This thread kind of took a turn I've not seen on this list before, but that notwithstanding...

I don't ever think of myself as filling our tutors minds with anything but perhaps some best practices on how to approach the students as human beings and get the most out of the tutor-student exchange (I refuse to use the word tutee, but that is for another discussion thread).  There are many techniques to help tutors get there, but I think one thing we really lose track of is that the students recommended to us as tutors are top performers who not only have a ton of content knowledge, but knowledge of how to study - they are our campus' most self-actualized students with excellent metacognition.  They do not exist in a vacuum - as top performing members of an academic community, they hear learning concepts from many sources.  They are tuned into the zeitgeist and we need to respect that, otherwise our lessons or training just seem like busy work.  

If someone feels that "mindfulness" is the path to enhancing a tutor's ability to reach students, that's great.  If others find a different technique more helpful, that's wonderful, too.  Doing this job for thirty years has taught me that tutors are the best resource not just for our students, but for their own learning and their own understanding.  Most of what I do is just remind them that in every tutoring session, there is an important, complicated, interested, valuable and precious human being on the other end of the tutoring equation and that following certain best practices, they can be more effective in their work through the respect they show for their students.

I didn't mean to lecture - ya'll know this stuff already. 
.    

Michael B. Kassel, Ph. D.
Tutorial Coordinator
Student Success Center
285 University Pavilion
(810) 766-6773


On Thu, Feb 20, 2020 at 2:08 AM Ray Sanchez <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Nic,

In fact I do know about mindfulness well enough and my statements stand. I only said that I did not read that particular article. No caricature was intended but a little humor, perhaps. Do I want my tutors to be present and responding to the person and situation in front of them? Indeed! But I won’t be using “mindfulness” to try and accomplish this.

 

I really do want to fill the minds of my tutors with knowledge and skills so that they can, in turn, learn how to fill the minds of their tutees. Think of the phrase, pouring into someone’s life. This is what I want my peer tutors to do. This doesn’t mean they pour their knowledge of Human Biology into the mind of their tutees by means of a one-way, Human Biology funnel. In fact, I’m speaking less about content (the what) and more about learning strategies and academic virtues (the how). Tutors ought to personalize instruction and provide a student perspective, and this is largely about equipping their tutees with the skills and strategies to be a successful student in general and successful in the particular discipline of Human Biology.

 

I do agree, however, that tutoring involves, “deep listening and observation, purposeful interpretation of students’ actions and statements, and strategic response in the form or questions, prompts, and silence.” I don’t believe I need to train my tutors in the principles and practices of mindfulness to get them there. You state:

That they are particularly popular now (and thus a bit of a fad) in the US  and in colleges says to me that we as a society need strategies for directing our minds, for being present with our (often difficult) emotions and in our exhausted bodies—that the strategies we currently have are not sufficient. (It’s not difficult to see why we are in this predicament, in my view.)

…and I agree whole heartedly (or whole mindedly!). The author of the article states that one benefit of training tutors in mindfulness techniques is to, [reduce the] mental noise and [improve the] ability to self-regulate attention, a tutor can remain focused on the collaboratively established goals of the writing center session. This is just not something I see as a priority and where there has been focus issues on the part of tutors I address it in other ways. I’m agreeing with you, please understand, on the matter of the tutors, tutees, me, and just about every person in 2020 America: we are all oversaturated in screens, frazzled at times with the pace of things, and enduring non-stop information overload. I just won’t use meditation in my tutor training to address these things.

I like your: “students some of the time, people all of the time.” An example of how I mold my Centers in the direction of this axiom is to allow tutees (and sometimes tutors) to bring their children into sessions.

Best,

~Ray

 

 

 

From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]> On Behalf Of Nic Voge
Sent: Wednesday, February 19, 2020 5:12 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Training on tutoring and mindfulness

 

Hello Ray,

I encourage you to learn more about mindfulness and meditation before you make statements about what they are, and how they can shape experience and performance in any realm, including tutoring. Simplistic caricatures of “full” and “empty” in a material, literal sense are not helpful in understanding the psychological processes that these ancient and widespread practices entail. There are many well-researched books and empirical research articles and a vast literature about the practice of meditation and mindfulness you can look into.

