.


            On page 92 of Implementing Speaking and Listening Standards, Goulden states, "Perhaps the first rule of a fully participatory classroom is that the teacher will not depend exclusively on volunteers in class discussion".  Some students will always attempt to essentially fade into the academic background in classroom situtions.  There are various reasons for this lack of vocal expression, from shyness to laziness.  For example, Alicia Koundakjian had no problem handling written work, but had no capacity for being vocal in class.  In her essay in Working With Student Writers, she describes "the clash of [her] desire to speak with [her] extreme discomfort at the sound of [her] academic voice" (35).  Her teachers had allowed her to meld into the background for so many years that she had lost her confidence in speaking publicly.  As a part of this new emphasis in the school system, all students will be constantly encouraged to actively participate in discussion by listening to others and speaking.  Aside from developing communication skills in students, this curriculum will produce well-rounded students who will be more confident with speaking, listening, and writing in the academic arena.  

Charita Moore 9/22/00          


Thompson, Thomas C.  "Personality Preferences, Tutoring Styles, and Implications for Tutor Training."  The Writing Center Journal.  14.2  (1994): 136-149.


Thomas C. Thompson's article focuses on the influence personality preferences have on tutoring styles, and suggests that acknowledgement of such preferences be included in tutor training.  He believes that discussing personality type theory in training "can help tutors become more aware of ways their preferred tutoring styles may match or clash with the preferred learning styles of their clients" (136).  Although he admits that he can only go into limited depth about personality type theory in his article, he is able to provide the general basics in relation to writing and tutoring.  He details his article in several sections, beginning with an overview of personality type theory, then provides examples of three tutors with different styles and personality preferences.  He gives credit to psychologist Carl Jung for initially developing type theory, and Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, who expanded it.  The theory holds that behavior is a result of "the way an individual takes in information and makes decisions based on that information," and that an individual's behavior "reflects the source of an individual's energy and his or her way of managing the environment" (137).  Because individuals are prone to acting in routine or consistent ways, they can be divided into four different types of behavior preference. Thompson acknowledges that there are a many various ways of acting, but type theory asserts that individuals "prefer" certain ways. 


Thompson proceeds to give a brief overview of the four pairs of personality dimensions within type theory.  The first pair is extraversion and introversion, which assesses whether an individual looks for his/her energy outwardly (in the world or environment around him/her) or inwardly (within his/her own thoughts and ideas).  The next pair discussed is the sensing perception and intuitive perception.  The sensing perception focuses on gathering information by their senses, relying on orderly and detailed data, while intuitive perception focuses on "patterns and possibilities suggested by the data rather than on the data themselves" (138). 

Thompson then describes the third pair, which is the thinking and feeling judgments.  Logical associations are used in thinking judgment when organizing facts and drawing conclusions (138), while "personal values associated with a problem" (139) are used in the feeling judgment when making decisions.  The last preference pair is that of judging and perceiving.  Simply put, judging types have "planned, organized lifestyles" (139) and seek closure, while perceiving types have "flexible, spontaneous lifestyles" (139) and remain open-ended.  Throughout his explanations of the various pairings, he provides examples of possible writing and tutoring techniques that may result from personality preferences.  However, since these types do not encompass all specific individual characteristics, he stresses that these examples are only possibilities of how various preferences are manifested in tutoring practices (142).


Thompson then emphasizes that there is ongoing study that supports "the connections between personality preferences and teaching and learning behaviors implied by personality type theory" (140).  He believes that a tutor "who understands different approaches is less likely to try to force the student into a single ('correct') approach, and is more likely to be able to understand and work with the student's preferred approach" (141).  Knowing that there are different preferences can make a difference in how a tutor may approach an individual tutee's session.  It can help a tutor connect with a particular tutee who may follow the same types, or it may help indicate why a tutor and a tutee aren't making progress because of their differing types.  He warns against tutors "guessing" their tutee's personality preferences, but emphasizes the benefits of teaching type theory to tutors, which include awareness of their own type so that they know their partiality in their tutoring styles, and working with the strengths within their preferences (145).  In conclusion, he encourages writing center directors to use type theory as a means to help tutors anticipate the various writing processes they will come across in tutoring sessions (146).  Thompson provides yet another element that needs to be taken into consideration concerning the relationship between tutors and tutees.  Considering how individual everyone is, especially in their writing processes, any knowledge of creating connections or enhancing understanding is a welcome advantage for a tutor learning how to do his/her job.  -- Kristine Reyes, 9/23/00


Zeiser, Pamela A.  "Teaching Process and Product:  Crafting and Responding to Student Writing Assignments."  PS:  Political Science & Politics.  Sept 1999.  593.  Expanded Academic ASAP.  Accessed Sept 22, 2000.

            In "Teaching Process and Product:  Crafting and Responding to Student writing Assignments", Pamela Zeiser attempts to come at the writing process from a different perspective than that which we, as student tutors, are used to.  She calls for teachers, specifically political science professors, to recognize writing as a process and not a product.  She asks what the value is of requiring a student to hand in an assignment if the student merely regurgitates information and is not left with any lasting knowledge?  Even if on rare occasion a student does come away with a firm grasp of the concepts, she still believes that "while students do learn and process information in performing these assignments, none of these school writing assignments promotes writing primarily for the sake of the learner, and none of them encourages students to make school knowledge personally their own" (para 4).  Papers should not be about the grade; they stem from the need to for a student to prove that s/he is able to manipulate the knowledge adequately and should be treated as such.  The problem develops when a teacher cannot decipher if a students does not understand the material or is simply not able to write in a manner which reflects that understanding.

            Zeiser suggests that teachers need to rethink their approach: 

Writing is a recursive process. When we write articles for publication or papers for conferences, we go through a process of thinking, writing and revising, followed by more thinking, more writing, and more revising. In this way, we develop and improve our critical thinking and writing abilities. Yet, professors rarely ask their students to do the same. We typically treat writing as a product rather than a process. By doing so, we fail to teach students the benefits of drafting and revising. (para 2)

            I think it's important to realize that teachers also believe there should be much more involved in a writing process than merely cranking out a paper to get a grade.  As someone who values the writing process myself and will be a facilitator of that process for student writers, it's good to know that professors, such as Zeiser, believe that the process is as important as the final product itself.  That takes pressure off me to help a student merely earn a few more points on his/her final grade and allows me to help them simply become better writers and communicators.  Zeiser points out that writing is an important skill that any professional uses, and that if a teacher does not emphasize the need for writing as a process, then s/he is robbing the student of an invaluable skill.  She goes into the specifics that political science teachers can incorporate into their course planning, but continues to place major emphasis on the need of teachers and professors across the board to understand that writing itself must be encouraged and valued as a skill in the classroom and beyond.~Jenna Morton-Ranney, September 23, 2000


Johnson, Robert R.  "Audience Involved: Toward a Participatory Model of Writing." Computers and Composition 14 (1997): 361-374.

