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  • Chapter Three - Macro- and Micro-Analyses of One-to-One Tutorials: Case Studies at the University of Washington

    If writers are learning how to think about their writing based upon the conversations we have with them in writing center sessions, then our examination of those conversations can reveal the issues and challenges of learning to write in college and how writers learn to overcome them.

    – Paula Gillespie and Neal Lerner

    It’s easy enough to think that once the door to that tutoring room is closed, it’s only you and the writer, but the many forces swirling outside that room have not gone away.

    – Paula Gillespie and Neal Lerner

    What I learned from analyzing transcripts of my conferences is how great a distance lay between my image and my words, my goals and my practice.

    – Laurel Johnson Black

    By the time I was ready to design the case studies presented in this chapter and in Chapter Four, I had already conducted several preliminary studies at the UW. For example, at the 2005 International Writing Research Conference in Santa Barbara, I presented the findings of a comparative study of tutors in Dance. I analyzed the tutorial transcripts of sessions between students in Dance and me (then a graduate student and assistant writing center director), a freshman undeclared major tutor, and a senior Dance/Russian double major tutor. The term prior to this study, the freshman tutor had apprenticed with me. I modeled for her and encouraged her to practice a more nondirective approach, centered on open-ended questions. While I likewise encouraged the Dance major tutor to use a similar approach, she did not have the benefit of a quarter’s-worth of practice before the study. My findings echo Severino’s from Chapter One, and Thompson and Mackiewick’s study, regarding the use of open-ended questions to help students mentally work through their ideas and establish a more conversational tone to the tutorials. As with Severino’s study, the freshman tutor and I had great success with Dance majors in our frequent use of nondirective, open-ended questions, while the senior Dance major was either at a loss for what to do or resorted to simply telling her peers what she thought they should do, which resulted in the tutor doing almost all of the talking during her session. This study, among others, made me very curious about the notion of “peer.” It made me question just how important tutorial method really is when tutoring one-to-one. Would any tutor attempting to use a nondirective approach conduct successful tutorials? It also made me consider a related question: when, and under what circumstances, is a student ready to become a peer tutor?

    In Chapter One I discussed how and why course-based tutors need, to some extent, to let go of some of the DOs and DON’Ts that can blind them to the needs of the individual student in a specific situation. But I also discussed how difficult this can be when participants are immersed in the swirl of pedagogical and interpersonal social drama involving the negotiation of the hybrid “play of differences” among and between the four parent genres. This chapter offers readers comparative micro-analyses from the 36 one-to-one tutorials conducted by the tutors from Teams One through Four. I will also compare the different accounts and points of view of participant experiences, gathered from interviews, to each other. Questions concerning directive/nondirective tutoring philosophy and strategy and CBT we discussed in the previous chapters will resurface, but in much greater depth and detail in relation to one-to-one tutorials: How does more intimate knowledge of course content, teacher expectations, and/or closer interpersonal connections between teachers and students, affect the ways tutors negotiate and deploy directive and nondirective strategies? How does tutor training in directive/nondirective strategies and philosophies hold up or play out during practice? How does negotiating the directive/nondirective continuum affect the quest for tutorly identity or reciprocal trust between participants? And what does all this have to add to our understanding of the rapport- and relationship-building that can occur in CBT, interpersonal relationships that can add value to our developing understanding of peer-to-peer teaching and learning? As I suggested in Chapter Two, it is relatively easy for researchers to pull tutorial transcripts, or field notes, or even memories out of context and interpret them in ways that best serve their rhetorical purposes. But it is another thing all together to attempt to provide enough of the preexisting contexts—as well as micro-analyses—that might allow readers to adhere more closely to my interpretations. Or better yet, to encourage readers to perhaps more readily and freely draw some of their own interpretations and conclusions as well.

    Transcription notations were developed ad hoc as I coded audio-recordings. They were used for ease of voice-recognition transcription and will hopefully allow for easy reading:

    ( ) indicates interlocutor’s fillers including minimal responses, backchannels, and tag questions.

    CAPITALIZED WORDS indicate commentary by transcriber: For example, SEVEN SECOND PAUSE indicates length of pause; INTER indicates interruption; JOINTPROD indicates joint production (joint productions occur when one speaker finishes another speaker’s words or phrases); MAINCHANOVER indicates main channel overlap (main channel overlaps happen when speakers utter words or phrases simultaneously).

    As If She Hadn’t Said a Word: Julian’s Tutorials

    Julian from Team One had relatively little in-class interaction with the students in the course. His six tutorials all took place in the eighth week (Table 3-1). They all revolved around a major paper in which students were asked to analyze and make an argument about the rhetoric, ideology, usefulness, and feasibility of one of the topics from George W. Bush’s 2006 State of the Union Address, topics including the No Child Left Behind Act; the war in Iraq; and immigration, especially the US/Mexican border. His six sessions averaged 36 minutes, with the longest lasting 53 minutes and the shortest 22 minutes. Careful analysis helps illustrate Julian’s most salient tutorial pattern—the fact that he talks too much while allowing relatively much less student talk-time (or, concurrently, tutor listening-time). Couple this with the fact that he often talks a lot before he has heard the entire student’s paper, and we are often left wondering why he is talking so much, often in the abstract, about the student’s ideas and writing.

    Table 3-1: Linguistic features and cues from Julian’s (Team One) one-to-one tutorials

    Linguistic Features and Cues



    # of Sessions


    Average Length (minutes)


    Total Words Spoken



    Average # of Words Spoken per Minute



    Content-clarifying Questions


    Open-ended Questions


    Directive Questions


    References to TA



    References to Assignment Prompt






    Main Channel Overlaps



    Joint Productions



    In session four, Julian works with a highly reticent student who is having obvious trouble negotiating the assignment. I quote this excerpt at length because it illustrates the extreme that Julian can go to in his verbosity, in his domination of the session:

    STUDENT: So right here I’m giving stats on like the casualties and stuff like that UNDECIPHERABLE

    JULIAN: Okay maybe try playing around actually using those somehow in the opening paragraph. I’m making this up but due to to the casualties increasing the true number is blah blah blah the increased cost the cost of filling out the increased security that’s where we should just maybe a framework early over to talk about what you’re talking about later so they’re sort of expecting it. Does that make sense (yeah) or am I just rambling? (No that makes)INTERso you guys talked about stakes a little bit right? (yeah) okay so READING STUDENT’S PAPER “although both the opposing and supporting sides make good points I would agree that we ultimately need to follow President Bush’s plan and increase our troops in Iraq war.” So what? I don’t think you quite got the stakes there. Like literally think about it as like a bet you’re making to read or write what is at stake like what are the stakes? Like in a poker game if you’re writing what we did if you’re wrong or like if President Bush is right and what if these things don’t happen? When we lose why is this so important? I may just off-the-cuff I’m not expecting why is it important? (um)INTER I’m not expecting you to write this sentence I’m just asking you why you picked this because it’s like you said it’s slightly more interesting sorta grabs your attention why like what’s important about what’s going on here?


