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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 if their institution is open access or not.

No surprises here. It was good to see tutors taking part in the survey, however.

Most institutions employ peer tutors. I am going to break this statistic down at some point to see how that plays out at institution type. I fear my sample size is not big enough to have any statistical relevance, however.

It would seem that traditional academic texts are the norm for all institutions. Multi-modal texts (which I didn't define in the survey, but I'm assuming people think means texts with images or graphics) are at about half the respondents, and web pages come in third. I won't make any claims about these results, but I do wonder if the responses mean that writing centers are not seeing students with such texts or they turn away students who are writing in these media. I prefer to think the latter is true, not the former. I would prefer to think that writing centers aren't seeing students with other types of texts because students aren't coming in with them, not that writing centers are turning such writers away.

The responses to this one are going to motivate the thesis of my web text, I think. I am interested in interviewing writing center directors to determine why such education is not included in the curricula.

Given the response to the above question, this one seems even more telling. If students are coming in with new media texts, how are tutors prepared to respond to them?

I wanted to see this statistic just to get a sense of what is going on as far as online tutoring. Once again, it would seem that students are submitting purely alphabetic texts to online tutoring (given the disparity between the type of tutoring offered and the results of this question.) It would be interesting to drill-down into this question to see if online tutoring is more new media-related than in-person tutoring.

As I said, these are just the rough results. I be updating this tomorrow, I hope with a bit more information and some statistical numbers.


  1. Thanks for sharing these Clint - as one of the respondents to your survey, I'll throw in my own utterly unstatistically significant responses to the questions you mention here. I have primarily professional tutors offering the vast majority of our tutoring hours (we're a state college that's basically mostly a CC with a couple new 4 yr programs).

    Our 4 full-time professional tutors all have either several years working at writing centers as undergrads or, in one case, a couple years teaching writing at the college and high school level. In general, these guys know more about technology than I do (and I consider myself fairly tech savvy), so I haven't felt the need to educate them about new media--they're more often educating me, which I love.

    To answer another implied question, we don't turn away anyone from our center--we just don't see much, if any, of these kinds of projects (with the exception of the occasional paper that has images in it), so delving further into tutoring approaches to new media texts hasn't been a big priority.

    I have no idea if knowing that is at all useful, but this is really interesting stuff--thanks for sharing your survey results with us!

  2. hi clint...i can see where you are going with this...we need to know about these contradictions between our knowledge and our practice! (check the labels for your last pie chart...)


  3. Hah, M!

    I kind of like "Don't know. No. Don't know."

  4. Problem repaired, Michele. Thanks for spotting that. Got to love Google Docs for on-the-fly updating.

  5. Do you think the situation will change in the near future? Or are students not working on multimedia or multimodal assignments as much as we might like?

  6. I think it will probably change, Judy, unless a WC is completely resistant and only casts itself as helping with alphabetic texts. I get a sense of that, however, when I hear people say "we don't deal with visuals" or "formatting isn't our thing."

  7. Clint, I did not take the survey -- having just stepped down from the directorship this year -- but I do want to mention a collaboration between the UWC and the multimodal composition class I teach during summer semester. A colleague and I teach 2 sessions (total ~30 students) of a six-week, three credit hour course. We utilize UWC consultants HEAVILY for this course, in that two consultants work on site with us and then we spend time in the UWC with students. This is on the job training in multimodal consulting, as the final project for the course is a short film, documentary style. We are finding lots of overlap between the consulting going on for the essayistic work students do and the kinds of issues that need to be addressed in film: intros, transitions, thesis/argument, details, variation, tone (not to mention audience, purpose, and angle of vision) . . . I'm sure you can imagine how this might play out in film. It's a very exciting project. Accounting for this type of class would probably bump up the data numbers you currently have dramatically. That said, during regular UWC operation, the numbers you currently have look about right. Just thought I'd chime in. Are any other centers doing this type of collaboration?

  8. Clint, one way I read these results is to conclude that for those responding, they're not seeing very many students from science and engineering classes--it would be difficult to write something in those contexts without using visuals of some sort. Yeah, no whiz-bang multi-modal projects in the ways that composition classes might do it, but good old graphs, charts, pictures, etc.--kind of like your blog post here!


  9. Excellent insight, Neal. I think I'm going to try to do some follow-up interviews!


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