            I found this article to be especially interesting and appropriate to read after reading Peter Elbow's discussion of eliminating audience during the thought processes of writing.  Robert R. Johnson could not be more polar in his belief.  Johnson mostly works with technical writing students, and in this article, focuses on the writing of technical manuals for technological products, specifically a voice mail system.  He says, "Audience theory historically has been central to technical communication" (362), but calls for a rethinking of the idea of the audience as it has been discussed before.  He puts the theories of audiences into two camps: first, a non-specific group who needs to be "informed, persuaded, or entertained" (363), and second,  "a fictional construct of the writer's imagination" (363).  Think how students develop an idea of what a new professor may want from them.  Johnson also discusses how the audience is not included in models of collaborative writing.  Collaborative writing can be either peer editing, or multiple writers for one final pieces, but it is still only the writers being involved.  "Missing from most discussions of collaborative writing is audience as an actual living, breathing figure in the discourse production…. They are only written or spoken to, not with" (363).  I found this observation to be interesting and very true.  It is rare to see "I" in a paper, but even rarer to see "you."  The audience is kept at a distance from writing.

            In technical writing (especially writing manuals) the audience is key.  Johnson describes a manual for a voice mail system that "had most likely been written by system experts, probably the developers themselves, because the descriptions of many features were cryptic or jargon laden and thus difficult to understand" (368).  Johnson and his class undertook the task of rewriting the manual in a more audience friendly manner.  Their first step was to get actual feedback from the audience themselves, by means of surveys and interviews.  Obviously, this method is completely antithetical to Elbow's theory.  Instead of ignoring the idea of an audience, these students were actually, literally speaking to their audience about what they wanted to read and how they wanted to read it.  "Putting information into a user's task vocabulary is common sense among accomplished technical communicators" (370).

            Can Johnson's theories be applied to other forms of writing?  It seems almost elementary to focus on audience when writing something like a manual or help file, but what about something like a literary analysis?  Johnson briefly touches on the possibilities of the "involved audience" in other realms.  I think this comment really hit the nail on the head: "Audiences who actually receive the intended document can have interesting effects on a writer's conception of what needs to be produced.  At times, the writer might be just plain wrong about the genre the audience needs.  At other times, a single genre might not be enough to satisfy audience needs" (374).  How appropriate is it for the student to visit the teacher and discuss every element of her paper with her professor?  I'm not sure how many students would be comfortable with this, or how far professors would go into a paper with a student, before it is even graded.  It could go from discussing main ideas to going line by line.  In an educational environment, I don't know how applicable Johnson's theories are. The audience to a college paper is only one person, the professor, which brings a different dynamic.  But I think talking to other professors and students (and tutors) is a good replacement for going right to the professor.  It is like using a test group before going right to the market with your product.  I think Johnson makes a good point in that sometimes we are dead wrong about what is good for our audiences, because we are too caught up in our own minds (which may better understand the material than other minds).  In essence, he is close to talking about decentering, like Flower.  This article was an interesting contrast to the Elbow article, but like Elbow's theories, its feasibility in certain situations is called into question. -Elly Zupko, September 24, 2000.***


Fulwiler, Tony. "Provocative Revision." The Writing Center Journal 12.2 (1992): 190-204.


In this article Fulwiler begins with his belief that "teaching writing is teaching re-writing," (190), and proceeds to outline four methods by which tutors can help their tutees to recreate their paper in a way that will make it more pleasing to a reader. He does warn, however, that a few of his methods will only work in an academic setting if the instructor is open to non-mainstream term papers (204).

First, he  proposes that students should limit their first drafts; "Generalization is death to good writing" (191). By limiting the topic as well as primary elements within a paper, the writer avoids "over-generalization, prejudgement, and directional uncertainty" (193). He notes that all these traits are symptoms of first drafts that should be recognized and weeded out by the tutee. In other words, we need to recognize when something begins with another form of "once upon a time." As a method for limiting the scope of a project, he recommends adding a local flavor to the paper; if it is about pollution, visit a local lake and see first-hand what the consequences of pollution are (195).

Second, he recommends adding elements that will bring a personal voice into the paper. If it is a creative work, add as much real or created dialog as you can. If it is a research paper, take on-site interviews with experts on your topic (196-7).

Third, Fulwiler suggests what he calls "switching," which involves "reporting the same events as the previous draft, but doing so from a different perspective" (198). He adds that this can be done by "switching pronouns or, in a more complex way, by role-playing a third person" (198-9). This mechanism allows the writer too look at his/her story from another point of view that could in turn make the piece of writing more accessible to a reader.

Lastly, Fulwiler proposes something that he knows just won't fly with conventionally-minded professors: putting research into the form of a play, a newscast, a series of diary entries, or any other creative form to which it lends itself. Sometimes it was difficult to differentiate what he actually advocated within the academic realm, but regardless many of his ideas could prove very useful in the creative realm, if nowhere else. (I don't mean to imply that they're completely separate realms! I mean, they could overlap…) He called this last method "transforming" and gave several student success stories to accompany it.

       It seemed like the focus of this article centered around students' creative revision rather than the actual tutor's responsibility within the rewriting arena. I think that maybe he just added a few sentences at the beginning and end of the article so that it could be published in this particular journal, but the article nevertheless gives a great perspective on revision strategies that can be taken advantage of by tutors as well. (Rachel Loeper, 9/24/00)



Price, Jonathon.  "Electronic Outlining as a Tool for Making Writing Visible." Computers and Composition 14 (1997): 409-421.


I found this article to be appropriate for this week after looking at the student writing samples and their varying uses of outlines.  Price begins the article by citing his feeling and the feelings of other researchers that "pen to paper" outlines are dinosaurs in the composing process.  "Flower and Hayes criticized the outline as a product-based plan, the kind of plan that occurs 'when the composing process is governed by a concern for the form of the finished product,' and they suggested that the difficulty of producing a formal outline can slow the writer down" (410).  Price describes the pen to paper outline as "textbook format."  Essentially, the outline becomes a document by itself, not part of the process on the road to the finished product.  A formal outline "acts as a rigid blueprint the student must follow when drafting, with any violation (or new ideas) being punished by the teacher as a violation of contract" (410).  The true original purpose of the outline was lost in the use of the pen and paper, because the form was difficult to edit, and there was little way to distinguish headings and hierarchies besides arbitrary indentations.  I think Price hit the nail on the head with this analysis of the formal hand-written outline.  I remember writing a paper in high school where we were explicitly told that the outline had to match the final draft.  "If you change your paper, you must also change your outline."  How is that helpful?  Like Price stated, the outline becomes a product itself instead of a means to a product.


