International students and their view of writing tutor and writing center

            International students from different countries coming to American school are increasing every year. For this reasons, tutors who work at the writing center will work with many international students. These students, coming from many different cultural backgrounds, will have different perspective of the writing center and writing tutors. Tutors will face many challenges when working with these students, as often the tutors have limited knowledge about their background. After researching, I find that internationals students have a false assumption of the writing center and do not know the process of a tutorial sessions. After finding the problem, tutors should explain the students the process of the tutorial session and create an active and comfortable environment for them.    

            First of all, what are international students’ expectation of the tutor and the writing center? In the article Cultural Conflicts in Writing Center: Expectations and Assumption of ESL Students, Muriel Harris asked many international students at his university about their view between teacher and tutor (222-223). This group varied from low to intermediate writing class, and lived in America for few months to many years.  Despite these differences in cultural background, these international students had similar mind-set about teachers and tutors.  They implied that the teacher is more knowledgeable, is responsible to lecture a large group of students about a specific subject, while tutor is less knowledgeable, and is responsible for helping an individual student about a specific subject. This mind-set also leads to another misconception about teacher and tutor. Teacher will only give concepts and information about the subject, while the tutor will fix the mistakes and problems. International students came to the writing center with the outlook that a tutor will fix the papers for them.  This misconception of the writing center is very common, not only from the international students but also from the national students.  

            So why do international students have this misconception of the writing center? This misconception comes from the ideas that writing center is a place to fix any writing problems. According to Stephen North, “a writing center is to illiteracy what a cross between Lourdes and a hospice would be to serious illness” (435). Stephen explains that this false idea of the writing center is known throughout the university.  Professor and teacher generally do not want to personally help the student’s paper when it is full of mechanical error, or when student is struggle with the writing process. International students, not fully understand the English writing process, either struggle to write or is unable identify their mechanical errors. As a result, they were told to come to the writing center to fix these problems. Because of that, students believe they came to the writing center whenever their paper needs to be fixed.

Another reasons why international students see the writing center ask a fix-up center because the process of finding the answer by themselves, rather than by being told is a new concept.  Muriel Harris, in Cultural Conflicts in Writing Center: Expectations and Assumption of ESL Students, finding their own answer is something they may have not experience before (225). In some of the Asia country, asking a question while the teacher is lecturing can be a sign of disrespectful.  Students are expected to write down and listen whatever the teacher lecture without questioning. Because of this, tutor is the only way for students to ask questions and find their mistakes. It is different than American culture because students have more freedom to ask the teachers and engage in classroom discussion. Internationals students may not necessary understand the America culture, so this is a cultural differences issue.

Also, Harris also said that these students believe that the tutor takes control over the tutorial session and it is his duty to help the students, such as correcting error, answering questions and so on (224). In a tutorial session, these students assume that they came to ask questions and the tutor response to all the questions. If the tutor only answerers questions, the tutorial session becomes a one-way conversation. In a tutorial session, both the tutor and the student must be able to discuss about writing. But when the student sees the tutor as the controller of the conservation, the student may see that the tutor is the only person who has the authority to give answer. A one-way conversation completely defeats the purpose of tutorials session, and these students will continue their education with the false assumption of the writing center.

Despite the fact that it is not possible to replace the misconception of the writing center throughout the faculty members, the tutor can explain to the international student this false belief.  Stephen North explains that “the object of a writing center is to make sure that writers, and not necessarily their texts, are what get changed by instruction” (438). In other words, the tutor job is not answering any questions that the student has. His job is to help the student with his writing skills. This concept is important, because the student came to the writing center and only expects to get whatever he need from the paper. For example, the student came to the writing center because he wants the tutor to fix the grammar errors. If the tutor focuses only about fixing the grammar error in the paper, then the tutor only focuses about that particular paper. However, when the tutor and the student talk to the student about these errors, the tutor now focuses on the student’s writing skill.

