THEORY TO PRACTICE ESSAYS

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Is Physical Environment Essential to a Good Writing Center?
Kathryn Bodie

Our physical environment has great influence on how we function day to day. Our moods can change with the weather, the temperature, and even the colors that are used around us. In a learning situation our surroundings gather even more importance.

There are many factors that compose a good learning environment, and most of them do not include physical surroundings. CNC concepts, a website providing training materials in different fields, lists aptitude, motivation, presentation and repetition as important factors that contribute to a good learning environment (“Five”). Those are certainly good teaching strategies, but students may not list those factors as things they look for when they attend a tutoring session. Interestingly, a list of much more practical ideas for a good learning environment come from The South Suffolk Learning Community. At a pupil conference the organization held in 2005, teachers gathered the thoughts of students from ages two to ten years. The most frequent ideas the children had to better a learning environment were enough space to work, bright space, not crowded, larger tables, pictures, displays, comfy chairs, quiet room, calm, relaxing, happy teachers, temperature, and even smell (“What”). Looking at this list, I don’t think any college-age student would be able to disagree. But writing centers at different campuses across the country farce different challenges. Some centers may have a large space devoted entirely to encouraging writing in a community, others may have a desk tucked away in a broom closet, and all have varying budget constraints. As tutors, we must work with the space we're given, which may not be considered an ideal learning environment.

At Monroe County Community College (MCCC), our writing center shares space with a larger learning assistance lab that offers tutoring in all subjects and aid for students with learning disabilities. Because of this sharing situation, the MCCC writing center does not have the same freedoms as other centers across the country. Compare Appalachian State University’s writing center with the space offered by Shasta College in California (Figs.1 and 2). Obviously, these campuses have different resources, and so have extremely different environments. Though one may be more "ideal" on the surface, what really matters is the quality of the tutoring offered to the students.                                                                     


Students may not be as affected by physical environment in a tutoring session if other aspects of what is considered a good learning environment are implemented. By building a rapport with the student in the session, being friendly, using proper body language and active listening, a student can still receive a quality tutoring session, even if it is held in a small dark closet. It may take the student a bit longer to actually set an appointment, but once he or she attends, the tutor could put him or her at ease.

Monroe County Community College tutors are trained to apply aspects of what constitutes a good learning environment, offsetting the somewhat less than ideal space the writing center has at its disposal. Using the Socratic method and other active listening techniques, tutors are prepared for almost any writing situation and are able to present excellent tutoring sessions. Students at our campus who use our facility are completely positive about their experience regardless of physical environment. A survey of twenty-one students attending tutoring sessions at MCCC campus found twenty out of the twenty-one had a great first impression of our writing center, felt comfortable in the environment, found the tutors friendly, and indicated they would return for other appointments. Twenty out of twenty-one also had no suggestions for improvement, and would strongly recommend the writing center to friends. Positive comments were, "[The MCCC writing center] is a calm environment with open-minded writing fellows," "Great if you want to make sure you've got everything just right or if you need some help," and "It is very helpful. The writing fellows are tutors that are great helpers." The one hold out of the twenty–one students surveyed found the writing center to be "OK" on first impression, but also suggested the addition of lava lamps would benefit the center. Whether that would help the learning environment or not is debatable, but all in all the feedback was extremely positive. These student responses to the MCCC Writing Center environment are more credible than a specific formula for good environment.

As the two to ten year olds prove, though motivation, aptitude, and presentation may indeed be important factors, relaxing space, calm, quiet, non-crowded rooms, and happy, interested teachers may be more realistic for success in learning.

Works Cited

Appalachian State University Writing Center. <www.appstate.edu>.

“The Five Factors That Contribute to a Good Learning Environment.” CNC Concepts. Monroe County Community College
          Library. Monroe, MI. 26 Apr. 2007. <http://www.cncci.com/products/five20%factors.htm>.

“What Contributes to a Good Learning Environment?” South Suffolk Learning Community. Monroe County Community
          College Library. Monroe, MI. 30 Apr. 2007. <http://www.suffolkschools.net>.

Shasta College Writing Center <www.Shastacollege.edu>.

 

Theory to Practice: Agenda Setting
Daniella Boling

Agenda setting is very important to the tutoring session. It is the first thing that a tutor and tutee will decide upon and it can determine how successful the session will be. The necessity of setting an agenda will become obvious as one starts to tutor. Agenda setting creates a more organized session that allows the tutee to learn and retain more skills. In this way, agenda setting makes the session more efficient than it otherwise would be. A tutor needs to learn how to create balance and learn different methods for doing this. I asked the Writing Fellows in the MCCC Writing Center about how they set agendas and I was given many useful answers. It may be difficult at first, but after time and experience a new tutor will easily be able to set a successful agenda.

Agenda setting is one of the first things a tutor has to negotiate in a session. During this time the tutor and tutee make decisions regarding how the session will operate. Liz Rodin states that setting the agenda is where the student and tutor decide on one or two main concerns in the paper to concentrate on during the session (12). Instead of just going with the flow, agenda setting allows the session to have structure and more meaning. This is important because the goal of the Writing Center is to have tutees leave with a positive experience that will prompt them to come back in the future.