Because of the inherent problems in hand-written outlines, they have been abandoned by many students as "just something the teacher made us do."  They tended not to see it as a tool, but rather a hassle.  Price's argument is that outlining can be a very useful composing tool now that we have the aid of electronic outlining software.  "Outlining on the computer rather than on paper, one can create a much more visible hierarchy, not cramped by handwriting, tiny labels, or irregular indentation, and one can investigate the hierarchy immediately changing order, level, phrasing, or sequence without recopying, scribbling over, or drawing arrows" (409).  Similarly to composing drafts on the computer, outlining on the computer allows for constant revision.  It is simple to add information, and essentially the outline can be created while the research is being done.  "Electronic outlining becomes central to the writing process, instead of an annoying stage required by the teacher" (409). 


Price includes a specific example wherein he collaborated on a technical writing project using electronic outlining.  He lists these steps as part of the outlining process, which are all obviously easier to undertake on the computer screen:

·            Identifying potential topics and recording them in a list

·            Appending notes, comments, rough drafts of sentences and paragraphs under topics, as research procedes

·            Deleting duplicate topics

·            Merging related topics

·            Dividing one topic into its subtopics

·            Assembling various low-level topics and creating a new topic to group them under

·            Disassembling a grouping that does not work

·            Promoting and demoting subtopics and topics

·            Creating a recognizable sequence for all topics at a particular level

·    Giving items in the same group the same grammatical form

·            Ensuring that all topics of the same type appear at the same level throughout the outline

·            Returning to research materials to ensure no valid topics have been left out

·            Writing a whole paragraph, to find out whether the subtopic really belongs where it is (learning by writing it down)


It is very hard to perform these procedures on a written draft, or even on a written outline.  An electronic outline provides for these tasks simply and effectively, which does outstanding things for the coherent structure of a paper.  Certain outlining programs allow you to use color, font, or size to denote a certain level of subtopics, or look at only one level of topics at a time.  This provides for ease in parallel structure.


Price concludes by saying, "The shift from pen and paper to electronic media has given us a software tool that dramatically shifts attention from a momentary product to an ongoing process, in which structural analysis and constructive thinking are played out on the screen, many previously half-conscious activities become visible, and the [writer] takes advantage of the very presence and changeableness of the emerging outline to watch the… writing unfold" (421).  I noticed in the writing sample we looked at on Monday that the writer put down an outline and then followed it exactly.  She may or may not have realized that her ideas were not always connected to each other, but she still felt compelled to follow the concrete outline she had in front of her.  She also left out transitions between the headings of her outlines.  We must take into consideration that she did not have a computer at her disposal, but if she did, how could her writing have been different?  It would have been easier to shift her ideas into logical order.  The outline would not have seemed as unchangeable, and thus would have left room for sudden ideas and links. 


After reading this article, it almost seems old-fashioned for Goucher to have students compose their writing samples on paper.  I think having students would perform better on the computer.  One reason is that a type written piece looks like a final draft, and the student may be more inclined to make it more finalized. Another reason is the ease in which revision can take place.  Students may realize mistakes or disjointed thoughts or missing sections, but it is extremely difficult to adjust those errors with pen and paper.  And on a computer, a detailed outline can easily morph into a draft by changing topics into sentences and adding transitions.  I think Price made a very strong point in his article, and I think electronic outlining could greatly strengthen the organization and support of a student paper.

--Elly Zupko October 4, 2000


Tompkins, Jane.  "Pedagogy of the Distressed."  College English.  Vol. 52, No. 6, Oct.

1990, pp 653-670.


            In her essay, "Pedagogy of the Distressed," Jane Tompkins, largely through personal testimony, criticizes traditional classroom methods and presents new strategies for effective and meaningful teaching and learning.  She presents traditional teaching through the metaphor of banking, based on Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed.  When teaching is like banking, educators try to deposit as much information as possible into their students and the students blankly receive these deposits without processing the material themselves.  Tompkins includes this as well as all elements of traditional and restrictive classroom behaviors into "the performance model" (654). 


            She believes that academics, especially those who were particularly high achievers as children, have a fear of not appearing smart enough or capable enough in their classrooms.  She says that, "as children they/we successfully imitated the behavior of adults before we were in fact ready to do so" (654).  That is, learning imitation at an early age and earning praise for such imitation, in effect limits our openness to new ideas and creative exploration as we grow older.  Becoming used to imitation and praise, as teachers we are hesitant to break this model and give our students a chance to say something we haven't thought of, or appear in any way fallible.


            Another obstacle to the "true" teaching which Tompkins yearns for is the common position in academia " that thinking about teaching is the lowest of the low" (655).  In an educational environment where the focus often lies outside of education, little can be accomplished to provide students with stimulating learning experiences.  Tompkins shares the moment at which she realized something in her classroom needed to change.  Now, she says, "I have come to think that teaching and learning are not a preparation for anything but are the thing itself" (656).  Hence, the learning process is of value as a process and an experience, and not in relation to later rewards.


            Both in teaching and in tutoring, the professor/tutor needs to encourage the student for the sake of the student's education.  While a writing tutor could easily rewrite a paper for the tutee, little good would be accomplished in doing so.  In the same way, then, when referring to student presentations in the classroom, Tompkins says that, "in some cases the students don't deal with the material as well as I could, but that is exactly why they need to do it.  It's not important for me to polish my skills, but they do need to develop theirs and to find a voice" (657).  Education is about the students and not about the teacher.  For the student to try and fail is still more valuable than for the teacher to perform and lecture in a way which is detached from the students' own experiences.


            Tompkins discusses a course she taught in which students led the classes and where she believes a new type of educational format emerged.  Students became emotionally involved in the material and the discussions and the class was not sterile but rather was extremely personal.  Tompkins says this was the best class she ever taught and that she will never return to her old model of teaching.  She closes her essay with this: "A kinder, more sensitive attitude toward one's own needs as a human being, in place of a desperate striving to meet professional and institutional standards of arguable merit, can bring greater sensitivity to the needs of students and a more sympathetic understanding of their positions, both as workers in the academy and as people in the wider world" (660).  This essay expresses beautiful sentiments about the true value of the right kind of educational environment and how the teacher's attitude about him or herself can dictate the learning experience.  Teachers and tutors alike can learn from her experiences and advice to create positive and thought-provoking learning experiences free from performing anxieties or desperation to fit an irrelevant standard.  

(Miriam J. Steinberg 10/4/00)


Sherwood, Steve.  "Humor and the Serious Tutor."  The Writing Center Journal 13.2 (1993): 3-12. 


