Tutor Collaboration Day 2014

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We want to thank everyone who made Tutor Collaboration Day such a huge success this year. A big thanks goes out to the Southeastern Writing Center Association for funding this year’s event. We especially want to give a huge thanks to Sarah Rivas and Morgan Hanson for organizing the bulk of the day. 


For those that were unable to join us or those who wish to keep the conversations started at TuColla going, we’ve set up this blog with notes and information from all the sessions at this year’s TuColla. This page will be a great tool in preparing for the SWCA conference and coming up with ideas for the next Tutor Collaboration Day. 


Feel free to comment on, like, or share any of the posts from this year. Our goal is to make this whole page a resource for all writing centers in the region. Any questions can be directed at, and keep collaborating!


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Posted by on April 29, 2014 in TuColla 2014


Creative Exploration in Software and Applications

Collaborative Exploration in Software and Applications
Moderated by Mark Priddy (Middle Tennessee State University)


Mark wants to see writing consultants become more comfortable using media and technology to overcome writers block, generate content, and help students engage with their writing. Obviously, several challenges arise, but that’s what creative exploration is all about.  More and more universities are becoming tech reliant, and it’s up to consultants to educate themselves.

Why is this important?

Humans are visual creatures. Being able to use different kinds of software will give consultants a whole new well of techniques and resources with which to help students.

How can we use new programs to help students?

–Programs like Adobe offer a more visual way for students to conceptualize writing and composition
–Create a story board to make sense of a poem
–It’s a different type of reverse outlining for a more visual generation
–It helps show students how to break down their points on a  smart board and draw on the paper to visualize their information.
–Carmen Watts of Hendersonville High School will use a smart board when helping her students prep for a test by looking at examples of previous essays and visually demonstrate how they work.
–We’re transferring nondigital writing techniques into a digital medium


–Learning new programs can be arduous, time consuming, and intimidating
–Use internet to find lectures and presentations to help find information
–An E-learning portfolio can help tutors devise a plan for understanding different programs. It becomes an instructional guide to learning a program.
–Think of it like school work almost. It’s fragmented. All the info isn’t in just one place. Make the medium’s work together and not approach them separately but as parts of a whole.
–Think of learning these programs as play, not work. You aren’t going to break it.
–Learning these programs will help you shrink the gap between writer and writing tool or the student and the computer screen.


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Posted by on April 24, 2014 in TuColla 2014


Breaking Down the High School Writing Center

Breaking Down the High School Writing Center
Carmen Watts (Hendersonville High School)


The High School Writing Lab serves as a resume builder and career experience opportunity for tutors.  It also improves writing ability in tutors and students. The Hendersonville High School Writing Lab is 1 of only 3 high school writing centers in Tennessee, though they are hoping to get other high schools involved. The WL facilitates workshops once a month to address basics that teachers might overlook and assume students know (like MLA). The Hendersonville writing lab recruits students from AP and Honors English courses. 

–The presenters showed a video ad with testimonials put together by a student tutor who is also in Film Club.
–The WL is currently working to ask teachers in various departments (not just English) to send students to Writing Lab.
–Common Core has increased cross-disciplinary work; teachers in all disciplines now have to assign essays.
–Tutors had no training at first – this year they had a roundtable to discuss general strategies and advice
–The WL also has a Facebook page, inspired by a Tucolla session on social media last year.
–The WL’s motto: “We’re here because you can write, not because you can’t.”
–Twitter is used for cancellations or more urgent info.
–The WL also has a website with news, tutor profiles, and a mission statement, as well as a workshop archive including Prezis.
–The WL is trying to help students get comfortable asking for help and/or finding help, so that students will ask “Where’s the WC?” on their first day in college.


Large Group Discussion

— Encouraged audience to support high school writing centers in their regions
— Asked audience for advice on various high school WC issues, including how to help students transition into college
— HHS teachers met with middle school teachers about the same question
— Common issues in high school WC: focus, organization, MLA

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Posted by on April 24, 2014 in TuColla 2014


Bringing Magic to the Writing Center

Bringing Magic to the Writing Center
 Moderated by Erica Anderson and Morgan Hanson (Middle Tennessee State University)


This session, led by Erica Anderson and Morgan Hanson, was a discussion to brainstorm ideas for this year’s IWCA conference which will be held at Disney World. Using the notepads at the tables, atendees took about 5 minutes to respond to the questions on the handout and then reconvened to discuss.For the purposes of this discussion, Morgan and Erica defined ‘magic’ as “enthusiasm and innovation” and were interested in examining how online sessions, technology, student creativity, and tutor and student burnout can be aided with a burst of enthusiasm and innovation.