    JULIAN: Yeah okay just get specific with it. Do you think we need to follow President Bush’s plan because it affects everybody? How does it affect everybody? Like what’s at stake? Like security? Like what else? What are the issues at play?

    STUDENT: I don’t know.

    JULIAN: That’s cool. Just make a note for yourself or something. I just think about it because that’s the kind of stuff I read. That idea makes sense right? Just kick it around. One thing to do is if you’re totally like it’s not coming to you forget about it for a while because it looks like you’ve got a good structure of your body paragraphs right? And this last sentence suggested like talking a little about there are many clear facts like what are you talking about? See where you can end up in your conclusion like ultimately we’ll only need to listen to Bush ready to do this because these things are like like why do we need to? What is President Bush saying that we need to do these things for right? So he says that we need to do this because ABC right? Do we need to do for AB and C if he’s right if he’s correct right? Where Bush says what we need is for AB and C and you look at that and he is right we do need to do it for these reasons one of those can be your stakes because that’s what you’re talking about right? You just need to introduce them in a general way. I know I’m rambling but I’m trying to say that the topics are the central ideas of your body paragraphs. You can sort of like generalize about them; just sort of go back and connect them to claim. (yeah) FIVE SECOND PAUSE That’s got to actually do a lot. When I get stuck on opening paragraphs like I’ll just because I don’t know I don’t know how the writing process goes for you but you my intro paragraph takes me and my claim takes me about as much time as writing half of my body paragraphs, so sometimes I’ll write by pulling my quotes and I’ll write the central paragraphs and then in writing them I’ll be like oh I do have something to say in like my conclusion. I’ll I’ll go back and generalize to make a claim. (all right) I’m talking a lot like let me ask you a question. You guys have talked about rhetorical analysis right? So what do you think about the rhetorical analysis you have so far on Bush in this first and second paragraph?

    STUDENT: I don’t know what rhetorical means.

    JULIAN: Okay cool. Rhetoric right the word “rhetoric” is always a like it can mean writing or speech or presentational language. I don’t know who coined the term but the big famous historical thing that it comes from is like a Roman senator who taught about it TURNING TO ANOTHER TUTOR hey Kate who was the famous Roman guy who like is the famous rhetorician? Yeah yeah thank you this famous Roman guy named Cicero who was like a major slick politician. I forget what he did, but he basically swayed the populace just by like the power of his speech. So the idea is he is like not just what he says but like why do you think he said this exactly or what’s he trying to accomplish with it right? So rhetoric is like using language in specific ways to accomplish specific goals. (ok)

    STUDENT: The way he’s saying it then he’s trying to keep you’re going into details and kinda like so that everybody can understand what he’s talking about and because he’s emotional in the words that he’s, I don’t know, try to explain like why Bush is basically explaining like why we need to think about sending more troops.

    JULIAN: Totally, no, I think you’re right on the money; like I heard you saying like he’s avoiding numbers and statistics and he’s using emotional language. That’s awesome; that’s the kind of stuff you want to get explicit and say right? But this will do more to it, so much easier to figure out you like okay I know you totally got that in, their fears. He’s avoiding numbers and statistics but who is he using emotional language? Was he maybe using images that have a high impact? He talks about flying a plane at you but I heard that and I’m like I had mental images of 9/11 right? Of airplanes into the building. So you figure out what you think he’s doing right? And then you’ve got to posit some sort of argument about why you think he’s doing it. The first tactic I would try, because it might not be obvious at first, take a look at the issues you are talking about so if these are the issues you’ve identified that are applied to the Iraq war against the people are for right? Where are the issues involved with it? Monetary cost, other political things right? So how does what he says and the way he says it relate to these issues right? So like how is he positioning himself with his language upon the key issues of the debate that you’ve identified? That’s kind of what you are being asked to do for rhetorical analysis. Does that make sense? (yes) And you’ve got the hard part down; you figured out the issues that you are talking about and you figured out where your key passages are. Now you got to like sort of connect them and just sort of like a sentence or two about how and why these different sentences are helping him or not helping him. Maybe you think he messed up or maybe should have said this. Bush maybe the speechwriters and you find something in stuff like that (ok). TEN SECOND PAUSE Did you talk with Anne about the feasibility, usefulness and ideological implications? (Yeah) Did that make sense? (yeah) Cool, so could you take me to your like what your thoughts are so far on this?

    STUDENT: Like put both the supporting and the refusal of the arguments for and some of what the opposing sides are saying some of the different ways we can go about it and how some of his things are feasible.

    In this striking example, Julian, granted, is faced with an incommunicative student whose inability to grasp the assignment makes Julian’s job tough. But notice how in that second interruption Julian asks a question and just as the student begins to annunciate a reply, “um,” Julian jumps in with more questions. Julian’s next question meets with “I don’t know” which spins him on more rambling. And he knows he is rambling, which causes him to actually slow down and ask a question that leads him to figure out the student does not understand the idea of rhetorical analysis. This seems promising. Yet rather than ask some questions that might get the student thinking, allow time for a response, and maybe even write some notes, notice how Julian will ask a question, then answer it himself (ironically, almost like a “rhetorical” question). Repeatedly, as evidenced in the above passage, and continuing throughout this session, Julian asks “does that make sense?” The student invariably responds curtly with “yes,” “yeah,” and “I think so.” Julian also uses the tag question “right?” ubiquitously. When Julian finally asks what the student’s overall thoughts are, the student replies with a scanty summary of what Julian had been proselytizing about. Obviously, it’s not making as much sense as the student ostensibly lets on. Examples like this appear repeatedly in Julian’s tutorial transcripts. We hear repeated instances of Julian asking a question, not waiting or allowing enough pause for student response, then moving on to offer extended stretches where he tries hard to offer useful suggestions.

    In his sixth tutorial, Julian’s actions suggest that though he is metacognitively aware of his rather “inauthentic” listening habit, the problem is indeed a deep one. At the very beginning of the session, the student says “she [Anne] gave us this peer review thingy.” As if she hadn’t said a word, Julian responds: “How is your week going?” They never get back to the student’s initial utterance.

    Of the eight student questionnaires I received back, seven were primarily negative, and one positive. Several students commented that Julian did not seem to know what was going on in the course: “I thought it was going to help out but it didn’t ... Didn’t seem as Julian was up to date with our class assignment.” Another, “he was never here in class to know what was going on.” Another, “he didn’t know what our class was doing (never updated).” Another, “Meeting with Julian seemed like a waste of time because he didn’t really help me out or give me ideas for my papers and didn’t right [sic] anything down ... Get a better in-class tutor that will actually be updated with the way our class is going and has input on our papers.” Finally, evidence from the questionnaires shows that Julian was at least somewhat helpful to two students. One said that he “had good feedback on my paper.” And the first student above who said “I thought it was going to help out ...” hints at what might have been if Julian had been in class more often: “He helped when he was in class but other than that, I still have to agree with it not helping at all.”