            We can all agree that one of the main responsibilities of writing center tutors is to help their tutees.  But is simply improving their grades the only way to help them?  I don't think so.  Many students are very uneasy about doing written work for their classes.  Aside from assisting with the mechanics of their papers, tutors should also attempt to ease any discomfort the students may have about writing.  After all, approaching the task in a more comfortable manner will surely augment the quality of the finished product.  Steve Sherwood greatly believes that humor is a wonderful tool for tutors to use.  In "Humor and the Serious Tutor", he states, "I agree that we need to encourage an enlightened, collaborative environment in writing centers… I believe that we can achieve this goal through the intelligent and humane use of humor" (3).  Sherwood does not believe that humor should belie the purpose of the tutoring session at all.  It should only serve to make the communication between the two parties involved a little smoother. 


            But how often are tutors attempts at humor successful?  After all, the tutees have come to the tutors in search of assistance, feedback, and understanding.  Inappropriately applied, joking with tutees can harm the working relationship that the tutors are attempting to build.  "Our attempts at wit, however well-intended, may fall flat or backfire resulting in confused, wounded, impatient, or angry student writers" (4).  For many, writing is a deeply personal experience.  Sharing their work is extemely difficult for many students-especially considering the fact that the tutors are often strangers.  Should tutors take the risk of making light of students' work?  The answer is no.  The tutors must not laugh at the work, but find ways to lightheartedly discuss aspects of it.  Above all, the attempt on the part of the tutors must be to laugh with the tutees, not at them.  The tutors must take careful cues from the tutees.  The joking must not be taken too far; it should not interfere with the improvement of the paper. 


            In the very effort to improve the papers of tutees, tutors will often need to point out mistakes or make suggestions for alterations in the body of the work.  Humor can also be very useful in these sometimes fragile situations.  The tutors must not be too timid to discuss aspects of the papers that could stand improvement, but should not offend the writers in any way.  Sherwood notes, "In telling a student our version of the truth, we must make sure it hurts as little as possible… hard lessons go down more easily and more palatably with a dose of [humor]" (8).  While expressing any possible problems with a student's work, a tutor must be aware of the implications of their comments.  A criticism given too coldly might have quite a detrimental effect on the student writers.  A bit of humor can 'soften the blow' of a potentially hurtful observation about the tutees' work.  And though humor is an effective choice for tutors, it is not always the best choice.  "We must learn to gauge how each individual will respond and act accordingly" (8).  Some students will not appreciate any attempts at humor, and others will.  The tutors must note the demeanor of the tutees and proceed in a fashion that will inspire the most creativity and comfort for both individuals involved.    Charita Moore 10/5/00  


Lyons, Greg.  "Validating Cultural Difference in the Writing Center."  The Writing Center Journal.  12.2  (1992): 145-158.


In this article, Greg Lyons discusses the importance of accepting and welcoming alternative modes of thinking and communicating (145).  His concern is that students who may be considered non-traditional or minorities will be alienated by the "unquestionable authority," established by Kenneth Bruffee's "expert-novice model of teaching and learning" (146).  These minority students can be differentiated by "ethnicity, race, gender, sexual preference, age, class and occupational history" (146) and sometimes considered out of the mainstream culture.  Lyons stresses the need to "help students explore differences and validate alternative perspectives within educational discourse" (146).


Lyons' emphasis is on authority as a social construct.  His example is the "expert-novice" approach, which puts the power of authority in the hands of the professors, leaving little or no authority to the students.  He feels that "collaborative classrooms can enforce conformity, that consensus can encourage repression by authoritative standards as 'natural' rather than as socially determined" (147).  Teachers often do not take into account the cultural differences that affect the students' perspective and experience, thus alienating them (148).  In such a case, it is the tutor's job to "discourage students from merely mimicking their teacher's authoritative voices" (147), and instead encourage the students to challenge these "institutional discourses" by communicating their own alternative perspective.  This notion echoes what has been discussed in personal student tutor essays, notably Emily Fawcett and Noelle Howey, who feel that students should have enough confidence to express their own ideas in the face of an authoritative professor. 


Next, Lyons notes John Trimbur's "utopian consensus" model of teaching, which "encourages students to discover, explore, and negotiate their differences rather than to accommodate their viewpoints to larger, more authoritative discourse communities" (147).  As we have seen in writing process theories, it is easier to write when you feel strongly about something because you are personally invested in the paper.  Allowing students to explore their own perspectives in writing enables them to learn more about themselves, strengthen their writing, and gain a broader realm of knowledge since they are not simply sticking to the "standard" or established way of thinking.  Thus, Lyons warns against tutors "suggesting changes in essay content lest we limit what students intend to say in their own writing" (148).  He reinforces the notion that tutors should help students bring forth their own ideas and insight.


Lyons explains that tutors must accomodate the change from the "expert-novice" model to the "utopian consensus" model.  Tutors should help students detach themselves in terms of personal feelings towards a topic (150) so that they can differentiate feelings from rational argument and clarify what they mean to say (153), and also use the students' cultural perspective or emotional reaction as a starting point for a paper (152).  Tutors can be a guide for filtering the student's thought process in terms of maintaining academic discourse throughout the paper (154). 


Coincidentally, this advice can be applied to almost any tutoring situation, as we have established the need to accept that every writer is individual in many ways.  Granted, this article was written eight years ago and the need for cultural acceptance might have been greater, but cultural differences are still an important factor in both writing and tutoring.  Unfortunately,this article does not go into much depth on the possible problems or tensions between a tutor and tutee who may have cultural differences, although it does encourage the fostering of such differences in writing.  He emphasizes that "validating cultural difference is a way to give minority students a cultural voice and a critical method in the process of utopian consensus" (154), but he fails to fully explore such cultural differences and their effect on writing or the writing process. --Kristine Reyes 10/8/00



Kirchner, Bharti.  "Putting Emotion Into Your Fiction."  The Writer.  September 1998:  20-22.  WilsonWeb.  Accessed             October 9, 2000.

            Kirchner illustrates in "Putting Emotion Into Your Fiction" the importance of identifying with one's characters and helping the audience to identify with them as well.  She stresses some of the techniques writers should utilize including symbolism, innovative description and lively dialogue.  "Laugh, scream and weep before your keyboard; make your reader feel" (para 2).  For Kirchner, a story cannot be real unless there is passion behind every word and thought a character experiences.  A writer must understand what s/he is writing about; it must be real to him/her.  This does not, however, limit an author to his/her own real life experiences.  She advises that while writers do follow the old adage of writing what you know, that one can explore beyond one's own world as long as the passion continues with that exploration. 

            Kirchern's main point is that a piece of writing cannot be real with emotion and understanding.  The writer needs to understand the characters completely, to make them his/her own.  S/he must understand why they do the things they do.  While she is commenting on fiction writing, as peer tutors we must pay attention to her words of wisdom.  No, academic papers do not contain characters to serve as voices for that passion, but that does not mean that passion is absent in academic writing.  We all know from experience that writing about something we truly care about is important and makes the writing process much easier.  How do we translate that into something that a tutee can use to put passion into his/her paper?  One need not have characters to speak of passion; it comes across in the words themselves.  A reader can, as Arnie demonstrated with Charita's response, discern between real and forced interest in a paper.

