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									                               Assessment Initiatives for
                               Writing Centers
                               College Composition and
                               Communication Conference
                               March 12, 2009




              Riding the Wave:
      Best Practices for Online Tutoring

            Presented by Judy Arzt




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    Research Questions:



•How does an online writing center evolve
over time?
•What are best practices in an online writing
center?
•How do students develop as writers based on
their use of an online writing center?



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    Methodology:



•Retrospective study of our online writing
center, 2001-2008
•Student and tutor surveys, review of 1,000+
transcripts of sessions, 8-year period
•Retrospective, longitudinal, in-depth case
study, 12 students, 3-year use of online



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 Stephen North: Mission of the Writing Center



… to help students become better writers
…the writing center is not a fix-it shop




                                           Photo: 2001 Excellence Award, SUNy Alban
                                           http://www.albany.edu/feature2001/excellence_awards/stephen_north.htmly

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  Longitudinal research:

Nancy Sommers longitudinal research at Harvard
University
Method: study students as writers over the
course of their college career
Finding: value of feedback to multiple drafts
helped students progress as writers and engage
in the writing process




                                     Photo, Harvard Graduate School of Education
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      Chronological Development of Our
      Online Writing Center, 2001 - 2008




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    2001-2002


 •Email tutorials: 40 students/year
 •Email submission: copy & paste
 •Opening comments and embedded comments
 •Upper-class and graduate students
 •Follow-up to in-person sessions or for successive
 sessions
 •Low usage: limited access to email and attachments
 •Development of OWL: Internet website
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                              Valuable Resource in Early Stage



                               •Offered suggestions for
                               placing resources online
                               •Impetus for website and
                               OWL online handouts


   ed. Eric H. Hobson, 1998




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            Development of Website Resources




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   2002- 2003


   •Increase usage and interest, 200+ hours
   •Reduced need for in-person tutoring nights and
   weekends
   •Cost effective
   •Concern: tutor training




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2003-2004


      •Email tutorials
      •Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium
            •Smarthinking
      •Student preference for email method:
            •Tutor familiarity with assignments, instructors,
            curriculum, course expectations
            •Availability of same tutor for successive drafts




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2004-2005

•1200+ hours
•E-mail and E-tutoring platform
•50:1 ratio, E-mail versus E-tutoring
•Development of tutor training manual




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2004-2005 Tutor Training Materials
                   –Continuity: in tutors’
                   strategies
                   –Continuity: review of
                   student history
                   –Review of full paper
                   –Global versus lower-level
                   concerns
                   –Submission of
                   successive drafts
                   –Online resources
                   (handouts)



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            Page from Manual




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            Final Checklist at End of Manual




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     Findings by 2004-2005

   •As tutors gain comfort with working online
        •Build rapport with students
        •Use more rhetorical strategies: questions to deepen critical
        analysis and develop ideas
        •Increase focus on global and content concepts
        •Move to more interactive sessions
   •Tutors who teach online courses adjust quickly
   •Other tutors make gains over time and capitalize on writing &
   disciplinary expertise


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      2005-2006

      • 1500 hours online
      •Faculty response critical to success
            •Encourages continued use
            •Leads to submission of multiple drafts
      •Numerous students prefer online to in-
      person
      •Blackboard site




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2006-2008


• In 2006-2007, online tutorials comprised
  1,728.50 of the total tutoring hours
• In 2007-2008, 2,826.25 tutoring hours were
  completed online (66% of total hours tutored in
  writing)
• Over 1,000 student folders online
• Roughly 300+ users a semester



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   2007-2008


                 Figure 1: Writing Tutorials 2007-2008


3000                    2826.25

2500

2000
                                                          1430.25
1500

1000

 500
   0
                 Online Writing Tutorials        In-Person Writing Tutorials



              Online tutoring doubles the number of hours in person.

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2007-2008

      •Developments in 2007-2008:
      •Writing Associates Program
            •Embedded in courses
            •Discipline-specific tutors

      •Extended training and development of
      resources
      •Increased continuity among sessions
      •Increase in repeat users
      •Reaching a broader spectrum of students
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  How do students respond to online tutoring?



• Survey data (Fall 2008)
     – 76% noted online tutoring helped them to
       develop their writing skills
     – 100 of 108 participants reported they would
       continue to email their papers
     – 95% reported being satisfied with the tutoring
       service


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   Tutor Comment on Linking
   Writing Associates Program and
   Online Tutoring

                                                           Emma


As an online tutor and writing associate, I read the texts and confer with
the professor. Online tutors who work in this capacity have a grasp of the
grading for each paper & expectations for the course. The relationship
between the student & online tutor is clinicalized through the latter’s
explicit knowledge of the subject. An excellent relationship between the
online tutor & student is established, one based on trust, sharing of
knowledge, & one that builds the security necessary for the student’s
academic growth.



