by Erin Ewald, Graduate Consultant, University Writing Center
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word collaborate as “to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something” (“Collaborate”). In the University Writing Center, tutors collaborate with students, with each other, and with instructors in order to help students to become better writers.
When students enter the University Writing Center, they encounter an environment created deliberately to encourage collaboration. Students and tutors are seated side-by-side around tables, with the student’s paper purposefully placed in front of the student. Tutors often begin the session by asking students what their concerns are with their papers, asking to see the students’ assignment sheets, and engaging students in a dialogue about their work. As students describe their concerns, the tutor may take a few notes, jotting down a course of action for the session and paying careful attention to what the student is saying. Such action not only helps tutors to know what the student is worried about, but also begins to establish a relationship based on collaboration. The developing dialogue between student and tutor may be viewed as collaboration in action – the two parties are working together to improve the student’s skills as a writer. By not simply proofreading or editing, tutors are part of the student’s writing team, helping the student to review their own work and to find their own patterns of error. As students and tutors read the students’ work together, collaboratively and in partnership, the student begins to find phrases and words within their own work that are unclear or do not convey the intended meaning. Thus, working collaboratively student and tutor achieve the ultimate goal of the University Writing Center; creating a better writer.
Creating a better writer requires tutors to also work collaboratively with each other. When we have a question during a session, tutors will seek advice from other tutors. If there is a technique we see others using to illustrate a difficult organizational issue, we will learn and bring it into our own tutoring practice. If we have a session that did not go as well as we’d hoped, if a student left frustrated or if the tutor feels ineffective, other tutors will collaborate and help the tutor to learn a more effective way to communicate with the student for the next time. Tutors have each other’s backs and work collaboratively to help each tutor learn from their sessions, and to ultimately, help the students with whom we work become better writers.
Tutors also have a collaborative relationship with campus faculty. Indeed, several of the UWC’s tutors are faculty. Tutors help to reinforce the instruction students receive in class, occasionally helping a student to understand an assignment sheet, or to incorporate instructor feedback into their drafts. Student and faculty tutors collaborate in this process when faculty tutors provide guidance and share techniques they have found particularly effective.
Collaboration between students, tutors, and faculty is a critical component to the successful completion of the Writing Center’s mission to create better writers. Without such collaboration, the UWC would simply be a proofreading and editing service, and that has never helped to develop a better writer.
“Collaboration.” Def. 1. M-W.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2013.
Ice, Vanilla. “Ice Ice Baby.” SBK Records, 1990. MP3.