    Praise and Teacher’s Presence: Megan’s Tutorials

    Megan, from Team Two, ended up having 15 sessions, the most of all the tutors, including four return visits (Table 3-2). Megan was the only tutor for whom students visited more than once. Megan’s sessions came in two waves: the first round included eight tutorials in the seventh week of the course, and the second included seven tutorials in the tenth or final week of the quarter (before final exams week).

    Table 3-2: Linguistic features and cues from Megan’s (Team Two) one-to-one tutorials

    Linguistic Features and Cues



    # of Sessions


    Average Length (minutes)


    Total Words Spoken



    Average # of Words Spoken per Minute



    Content-clarifying Questions


    Open-ended Questions


    Directive Questions


    References to TA



    References to Assignment Prompt






    Main Channel Overlaps



    Joint Productions



    The first eight tutorials dealt with short, two-page response papers on the texts from class: the movie Wag the Dog, and documentaries The Living Room Wars, and From News to Entertainment; and written texts from their course reader including excerpts from Sandra Silberstein and Michel Foucault. The sessions averaged only 11 minutes, with the shortest session lasting only six minutes and the longest lasting 31 minutes. Megan did not read the students’ papers aloud, nor have them read it aloud as she normally might. She said that the sessions were so short because the papers were so short and she wanted to try to see as many students as possible. Certain patterns that pertain to subsequent sessions quickly began to surface. After clearing the way with initial questions, Megan began to fall into a clearer pattern. It seems she would begin with praise, and then lead into a critique followed quickly by a suggestion which I associate with Harris’s metacognitive acquisition of strategic knowledge:

    MEGAN: Yeah (yeah), ok, cool I think you obviously have a good grasp on the readings and you could probably bring a few quotes from the reading The Living Room Wars in toINTER

    STUDENT: Oh yeah don’t worry about that I’ve got it.

    MEGAN: Yeah and the movie is tricky like I said that is something that’s pretty apparent to me too so I think that will be pretty easy to do. Do you have any questions or?

    STUDENT: Not really

    MEGAN: I know it’s kinda brainstorming and you’ve already been thinking about it so once you kind of combine everything and start having a rough draft we can work off of that; you can come back and whatnot. It sounds like you’ve already thought about it and can already see the parallels and you have some good ideas. And don’t be afraid, you’re right it could be easier to have those two-paragraph structure, but I think that you could find a lot just using those two parts of the movie then using Bush and Clinton like that could be easily be two pages in itself. So if its two paragraphs I wouldn’t worry too much about it (ok). So awesome, thanks for coming in.

    Readers will immediately recognize this as the same pattern that constitutes most end-comments given on student essays. Megan starts by praising the student’s “grasp on the readings” but quickly moves on to imply evaluation and provide suggestion. I say imply because even though Megan does not directly evaluate, she does imply evaluation by stating what is missing: direct quotes from the text. Megan follows a similar pattern in the rest of the first round of tutorials. She frequently tends to apprehensions that students voice and praises their good ideas. Yet at the same time she frequently, explicitly directs students to do what she would do, as in the case above when she advises “just using those two parts of the movie.”

    The seven sessions of the second round of conferences in week ten follow very similar patterns, characterized mostly by the role that the TA Laura plays, as students are negotiating the final portfolio assignment. Overlaps abound as students fully understand that their grades for the course are at stake, and that Megan may be able to help them do better on their portfolios. Students continue to voice sentence-level issue concerns and Megan continues to aid them with this, often linking these issues to larger structural and conceptual considerations. Students in this second round came to Megan hoping to hear that they were not too far off the assignment and to get suggestions for improving their papers and make the most out of the chance offered by the cover letter. In the final session in particular a student voices his concern with his grade for the course. He had visited to talk about the cover letter, and ended up easing his worry perhaps a bit through his interaction with Megan. This final session, more than any other, showed Megan’s peer-like willingness to help strategize given the student’s strong desire for a good grade:

    MEGAN: You could kind of do it two ways. (mmhm) You could either because I don’t know her as a TA like her grading at all (mm) and I don’t know her from last year either (mmhm) so I have nothing MUTUAL LAUGHTER to judge her on so I would try to figure out yourself will it be better to argue can I get a 4.0 or you could also argue get an A which would be like what a 3.8 to 4.0 on it?

    STUDENT: Oh okay so I should say A instead ofINTER

    MEGAN: You could either way. I mean do which you think would be bestMAINCHANOVER(I feel like)do what you really want.

    STUDENT: If I said I deserve a 4.0 she’s going to be like ahhhh you don’t really deserve a 4.0 soINTER

    MEGAN: Yeah maybe like an A or something MUTUAL LAUGHTER and maybe too or you could say something like I know last time my portfolio was a 3.6 (mmhm) and I’m trying to improve on that so then at least she might be like “oh he invested himself and is trying to improve” and you have like a 3.7 to 4.0 (oh ok) which is still good. So that’s something else you can say something like I’m really hoping to this revision process that by taking the class again to improve on my writing through going through the revision process again but really I’m hoping to get a better grade than I did last time on my portfolio because I got a 3.6 and I really want to improve. (ok) That would be a better way to do it. I might if it were me and you definitely (mmhm) don’t have to do it like I say but this is a suggestion but I might go with (yeah) becauseMAINCHANOVER(that way I don’t have to say) then she’ll know that your like constantly trying to improve not only making revisions to your paper but you’re also trying to improve from last timeJOINTPROD

    STUDENT: Yeah and not only like I’m not asking for a grade (yeah) I’m asking for whatever she wants (yeah) to say. Okay.

    MEGAN: Yeah that might be a good angle so either wayMAINCHANOVER(that might be a good angle I like that) whatever one you think is that yeah so either way whatever you think would be best but that might be a good way because then she’ll really know like you’re constantly (yeah) like even from last year you’re trying to improve your grades (ok) and your revision process. (ok) Yeah I think that sounds good.

    This 14 minute session was characterized by five instances of mutual laughter, 12 overlaps, and numerous fillers. Clearly this student saw the potential value of, and took an active conversational role with, Megan in helping him to negotiate the portfolio and in his rhetorical choices for presenting his case for an A in the course to Laura.

    Of the nine completed student questionnaires I received, five were clearly positive in terms of the one-to-one tutorials: one student said the tutorial was “helpful.” Another said, “Seeing her one-to-one was a lot better. I felt more comfortable.” Another, “helpful because the teacher may have problems; [the tutor] acts as a mediator.” Another, “It was nice to have someone to talk with about your paper one-to-one.” And another that it was “more helpful” than her in-class interaction.

