Skip to main content

"Someone to Watch Over Me"

Given that the new SLCC Student Writing Center(SWC) Peer Writing Advisors have been attending staff education classes for about a month now; have completed their observations and tag-team tutoring; and have started to work on their own with student writers; it has come the time when I stick my big nose into their tutoring reports for assessment purposes.  Ok, I'm casting this "intrusion" rather negatively, but that is simply to flip the notion around on you and explain why this is not intrusion but instruction.

We have a handy-dandy online reporting system here that allows writing advisors to not only collect data about student writers, but also to reflect upon the sessions they conduct.  To me that is the most important element in the report system.  Writing advisors have the opportunity to reflect on their work and to improve upon it.  It is so much ingrained in my notion of writing center work, in fact, that I kind of get the willies when I think about a writing center that wouldn't have its tutors reflect on their work, and/or such reports are only aimed at an external audience (such as instructors.)  To me the reflection is essential to writing center work.  It helps us grow as tutors and respondents to other's writing.

As the supervisor of the reporting system, I can go into any report in the system and read it.  Very rarely am I required to review a report in order to settle some issue that has arisen because of a session gone wrong. Mostly I stay out of the reports and only look at the broad data--unless I am conducting evaluations of the writing advisors' work.  In general I believe the reports are the tutors' and she or he should feel comfortable reflecting on in peace, as it were.  We cannot, however, fool ourselves into thinking these reports are private.  They are not.  They are very much a document of the SWC and should be treated as such.

Ultimately, I don't see this as a huge conflict of interest for me:  yes, indeed, a tutor should have her space to reflect on her work, but she should also be open for feedback from someone else.  This is why I don't see such evaluative/instructive work as "spying on someone."  It is no more spying on a tutor than giving feedback on writing is spying on a student writer.  The new tutors need such feedback, and need develop the sense that they are a part of a community that takes practice seriously and carries on a discussion about it, either in-person or online.

Mike Mattison wrote about this issue in his article "Someone to Watch Over me:  Reflection and Authority in the Writing Center" (Writing Center Journal, Vol. 27, No. 1).   Although Mike's situation was different (his new staff members were actively in the the Boise State Writing Center taking notes about sessions, which, apparently was seen as "spying" by some veteran members of the staff), the notion is the same:  we learn by reflecting on our work and getting feed back on it.

In any case, my concerns about this issue are a tempest in my own teapot, as it were.  The new tutors enjoy getting my feedback, and like talking about what I observe.  They will, in fact, ask why I didn't happen to comment on a particular session they conducted.


Popular posts from this blog


Last week, I was talking with colleagues about a future super-secret project (stay tuned) and we got to wondering how many two-year college writing center folks were on WCENTER. WCENTER is the preeminent listserv for writing center folks. I've been a member since 1992, but I don't recall anyone trying to figure out who (demographically) was on the list. Rather than burdening list members with a huge demographic survey, however, I just decided to stick with the original question: what types of institutions are WCENTER users coming from. I only left it up for a few days, so I'm not saying that this survey has captured all potential WCENTER readers/respondents, by the way. My Survey Monkey professional account was expiring, however, and I wanted to download the data. (so much for self-funded research, eh?)

In any case, here we go:

I did suspect that four year plus universities and colleges would dominate the users of WCENTER, given the list's history and the develop…

Results of survey on new media tutoring

A few weeks ago, I queried both the WCENTER and WPA email lists to get their response to a rather unscientific study on tutoring and new media in writing centers.  These are the charted-up results.  I hope to provide some commentary on them at some point when the (new)Jazz are not playing. UPDATE: comments ahoy!

The number of respondents is 118 (n=118). The questions that allowed multiple answers are represented as area graphs to give a better sense of the overall spread of the response.

Most of the respondents were from higher education. This is no doubt due to posting the survey on WCENTER and WPA-L. I am uncertain of the demographics of either of those lists, but I have a well-informed hunch that not many non-higher education folks participate in them.

The purpose of my research is, ultimately, to write an article about tutoring in new media (for wont of a better term) at open access institutions. I was somewhat surprised by the nearly 20% of respondents who don't know…