            The key, then, is to make the paper something that a writer can be passionate about.  Maybe s/he isn't as keen on King Lear as Shauna was, so let's try another Shakespeare.  Hamlet, perhaps?  What did s/he like about it?  Dislike about it?  Did it really piss that student off when Ophelia committed suicide?  Did that make him/her angry?  Why?  Does s/he blame Hamlet's treatment of Ophelia and feel the direct result was for her to kill herself? 

            Bingo-the student then has a topic and can develop a thesis that s/he really cares about.  Something s/he can be passionate about.  Emotions and feelings are what drive people to read fiction; shouldn't that also be what drives people to read academic writing?  No, you probably won't read about which character slept with his sister's aunt's step-daughter, but you will get to read about why Hamlet should be punished for his treatment of Ophelia or how the latest breakthrough in genetics could lead to a cure for cancer.

            Now that is something to be passionate about.~Jenna Morton-Ranney, October 12, 2000


Pierson, Jonathan.  "What Ails the Ailing Writer."  Word Words: Learning through writing at Boise State University.  Nov. 1998.  <>

            Writing: magic or science?  The main issue addressed in Pierson's article is how both possible views of writing causes problems to beginning writers, or rather, ails them.

              As Pierson  points out "Our culture loves science" (1) and hence, the tendency seems to be towards trying to fit writing into "another set of terms" so that the process of learning to write can he defined by "axioms, and formulas, a set of scientific writing rules" (1).  These rules, however, are merely grammar, which is, according to Pierson, the "catch all term for the writing rules of the universe" (1).  This causes writers to have problems in that "the rules of grammar are elusive" (1), and that when one thinks in terms of scientific rules, writing must be "good," or "right", and the idea of good writing is certainly much more abstract (2). 

            An avid reader would agree with Pierson's claim that 'writing is powerful stuff" (2), which is how he begins his description of how writing is magic.  This causes beginning writers to ail because, as any fantasy reader can attest, magic is something one "either possesses or doesn't" (2).  Unlike the scientific view, in which one can at least learn the rules and hopefully "catch on" (2), the magical view is a mere bewilderment to a beginning writer.

            Though his views and definitions of writing are certainly simplistic, Pierson does make a very valid point in his proposal of a cure, namely that a writer's true "illness" comes in his or her "misconceptions about writing" (3). 

            Pierson's article seems very applicable to not only a discussion of how people write, but his views could also be applied to our recent discussion of Writing Centers.  Some recent readings have suggested that people either feel Writing Centers are scientific labs where they can bring a paper and a tutor can look it over, apply the proven "A Paper" formula, and hand it back to the student; others view the Writing Center as a magic realm where they bring a paper that a tutor might cast a spell on it and make it work.

            So what is the truth about writing and Writing Centers?  Well, they aren't Magic Realms, or Science Labs, and writing doesn't fit neatly into Magic or Science.  Pierson suggests that writing is actually a combination of "intuition and knowledge" (3), which seems valid.  This would also apply to tutoring.  Tutors have knowledge of what a good paper looks like, and how it reads, and by meeting a tutee and reading a paper, tutors develop intuitive approaches to helping the student improve not only this piece, but his or her writing in general.--Shauna Kelley, 10/15/00



Bishop, Wendy. "Writing from the Tips of Our Tongues: Writers, Tutors, and Talk." The Writing Center Journal 14.1 (1993): 30-43.


In this article, Wendy Bishop begins, "Talk is central to what we do as writers and as humans," (30) and she continues throughout the article to articulate the ways in which verbal and written language play influential parts within the writing process, and more specifically, within the writing center.

First, Bishop writes about the voices of writers within the writing center. She offers a unique perspective that isn't seen so often in undergraduate studies. She quotes novelist Clarence Major as saying, "Most students in college today aren't going to have an opportunity to be in touch with who they are and where they came from in such an intense way ever again as they will in a workshop" (31). College students take workshops for granted, and even go so far as to express doubt that they can offer a unique perspective in writing at such a young age. Bishop denies this, advocating the unique, transient position of the college student still intimately connected with his/her childhood, but only one step away from the "real world." When a student identifies with their roots and finds their voice in writing, she very beautifully calls it a "wedding of voice and personal history." She believes tutors and teachers can help students to reach this beautiful union by simply listening to their stories.

Next, she goes into the question of authority within the writing center and within a teaching situation and how authority depends on conversation and voice. She believes that the "subversive nature of writing centers" stems from the opportunity it gives students to speak to one another. Often, they find things wrong with the way classrooms are run, the way teachers interact with their writing students, or the way a particular teacher grades papers. The centers pose a threat by giving students a medium through which they can converse with one another about the dynamics of the educational system in which they find themselves.

In the section entitled "Connecting Talking to Teaching," Bishop skims the surface of learning that takes place outside the classroom. Without her saying it explicitly, it's easy to tell that this is one teacher who would be elated to learn that her students found themselves talking about a particular poem or about the writing process one Friday night while drinking in the dorms. As a writer, she highlights the many opportunities to gain stories and perspectives that she encounters in everyday life. As a writer and a teacher, she recalls all the occasions in which she has learned from or been inspired by students in her classes through written or verbal conversations.

Finally, Bishop talks about "Collaborative Talk" within all composing processes, but most specifically within the realm of creative writing. She outlines the relationship between Hans Ostrom, who is arguably her poetic muse, and herself. Through constant exchange of poetry, the two share work, critique, and drive one another to new levels of language manipulation. Taking collaborative talk one step farther, Bishop draws a picture of the community of writers, within which each writer gains strength, feedback, and validation from all the other members. What better way to validate thirty-seven hours spent musing over a poem until the writer "got it right," than to be able to share his/her tale with someone who will understand? Lastly and perhaps most importantly, conversation within the community of writers advocates revision as writers' critique one another's work and encourage one another to take risks they might not have otherwise considered.

As a member of the writing center community, she paints a picture of the writing center as a safe and quiet place where conversations take place and opportunities are realized. Concluding, she sums up the duties of composing teachers, writing center tutors, and poetic muses alike by calling them "conveners, reflectors, responders, senior-learners, coaches, language-consultants, co-writers, and, overall, interested listeners" (42). (Rachel Loeper, 11/2/00)


Trimbur, John.  "Literacy Networks:  Toward Cultural Studies of Writing and Tutoring." 

            The Writing Center Journal.  12.2  (1992):  174-179.


