Sunday, April 3, 2011

Tutoring Across the Disciplines

Nearly every time that I tell someone on campus about my job as a tutor at the Writing Center, their immediate response is, "so you're an English major." The truth is that I'm not, and neither are at least half of the tutors working at the WVU Writing Center. The value in having student tutors from diverse academic backgrounds is that the Writing Center can then better cater to a wide range of students across the disciplines. If any student has been wary of coming in with a paper outside of an English class, tutors are still there to help and alleviate any reservations.

Since the writing style in each major is different, any student coming in to work with a tutor outside of their discipline cannot expect the same level of expertise on the content that is possessed by professors in their classes. However, this doesn't mean that the Writing Center is powerless to help students. Luckily, language and ideas can traverse the academic divisions. The organization of paragraphs into single ideas remains the same; awkward wording and other grammatical mistakes also remain the same. The student coming in for help must realize this limitation and cooperate to overcome the divide.

Furthermore, the Writing Center tutors are aware of the differences in academic writing, and the differences can translate into a benefit. In a paper, the writer must convey their ideas to the reader, and the tutor who may not be knowledgeable on a topic is then left to the student's explanations. The discussion between student and tutor in a session is useful to ensure that the student's ideas translate into the text. Then, if an issue comes up that is outside of the tutor's understanding, the student can be steered in the right direction for the help they need.

As long as both tutors and students are aware of these limitations on the writing style, then any problem becomes minimal. When coming in for an appointment, the academic background of an assignment can be addressed so that the best help can be offered. Tutoring outside of the major can then be beneficial to both. Students should never feel isolated from the Writing Center because of their academic area or class level.

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