    Directing Talk and Texts: Madeleine’s Sessions

    Madeleine, from Team Three, ended up conducting only four tutorials. All of Madeleine’s tutorials occurred within three days of each other, in the sixth week of the quarter (Table 3-3; Note that the third of Madeleine’s four sessions, detailed below, was singled out for analysis from the rest due to its atypical features). All four of Madeleine’s recorded sessions dealt with four to six page major papers in which students were to make an argument involving articles on two views of multicultural education from Ronald Takaki’s “A Different Mirror” and Arthur Slesinger’s “The Return of the Melting Pot” and the English 105, or the second part of the stretch course, class they were taking. The sessions averaged 50 minutes, with the shortest lasting 31 minutes and the longest 71 minutes. Madeleine read the students’ papers in the first two sessions aloud and she read them silently in the last two. I could not detect any noticeable effect this had on the content and flow of any of the sessions.

    Table 3-3: Linguistic features and cues from Madeleine’s (Team Three) one-to-one tutorials

    Linguistic Features and Cues



    # of Sessions


    Average Length (minutes)


    Total Words Spoken



    Average # of Words Spoken per Minute



    Content-clarifying Questions


    Open-ended Questions


    Directive Questions


    References to TA



    References to Assignment Prompt






    Main Channel Overlaps



    Joint Productions



    Madeleine evinced certain patterns in her tutoring practice that shaped the content and flow of the tutorials. Madeleine usually took control of the session early and held firm control of the conversational floor. Her sessions are characterized by little to no praise; plenty of criticism and directive suggestions, usually with no qualifications; and large chunks of time spent on talking, near-lecturing really, about the readings. The teacher, Sydney, plays an integral role in Madeleine’s sessions. But Madeleine, rather than the students, brings the presence of Sydney into the session early on. This excerpt, from the beginning of the first tutorial, is typical of how Madeleine starts her sessions:

    MADELEINE: Okay looking at your introduction?

    STUDENT: Yeah introduction and claim.

    MADELEINE: And your claim. Is it okay if I read aloud?


    MADELEINE: Okay I kind of see what you’re trying to say. You’re trying to say you’re trying to set up the stakes like in the second paragraph? (yeah) You’re trying to say that racism exists and the reason that racism exists is because people don’t know about themselves (mmhhm). What I would say first of all about the beginning of your paper or the beginning paragraph is that it doesn’t really have a claim that directly references both accounts (mmhmm) and maybe that’s because you didn’t have a copy of UNDECIPHERABLE

    STUDENT: Oh you mean the article?

    MADELEINE: Well first of all we’re supposed to be talking about is multicultural education important? And you didn’t really say anything about multicultural education in the beginning (oh) and so you just want to like mention that (okay). And also you’re supposed to be stating whether or not you agree with the class that you just took. Like on race citizenship and the nation (ok). Like what she wants you to do is look at the class and think okay what have I gained from this class; like is it necessary for us to be studying these concepts or because the two different arguments are Takaki had his arguments well let’s take the other guy first Sl- (Slesinger)JOINTPROD something hard to say. He basically says that multicultural education, it kind of like boosts people’s self-esteem right?

    Notice how after reading for a bit, Madeleine starts telling the student directly what the student is trying to say rather than ask her. Then Madeleine jumps straight into criticism of this student’s introduction and claim without praising any aspect of the student’s writing. She shows her close understanding of the assignment and implies an alignment with Sydney’s expectations by telling the student, with the modal auxiliary, what she is “supposed” to be doing. Madeleine amplifies her alignment with Sydney and the prompt by bringing in the pronoun and presence of Sydney: “what she wants you to do.” Madeleine typically uses the tag question “right?”, as in the example here, not to necessarily elicit a student response as with an open-ended question, but (much like Julian) rather just to make sure that the student is following her suggestions. Madeleine goes on from the excerpt above to bring in Sydney via “she” twice more before she stops referring to her.

    The above directive suggestions also in many ways parallel the third session, characterized by what I came to see as a struggle or fight for the conversational floor. This hour-long session involved so many overlaps by both interlocutors (92 interruptions, 16 joint productions, and 32 main channel overlaps) that it was quite painful to transcribe, even with voice-recognition software. This session is characterized by a student who fights for the conversational floor, especially in regards to the main concept she wants to cover in her essay, politics. The student brings up this issue as a possible focus for her claim early in the session and several times thereafter. But Madeleine ignores the idea repeatedly:

    STUDENT: I want to get out the thing is I have like three different things I’m trying to talk about (mm) and I don’t know how to go at it; like I’m talking about how politically there are going to be more students educated and having a background of different peopleINTER

    MADELEINE: Yeah but I mean it’s not just about it’s not just about knowledge it’s about knowledge of not only yourself like and how you fit into American history but how other groups not just black and white right? (yeah) fit into American history because Takaki one of his main arguments is also that American history has been really black-and-white like it’s either white or it’s the other (yeah) and the other is usually black. But that’s not true because there’s been like Latinos and there’s been Asians and there’s been Native Americans that have all helped to shape what America isINTER

    STUDENT: Yeah but what about because what I’m talking about here are the political process as a whole; like I actually take okay one of my positions is in a medical profession and the other one is a political position you know like what I’m saying? Okay I get the point that I’m not supposed to talk specifically about people going into the university and taking these courses and coming out a certain way, but that’s kind of what I did. I’m talking about if you have a better understanding of each other there is going to be more laws formulated their going toINTER

    MADELEINE: But don’t you think it’s a little bit deeper than just having a better understanding likeINTER

    STUDENT: Well but that was that was deepINTER

    MADELEINE: Yeah but you’re talking about he doesn’t just say we need to like have a better understanding like try to use some of the terminology that he uses; one of the most important things that he says “we are influenced by which mirror we choose to see ourselves as” ...

    STUDENT: So the political one though I thought that would be okay; maybe I should just focus in on the student actually going into the schools oINTER

    MADELEINE: Well what you need to do is have an argument. So you agree with Takaki. Do you know what Takaki’s claim is? (he) TEN SECOND PAUSE

    This sort of conflict in goals continues until the student emotionally expresses her frustration in not being able to match Madeleine’s insistence that she understand the texts (or Madeleine’s interpretations of the texts):

    MADELEINE: I mean if you have to read it a couple more times INTER

    STUDENT: Well I’m trying to read a lot but it’s just like I don’t get what I’m doing though Madeleine ...

    This is the first time a student has used Madeleine’s name in any of the tutorial transcripts, an indication perhaps of the frustration that has been bottling up. Yet this is also the only time in all the tutorial transcripts I analyzed that a student called their tutor by name, suggesting a slightly more positive interpretation, perhaps, of the dramatic give and take of this interaction. Marie Nelson argued that the type of resistance this student evinces might actually suggest this student’s potential to make dramatic progress because the resistance “showed how much students cared” (qtd. in Babcock and Thonus 91). This echoes Madeleine’s own words regarding her motivation for this project: “I hoped that they would view my enthusiasm for the content as an example of it actually being cool to care.”

    Tellingly, not one comment regarding one-to-one tutorials came back from student questionnaires. Yet students had much to say about their in-class interactions with Madeleine, as readers will hear in the next chapter.