How can we incorporate more magic and enthusiasm in the writing center?

–Engaging with students in low-risk and relaxed ways, such as playing scrabble with students would who like to practice English
–Paying more attention to the students’ experience of  leaving the Writing Center
–Make more use of the wall whiteboard
–Use the Writing Center space to engage students and make the space aesthetically pleasing

What challenges might we face in incorporating magic into the writing center, and how can we address those challenges?

Tutor Burnout

–Tutors should have a “me” day or time
–Tutors can ask why the student’s paper is interesting within their discipline
–Tutors can help students to organize their paper
–Boredom/interest is contagious – Sometimes as a tutor, you have to “fake it ‘til you make it” and the student will catch on
–Come to sessions ready to learn!
–Gathering, hang out outside of the Writing Center
–Something at the Center to share, involve
–Committees, projects
–Set aside times for tutors to engage with the center that don’t directly involve tutoring

Unengaged Students

–Generate ideas with the student
–Step away from the paper – talk about the topic, research
–Information – let the student teach the tutor on their topic
–It will be better for when they return to the paper
–Forced to put things into an organized form
–Ask questions
–Speaking creates enthusiasm


–Use two computers working on in real time together
–Expose the process
–Highlight areas for the student to work on
–Draw attention, but do not fix it
–More interactive


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Posted by on April 24, 2014 in TuColla 2014


Consulting Across the Disciplines

Consulting Across the Disciplines
Moderated by Stephanie Higgs (Vanderbilt University)


This session, led by Stephanie Higgs, began with the question, “How does your writing center approach tutoring across the disciplines?” Tutoring disciplines other than English can be challenging, for many Writing Center tutors have an English background. Each discipline has a distinct set of conventions that can be difficult to memorize.

How do various centers and labs address other disciplines?

–In Vanderbilt’s Writing Center, each tutor is a generalist who can help with a paper from any discipline, though tutors do specify any specializations in their online bios. Students can request certain tutors based on this information, though this does not often happen.
–Lipscomb, MTSU, and Volunteer State have similar policies.
–In the Hendersonville high school writing center, students are beginning to bring in papers from other disciplines because of Common Core’s push for writing across the curriculum.


What challenges do we still face?

–Working with unfamiliar citation styles such as APA and Chicago can be challenging.
+ In order to combat this, attendees suggested using citation handouts, the Hacker Handbook, and sample student papers in multiple citation styles.

–Tutors are not the only ones who struggle to learn conventions of different disciplines; often the students themselves struggle with the conventions of their own disciplines, and professors may assume that students understand conventions more than they do.
+Another way to deal with this lack of familiarity is to intentionally use vocabulary that may be different than the vocabulary specific to the English discipline.
+Stephanie noted that engineering students at Vanderbilt are often alienated by the word “thesis.” Instead, she uses the terms stasis, destabilization, and resolution. Stasis is the current assumptions in a field or a state of a field; destabilization is the author’s input into that field, and the resolution is the author’s account for both the stasis and the destabilization. In short, the resolution is a thesis statement. This vocabulary has worked well for Vanderbilt students from disciplines other than English.

–Though tutors may not be able to understand all the points of a paper from another discipline, the most important thing is for the student’s argument to make sense to those in her discipline.
+Asking the student to rephrase her main points can help the tutor gauge the student’s familiarity and mastery of the topic.

Working with students from different disciplines can benefit the tutor as much as it benefits the student. Tutors can learn adaptability from these scenarios, and they also learn more about other disciplines and writing in general. Tutors can bring these skills back to their own discipline and can also better understand different audiences as a result of consulting across the disciplines.

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Posted by on April 24, 2014 in TuColla 2014


Building Physical and Digital writing Center Communities

Building Physical and Digital Writing Center Communities
Moderated by Tom Cruz, T. Mark Bentley, and Brandon Hardy (Middle Tennessee State University)


This session is a continuation of a session from last year’s TuColla. Mark and Brandon lead the Creative Writing Group at MTSU, while Tom leads the Intercultural Conversation Group. The primary question of this session was how can we generate a sense of community(ies) in the writing center? A list of possibilities follow.

Mark, Brandon, and Tom first shared some of their own community-building groups and techniques with attendees.


