About the Writer’s Resource Lab
The Writer’s Resource Lab (WRL) is CSULB’s writing tutorial center. Its central mission is to provide ongoing writing instruction to any currently enrolled CSULB student via individualized tutorials. As an integral part of across-the-curriculum writing instruction on this campus, the WRL exists to help students become more effective and independent writers.
The Program’s Philosophy
The WRL’s philosophy is that the act of writing effectively is a process (i.e., a recursive act of thinking, drafting, revising, rewriting, and editing). Using this concept as a foundation, the WRL tutors help student writers improve their skills by teaching them strategies that take them through each phase of the writing process. A tutor might help a student develop proficiency in a broad range of areas, including selecting a topic, generating ideas, developing/revising working drafts, dealing with issues of style, and acquiring proofreading/editing skills. WRL staff do not, however, dictate content, co-author students’ papers, edit, proofread, or predict what sort of grade an assignment might earn.
Thus, the WRL is not a “fix-it” or grammar skills shop nor is it primarily a “remedial” program. A large part of the WRL’s mission is to provide individualized learning opportunities as CSULB students continue to develop as writers while progressing through their academic careers. Often, the WRL is the only writing instruction available to students after they have completed the required three units in written English.
The Tutoring Staff
Tutors in the Writer’s Resource Lab are CSULB undergraduate and graduate students interested in helping others become better writers. Most are preparing for careers teaching writing at the high school, community college, or university level, and some are tutoring and teaching writing simultaneously. All of our tutors are required to participate in ongoing training so that they are aware of current issues in tutoring and composition theory and can therefore further develop their teaching skills.
What Happens in a Typical Session
The goal of the WRL is to help students become more effective, self-sufficient writers. For this to happen, the students must do the work. Just like faculty in the classroom, WRL tutors work very hard to provide guided learning opportunities for students–without doing everything for them. Although each session is unique and adapted to the student’s needs and his or her writing context, the following is a general overview of what typically takes place in a Writer’s Resource Lab tutoring session:
- After introducing himself/herself and perhaps taking a few moments to get to know something about the student and his or her writing process, the tutor will give the student a chance to voice what he/she feels needs to be worked on and how the student views the writing situation.
Once a focus for the session has been agreed upon, either the tutor or the student
- may read aloud some or all of the paper, stopping to discuss portions relevant to the agreed-upon focus. In addition to discussing problem areas and helping the student develop strategies for solving them, the tutor will also point out what the student has done well and help him or her apply that strength elsewhere in the paper.
- Throughout the session, the tutor will encourage the student to write down ideas as they come or even to start drafting entire passages. If the student seems to be onto something and is writing, the tutor may leave the tutoring area for a while to let the student work. Sometimes, tutors will show students how to use various resources (i.e., writing handbooks and computer programs).
- If appropriate, the tutor may suggest a follow-up session and formulate specific goals for the student to accomplish prior to that appointment. Whenever possible, the tutor will try to help the tutee formulate a plan of action specifying what the student will accomplish between this first session and the next and/or when a specific paper is due.
Things That Do Not Take Place In Tutoring Sessions
Tutors in the Writer’s Resource Lab do not do the following:
- “take over” the authorship of a student’s text by correcting errors for the student
- provide specific wording or content for a student to use in a paper
- rewrite or co-author part or all of a student’s paper
- voice an evaluation of a student’s work or predict what sort of grade it may receive
- write extensive corrections or comments on a student’s paper
Grammar and Tutoring Writing
The role of grammar and grammar instruction frequently comes up when discussing the teaching of writing, especially when talking about writing centers and tutoring techniques. In fact, many students (and some instructors) are surprised when they find out the purpose of the WRL is not simply to correct the grammar in student essays and/or dispense various drill exercises in an effort to “remediate deficiencies.”
Although correct grammar does not automatically ensure effective writing, proofreading and editing are important phases of the writing process and are valuable skills for students to develop. Therefore, while tutors in the WRL are able and willing to teach students proofreading/editing skills as well as specific grammatical concepts, they usually 1) strongly advise the student to focus on “global” issues (thesis, structure, logical flow, relevance to the assignment, development, etc.) first, before concentrating on surface errors, and 2) teach grammar and mechanics in the context of the student’s own writing, encouraging him or her to take full responsibility for the text. The goal is to help students acquire the skills to find and correct their own mistakes.
Guidelines for Referring Students
Please inform your students about the Writer’s Resource Lab early each semester. We also appreciate the opportunity to send a tutor to your class to discuss the services the WRL offers. And feel free to recommend or require individual students enrolled in your courses to use the WRL services. When doing so, there are a few things you can do to help us help your students:
- Give the student some idea about what the WRL is and what its services are. Providing students with a WRL flyer and making sure they know where the program is located can go a long way in relieving many students’ natural anxieties about getting “extra help.”
- Tell the student to bring in any written instructions for the assignment as well as any drafts he or she is working on.
- Have reasonable expectations about what initial progress you can expect after one or two tutorial sessions. Students will not leave their tutoring sessions with “perfect papers.”
- Tutors write (and give students a copy of) a detailed session summary at the end of every session at the WRL. If you would like verification that a student has attended on or more WRL tutoring sessions, ask him or her to show you the “pink copy” of the Tutoring Session Summary form.
Mandatory Tutoring Appointments
Although there’s nothing wrong with strongly recommending or requiring individual students to seek help at the WRL, two problems do arise with the practice of requiring sessions for every student enrolled in a course:
- Students enrolled in courses where they are required to have tutoring appointments frequently sign up for these sessions weeks in advance and then don’t show for them. This results in a wasted hour that another student could have used.
- When forced to attend a tutoring session, some students are extremely resistant to working with the tutor, even if their writing shows they could use the help. Such students make it clear, one way or another, that they are only “doing time” until they can get a “Tutoring Confirmation Form” to take back to the instructor. This results in some very unproductive sessions and takes tutors away from those students who really want to be there.
Don’t misunderstand: you are welcome to recommend or require those individual students you feel could benefit from one-on-one assistance to come to the WRL. However, for reasons already discussed, it is not really a good idea to make every student in every course attend several unfocused, mandatory sessions.
How Students Can Arrange to See Tutors
Appointments: Students may make tutoring appointments up to two weeks in advance by calling the WRL at (562) 985-4329 or by coming to LAB-206 during the hours we are open. The WRL is open Monday through Thursday, and evening hours are available. Please call the WRL, stop by LAB-206, or click the link to our home page for the semester’s exact hours.
Drop-In Sessions: Each week, we offer a number of “drop-in” hours where no appointment is necessary. Since the drop-in tutor may be working with a number of students simultaneously, these sessions are most appropriate when a student just wants a short consultation (10-15 minutes).
If you have any questions about The Writer’s Resource Lab or would like a tutor to speak to your students about its services, please do not hesitate to call (562) 985-4329.