    Surrendering Control through the Act of Writing: Sam’s Sessions

    Sam from Team Four was the tutor the least involved in any classroom activity. She was also expected to play the role of outside reader, or in her terms “independent consultant,” in one-to-ones. Having less insider knowledge of the content of the course, and given Sam’s typically nondirective approach, it would be reasonable to assume that Sam practiced a highly nondirective tutorial method with these students. Sam ended up conducting 11 tutorials total, eight sessions in the seventh week of the quarter, and three more in the tenth or final week (Table 3-4). All of Sam’s sessions involved five to six page major papers. The first eight, including the tutorials detailed below, dealt with James Loewen’s article on heroes and heroification, “Handicapped by History: The Process of Hero-Making.” Since Sam had read most of the papers and supplied written comments beforehand, her sessions were designed to fit within a 30-minute time frame: the average session lasted 25 minutes, with the longest lasting 36 minutes and the shortest 16 minutes. Sam neither had students read papers aloud nor read them aloud for them.

    Table 3-4: Linguistic features and cues from Sam’s (Team Four) one-to-one tutorials

    Linguistic Features and Cues



    # of Sessions


    Average Length (minutes)


    Total Words Spoken



    Average # of Words Spoken per Minute



    Content-clarifying Questions


    Open-ended Questions


    Directive Questions


    References to TA



    References to Assignment Prompt






    Main Channel Overlaps



    Joint Productions



    Like the other tutors, Sam’s tutorials began to show patterns early on that continued throughout her sessions. In contrast to Madeleine, Sam would usually start off by asking the students what they wanted to work on. This open-ended start would help set up Sam’s habitual use of open-ended questions (OEQs) followed by follow-up questions and occasional directive or leading questions. Sam often used a praise-critique-suggestion sequence in her replies. Sam would qualify her suggestions much more often with phrases like “I would” or “I might” when nudging students toward acquisition of strategic knowledge. After the first few sessions, she began to say things like “I see a lot of students/people doing this” often when offering direct suggestions. Perhaps due to her more “outside reader” status, Sam referred back to the TA Sarah much less frequently than Megan, Julian, or Madeleine, instead using the phrase “the reader” to denote audience. In most of the papers, Sam talked about structure, the link between topic sentences and claim, between conclusion and claim. This often caused her to deal with sentence-level issues in relation to larger structural/rhetorical concerns. Finally, Sam’s most salient and compelling patterns involved her use of note-taking and pauses and their overall effect on the content and flow of the tutorials. Sam’s sophisticated use of note-taking and pauses caused students to talk much more than in Megan, Julian, or Madeleine’s sessions, and led to what I would describe as collaborative speaking and writing through the act of collaborative writing or note-taking.

    Sam began nine of her eleven sessions asking OEQs involving what the students wanted to work on: “Do you have any questions that you want to talk about?” is the typical way she opens up the tutorial. The two atypical openers in which Sam did not start in this way both started off with her asking about the students’ claims. In the following excerpt, from the first round of tutorials, Sam evinces her typical praise-critique-suggestion pattern at the beginning of the tutorial:

    SAM: ... So it might be that you partly started reading the comments here but one of the things that I noticed about your paper is that you do a really good job of demonstrating your familiarity with all the material (mmhm). Like I can tell that you’ve done all the reading and paid close attention. What I think that you’re missing though is a claim (mmhm) which is kind of a big part of writing an argumentative paper. So there’s some scratch paper over there that you can take notes on if you want. But how I’d like to start is what what was your claim that you had in mind when you were working on the paper?

    Even though Sam does not start off with her typical opener in this excerpt, she still begins with the broad OEQ regarding claim. More pointedly, in this session Sam begins to show her awareness of the importance of note-taking. In other sessions, she will ask students to take notes, while she takes notes as well. Sam’s use of note-taking and pauses play the pivotal role in the content and flow of her tutorials, affecting not only how much students talk, but perhaps more importantly, to what degree they take agency in the tutorial—the number one factor that distinguishes her tutorials from all the ones conducted with the other teams.

    In the following excerpt from a tutorial that lasted about 22 minutes, the student overlaps Sam’s speech 12 times, while Sam does not overlap the student’s once. The student is arguing that heroification is a bad influence on kids. Notice how pauses, questions, and overlaps function in the following extended excerpt:

    SAM: Okay so you think SIX SECOND PAUSE so what’s your take on heroification and how it affects little kids?

    STUDENT: It helps to bias them, makes them makes them feel like you have to do the impossible SIX SECOND PAUSE the impossible by being perfect, having no flaws.

    SAM: Okay so heroification is bad for kids to 16 SECOND PAUSE image, expectations.

    STUDENT: Yeah it’s just the image, what’s right.

    SAM: Okay and you said something about it rocks their mind with what do you mean by that?

    STUDENT: The wrong example of what to do. 12 SECOND PAUSE

    SAM: Okay, so why do you think that people do this? What did you understand from Loewen? Why do people try to hide the bad things? SEVEN SECOND PAUSE Why do you think people persist in presenting these unreal representations?

    STUDENT: Just to do what they do now. They’re trying to help. I have no idea why.

    SAM: They’re trying to helpJOINTPROD

    STUDENT: Like kids try to be better. I mean that’s FOUR SECOND PAUSE

    SAM: Okay so heroification is meant to make kids be better. That you argue thatJOINTPROD

    STUDENT: It doesn’t do that.

    SAM: Okay good. 22 SECOND PAUSE so if you were to sum that up into one statement because what we have here is it’s not really something specific or arguable yet which is what a claim has to be. So if you were to sum up your ideas here in a statement one declarative statementINTER

    STUDENT: So like tell why heroification is bad? (mmhm) Just because it gives the wrong ideas to kids on how to grow up.

    SAM: Okay so would you write that in your paper and state it like that?

    STUDENT: A lot like that. I don’t know how I’d state it; it’s easy to write down. I wouldn’t say it’s bad though. Heroification has a negative influence on kids because it gives them the wrong reasons to 43 SECOND PAUSE growing up it’s negative for some kids TEN SECOND PAUSE the wrong reasons.

    SAM: Well reasons for doing this. (yeah) Okay so that’s good so I would just add that because this is yourINTER

    STUDENT: In this sentence just get rid of this?

    SAM: No leave this. This is a good transition here especially since you say that he focuses on high school. It still relates to kids; it just brings up the talk about kids which you do. Heroification has a negative influence on, etc.

    STUDENT: So I can put this before the sentence?

    SAM: I would put it hereJOINTPROD

    STUDENT: After the sentence? Ok.

    SAM: Because this is like your transitionJOINTPROD

    STUDENT: So that’d move into myINTER(so it’s) into that and I just want to this.

    SAM: Yeah I would just kind of insert this here but then you have to talk about why you believe this is true.

    STUDENT: So I would do that in the next paragraph? (so)INTERor would I do that like in the same paragraph?

    SAM: Well that’s what the rest of your paragraph is about. Basically you have to argue your point, make me believe you. TEN SECOND PAUSE.

