This week I had the opportunity to speak with a tutee. The tutee provided some interesting feedback on the session:
- The tutee was a freshman student who had never participated in writing tutoring before. Before she came to the session, she told me that she more or less expected the writing tutor to “write the paper for her.” I was actually a little surprised by this admission and repeatedly asked her throughout the interview if she was serious about that comment, and each time I asked, she indicated that she was. When asked though what the most helpful aspect of the tutoring session was, the tutee indicated that it was the organizational and structural ideas that were most helpful. In particular, the tutee indicated that she felt like she could apply those ideas to later writing, which was an encouraging comment because it seemed like the session was successful then. It’s interesting when we think about my previous interview. The tutor had indicated that for her one of the biggest struggles was organization and not providing ideas directly. Even though the tutee in the session expected that, the tutor was able to steer correctly the session in a way that focused on the bigger picture of writing. Note: the tutor who was in the session was the same person I interviewed last week.
- I think a powerful comment from the tutee was that she “had no idea what RWTs do.” This actually seems to be a perennial problem for not only Hume specifically, but also other tutoring organizations. I think students struggle with the concept of what a tutoring session looks like. When I asked what the tutee thinks she could expect from future tutoring sessions, she indicated that working on the broader structure and organization of the ideas was very valuable to her.
- Interestingly, the tutee felt that the tutor talked roughly 65% of the time. I think this was an accurate assessment. This though was perhaps a good ratio for this session because the students knew each other and were comfortable working with one another. The tutee also asked lots of question of the tutor, so the session was very helpful to the tutee. Thinking about the ratio of tutor/tutee talk for future sessions, it is clearly important to be cognizant of the balance for each session individually and adjust the ratio when necessary to best serve the needs of the student.
- Finally, it was heartwarming to hear that the tutee appreciated the encouragement that was given during the session. That reminded me that sometimes tutors need to take on the role of “cheerleader” for the student’s writing. Sometimes, students are just looking for a little encouragement, so we as tutors need to focus on commenting on what is done well in the paper. Having a good balance between critiques and positive feedback is healthy for the tutoring relationship.
Overall, I think the tutee expressed a misconception about tutoring that many students have. Before I got into running my tutoring company, I also thought that tutoring was just kind of a process of telling the student the right thing to do. Obviously (now that I know something about tutoring), the process is much more involved. We as tutors need to do a better job informing our communities about what writing tutoring really means. That isn’t enough however: I think we would actually turn many students off with a mere explanation. We need also to explain why our way of tutoring (i.e. not just giving out the “right” way) is better.