            If the tutor wants to have a successful tutorial session with an international student, the tutor needs to explain to the students the process of the tutorial session.  One of the most important concepts that the tutor should explain to the international student is the idea of writing and collaboration.  Collaborating writing is the process when both the tutor and the writer are actively talk about writing. Kenneth Bruffee, in Writing and Collaboration, explains writing is “a non- foundational way as a social collaborative, constructive conversational act” (54). Basically, writing is simply another way for us to communicate to each other. International students must be able to understand this concept. Constructive conversation about writing would change the student’s writing process completely. The student will be able to answer his own question by discussing writing with the tutor, rather than asking all the questions. Most of the time the students already have the answers, but they simply are not able to put it in writing. Students often don’t know what to write on their papers, but are able to talk about it. Usually it is not because they have no idea of what to write, because when the tutors ask them to talk about their ideas they are able to have a full conversation about that topic.   

             Explaining to the international students the important of collaborative writing will not be enough.  The tutor must create opportunities for the student to talk about their writing and create a friendly environment for the internationals student to feel comfortable. Bruffee explains that “conversation with people we regard as our peers-our equals, members of our own community- is almost always the most productive kind of conversation” (58). In a tutorial session, the tutor should explain to the student that the tutor does not own any authority. Teacher and student relationship, for international student, is a ranking relationship. Tutor and student relationship have to be equal in other for the student to feel comfortable to engage. As mentioned above, student may not participate in the tutorial session if the students feel that the teacher is controlling the conversation. When the student has feel comfortable to talk, the conversation become more productive. Moreover, Harris mentions that some international students feel pressure in the tutorial sessions and need to feel relax to be able to engage (227-228). Pressure can come from many different reasons, from the fear of speaking English to the fear of talking to a foreigner.  Adding the true purpose of the writing center and the process of discovering answer by themselves, some international students will have some trouble talking to the tutor about the writing. Having and off-topic conversation and allowing the students to know the tutor are ways to help the students relax.  When the student is comfortable enough to talk about their writing, the tutorial session become more interesting and the tutor will be able to help the student improving their writing skill.

            International students are consisted of different cultural background, and they are not familiar with the English writing process. Some students may have trouble identified their grammar errors, while some are not similar with the process.  Although it’s the responsible of the writing center to help student to overcome these problems, faculty member cannot assume that the writing center will fix all the problems in the paper.  The writing center should be views as the place to help the student improve their writing skills, and the writing tutor are available to talk about the paper with the student, not fixing the problems for the student.  The tutorial session become effective when international students understand about the process of the tutorial session, and are comfortably talk about their papers. 


Research Proposal

The job of a writing tutor is to help students to become better writers. However, students occasionally misunderstands this assumption, which can make it difficult for the writer to perform well.  ESL students, when asking for assistance from the tutor, do not understand this assumption. Coming from a different cultural background, ESL students often believe that the tutor’s job is to fix any problems from the students. Basically, ESL students usually comes to the writing center to improve their paper, not necessary their writing skills.

This research essay will focus on finding the difficult of tutoring a writer from different cultural experiences. As an ESL student, i alway ask myself “what methods can a tutor uses to help the ESL student with their writing? In “Cultural Conflicts in Writing Centers, ” by Harris, one of the way to help the ESL student is to learn about their background. Using many different theory, i would further researching to find difference methods to use while tutoring an ESL students.


Writing Content before mechanical error

The job of a writing tutor is simply helping the writer in any writing aspect, from developing ideas to giving feedbacks. There are many different theories and practices that the tutor could use to improve the tutorial experience. After observing different tutorial sessions, both as a tutee and an observer, I was able to find one approach that could improve the effectiveness of the tutorial session. In any tutorial sessions, the tutor should focus on the writing first,then help the writer to correct his mechanical errors if needed.