 

More specifically, you might think of “mindful”, for instance, as “present”. Do you want your tutors to be present, responding to the person and situation in front of them? This takes both a kind of preparation and practice for which mindfulness and meditation are well-suited. There are many, many approaches (strategies?) to meditation even in the Buddhist tradition—Zen is but one. You might think of meditation as intentional practice of directed attention with the aim of gaining insight both about oneself and how the mind works. Most start—in their Western adaptations—by asserting, actually,  that the aim is NOT to stop thinking or to intentionally empty the mind. There are direct analogues in this kind of practice to the notion and practice of metacognition, so crucial to the autonomous, self-regulated, adaptive learning required in college.

 

It seems that your stated objection to mindfulness is that you want to put things in your tutors minds so that tutors can, as you put it, ‘fill the minds of their tutees.” I was struck by how this description differs from your other posts to the listserve about tutoring and learning. That is a view of tutoring and tutor training as “banking” I do not share and which I do not think is widespread in the field. Perhaps that is why others see the value of mindfulness for tutors and you do not—there are different models of tutoring underlying this discussion. But, if for you as it does for me, tutoring involves deep listening and observation, purposeful interpretation of students’ actions and statements, and strategic response in the form or questions, prompts, and silence, then mindfulness training can enhance these ‘skills’ in my experience. Why is not to say that it is the only way to do so or that any training focused on mindfulness will transfer to tutoring. I think we all know learning is not so simple.

 

I do take your point that mindfulness can seem—and probably is in some cases—faddish. But, I don’t know how you would know that in this article we are getting a faddish treatment without having read it. Mindfulness and meditation have eon-long histories in many traditions (including Western, Christian, etc.) of usefulness for personal and mental transformation. That they are particularly popular now (and thus a bit of a fad) in the US  and in colleges says to me that we as a society need strategies for directing our minds, for being present with our (often difficult) emotions and in our exhausted bodies—that the strategies we currently have are not sufficient. (It’s not difficult to see why we are in this predicament, in my view.) Getting to a state of present mindfulness and engagement is crucial to deep learning of difficult content and skills that often evoke confusion, frustration and other emotional and cognitive responses that hinder immersion and learning.  If the students (and tutors) on your campus are not challenged by these issues, in a society where our attention is bought and sold and stressors on our bodies and (especially) minds are great, then I can assure they are ubiquitous elsewhere. Attention, concentration, purposefulness in the face of distraction, divided attention, relentless stimulation and input are huge issues in the learning of the students I work with—and more than ever. Research on engagement and the new field of “academic emotions” might be interesting to look at.

 

Students—and tutors—are human beings. Meditation and mindfulness are unique skills for being human, for living a meaningful, purposeful life each and every moment--much like music, art, conversation, breathing, and prayer. I like to point out that in our Center we recognize that students are “students some of the time, and people all of the time.” We explicitly strive for academic and holistic thriving for our students and staff. In my view, quite often students are not experiencing their colleges as humanizing, actualizing places; they are not finding time and ways in this crucial developmental period to acquire the ‘skills, strategies, and mindsets’ for living well (i.e. ‘wellbeing’), any more than they are acquiring the  ‘skills, strategies, and mindsets’ in their courses for effective life-long learning—as we know as learning support professionals.

 

I, for one, am open to new ways of doing our work and meeting the needs of the students in our institutions and Centers while simultaneously fiercely defending our unique community and body of knowledge. Disciplines frequently grow by engagement with other disciplines. I also think that we, ourselves, have a “discipline” of our own as learning professionals that has great power (and is often under-appreciated) and that we should interpret, select and adapt what other disciplines have to offer us, not simply  uncritically incorporate the tools and theories of other disciplines. This brings to mind a quote (by Amos Bronson Alcott) my former professor P David Pearson shared recently, “The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence. He inspires self-trust. He guides their eyes from himself to the spirit that quickens him. He will have no disciples.” This is what I aspire to. No disciples, no gurus.