            Trimbur finds a great deal of value in researching writing centers because of the unique opportunities that they offer.  In writing centers, tutors and tutees have candid discussions on content, grammar, and many other aspects of the writing process.  Researchers are able to study students interacting and openly discussing their work in an environment unlike any other.  Trimbur notes that studying teachers and their students offers a very different perspective.  In many cases, students do not feel comfortable enough in the prescence of their professors to be totally honest and ask all of the questions that perhaps they should.  No students want their professors to have negative images of them.  Consequently, some pupils will refrain from asking pertinent questions to avoid feeling inadequate or unknowledgeable.  But peer tutoring situations often alleviate these concerns.  "The relationship between tutor and tutee, precisely because it is usually not entangled in the reward system of grading and evaluation, appears to present us with a relatively 'uncontaminated' social matrix to study the naturally occuring language of students struggling with their writing" (174).  Students in search of assistance will be more open to a peer who is not the individual assigning grades to his or her work.  And because tutor and tutee are closer to one another in age and experience, the situation may not be as intimidating either. 


            The author goes on to discuss the literacy "networks" that students work with throughout their lives (175).  These networks "describe the multiple ways social experience brings individuals and groups into contact with written texts and how these encounters shape orientations and attitudes toward the production and use of writing" (175).  Every person has a different experience as far as learning in school and at home.  I feel that I was very fortunate in my experience in both realms.  At home, my mother encouraged me to read and I greatly enjoyed it [and still do].  I can remember times that my mother and I would curl up in bed over the weekend and read our books for hours.  While other kids would get money or sweets when they got a good report card, my mother would buy me new books… and I loved it!  I also got a strong foundation for reading in the schools that I attended.  And I realize that some children are not as lucky as I was.  The literacy networks are not so strong in many cases.  But these networks are present long past the times when children are simply learning about reading and writing. 


            Trimbur discusses the many different networks that students form for themselves throughout their lives.  They complete their work for their academic classes, but also find other opportunities to be creative.  He writes, "Our students themselves think that the kind of reading and writing they do on their own, unassigned, outside of school, for their own interest or pleasure, doesn't count, and so they keep it segregated from their academic experience" (177).  These networks include writing for themselves or for their own private purposes.  They must write for their classes partly as a means to an end, which is a grade.  But many students choose to use other creative networks for writing.  Some write poetry, short stories, fiction, graffitti, letters, or journals (177).  No matter what it is, writing is writing.  Any practice or exposure to it is valuable in some way.  Whether it is the more structured and practical training received in the classroom or the freer, self-motivated experiences that students may have, any attempt at writing can only serve to teach valuable lessons and better a student's skills.         

Charita Moore 11/3/00


Edmunds, Gadrie.  "Moving Beyong Correctness: Helping Good Writers Get Better."  Word Works:       Learning through writing at Boise State University.  October, 1998.


      In this article Edmunds gives voice to something that I forsee being a problem in tutoring: good writers.  Edmunds discusses her  theory that often professors are "so overwhelmed responding to writers who need help that those who hold their own are just given grades with a few specific comments.' (2)  This doesn't necessarily seem like such a bad grading policy; however, Edmunds feel that "it seems an injustice not to challenge good writers to improve" as this is what is done for "their less successful peers." (2)

      Edmunds learned of the lack of challenge provided for good writers first hand.  She claims to have been one of those "kids everybody hated in high school English" (1) because of her ability to write quickly and do well.  Because of this ability, she viewed revision as "a waste of time" (1), understandably so, for if one can get an A on the first try with minimal effort, why try to improve?  She learned, upon becoming a writing tutor, that even strong writers have room for improvement.  Edmunds relates one tutoring session in which she became "frustrated"  because the tutee was "so strong" a writer that she wasn't "open to many suggestions" (2).  I can easily see this problem arising in a tutoring session, provided that this takes place in a Writing Center where they have overcome the stigma of only bad writers needing the center. 

      Edmunds feels that the main difficulty in this comes in that good writers "deserve to be shown a full range of writing options" (2), a lot of which are shown to lesser writers.  Strong writers, however, who have found the A paper formula, are seldom confronted with other options.  She believes that, though often these writers "akready have a good grasp of correct usage and academic conventions" and yet often "need to see how their writing fits into their major field." (3) She suggests that writers in basic classes who have already tackled the basics, need "pushing. . . .even further" so that they might learn their potential. (4) Edmunds asks "Who gets the responsibility of focusing on these already capable writers?" (2)

      Edmunds suggests that "professors should be able to help each student turn in an even better paper" with each assignment, but also acknowledges that this task seems "daunting…given the size of many classes." (2)  Enter the Writing Center.

      I feel that Edmunds points out many valid concerns, and though I must admit, at first the idea of being so presumptuous as to assume that I should push strong writers seemed arrogant, the more I think about it, the more I believe that this could lead to a stronger writing center.  Current tutor Joe Kranak told me that a big problem he encounters as a tutor is that the better the paper is, the more ideas he gets.  I have found this true in my own experience.  If I read a strong paper, I often find myself getting very excited, thinking "oh, they could do this, that would be cool" and such other thoughts.  I think tutors might often be afraid to express these sentiments to a good writer, but if they do, this can help in giving the writer range.  Exploring many options will help to make a writer more versatile, which is arguably very beneficial. 

      Often strong students are 'lost in the shuffle' and might never make it to the Writing Center for a number of reasons; nonetheless, I think sending strong writers to the Writing Center would be very useful, both to tutors and writers.  I really think this should be considered as a new "angle" for the center.--Shauna Kelley, 11/3/00


Van West, Patricia.  "A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words."  The Writer.  March 1996.  14-16.  Accessed WilsonWeb.  Nov

            5, 2000. 

            It's a writer's worst nightmare.

            Writer's block.

            There is nothing more terrifying to a writer than staring at the blank screen or sheet of paper, waiting for words that simply won't come.  Everyone seems to have a suggestion for solving it, but most involve banging your head against a wall for several hours or similarly useless techniques.  Van West, however, suggests looking at a picture when writers are stumped.  The idea sounds simple enough, foolhardy even.  Where would a story come from in a picture of yourself or loved ones?

            Van West goes on to illustrate all the crucial sense that looking at a picture can tap.  Imagine the wealth of visual description you can get from a photograph, adding in your own imaginative details.  She speaks of closing your eyes and trying to picture the scene in your head, recalling all the details you can.  Remember or imagine the sights and sounds that are around you as the character.  Why is she smiling so?  Why is he looking at her?  Where is that shadow coming from?  Why is it night?

            A single photograph can be the foundation for all the crucial components of a story, as Van West points out:  characters, setting, dialogue and plot.  The photographs themselves don't have to be exciting; simply look at them as though you've never seen them before.  Forget that they are the people you know and explore them as the potential they present in the single moment in time captured on film.

            But what of academic writing?  Can a writer blocked on the topic of economic crisis management solve his/her writer's block by looking at a picture?  A graph?  I don't think that staring at the picture I have up of my roommate and me above my computer is going to help me with my next political science paper.  (Though in it I am wearing a shirt that says "I only sleep with Democrats," but I'm not sure my professor would encourage that as a valid thesis statement)  And while the picture of me strangling a friend at the Naval Academy may have interesting political undertones, I don't think that it going to help in my analysis of Puritan political theory.

