The Writing Center Consultant Project Coding

Posted: December 10, 2013 in Writing Center
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Open-ended Questions Coding

The four coding categories for the open-ended responses highlight a positive trend in the professional skills writing consultants believe they are gaining as well as indicate an enthusiasm for their tutoring work. To create a clearly-defined coding system, I separated professional skills from personal skills, which is a coding strategy that aligns with previous writing center studies (Dinitz and Kiedaisch 1-5; Gillespie, Hughes, and Kail 35-52; Hughes, Gillespie, and Kail 12-46; Kedia 13-15; Welsch 1-7).

On a personal level, writing tutors working in a writing center community have the opportunity to develop empathy, patience, and rapport. Interacting with peers improve their listening skills, a collaborative attitude, and their relationship with writing. There is a marked increase in their diplomacy, tact, confidence, and assertiveness.

Professional skills in the writing center community include teaching/pedagogy training, time management and problem solving capabilities, administrative and public relations preparation, and creative and critical thinking facilities. These skills transcend to holistic thinking with a focus on HOCs and the organization of a writer’s argument. Writing tutors develop analytic skills as they assess and prioritize a session. Writing tutors also hone their communication abilities: they can not only deliver information, but also constructive criticism one-on-one, in group settings, and during cross-cultural situations.

Perceived Transferable Skills

The tutoring narrative gives writing consultants the chance to reflect on the values and attitudes they will take with them when they leave the writing center. The responses were incredibly positive. In summary, the coded categories reveal a positive response from the surveyed writing consultants.

  • Client Relations occurs when tutors prioritize tutees’ needs by approaching a hierarchy of concerns through active listening, genuine praise, and non-directive questioning dependent on the stage of the writing process. Meeting students’ needs varied from drafting, crafting a thesis statement, organization, brainstorming, and writer’s voice. Many tutors were able to identify the personal and professional value of their work because they enjoyed helping people with writing. For others, building confidence was memorable because the act of doing so was a two-way street: writing consultants get confidence by giving the tutee confidence.
  • Interpersonal Skills are demonstrated when tutors improve communication by valuing listening, learning to collaborate, or increasing flexibility when problem solving. The results revealed that the undergraduate tutors favored the conversation and rapport-building aspects of their tutoring experience. One writing consultant identified communication as a significant ability because she had to verbalize her thoughts to different types of people “clearly and concisely so anyone [could] understand my feedback.” A specific skill area was working with ELL students, which proved to be especially rewarding.
  • Professional Development consists of various skills: administration, marketing, critical and analytical reading/writing/thinking skills, pedagogy, diversity training, conflict management, technology use, and mentoring. The tutors found that tutoring taught them patience and confidence. The tutors seemed especially empowered when they could help their peers become better writers by meeting their needs and providing them with praise.
  • Lastly, tutors might identify joining the Writing Center Community as a lasting skill they take with them. Language in the literature speaks to tutors viewing writing as conversation, developing a new relationship with writing, or engaging with their knowledgeable peers. The tutors surveyed pinpointed an improvement in their own personal writing processes because they are able to look at their writing, identify common mistakes, and critique critically for grammar and style.

Works Cited

Dinitz, Sue, and Jean Kiedaisch. “Tutoring Writing as Career Development.” The Writing Lab Newsletter 34.3 (2009): 1-5. Print.

Gillespie, Paula, Bradley Hughes, and Harvey Kail. “Nothing Marginal About this Writing Center Experience: Using Research About Peer Tutor Alumni to Educate Others.” Marginal Words, Marginal Work: Tutoring the Academy in the Work of Writing Centers. Ed. William J. Macauley, Jr., and Nicholas Mauriello. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2007. 35-52. Print.

Hughes, Bradley, Paula Gillespie, and Harvey Kail. “What They Take with Them: Findings from the Peer Writing Tutor Alumni Research Project.” The Writing Center Journal. 30.2 (2010). 12-46. Print.

Kedia, Soma. “Everything I Needed to Know about Life I Learned at the Writing Center.” The Writing Lab Newsletter 31.7 (2007): 13-15. Print.

Welsch, Kathleen. “Shaping Careers in the Writing Center.” The Writing Lab Newsletter 32.8 (2008): 1-8. Print.


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