About Tutoring

What about tutoring?

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Who are the tutors?
The University Writing Center recruits upper-division and graduate students from all disciplines to become writing tutors.  Tutor applicants must demonstrate strong writing ability and a basic knowledge of the conventions of academic writing.  During the recruitment process, applicants are asked to respond to a sample of student writing and to describe how they would work with that student.  There is no one right way to respond—the important thing is to have some insight into how to interact with student-writers seeking assistance in the Writing Center .

Writing Center tutors are peer tutors, not experts, so while they should be strong writers, they need not have special expertise in grammar or linguistics.  During their first quarter, new tutors attend a two-unit training class and spend several hours observing experienced tutors before they begin tutoring on their own.  In addition, all tutors attend a quarterly training session.  The interaction between the tutors in the Writing Center is an important dimension of the tutors’ on-going training and development: tutors share techniques, strategies, and tutoring experiences, which constitute an important resource for tutors and students alike.

 What happens in a typical tutorial session?
A student typically makes an appointment one or two days before an assignment is due. Usually students have some sort of draft when they arrive, but sometimes the assignment has proven to be too confusing, or writer's block has prevented any sort of progress. The student fills out a form which identifies the course the assignment is for, and the kind of help which is desired. The tutor will ask some questions to get things started, but usually it is best if the student does most of the talking. A student may need help in understanding what the assignment is about, or what the instructor wants. Some students need help getting started, writing an introduction, or generating ideas with pre-writing strategies. Others have written drafts that they are dissatisfied with, but don't know why. Some students are frustrated and defensive, while others are open and quite articulate about what they need.

Whatever the problem is, the important thing is to begin a dialogue. Tutoring is mainly talking and listening. Some students need specific information about conventions and rules, but nearly all need, more than anything else, the experience of framing and presenting complex ideas for another person. Explaining an idea to a tutor is often the best way to understand what must be done to communicate it in writing. Writing Center services are designed to give the writer this opportunity.