            Van West never comes outright and says that her solution for writer's block is solely for fiction writers, but I would have to argue that photographs could not be a help to academic writers because of the nature of the work.  Fiction is based in sensation and perception, whereas academic writing focuses on fact and analysis.  While those sensations and perceptions can be created from a picture basis, fact and analysis cannot. 

Next time I need inspiration for a story, I'll start looking at the pictures which decorate my desk.  As for next time I write a paper . . . I think I'll go back to banging my head against a wall.~Jenna Morton-Ranney, November 5, 2000.


Gatens, Moira.  Introduction to Feminism and Philosophy: Perspectives on difference

            and Equality.  Indiana University: Bloomington, 1991.  pp 1-8.



            Moira Gatens' book, Feminism and Philosophy, critiques both male- and female-written philosophy from a feminist vantage point.  Using many well-known philosophers' work, Gatens takes offense at the way that first, women are excluded from philosophy, and second, when they are included, their inclusion assumes that women fit into pre-established societal roles and thought patterns.  In her introduction, Gatens briefly takes on many of the issues which comprise the body of the book and provides an overview of her concerns about women and philosophy.


            Gatens explains that feminist theory is closely aligned to many socio-political theories, even while many such theories (Marxism, existentialism, utilitarianism), by their very nature, exclude women (1).  That is, in an attempt to generalize about the human condition, the condition of women is ignored.  Gatens says that, "To accept the implicit value system of these theories is to accept the superiority of masculine values and occupations" (2).  While no feminist wants to accept such a superiority, women do not have the vocabulary to express their experience apart from the male experience.


            Thus, philosophers such as Simone de Beauvoir and Shulamith Firestone present seemingly feminist philosophies which actually rely on male conceptions of the female body and the traditional dichotomy between mind and body.  This dichotomy has much to do with women's exclusion from philosophy, for if a woman is strongly rooted to emotion and the body, particularly through motherhood, then there is no possibility that she could also make use of her mind.


            Gatens provides two choices for women: "Either they affirm a necessary sexual difference resulting in different natures and roles but claim equal value for such differences, or they affirm an essential equality which will be actualized once women's connection to reproduction is controlled, or severed, by science" (4).  Within the context of philosophy, then, women must pick one of these stances and base their methods of thought around it.


            Unfortunately, women have very little place to turn for support.  Traditional philosophy provides no basis for women thinking and more modern philosophy stems from the canon and relies on traditional gender roles.  Even the "sexually neutral human subject turns out to be implicitly a male subject whose 'neutrality' is conceptually dependent on the 'shadow' conception of the female subject" (5).  How, then, do women think?


            Gatens says her work is perverse because she is "looking at women who are looking at men looking at women" (6).  And yet, for women to be in philosophy, this is their only option.  The rest of the theories in this book aside, the masculine nature of philosophy remains.  Thus, for women to write about philosophy within the very structure which excludes them, they face an intellectual impossibility.  Philosophy, that which studies the essence of the human experience, excludes one half of the human experience. 


For a woman to write about philosophy she must either compromise her feminine perspective by looking at philosophy only through the eyes of men or she must challenge the structure of philosophy by including women in the experiences from which they have been excluded.  Gatens explores many of the challenges which feminism poses to philosophy and her primary success is that she explores these issues at all, when so many philosophers are willing to ignore them.  (Miriam J. Steinberg 11/5/00)                


Healy, Dave.  "A Defense of Dualism: The Writing Center and the Classroom."  The Writing Center Journal  14.1  (1993): 16-29.


Dave Healy focuses his article on the difference (and the need for difference) between the classroom and the writing center.  Students need a different environment and experience from the classroom in order to embrace independence from their instructors' authority, express creative and critical thinking, and own their writing.  Healy emphasizes that students need this sort of freedom in order to become independent, confident thinkers, and that the writing center is one place that can foster such freedom.  The distinction between the writing center and the classroom is precisely what makes the writing center available for this purpose. 


Healy begins by giving Harvey Kail and John Trimbur's two models of peer tutoring: one in which it is curriculum-based and therefore associated with the instructor, classroom and hierarchy of authority (Teacher's Assistants), and another which is exemplified by the writing center model.  The writing center model allows students, through collaboration, to become their own authorities.  Healy states that teacher authority "breed[s] student passivity" (17) because of the hierarchy involved within academic institutions.  Through our other readings it has become clear that some instructors tend to have a heavy hand with their authority, asserting that what they say goes, leaving little or no voice to the students. 


Healy acknowledges this authority issue immediately and emphasizes the need for a place where students are detached from such heavy-handed authority.  This is possible at writing centers, where intellectual and individual growth are fostered, away from the classroom authority.  Healy feels that "students deserve direct support that is unmediated by the instructor" (20), who consequently will always be the one holding the student's grade in his/her hands.  Students can then "develop necessary critical distance" from their classrooms (18) with the help of tutors who are not directly associated with the instructor or the class.  Without the anxiety of feeling further evaluated grade-wise by the tutor, the student can feel more free in expressing his/her individuality and ideas.  According to Healy, this freedom can help students "develop instrinsic motivations for their studies" (23).  So essentially, the tutors are there for the students, not the instructors.  The students thus become "active agents" in their own learning, becoming their own authorities in their writing and education.


Using a metaphor of a parent/child relationship as the teacher/student relationship, Healy effectively illustrates the necessity of a writing center that is not directly associated with the classroom or instructors.  Just as a parent must allow his child to learn from other authorities, institutions and peers in order to develop fully as a person, the teacher must acknowledge the need for various other institutions (like the writing center) which can help in a student's development.  There is a certain amount of lettng go involved, and also realizing that the parent/teacher's authority is not necessarily the only authority.  It is a struggle for the parent/teacher to learn "how to provide both challenge and support [and] how to acknowledge values while promoting freedom and independence" (19).  It is crucial for the child/student to learn from different perspectives, as well as gaining a perspective that is independent from the parent/teacher.  Therefore, "tutors and writing centers provide an alternative to the authority of teachers and classrooms" (21) because tutors exercise authority and evaluation in a way different from instructors simply because they do not and can not give grades.


Healy gives more examples of the differences between the classroom and the writing center.  Although both have the same aims of developing and improving students' skills as writers, they must accomplish these aims differently.  For one thing, instructors do not have the same amount of individualized time as tutors do.  Another factor is that tutors do not have the authority to give grades; however, they are in the position to challenge the instructor's judgment in terms of remarks or criticisms to a student's paper.  This has possibilities of "mistrust and misunderstanding" (25) between instructors and tutors (not only because of the potential undermining of the instructor's authority, but also because of the tutor/collaborative setting in which plagiarism is feared. 