    Sam begins with her typical OEQ. What the transcript does not reveal is that in the first long 16 second pause, Sam is writing notes. Sam has written something down, and then refers back to that in her follow-up question. Then Sam allows a 12 second pause after the student responds “the wrong example of what to do.” After this pause, Sam asks more follow-up questions. When the student initially replies that she has “no idea why” and Sam begins to rephrase the student’s beginning comments “they’re trying to help,” the student overlaps with a joint production, “like kids try to be better.” In two more lines the student overlaps with another joint production. The next 22-second pause allows time for both participants to collect thoughts and get to the big picture, the claim. In the next few lines the student expresses the difficulty in trying to verbalize something as complex as wording the claim on the spot. But a few lines later a long 43 second followed closely by a ten second pause allows the student to think more. The student interrupts Sam two lines later, expressing her concern at the sentence-level. Sam then explains through praise why she could keep that sentence and how it relates to the higher-order concerns involving structure and thesis: “This is a good transition here especially since you say that he focuses on high school. It still relates to kids it just brings up the talk about kids which you do heroification has a negative influence on, etc.” The remainder of the excerpt above involves the student illustrating her agency by overlapping Sam’s speech three more times—two of which she actually interrupts Sam’s attempt to respond. Notice how the line between interruption and joint production begins to slightly blur when the conversation is really flowing, when the student is realizing some agency and urgency, and when the tutor (Sam) allows for this sort of conversational play. (During initial transcriptions, I had some difficulty in distinguishing between interruptions and joint productions in some spots.)

    Sam’s longest session evinces many of the same patterns described above, further illustrating the collaborative effects of Sam’s particular style. During analysis, I was struck by how similar this student was to the one that Madeleine from Team Three had such conversational struggle with in her session above. In this 36 minute session, the student overlaps Sam’s speech 20 times, while Sam only overlaps the student’s speech five times—including three instances where the student does not allow Sam to take control of the conversational floor. In this session Sam shows one of her patterns early in the tutorial when she says “So one problem that a lot of people have tends to be coming up with the claim in the beginning.” Sam refers to what she notices that others have been doing often, perhaps deflecting any sort of individualized, evaluative finger-pointing. The student starts off describing his claim as involving his belief that heroification is ok for young kids, but that when they start to mature they need to be able to think critically about this issue. Sam proceeds to ask questions and provide suggestions on how the student can rethink his topic sentences in relation to his claim. In typical fashion, she qualifies most of her suggestions, “When you’re revising I’d probably, what I recommend ...” Discussion of the essay’s structure leads to a discussion of the student’s prewriting strategies. Later the conversation turns back to more specific instances of getting the student’s purposes across clearly to the reader. Here Sam shows her typical reference to the reader: “So all that’s really needed is that you want to make sure that you specifically say this at the beginning of this paragraph (oh ok) so that we know that that’s what you’re saying. (oh ok) So that we know that as we read the scene we go ‘okay so this is where he’s going with this.’”

    A few turns later, the student second-guesses himself when he feels that Sam has disagreed with one of his points:

    STUDENT: ... That was just like me presenting both sides of the argument; but clearly, like I’m thinking maybe it doesn’t belong because you’re telling me like okay this UNDECIPHERABLE.

    SAM: Okay so do you feel like this fits in with any of your major points so far? Sorry I didn’t have a good look at the first paragraph should beJOINTPROD

    STUDENT: More of a benefit really.

    SAM: Or yeah what was the first body paragraph?

    STUDENT: It was more like morale of like heroification can be used to build up morale. To want to be great you don’t need to hear the negative sides to put a high standard upon yourself; I guess that was kind of it. We could just move that chunk overINTER(well ok)

    SAM: So let’s think about this, you’ve got heroification can build up morale, but then if it gets too blown up out of proportion then there’s a danger that it will break down and fail because it’s a lie. (mmhm) And then the third danger is that those that are deceived won’t be able to UNDECIPEHRABLE what they’re thinking. So of those three which do you think it fits better with?

    STUDENT: Definitely more on the benefit. Well I’m not really sure because that part of my argument was more like I realize I was more focused on possibilities and I kinda wanted to end on a little bit of both because it shows that kinda gave two sides but mainly push towards one thing whether something good can come out of it if you’re going to set yourself for the challenge.

    In contrast to the fight-for-the-floor pace and tone of Madeleine’s third tutorial, in this excerpt and throughout this and all of her sessions, Sam takes a much less argumentative (doubting, dissenting) and much more cooperative (believing, assenting) stance in relation to the student’s ideas. Notice how precisely Sam refers back to the student’s ideas and words:

    So let’s think about this. You’ve got heroification can build on morale, but then if it gets too blown out of proportion then there’s a danger that it will break down and fail because it’s a lie. (mmhm) And then the third danger is that those that are deceived won’t be able to UNDECIPHERABLE what they’re thinking. So of those three which do you feel it fits better with?

    Because Sam has been writing notes, co-constructing an outline with the student, she can repeat back, with some great detail and clarity, the student’s own ideas and how they relate to the overall essay. The student then can help add to this co-constructed oral/literate text. This exemplifies what I would describe as collaborative speaking and writing through the act of synergistic writing or note-taking.

    Rather than dismiss any of the student’s ideas, or try to force ideas on the student (as Madeleine, Julian, and Megan were all prone to do sometimes) Sam uses questions to try to get at how this student’s idea might be worked into the essay’s structure. This reliance on traditionally nondirective questions is due to some degree to the fact that Sam has not done the course readings. But it is also due, I believe, to Sam’s methodology. Sam’s tenacious ability to stick to using questions to allow students time to process and respond and then to write down notes as the conversation moves forward as her basic “nondirective” modus operandi enables her to turn the conversation over to the hands and minds of the students. In one session Sam waited for 89 seconds after asking a student “So where’s your topic sentence on this paragraph”? That same student, after thinking through things for 89 seconds, responded in some detail. While tutors are typically advised to wait fifteen seconds for a reply before reframing the question, some questions may require longer cognitive processing. Courtney Cazden, drawing on Hugh Mehan, claims these “metaprocess questions ask for different kinds of knowledge and prompt longer and more complex responses” (46). While “what is your topic sentence?” may seem simple enough on the surface, imagine all the cognitive steps the student must go through to give a cogent reply: processing the question, putting the question of how the topic for one area of the paper relates to the larger structure of the rest of the paper, and finally trying to find the words to express those connections. This moves the student simultaneously from the larger rhetorical-structural issues of the paper to the micro-linguistic syntactical and lexical level of the topic sentence. Each student that Sam worked with walked away with jointly-constructed notes that they could use while revising their essays.