 

Best,

Nic

 

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McGraw Center for Teaching & Learning ||  Princeton University

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(609)258-6921  || https://mcgraw.princeton.edu/undergraduates

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From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Ray Sanchez <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Wednesday, February 19, 2020 at 2:39 AM
To: "[log in to unmask]" <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Training on tutoring and mindfulness

 

I’m no fan of mindfulness in tutor training. I haven’t read this article, but I do know that mindfulness is rooted in Zen Buddhist tradition and methods (meditation!) and I prefer to have my tutors fill their minds with something specific, rather than clear or empty their minds—which could lead to a filling of their mind with things I don’t want there!

 

You know, like when people say, “Have an open mind,” and I say, “No thanks, I want to keep a colander on my brain to filter out the garbage.” Okay, I know, perhaps I’m being a little too critical or literal. Relaxing and breathing can definitely help us all slow down and reflect and it is proven to ease stress and is a counter to self-flagellation. That’s good. But I really don’t need my tutors to have fullness of mind, but fullness of solutions and strategies to fill the minds of their tutees.

 

~Ray

 

From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]> On Behalf Of Mabrey, Paul - mabreype
Sent: Tuesday, February 18, 2020 9:39 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Training on tutoring and mindfulness

 

Dear Ira and others,

 

Jared Featherstone is a colleague here in the James Madison University Learning Centers that specializes on researching and integrating mindfulness into learning, tutor training, tutoring, and life. Below is an article on this, with resources linked, from WLN A Journal of Writing Center Scholarship. He has also presented on this across conferences and keynote addresses. I have copied him here if you would like to connect.

 

https://wlnjournal.org/digitaleditedcollection1/Featherstoneetal.html

 

Paul

 

 

--

Paul E. Mabrey III, Ph.D. (he/him/his)

Communication Center Coordinator

Assistant Professor, School of Communication Studies

Co-Editor, Communication Center Journal

James Madison University

 

 

 

 

From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of "Fenton,Jennifer" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <
[log in to unmask]>
Date: Tuesday, February 18, 2020 at 11:32 AM
To: "
[log in to unmask]" <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Training on tutoring and mindfulness

 

We have used the article "The Mistake I Made with My Grieving Friend" by Celeste Headlee and discussed the idea of shift vs. support focus in that article to show tutors how to frame more mindful conversations. 

 

Our Level 3 tutors have also expanded presentations on self-regulation theory using metacognitive work by Leonard Geddes and Saundra McGuire. We also dabble in Brave Space Theory in order to cover topics related to diversity awareness, too. I have some of their presentations on file as well if you'd like them.

 

We emphasize the concept that how you regulate your own emotions as a tutor affects your tutoring strategies as well as choices. Yet, from the student angle, we highlight the idea that there is no way to know the depth of feelings and struggles of the person in front you, so the best response is the most compassionate one.

 

Hope this helps. 

 

Sincerely, 

 

Jennifer Fenton 

She/Her/Hers 

Learning Specialist - Writing & Adjunct Professor

MCC-Longview

Office: 816-604-2208 at LR 220

500 SW Longview Road, Lee's Summit, MO 64081-2105 

[log in to unmask] | www.mcckc.edu

 

Preparing Students, Serving Communities, Creating Opportunities


From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Ira Fabri <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, February 18, 2020 10:24 AM
To:
[log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Training on tutoring and mindfulness

 

Hello, All.

 

I hope you All are having a great week.

 

I am preparing a training session for my CRLA Level 2 tutors on mindfulness and tutoring.

 

Does anybody have materials to recommend or share? 

 

Thanks in advance.

 

Ira

 

--

Ira Fabri

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

Associate Director, Tutoring Services

Academic Success Center

Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs (UAA)

UMBC

Sherman Hall East, 342

1000 Hilltop Circle

Baltimore, MD 21250

 

410-455-3905

 

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