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  Higher Order Concerns


                                                   Kris
        The first strategy that contributes to skill
        improvement is to agree to invest time with
        the writer over the course of several drafts
        of a paper. Doing so allows the tutor/writer
        to focus on high level issues such as
        argument, organization, & level of analysis,
        & then move to other issues such as diction,
        tone, application of citation format, etc.


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            Student Ownership


                                                  Kris


     As the tutor and the writer develop a rapport,
     they should converse about the paper...they
     should be partners, and the tutor should give
     FULL responsibility for the paper to the WRITER.
     Do swim coaches jump in the pool and swim for
     the athletes? Do chefs simply make the food for
     the sous chefs? Doesn't work that way...so why
     should tutors make corrections…for students?

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     Structure of the Tutorial


                                                  Jess

 The use of explanation, modeling, & sharing of writing
 tools in the opening, embedded comments, & next steps
 help. It is important to build on the tutorials before
 checking the student’s history, referring to past tutors’
 advice. The more we know about the assignment, the
 more we can help. The most successful strategy is when
 I can dialogue with students & ask questions…that
 deepens their understanding of the subject, and
 produces more robust paragraphs, a solid thesis, and a
 thoughtful conclusion.
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Continuity in Multiple Ways


                                                 Tami

   Continuity in and between online tutors is crucial to
   the overall success of a student long term.
   Universal tutoring techniques are necessary. Such
   techniques include student folders which contain all
   papers, embedded comments that foster growth,
   rather than simply a mark-up of papers, & next
   steps remarks that make aware for the students
   their problem areas in future papers.

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                 Consistency

  Jess

It is essential to know where the student
has been & what suggestions other
tutors have offered, before starting the
tutorial. We’ve had the online student
folders. With that and the new pasting of
opening comments, I’ll be interested to
see if consistency from tutorial to tutorial
improves and what effect it has on the
reinforcement of the development of
written skills.

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            Consistency


                                                     Tami
 Those who work with the same tutor & establish a
 rapport with her over time are those who
 demonstrate the most growth. Anecdotally, from
 students I have spoken with, those who say they
 have a “relationship” with a particular tutor feel that
 their writing has improved more than those who do
 not have such a connection.


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Online Tutor Resources
                         Quick Access to Syllabi




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Assignments




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        Assignment Calendar




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            Tutor Resources




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            Tutor Training Materials




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Sample Assignment Posted by Writing Associate




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            Development of Blog, 2008




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       Links to Our Online Resources




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     2007-2008


Figure 2: The Five Departments Receiving the Most Tutoring Hours in
Writing
                       Social Work 270.75


                Education 303.50                         Nursing 894.00




             Psychology 522.50




                                            English 747.25


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   Case Studies of 12 Nursing Students:
   General Data



Each student submits 4-5 papers per year, with 2-5 tutorial
sessions
2005-2006: comparison-contrast, teaching plan, case study,
research critique
2006-2007: in-depth research critique, evidence-based patient
intervention paper, community assessment research proposal
2007-2008: legislative policy paper, complex research critique,
ongoing community study, synthesis paper, final report of
community study, hospital policy paper

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    Findings: Successful Strategies
•   Rhetorical questions
•   Modeling & examples
•   Tutor preparation: read model papers
•   Reference to assignment sheets & evaluative criteria
•   Continuity among same group of tutors
•   Tutors’ referencing prior tutors’ comments
•   Knowledge of the discipline
•   Collaboration with faculty
•   Engagement with the students’ ideas
•   Building a rapport over time


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     Student Progress Over Time
• Clearer sense of writing for audience
• Deepened analysis/synthesis with extended
  critique
• Grasp of disciplinary language/conventions
• Improved organization/focus on topic
• Perfection of the APA documentation style
• Development of concise writing style
• Confidence in themselves as writers
• Connecting writing to professional work

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            Some Surprise Findings
• Students identified as weak writers sophomore
  year became highly skilled, competent writers
  senior year and caught up to stronger writers
• All experienced a momentarily decline senior year
  when faced with a new challenge, but tutoring
  resulted in success with the assignment:
  legislative policy paper
• All produced exemplary senior thesis:
  comprehensive community research project



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                  Questions ?
                Want Resources?
•   Email me: jarzt@sjc.edu
•   Paper and slides available
•   Manual, rubric, and training materials available
•   Article on Associates Program & Online Tutoring:
    Across the Disciplines journal (January 2009)
    online




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