Healy spends the final leg of his article on advice for both tutors and writing center directors in order to maximize effectiveness within the academic institution.  His main goal in writing this article seems to be to open up ties between the classroom and the writing center.  If tutors and instructors were to work together, both aspects of developing writing skills (from the collaborative and "academic authority" viewpoints) would be covered and also supported.  There were definitely points concerning authority that echoed previous articles we have read, especially the student essays on peer tutoring.  He acknowledges that there is a difference in the kind of authority teachers and tutors exhibit, and that difference accounts for the relationship the student has with the two.  What Healy has to say about the writing center and classroom together under one institution brings up issues of how they can work closer together, collaboratively, instead of completely separately.  It would be interesting to see a writing center that is fully supported by the faculty, rather than ignored or looked down upon. 

--Kristine Reyes, 11/6/00



Leahy, Richard.  “When the Going is Good: Implications of ‘Flow’ and ‘Liking’ for Writers and

      Tutors.” The Writing Center Journal 15 (1995): 153-162.



      This article focuses on the effects of “flow” and “liking” on the writing process. Flow is described as positive feelings experienced by a writer during the writing process.   It is associated with a sense of control, clarity in ultimate goals, complete concentration, loss of self-consciousness, and an altered sense of the duration of time. Flow happens while we are engaged in a challenging activity in which we have skill, and even basic writers, according to Leahy, have enough skill to experience it, even if it only occurs during a short time. If a tutor can hone in on a specific area, in which the writer “felt good about what they were doing,” then many times the tutor is actually finding the strongest part, or the “source of energy” in the original draft.  In connection with flow, liking involves positive feelings about the writing or product itself.  Liking a piece of writing can often bring forth motivation and commitment, on the writer’s part, to make the product better.  If a tutor can find and affirm those parts of a tutee’s writing that are good, then the writer will have something to feel proud of, and in many cases will be more inclined to improve the rest of the writing.  Flow and liking can both be considered “powerful tools for helping writers discover strength,” but a tutor may not always find these two concepts helpful. These tools can become confused or insignificant.  Some students never enjoy writing, and when questioned about flow and liking, they may just seem puzzled.  Also, in some cases, negative feelings about writing can induce more motivation in a writer for revision then positive feelings.  And finally, flow and liking are not always connected.  A writer can experience flow during the writing process, but can still not like any of the writing.  On the other hand, a writer can struggle and hate the writing process, but still be satisfied with some or the entire product. 

      This article once again confirms the importance of emotions in the writing process.  Positive feelings about writing are especially helpful in encouraging commitment and motivation in writing.  If tutors can help seek out and affirm those parts of the tutee’s writing that are good then it can be extremely helpful to the tutee.  This, I feel though, has to be done carefully and consciously and not just done in the form of compliments by the tutor.  It is important that the tutor does not just pick those parts, which she feels are good but tries instead to find the ones that the tutee likes.   Though positive feedback in any form can be encouraging to the tutee, it is probably more effective if the tutee feels first that the writing is good.  If the tutor picks those parts, which she considers to be good, then it is possible that the tutee will not feel more confident simply because he does not recognize that or know why the writing is good.  It is also possible that the tutee can come to the conclusion that the good writing was done simply by mistake and that he can not replicate it or produce it intentionally.  More importantly, picking out those parts in which the tutee feels good about the writing, is many times comparable to picking out those parts of the writing that are going to motivate and strengthen the paper the most.  In other words, follow, do not dictate, which direction the paper should go in, because that will probably produce the best results.--Maggie MacTiernan, 11/10/00


Peckham, Irvin.   "Capturing the Evolution of Corporate E-mail." Computers and Composition 14 (1997): 343-359.

 I found this article to be extremely interesting if not a wee bit outdated.  It is amazing how quickly movements in the technological world become “outdated,” even something as seemingly recent as the use of email.  Peckham did extensive research and observation over a five month period about the uses and development of email in the corporate world.  This study is applicable to us here at Goucher, because indeed many students will be headed out into corporations (as what part of the world is not corporate?)

 One of Peckham’s goals was to determine what was replaced by the advent of emails: oral or written communication.  The answer is both, but within this hybrid he found many problems.  First, email has begun to undermine the corporate hierarchy, though this may have been truer three years ago.  Presumably, the head honchos of a corporation have been at the top for a while, after having spend years working their way there.  This means that the guys at the top were not hired for technological skill (as far as computers) because they didn’t exist as we know it when they were hired.  The “bosses” haven’t used computers nearly as much as their underlings, and thus they may be slightly techno-phobic.  Thus the people using email more are lower on the totem pole, yet have more power in a way.

 Another way emails break down the corporate hierarchy is their lack of formality and their anonymity.  Lack of formality does not necessarily stem from the language used, but the fact that there is no letterhead, or signature, or seal, etc.  One email looks like another, whether it is from the CEO or the janitor.  This essentially undermines the command of the email.

 The higher-ups are leery of the spread of email for several reasons.  First is that they are not experienced, themselves, and fear obsoleteness in the company.  After all, today’s employee’s are hired for their technological skill.  Another reason is the fear that the network may be used for noncorporate activities.  These fears are not unfounded.  Peckham estimates that over 50% of emails written throughout the day are personal, and at least 20% of time on the internet is personal.

 So are emails bolstering or decaying corporate stability?  Is this trend important enough to become a subject in college writing?  These are questions raised by Peckham’s article. 

 He included this example of an email (not even a personal one) that one of his observees wrote:

 I have not figured out how to put a ‘ha-ha’ in the notesmail [email].  But you do have it coming.  Remember waaaaayyy back when, when you were teasing me about quitting and my heart stopped for a bit???  Well, I may be slow, but at my age, memory still does work!

 This email reflects the laxness of the medium, and how it indeed reflects poorly on the author, although her coworkers describe her as intelligent, mature, and hardworking.  How would an employee feel receiving something along these lines from his boss?  I think he would lose respect for the boss little by little.

 That is another inherent flaw in writing emails: the tendency to use oral rather than written communication skills.  This is way it may be important to incorporate instruction in how to write a corporate email into business courses.  I am not familiar with these courses, so I don’t know if they include “how to write a memo,” but “how to write an email and not sound like a dummy” should be included. 

I think we see this on Goucher’s campus with the mass email system.  People may have very important things to say, but due to the informality of an email, it usually comes out diluted.  How many students write drafts of emails?  Or save them?  Hardly any if any.  Even though these emails will be viewed by a majority of the campus and perhaps some of their professors and the administration.  Those types of habits will not fare will in the corporate world.  Eventually the techo-people who are underlings now will be the bosses, and will encourage the use of email.  It will by then have become a valid means of communication and will need to be honed in education just as any other form of communication.  Elly Zupko 11-10-00