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 stage of the writing process. Some of the broad range of tasks a tutor might help a student with include selecting a topic, generating ideas, developing or revising drafts, working out issues of style, or improving proofreading and editing skills. WRL tutors can also help students with basic research and with MLA or APA citation systems. WRL staff do not dictate content, edit, or predict what grade an assignment may earn.
Thus, the WRL is not a “fix-it” or grammar skills shop, nor is it primarily a “remedial” program. Because we recognize that writers at all skill levels benefit from talking to others about their writing, 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 complete the required three-unit English writing course and before they take the required upper-division Writing Intensive course.
The Tutoring Staff
Tutors in the Writer’s Resource Lab are CSULB undergraduate and graduate students interested in helping others become better writers. Many 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 writing context, the following is a general overview of what typically takes place in a Writer’s Resource Lab tutoring session:
Greeting: A tutor will begin by introducing herself and will probably take a few moments to get to know something about the student and his writing process. Then the tutor will give the student a chance to explain what he understands about the assignment and voice what he feels needs to be worked on in the session.
Reading and Discussing: Once a focus for the session has been tentatively 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 or other concerns that arise. 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.
Writing: Throughout the session, the tutor will encourage the student to write down ideas as they come or even to start drafting entire passages.
Using Resources: Sometimes, tutors will show students how to use various resources (i.e., writing handbooks, computer programs, or writing-related websites).
Making a Plan: 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 or before 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:
- edit for the student
- rewrite a student’s paper
- write extensive corrections or comments on a student’s paper
- voice an evaluation of a student’s work or predict what sort of grade it may receive
Grammar and Writing Tutoring
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 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 and 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 the student to take 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 to individual students that they use the WRL services. When doing so, there are a few things you can do to help us help your students:
- Tell the student a little about what the WRL is and what its services are. Providing students with a WRL flyer or bookmark and making sure they know where the WRL is located can go a long way in relieving many students’ natural anxieties about getting help.
- Advise 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.”
- If you would like verification that a student has attended one or more WRL tutoring sessions, ask the student to show you the “pink copy” of the Tutoring Session Summary form, on which tutors write a detailed summary after every session at the WRL.
Mandatory Tutoring Appointments
Although there’s nothing wrong with strongly recommending or requiring individual students to seek help at the WRL, some problems do arise when every student enrolled in a course is required to receive tutoring:
- Students enrolled in courses which require them 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. 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 can result in very unproductive sessions and takes tutors away from those students who really want to be there.
Please remember that 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 a good idea to make every student in every course attend several unfocused, mandatory sessions.
How Students Can Arrange to See Tutors
Appointments: The best way to see a WRL tutor is to make an appointment. Students may make 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 Friday, and evening hours are available on all but Fridays. Please call the WRL, stop by LAB-206, or click the link to our home page for this semester’s specific hours of operation.
Drop-Ins: Students may be able to get a same-day drop-in through one of the following three ways:
Wait for a cancellation: Sometimes students cancel or don’t show up for their appointments. When this happens, another student who is waiting in the WRL can take the available appointment. We have places to plug in laptop computers and tables where students can study while they wait.
Call or come by when we open: Every morning, we open a few appointments for various times that day. These are given out on a first-come first-served basis. If students call or come by the WRL when we open, they can request one of these appointments for later that same day.
Check the WRL Facebook page: When students cancel their appointments, we post those openings to Facebook. Students can call us to book one of those cancelled appointment times.
Remember: there is no guarantee that students will get a drop-in or same-day appointment, but they increase their chances substantially by following the three suggestions above. Phone: 562-985-4329.
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 call (562) 985-4329 or call Dr. Lori Smurthwaite, the Writer’s Resource Lab Coordinator, at (562) 985-8516.