Incorporate peer response and tutor methods

As a tutor, finding a method to help a writer with his writing can be difficult. While tutorial session can work really well, some students find that peer response help with their writing better than tutorial session. Because of that, a tutor must be able to incorporate these two methods to help the writer’s work. One of the way that the tutor can incorporate is to remove the higher authority from  the tutor, and equalize the authority.

For each methods, there are many different benefits that the writer can use. Peer response is a social support system that the writers share their text to others to gain an audience response. On the other hand, tutorial session is a individual systems that allows the writer to get feedback and guidance from a tutor. According to Harris, peer review give more peer response and remove higher authority(371-371), and tutor session work on individual concern (375).

In a tutor sessions, the tutor need to use both methods to maximize the tutor’s session. By using each method’s strength, the tutor will be able to improve the writer’s writing skills. Using peer review, the tutor needs to equalize the authority of both the tutor and the writer. When i went to any individual appointment, whether it is a tutor session or meeting with professor, i alway feel that i has less authority then the tutor or the professor. This can somewhat affect the writer’s ability to write. As a writer, i feels more restricted and less creative when i have the pressure of higher authority. When i am in a tutor session or helped by my teachers, i feel that i have less authority because i have less knowledge or ability to write than them. But when i don’t feel the lack of knowledge or lesser authority, i am able to write better. Higher authority creates restrictions and criteria that the writer must fulfill. By removing the higher authority, i am able to write and think better.

How can a tutor be able equalize both authority from the tutor and the writer? When talking to the writer about his writing, the tutor should make the writer feel that he is talking to another writer. The writer should feel that the tutor is a writer that he can ask for feedback, guidance and response. The tutor also should avoid criticizing the writer’s paper. Criticizing can create a feeling of higher authority, which can block the writer’s ability to critical thinking. Finally, the tutor should remove any restriction and criteria that the writer must fulfill for his writing. A writing assignment always have different criteria and these things can restrict the writer’s ability to write. If the writer is not able to write effectively, adding these criteria will add more pressure to the writer.

Removing the feeling of higher authority can help the writer. Because the writer feel that he is asking for a response from another writer instead of a teacher, he can write creatively without any restriction. As a tutor, removing these restriction from a higher authority  will help the writer write effectively.


From a Vietnamese writer to an English writer

Being an international student, the greatest barrier that I had to overcome was using the second language in school. To be able to express my ideas and thoughts effectively could be extremely difficult. For me, speaking was not a big issue, as there were many solutions for pronunciation and accent. Writing, on the other hands, was extremely difficult. Grammar and punctuation were not the big issue. It was the difference between Vietnamese writing and English writing. In order to be able to write in English effectively, I had to forget about the Vietnamese writing and think as an English writer.

I started to learn English when I was six years old, and I continued to practice and study English throughout my childhood. Most of what I learnt in English was grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary. Writing was not taught very effectively, as teachers primarily focused about grammar and punctuation in our writing. In other words, I would use the Vietnamese style of writing to write a paragraph, and then translated it into English without changing the format. Since I only needed to translate very few sentences, the task was not difficult at all. My translation skill was excellence, so I believed that my writing skill was very solid until college.

When I moved to a college in Virginia, I were required to take different writing courses. One of the classes was the highest level of ESL writing classes that were mandatory before I can take any others classes. The writing class proved that what I learnt about writing in the past was completely incorrect. First, Vietnamese writing was very different from English writing. English writing was prescriptive and logical, while Vietnamese writing was descriptive and figurative. Basically, English writing was about construction and organization ideas in a specific order to directly describe the topic, while Vietnamese writing is about the usage of descriptive words to indirectly describe the topic. Second, a good Vietnamese writing depended on the usage of words to vividly describe the topic and the student’s ability to choose the best words to describe it. In the end, I had to learn English writing from the beginning, because translating words to words was a wrong way to write, because the two languages had difference writing structures.

Taking many difference English writing classes in college really shaped me to become a better writer. One of the first classes, as mention above, was the ESL writing class. The biggest struggle for me in the class was forgetting about what I learnt in the past about writing. For more then ten years, my understanding of writing was translation my writing from Vietnamese to English. It took a lot of time to be able to change the old mindset, especially since I was not used to write using a specific structure and order. It was a struggle to be able to organize all of the ideas and arrange them in a logical way. Also, another challenge was to think as an English writer, not a Vietnamese writer. I had to practice organizing my ideas and putting them into a specific structure. In the ESL writing class, I wrote mostly about narrative because it was the easiest way to organize ideas. The first few assignments were quite difficult, as I ended up writing in Vietnamese style and translated it. After repeatedly rewrote these assignments, I was able to write directly in English style. Being able to write as an English writer definitely was more effective.