In order to develop this theory, I observed three different tutorial sessions. I was the tutee in one sessions and the observer in two other sessions. Two of the sessions was scheduled in the writing center, and one was scheduled privately. After observing these three sessions, I took notes of the methods that each tutors used to tutor the writer. For one of the observation, i observed a private tutoring session outside of class. During the session, there were a few things that i noticed. First, the tutor immediately corrected any errors that he found while reading the paper. The next observation, i saw a similar approach. The tutor corrected all the mechanical mistakes while reading the paper. Second, the two tutor also gave the correct grammar and punctuation and gave a brief explanations of why it was wrong. Finally, the tutor answered the writer’s concerns. In the end, it seems that these two tutor prioritize mechanical errors over contents.

The third tutor, however, used a different method. While reading the paper, the tutor circled any mechanical errors .Then, he gave some feedbacks about the papers and answered any concerns from the writers. Although one of the writer’s concern was grammar errors, the tutor focused on others problems before grammar errors. Finally after address all the writer’s concern, the asked the writer about these mechanical errors that he circled in the beginning. I noticed that the tutor only explained the errors if the writer did not know the reasons. Out of the three tutor, i found that the third tutor had the best method to help the writer with his papers. This tutor first focused on the writing contents and any questions from the writer, then he worked with the writer to help the writer learned his errors.

Why isn’t the first method that the two tutors used recommended in the tutorial session? In Writing as a Social Process: A Theoretical Foundation For Writing Center, Lisa De strongly emphasizes that the false assumption of writing affected how writers view of the writing center. The writing center has been viewed as a place to fix any mechanical errors, composition problems and grammar. This assumption creates a problem, that writer will only go to the writing center to fix any mechanical problems. Since the writing needs to have some unique individual point of view, this assumes that the writing center will take away that ownership from the writer. In any case, this is false because the purpose of the writing center is not to take away the originality of the text. The writing center is established to help writers with the writing process, give feedback and correct any mechanical error. However, its priority should not be fixing errors, but to help writers in developing their writing skills. Writers that being tutored by any tutors who focused on mechanical errors could think that the writing center only concerns about enhancing errors instead of writing contents.

Why is is also important for the tutor to help the writer identify his own error, in both mechanical and content? It is important to understand that writing is a social act. In Writing and Collaboration by Kenneth Bruffee, we think writing is an individual act because we want our writing to be distinguish from others. Our writing needs to have some ownership and individuality to be able to persuade the audiences. This assumption is not entirely false,. The purpose of writing is to communicate with a specific audiences, but we cannot take away the identity of the paper. Bruffee also said that tutor cannot tell the writer how to write. Writing is a social act because the writer write for a community, not himself.  However, the writer came to a social setting primarily to ask for feedbacks about his writing, not for corrections. Also, the purpose of a tutorial session is for the writer to have a private setting for individual concern. Because each individual had a different style of writing, the tutor’s corrections can remove the original of the text. So the tutor should focus how to get the writer to fix his errors. This way the writer could identity the identical mistakes, and remember not to make the same mistake again.

In order to help the writer identify his own errors with minimum interference from the tutor, there are many different way to help the writer.The tutor should help the student to engage in conversation. In our everyday life, we talk to communicate with others people rather than write. When the writer are able to discuss about his paper, the tutor can further understand the writer better and give more feedback about the paper. Also, the tutor can let the writer read his own writing. For my own experience, i find more mistake when reading my paper out loud than reading in my head. As mention above, speaking is more natural to most of us, and by reading out loud we can hear our mistake easier

After the individual concern, the tutor can now focus on mechanical errors. If there is a pattern of errors in the writing, the tutor could point out once then let the writer find the same mistakes. For example, in one of my writing, the tutor noticed that i keep repeating the same grammar mistake. He pointed once, explain the error and let me fix that same mistake. Also, it is important for the tutor  to not immediately fix these mechanical errors while reading the paper. For the third tutorial session, i found that circling the errors rather than fixing it immediately is a better way. I observed that the writer was able to think about his own mistake than response to the tutor immediately.

