A Peek Into a Writing Consultation

by Leanne Labetti

As a Writing Center work-study, I watch Mount students walk in and out of the office for consultations daily. However, because I am a work-study, my knowledge of what happens inside of the consultations is limited.  In order to educate myself and others about what really happens behind the closed doors of a one-on-one peer tutor session, I interviewed tutor Becca Gordils.

When making an appointment, each writer will fill out a form to articulate what they want to focus on during the consultation. This can range from organizational help, grammar help, or even brainstorming ideas. This information will be made available to the tutor prior to the writer’s appointment, so even before they come in, the tutor has some knowledge about what they will be covering. In Becca’s consultations, she starts by introducing herself and asking the writer a little about themselves in order to make them feel comfortable. This is very important because some writers may be nervous or embarrassed to share their writing. If the writer is comfortable, the consultation as a whole will be less tense and more productive. Next, she asks the writer about the nature of their assignment and reads the assignment sheet and rubric given to the writer by their professor. If neither are given to the writer, it is up to them to provide background information on the assignment.

The basis of the consultation is to address the concerns brought forward by the writer about their assignment as well as to improve on any imperfections the draft may have.  For example, if the writer’s draft shows inconstancy with past or present tense, the tutor can hone in on that skill and ensure that the writer understands why this correction is important. The tutor will also teach the writer how to execute that skill properly in the future. During the consultation, each concern is addressed separately and thoroughly. There are a plethora of handouts and informational packets in each consultation room that are often used to help reiterate what the tutor is teaching, and that the writer may bring home with them in case they need to refer to it again. A typical Writing Center consultation lasts 50 minutes to ensure that there is plenty of time to go over each concern that the writer has.

Consultations end with a review of what the writer and tutor have spoken about and sometimes a to-do list for the writer to leave with. This includes things that the writer and tutor have decided what the writer should complete after they have left the Writing Center. In order for Becca to determine whether a writing consultation was successful, she asks the writer if they have accomplished what they came into the office for. She explained to me that she can often tell whether or not the writer felt they had accomplished what they wanted to by their attitude at the end of the consultation. In the event that a writer is still unsure about his or herself at the end of the consultation, Becca will take as much time as she can to reiterate the main points of the consultation and to answer any existing questions the writer may have. Becca stressed that she feels the most important part of each writing consultation is to ensure that the writer is comfortable using the skills they learned during their visit to the Writing Center on future assignments.

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