Although my writing skills were improving, I still struggled to express my ideas. I often found that my sentences did not clearly express my idea, and my reader had trouble understanding it. So I asked myself if there was there a way to improve my writing. Making an appointment with my writing teacher, I was able to get some useful tips of how to become a better writer. He recommended reading more novels, short stories and news articles. After reading a few books, I see a lot of improvement in my writing. Besides improving my vocabulary pool, reading helped me to think as an English writer by showing how he organized his ideas. Reading also help me visualized the English writing structure better. Being able to understand how writers apply the structure into their writing was better then plainly learning the concepts.

After two years of taking writing classes, I was able to write with a mindset of an English writer. I usually helped my Vietnamese friends in their writing. When I used to live in Virginia, there was one particular friend that I spent a lot of time with her writing. Her biggest struggle was similar to mine because she would write her paper using the Vietnamese writing style. That year was her first year in American, so she had not experienced with many English writings. She said she could write the essay in Vietnamese very effectively and translated it into English without much effort. Because the two writing structure was very different, her papers were completely false. To help her, I explained to her the different between Vietnamese writing and English writing. I also used her old papers and helped her rewrite it correctly. It was a difficult task, because I tried not to influence my writing into her papers. After the first few time, she was able to understand the basic of English writing and slowly forgot about Vietnamese writing. Throughout that semester, she was able to completely ignore the Vietnamese writing style and wrote her papers without any trouble.

The biggest struggle of being an international student was to be able to ignore their native country’s writing style and influences. For me, the process took a lot of time to completely ignore the Vietnamese writing and thinking. But with writing classes, reading and tutoring others writers, my writing skills improved significantly. Now I am able to think as an English writer, instead of being a Vietnamese writer.

Collaboration in tutoring

According to Bruffee, the purpose of collaborative learning is to give students opportunities to construct knowledge by using their own language to communicate  and construct knowledge (53). In other to understand each others, students must understand each other and have a common knowledge about the topic. To be able to understand each others, communication is the key. After the tutor session in my class, i am able to understand the concept and relate it into the real world.

What is the purpose of collaboration? The main purpose is to remove any higher authority that could potentially affect the writer’s ability to write. By having students look at each other’s writing, each student is able to discuss the discourse in the language of their communication.  Collaboration is important because it lets students expresses their ideas and gets feedback from other students. Because having an higher authority, like teacher, can create pressure to student, it is necessary to put the student in his comfort zone. For example, when i talks about my papers to a classmate, there are less pressure then talking to the teacher. The mentality of getting grades based on the observation of the teacher somewhat affects my writing.

Why do we need collaboration when we write? In “Writing and Collaboration,” Bruffee explains that writer believes that writing is a private act, but in reality writing is to maintain membership in an individual group or invite others to join(54-55). Basically, writer tries to explain his ideas to others based on his individual knowledge and point of view. Because the purpose of writing is to communicate with other people by using language and symbols, there will alway be a group of audience who will response to the writing. When there is an audience, it is important that the audience can understand what the writer is trying to express. For example, at the tutor session in my class, i was the tutor. When i read my classmate’s paper, i was unable to fully understand what he tried to explain. His writing was very clear to him, but for me it was not. By reading his paper, he was able to get the feedback that he needs to adjust his papers.

In order to communicate effectively, both sides, the tutor and the writer, needs to be able to talk about the writer’s writting. First, both sides need to communicate together to help the writer developing his ideas. Then, the tutor gives feedback about the paper without altering the originality, and the writers talks about their writing judgement and topic. For example, when i had a tutor session in class, i was able to discuss about my ideas to the tutor, so he could understand my paper better. The tutor was able to give feedback and suggestion of how to express my ideas clearer.

Collaboration is the most effective way to help writer improving his writing. Because the purpose of writing is to communicate to a specific audience, the writer needs to be able explain his ideas so that the audiences can understand what he wants to communicate. Collaboration helps the writer to develop his ideas and get feedbacks from different audiences in order to improve the paper.