A Creative Writing Group

–Currently led by Mark Bentley and Brandon Hardy of MTSU
–Open to anyone, even those who are not students
–Advertised through flyer campaigns and word of mouth
–The group meets once a week, Thursday at 6 p.m.
–The MSTU Creative Writing Group hosts an Open Mic Night; this is open to all on campus, even those who are not a part of the Creative Writing Group
–25 people attended the last Open Mic Night
–Great opportunity to get creative people together from all areas of campus

Intercultural Conversation Group

–Begun by MTSU tutor Shayna Woods a few years ago as a research project
–The group is currently led by Tom Cruz and Kat Ort
–The group is mainly geared toward the large population of ELL students on campus, due in large part to English Language School here at MTSU and large international student population.
–The group helps participants master language in a safe environment without the “awkward … introductory … … phase”


–The Writing Center can host Saturday morning workshops on topics most often addressed in WC tutoring sessions
–Why? To get students into the WC space and move away from the stigma of a remedial center
–Workshop participants then began free writing on three ways to introduce sense of community into Writing Centers.

Participants shared the following ideas with the larger group:

–WC board writers: have a designated tutor to post a Word of the Day on a visible whiteboard (Taffy Chime – MTSU)
–Team-spirited tutors: organize more of a team spirit among tutors (Chris Netterville – Lipscomb)
–Focus more on our audience as a group of WC tutors (Jill Chafetz – Volunteer State Community College)
–Other ideas for generating community include the following:
–Trivia night (Tatiana Silvas – MTSU)
–Laser tag (Greta Smith – MTSU)
–Rock climbing (Morgan Hanson – MTSU)
–All these activities could build personal community in the WC among tutors
–On-campus activities could lead to publicity of WC as a community
–We need to strengthen community amongst WC tutors and students on campus
–Staff meetings can also foster community (Greta Smith – MTSU)
–Community for students to learn that writing is a learned skill (Jill Chafetz – Volunteer State Community College)
–Have students understand it’s much like a musician who has to practice to be good at it

Ultimately, workshop participants concluded that everyone is a part of a different community (WC, students, campus, etc.) and all change to form different communities. In addition, true communities come from many people working to accomplish one common goal.


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Posted by on April 17, 2014 in TuColla 2014


Eek! Too Much Red Ink: The Online Writing Center Tutor is NOT and Editor

Eek! Too Much Red Ink: The Online Writing Center Tutor is NOT and Editor

Moderated by Suzanne Previte, Jill Chaftez, Samantha Michaels, and Sherayah Witcher

The session began with the introductions of the Volunteer State Community College Writing Center staff and examples of uncorrected student work that had been sent to their center via email.



–Students are very concerned with grammar and are under the false impression that we are editors.
–We will help YOU learn to proofread you own work.
–How do we explain this principle in online sessions? A face-to-face meeting allows for deeper explanation including tone, facial expressions, and gestures, but online meetings lack this side of communication.
–The Vol State program for online sessions is an Embedded Program (in the D2L class shell) which began in summer 2012. This includes online classes and distance learning. The WC ad-on is only included in the shell with the teacher’s express permission. This option for online tutoring is in 39 classes so far.
–Paper submissions – 24 hour turnaround. Students get them back in 24 hours in most cases
–They have developed a comment bank to copy/paste stock responses to make this process faster
–Tutors collaborate to create the comments for the comment bank
–They include handouts on grammar and structure, technique, etc. in emails back to students
–A few statistics on how many students have taken advantage of this since they started in 2012:

SU12: 1.13%         FA12: 1.23% (the program was still new, and students weren’t aware yet)

SP13: 0.9%           SU13: 13%      FA13: 25.83% (once the word got out, it blew up!)


Real Stories

–Presenters pulled up a sample paper in a Word document, showing their annotations which they send to students.
–Tutors keep copies of annotated papers for the director to review, which facilitates continuous training for the staff.
–Time, language, and focus are the three things these tutors focus on when they review student work.
–The presenters acknowledged the pitfalls of the online environment –we must remember that we are readers and responders first.
–Jill talked about how she deals with online sessions. One of her go-to phrases in student interaction is “Check the rest of paper.” She’ll pull out one or two examples for them to review.

Tips for conducting online sessions

–“This sentence doesn’t mean what you want it to mean” – gets them to rethink what they are trying to say.
–No snark! Tone doesn’t translate online
–Highlight small things, but don’t overwhelm them
–Write a note at beginning and at the end to highlight irrelevant material
–Focus on assignment and ideas, though small editing is ok to help give examples
–Tutors MUST be comfortable in online space in order to be successful
–Global concerns (audience, purpose, focus) are primary concerns. Only after those are addressed should you tackle grammar unless syntax or grammar errors make the paper incomprehensible
–The LC Tutor is an anonymous entity; sign on as language center not a specific tutor – maintain homogeny in answers/comments in responses. Students shouldn’t expect to get different feedback from different tutors
–Though the Vol State Writing Center would appreciate a real-time chat feature as well as increased funding to better serve students online, the online tutoring option has greatly enhanced the work of their center

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Posted by on April 17, 2014 in TuColla 2014