It is very natural for writer to immediately correct the mistake that we saw. However, the tutor need to not correct any errors first hand but focuses on the writing content first. This way, the writer does not feel that mechanical errors are the primary problems. Although these errors can make the writing difficult to understand, the idea that the writer try to communicate is more important. Focusing on the content first can improve the writer’s writing, while letting him find his own errors can improve the writer’s ability to correct his paper by himself.


Observation Brief Number 3

For the observation assignment, i had an opportunity to be a tutee for a tutorial sessions. The paper that i brought was a blog post for my writing class. The assignment was about how i related one of the tutoring concept into practice. My main concern about my paper was the teacher’s comment and mechanical errors.

At first, the tutor asked me about my need to have to the tutorial session. I expressed that the teacher wanted me to explain my example better, and there were some mechanical errors that make it hard to understand the context. After hearing the concerns, the tutor read the paper and marked any error he found while reading. At the same time, he corrected the errors by writing down the correct words and explained to me why. Afterward, he addressed the teacher’s concern. He explained that my example was very broad and i needed to narrow it down. By narrow the example, the tutor explained that the audience can understand the main ideas better.

After addressing all the concern, i asked some more question about the papers and as well as some tips about writing. The tutor was able to address my question very well. For example, one of my big concern in writing was putting a good example to back up my ideas. The tutor suggested to read some different paper, to see how others writer used his example to back up his writing.

Overall, the tutorial sessions was fairly successful. The tutor was able to address both the tutee’s concerns and the teacher’s comment. I was able to fix my paper and got some different writing tips and advises.

Observation Brief Number 2

For the Observation assignment, i had an opportunity to observe a tutorial session. For this session, my friend was a tutee and he was going to get tutored using my paper. The paper was about  my own experience with tutoring and how it shaped me as a writer.   and asked my friend to address the teacher’s comments on my paper. The teacher’s comment for this papers included the need to evaluate better examples and grammar errors.

After the tutor asked about any concern of the paper and my friends addressed the teacher’s comments, the tutor began to read the paper and circled anything errors he found while reading. After reading and marking the paper, he gave some feedback about the paper. He immediately address the teach’s comment because that was one of the priority concern. He commented that there were a repetition of ideas. For examples, there are two paragraphs that both express the same idea about the difficulty of translating Vietnamese in writing.  His suggestion for this problems is giving another example for the second paragraph. Since the first paragraph is more general, a specific example will help the audience to understand the idea.

After the first problem was addressed, the tutor then focused on grammar and punctuation errors. Looking at the mark that he circled earlier, the tutor then explained the errors to the tutee. Afterward, the tutee asked some questions that he concerned about the paper. For example, the tutee asked the tutor if the conclusion was effective. The tutor explained that the conclusion was effective, as it summed up the thesis of the paper very well.

Overall, the tutorial was very successful. The tutor was able to correct the teacher’s comments and the tutee’s concerns. Thanks to the comment from the tutor, the tutee was able to improve the paper.

Observation Briefs No.1

For observation number 1, i got an opportunity to observe a tutor session. My friend was working on her paper in LEAD 101. The topic of the paper was about her understanding of different speakers and their attitudes to be successful. Her papers was complete and she wanted the tutor to give an opinion about her paper.

In the beginning of the tutorial session, the tutor asked what was her concern about the paper and what did she want to focus on. She replied that she wanted him to read her paper and give some feedback about the paper. First, the tutor read the paper and at the same time marked any error that he saw. Afterward, he immediately answered her questions by giving her feedback. He said that her idea was very solid and he could understand everything. In his opinion, he believed that beside little mechanical errors, she did not need to improve her papers. Finally, she asked some general questions and personal concern with the

From what i saw, the tutorial session went very well and my friend had a very positive experience. She got a lot of good feedback on her paper. He gave a lot of feedback of how he thought about her strength in writing. For example, the tutor expressed about how he really liked how she evaluated each speaker and used an example that related to her personal experiences. The tutor also answered all the question that my friend concerned. Her main concern was she was unsure if her ideas flows well.  The tutor explained that all her ideas flow very well, and he could understood her topic very well. Overall, my friend got what she expected from the tutorial session.

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.