    Of the 12 student questionnaires I received, ten were overwhelmingly positive and only two were either critical or ambivalent. (The ambivalent one was from a student who did not visit Sam in the first place.) Most students commented on the convenience of the partnership and the availability of Sam. Students described specifically how helpful Sam was during one-to-ones. For example, one student wrote: “It helped me strengthen my paper and understand what the readings were trying to get across to its audience.” Another, “She gave me ideas and hints to making my paper be voiced more by me rather than the quotes I used.” Another, “She helped me gather my thoughts clearly, gave me advice to make my paper stronger.” Two students commented favorably on Sam commenting on their papers before they met: “we would go to our appointment and she would have our paper already read so we didn’t have to wait. She would just tell us what we had to work on.” Another, “It was a lot better because at least the tutor would read it beforehand and it would not take as long as opposed to making an appointment or a drop-in where they would read it on the spot and it would take a while.” Finally, one student commented on what she saw as a problem, suggesting what some students must think of writing centers in general: “The tutor was not familiar with the subject taught in class; therefore she wasn’t able to help on specific questions or be any more helpful than the tutors at the writing center.”

    Discussion: Tutoring on the Edge of Expertise

    Granted, the case studies represent extremes in tutorial instruction and tutor preparation and should only be taken for what they truly are, qualitative case studies conducted in local contexts. Yet, analyzed side-by-side (Appendix C)—and from so many methodological angles—they suggest multiple points for more general comparative consideration, especially in regards to tutoring method. While CBT scholars caution practitioners and experimenters that tutors may need to be more or less directive when interacting more closely with instructors and courses, my studies suggest just how tricky this notion really is.

    Julian’s (Team One) basic modus operandi of having the student read the paper aloud, while stopping intermittently to talk about things as they went, seemed to cause Julian to talk unnecessarily, and in ways that only occasionally invited students to take agency in the sessions. Julian made infrequent use of the valuable tool of note-taking, a technique that might have substantially altered the content and flow of his one-to-ones. If he had asked his questions, then waited for a response, then taken notes for the students (especially those that were not as engaged or not taking any notes themselves) his sessions may have sounded more like Sam’s, and students and Anne may have felt that these one-to-ones were adding something of value to this partnership. Instead, Julian—despite his meta-awareness that he tends to talk too much (listen too little) in a tutorial—repeatedly dominated the conversational floor, often interrupting students’ train of thought, answering the questions he should have been waiting for a response on, and even out-and-out ignoring (or more often, overlooking) student concerns and questions. Stunningly, during our interview, Julian even told me that he felt the one-to-one tutorials were “successful.”

    When held in comparison to Megan and Kim, however, Julian’s style does not seem that drastically different or reprehensible. In fact, all three of these tutors exhibited similar tendencies to dominate much of the conversational floor in their own ways. (Students actually talked more, proportionately, with Julian than with Megan or Kim.) Julian, unfortunately did not have the same opportunity as the in-class tutors to redeem himself in any way via consistent and productive interactions in the classroom. (I’ll return to this comparative discussion in the next chapter.)

    Megan’s (Team Two) tutorials took two different routes: shorter sessions in which she did almost all of the talking, asked few questions, and followed her usual pattern of praise-critique-suggestion; and longer sessions in which students, concerned with negotiating their portfolios or Laura’s comments, showed more engagement and concern, but still talked much less. These shorter sessions resemble the kind of conferences advocated by Garrison, shorter sessions where the tutor/teacher acts more like an editor directly intervening and offering suggestions. In a sample session with a student, Garrison often uses phrases like “this is what I would do” or more emphatically “do this” or “I want you to.” He will even ask the student a question, then, rather than wait for a response, move on to the next question or suggestion or critique (see Harris, Teaching One-to-One 143-45). In the excerpt Harris cites, Garrison does not praise, but moves quickly from critique to critique. In contrast, Megan follows a pattern of praise-critique-suggestion that students must certainly be familiar with from teacher end-comments on their papers, and perhaps even from peer review. Drawing on Aristotle’s idea of praise as action, Spigelman argues that students in classroom writing groups need to be taught the value of both epideictic and deliberative rhetorical responses. “In contrast to epideictic,” she writes,

    an exclusionary deliberative approach may ... contribute to wholesale reader appropriation with little concern for writer’s intentions or motives ... When groups believe that their primary function is to change the existing text, they may fail to notice and therefore positively reinforce successful literary or rhetorical elements in their peer’s essays ... A combined epideictic and deliberative process enables readers to provide productive, action-oriented comments, and at the same time, allows writers to resist appropriation by their peers (“‘Species’” 147-8).

    While it is important to praise for several reasons (Daiker; Harris, Teaching One-to-One 71-73), some maintain that too much lavish praise may have little positive, and perhaps even a slightly negative, effect on student learning (see Schunk 475-6). As I listened to Megan’s use of praise repeatedly in both peer reviews and one-to-ones, I began to wonder if it was having the effect on students she intended. Megan’s praise, however, did sound more authentic when she aligned her praise with Laura’s. This associative “team praising” allowed Megan to amplify her praise considerably, affectively easing the worries of students who perhaps felt there was little worth celebrating in Laura’s comments and evaluations. Megan also evinced a willingness to help students with sentence- and word-level issues. Megan’s transcripts show how a tutor willing to work through sentence- and word-level concerns can immediately link these issues back to HOCs like claim, especially the important role of word choice and carefully defining terms so that a writer can get their intended point across to their reader more clearly. Finally, we saw how Megan’s sessions took a different turn when it came time for students to negotiate their portfolio assignment at the end of the quarter. When students perceive the stakes as high, and I would argue, when they are dealing with the unfamiliar genre of the portfolio cover letter, they take a much more active role in the tutorial. Megan’s sessions began to involve exploratory talk much more, it seems, when the students felt the real urgency involved in arguing the strengths and weaknesses of their performance for the course.

    We also saw in Megan’s first round of sessions that she started off with a typically non-directive approach, but soon, as she progressively worked with more and more students, she became increasingly directive, more Garrison-like. Most likely, seeing students with the same assignment repeatedly, caused Megan to start blurring each session together, almost into one huge tutorial. This is much less likely to happen in a typical one-to-one tutorial outside of CBT.

    Madeleine (from Team Three) proved a highly directive tutor. As we discussed at length in Chapter Two, directive tutoring does not necessarily imply hierarchical, authoritarian tutoring. For my analyses here (and also in relation to Madeleine’s in-class involvement discussed in the next chapter), it is worth noting that Madeleine evinces conversational and instructional communication patterns associated with African Americans, patterns that may account in part for her instructional directiveness (see Delpit Other; Smitherman; Lee; Denny 42-43). Carol Lee, drawing on Bakhtin, Goffman, and Geneva Smitherman, points especially to AAVE as a personal discourse that brings special ways of speaking and knowing into the classroom (and, for our purposes, into one-to-one and small-group tutorials): “Within AAVE (which may be defined as a dialect of English), there are many speech genres. These genres include, but are not limited to, signifying, loud talking, marking, and testifying” (131). She draws on Smitherman’s Talk that Talk to explain how the African-American communicative-rhetorical tradition evinces some unique patterns:

    1.Rhythmic, dramatic, evocative language

    2.Reference to color-race-ethnicity

    3.Use of proverbs, aphorisms, Biblical verses

    4.Sermonic tone reminiscent of traditional Black church

    5.Use of cultural referents and ethnolinguistic idioms

    6.Verbal inventiveness, unique nomenclature

    7.Cultural values—community consciousness

    8.Field dependency (involvement with and immersion in events and situations; personalizing phenomena; lack of distance from topics and subjects) (Smitherman, 2000, p., 186)

    Madeleine evinced especially 1, 2, 5, 7, and 8 in her tutorials, partly (perhaps largely) because the topic of the course—race and citizenship in the nation—brought out her passion and fluency on this topic (also see Corbett, Lewis, and Clifford). In “Community, Collaboration, and Conflict” Evelyn Westbrook reports on an ethnography of a community writing group where conflict and difference are foregrounded. One group member, an African-American woman (echoing Lisa Delpit’s direct-instruction sentiments), rather than placing the highest value on supporting its members through lavish epideictic praise, sees more value in challenging its members:

    when people [in the group] say “Wow! This is good,” well, that doesn’t help me very much. But when they say, “I would use this or I would use that” or when they challenge the way I thought about [something], that’s good feedback ... When someone questions something you do as a writer ... they are really saying, “Make me understand this.” (238)

    While readers might understandably question Madeleine’s performance during one-to-one tutorials, in the next chapter I’ll report on the degree to which that same authoritative style was evinced and speculate on how effective and valuable it proved to students in the classroom.

    Nondirective methods and moves were showcased by Sam (from Team Four) in all of her one-to-one tutorials. But I might critique Sam’s performances in two ways. First, almost every move Sam made during her one-to-ones placed agency on the tutee. She asked many open-ended and follow-up questions. She took careful and detailed notes, to which she and the students added to and referred back to during the course of the tutorials (see Harris, Teaching One-to-One 108; Gillespie and Lerner 74). She allowed for long, extended, patient pauses that aided tremendously in both the students’ and her abilities to process information and formulate responses and questions. She also—like Megan from Team Two evinced throughout both her one-to-one tutorials and during peer response facilitation and so unlike Madeleine—used praise strategically. Yet, I might also say that the model Sam employed (at the specific request of Sarah) necessarily caused her to deploy the methods she did. Because she was less in-the-know, because she did not know as much of the content and flow of the day-to-day course happenings, and because she was trained to approach tutorials primarily from a nondirective methodology (and, recall, actually worried about being too directive), Sam was much more situated to practice a nondirective method. This method caused her to deploy such strategically valuable methods as almost always starting sessions by asking what the student wanted to work on, using a praise-critique-suggestion conversational sequence, referring to general “readers” rather than to the instructor Sarah or to the assignment, and thoughtfully and patiently crafting notes. We might, then, say that—like the successful tutorials we surveyed in Chapter One from White-Farnham, Dyehouse, and Finer, and Thompson—Sam realized the coveted humble/smart balance.

    Since Sam and Sarah from Team Four had the least amount of in-class interaction with each other of all the teams, I will provide some details of their own reflections of their partnership here. The data point to an overall highly successful partnership. Since Sam did not attend any classes in an instructional role, she primarily voices how she and Sarah coordinated their activities out of class, and the effects these communications had on Sam’s involvement with students:

    My involvement with the TA was pretty minimal. We mostly contacted each other via email. I saw her a couple of times, but not really during the quarter. She mostly sent me the prompts and we emailed each other. I’d give her my availability and she would send that to the class. They’d sign up for appointments and then she would send their sign-ups to me.

    Sam said that at first she was a little worried that she wasn’t involved enough with the students, but from what she was hearing from Sarah noted “I think it turned out pretty well.” Sam and Sarah even agreed from the start that it would be better if Sam did not do any of the course readings. Sam suggests a fear of being too directive: “I thought it would be more helpful to go with the prompt with their papers ... because I might have my own ideas on where they should be taking their papers and I wanted to avoid that. I just wanted to help them bring out their own claims and arguments.” And although Sam did not have any in-class interaction with students, she did feel a closer connection and responsibility to these students:

    I felt more tied to the success of the students in this class. I really wanted them to do better. I wanted Sarah to see the improvements in their papers. I wanted to help them get more out of the class as a whole. And I think that comes with being connected to a particular class. It makes you more invested.

    Sam pointed to this as a reason why she would have liked to have had closer interaction with Sarah and the class. She spoke of establishing a more definite sense of her role in the course. She talked about coming in earlier to explain to the students her role. And she said it would have been better if she had spoken with Sarah more about how the class was going, or even visited the classroom once or twice, “just maybe coming in and sitting in the back a couple of times, letting them know you’re there and you’re tied to the class rather than some loner from the outside.”

    Sarah provides further insight into Team Three’s unique partnership, including Sam’s minimal involvement with certain aspects of the course. Overall, Sarah really enjoyed the partnership. Like most participants, she said she greatly appreciated the convenience of having a specific tutor readily available for students to make appointments with. Sarah said she wanted Sam to play the role of peer tutor and outside reader for the class, rather than co-teacher: “I might’ve been uncomfortable having another person in the classroom, but that might just be my own ego [laughter]. Seriously though, one of my other concerns too is that students might be confused having too many authority figures.” Sarah decided not to have Sam do the readings because she was afraid that “the tutor would know all the readings that we’re doing and would know the kinds of arguments I’m looking for, and they might steer the students in that direction.” Of course, this is exactly what we saw Madeleine attempting to do in her tutorials.

    I maintain, however, that even if Madeleine had been exposed to the literature on nondirective tutoring—like Julian and Megan, who had more experience and training—she still would have experienced the same type of conflicts in agency and authority she faced in attempting to help students negotiate the course. (This may have even conflicted more strikingly with her perhaps more directive African-American instructional style as we discussed above.) Although Madeleine’s four tutorials is quite a small data set, my experiences and case-study research over the years as well as the literature on CBT strongly suggest that tutors faced with a tutorial situation in which they have a better understanding of the course content, teacher expectations, and perhaps even closer interpersonal relationships with the students, will face a tougher challenge negotiating between directive and nondirective tutorial methods. But I do not believe this is necessarily a bad thing, nor should it deter us from continuing to practice CBT. I would rather continue to encourage tutors (and instructors) to practice at the edge of their pedagogical expertise and interpersonal facility. More specifically, for CBT and for consideration of CBT and tutors who have more or less training or experience, how might we, and why should we, encourage tutors to reap the benefits of both directive and nondirective tutoring strategies?

    If a tutor has the confidence and motivation to connect more closely with a writing classroom and help provide a strong model of academic communication and conversation—regardless of how much formal training they’ve received—should we be open to such teaching and learning partnerships? In the next chapter, I’ll present what can happen when tutors make these expeditions, interacting with instructors and students in the classroom. Sam (and Sarah’s) narrative of success has all but been concluded. But will vociferous Julian and Madeleine (and to a degree Megan) prove more relatively effective in the classroom than they did in their one-to-ones? And what about those tutors from SCSU who played all of their tutorial roles strictly in the classroom? In many ways, their dramas have yet to unfold ...