Hi Chrisa!  
I'm now working in my eleventh learning center--my sixth as
director--and I have come to the firm belief that the classroom writing
instructors need to be brought into the conversation.  If the academic
community doesn't come to a common understanding about the nature of
tutoring, you end up running one or another kind of editing shop.

At one college, I felt that there was collusion between the tutors and
students to delude the faculty into thinking that ESL students could
independently edit their papers to be free of surface errors.  But when
we tried to open the conversation with our classroom colleagues, the
response was on the order of "so you aren't going to tutor grammar any
more."  After much work, I realized that some of the faculty were happy
with their delusion!  They wanted to get the papers all tidied up, and
their grading systems reinforced this value.

As a writing teacher, I hated this.  I always write on my syllabus that
no one may help students to type or correct errors on their papers
except the Writing Center staff, because they are trained to help you
learn to correct your errors independently.  Stephen North wrote this
long ago in his 1982 article "Idea of a Writing Center": "work on the
writer, not on the writing."  

My rule of thumb is, one kind of error per session, see if they can
recognize the error; if so see if they know how to correct it; if not,
show them how to correct it; have them go and correct all such errors
that they can find in the paper; have them come back to you and let you
assess their learning and address any misunderstandings that remain;
start the next session by reviewing.  Through using this method over the
course of a semester, I have seen many ESL students drastically improve
their editing ability.  But if the papers keep getting sent back marked
"I sent this student to the WC to have the grammar corrected!" it's not
going to work.

Hope to see you soon!

-----Original Message-----
From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Hotchkiss, Chrisa
Sent: Wednesday, February 07, 2007 2:30 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Policy for tutoring ESL students in writing

Dear listers,
I'm working on a policy for writing tutors working with ESL students.
Our tutors don't proofread or edit students' papers. But that line
always seems to be somewhat blurred when working with ESL students whose
errors are often more surface-level grammar and mechanics issue. The
approach some of our tutors use is to carefully analyze with the student
the first page of an essay and then have the student work independently
on the rest of the paper using the feedback from the tutor to look for
similar patterns of errors. However, some ESL students are having
difficulty with this because they know that when they work on their own
without the tutor, they are likely to miss a lot of the errors. So the
first part of the paper will be in better shape than the second and may
affect their grade. I'm thinking a possible strategy to address this
would be to have the student work independently on the second half of
the paper and then bring it back to the tutor one more time for review.
(Our ESL students are allowed two hours a week with a tutor.) Does
anyone else use this practice? Or do you have feedback about how you
address this issue using a different strategy? 
Thanks for any feedback you can provide.

Chrisa Hotchkiss
Director of Learning Services
The Teaching and Learning Center
Bertrand Hall, room 110
Dominican University of California
50 Acacia Ave.
San Rafael, CA  94901
[log in to unmask] 
415-257-0153 (phone)
415-257-0177 (fax)

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