There are very good reasons why setting an agenda is necessary for a session. “Once I determine, with input from the student, a realistic goal, the session practically runs itself” (Rodin). One of the reasons agenda setting is so important is because it affects the success of the entire session. Jenny Wagner says that tutoring can be thought of as a balancing act between the tutor and tutee (Wagner 11). It comes to play in the agenda setting as both tutor and tutee are trying to find common ground. The tutee may not be satisfied with the session if the tutor has set an agenda that does not take the tutee’s concerns into account. One of my fellow tutors responded to a survey question about balance in agenda setting by saying that too much control by one party can be disastrous because it can lead to too much information covered or not enough. The problem with overloading the tutee with information is that he or she may not retain any of it because there is too much to remember. At a certain point the tutee will just nod his head and mutter “Mhhmm” in response to everything that is being covered. This is incredibly counterproductive because goals are not accomplished.

When the agenda is set the session becomes more organized. The process of agenda setting is not only for time management reasons. When the tutee and tutor set the agenda they are also setting the goals for the session. Once the goals are realized, the tutor can approximately figure out how much time to spend on each concern and in what order they should be looked at. If there is not a clear agenda then the session can go awry and the more important issues may be overlooked because of time constraints.
Another reason agenda setting is important is that it makes the session more efficient. As Rodin stated, once an agenda is set, the session practically runs itself. As this is my first semester as a Writing Fellow, I have learned by experience how agenda setting effects the session. In my first session I was so nervous that I did not think to clearly set an agenda. I was incredibly worried that I might tell the tutee the wrong thing and not concentrate on the right areas of his writing. I think that if I were to have followed a strong agenda setting method, then I might have alleviated some of my own concerns about tutoring. Had I been confident in my ability to set an agenda I would have been able to start by setting realistic goals and the session would have moved on more smoothly. This is not to say that the session was a complete disaster, but I felt that it was not my best session.

It is inevitable that at some point a tutor will reflect upon a session and feel that she could have done better. A multitude of things can go wrong in a session, but agenda setting is one strategy that can be used to alleviate problems. New tutors need to understand not only why agenda setting is important, but methods on how to set an agenda.

Agenda setting is a delicate dance that the tutee and tutor engage in. As I mentioned above, agenda setting becomes a balancing act. Howard Tinberg, a Writing Center Director, tells his students that the tutor/tutee relationship must be based on mutual trust and respect (Tinberg 14). If that trust and respect is not present, setting the agenda can become complicated. When required students come to the Writing Center they will often have a lack of interest, or trust and respect for the tutor. These students are very difficult to work with because they typically have no interest in fixing their papers. When the tutor attempts to set the agenda alone, it becomes unbalanced and little is accomplished.

There is more than one way to set the agenda. In our Writing Center we focus on the method that allows both the tutor and tutee to have control. Tinberg instructs his tutors that every tutoring session is different, but there are a few principles that should be followed. After the tutor introduces himself to the tutee he should ask the tutee if he brought an assignment sheet (Tinberg 14). This allows the tutor to understand what he will be tutoring and allow him to assess if the tutee understands the assignment. The tutor should then ask the tutee if there are any concerns that he or she may have. After preliminary questions are covered, the tutor should have the tutee read his or her paper aloud. When the tutee reads aloud, it allows him to see his own paper more objectively and he may find more areas that he is concerned with (Tinberg 15). At this stage is when the real agenda setting comes in. The paper has been read and the normal procedures followed, now the tutor and tutee can concentrate on the individual needs of the text. Once common goals are set the session can proceed.

In my survey to the Writing Fellows at Monroe Community College’s Writing Center, I asked eight open-ended questions. The answers that came back were all relatively similar. I believe this is because we all have the same training and adhere to the same methods of tutoring. My goal was to find out how our Writing Fellows deal with agenda setting in different situations. For the most part, all the tutees agreed that a few goals should be set after the paper is read. All fellows followed the introduction, question, read aloud method and then collaborated with the tutee about how to approach the rest of the session. In the instances of fellowed sessions the tutors all had different methods. In a fellowed session, the tutor has already read the paper previous to the tutee coming in. Because of this, some tutors jump straight into working on the paper with an agenda already set, others ask the writer about his concerns and then move on to what they have previously observed. Either way, all of the tutors in our Writing Center felt that it was important in a fellowed session that the tutee has a say in setting the agenda. One response given said that this was because the writer knows her own writing best and she will usually know what she needs to work on. Each session may be different, but when equipped with experience and knowledge the tutor can effectively set the agenda for a session (MCCC 1-5).

Setting the agenda is so important that it may be intimidating to first time tutors. If the tutor is knowledgeable about the benefits of agenda setting it becomes easier. It is the first thing that the tutor has to accomplish in the session. It is necessary because it helps organize the session and makes it more efficient. The tutor has to learn to balance the needs of the tutee with the concerns of the tutee, which often are not the same. There are different methods of agenda setting that the tutor can explore. Although background knowledge on setting agendas is important, the best way to learn is from tutoring experience in the Writing Center.

Works Cited

Rodin, Liz. ““Tutors’ Column: ‘Starting the Session.’” The Writing Lab Newsletter. 23.6 (Feb. 1999): 12-13.

Tinberg, Howard. “An Open Letter to New Peer Tutors.” The Writing Lab Newsletter. 29.9 (May 2005): 14-15.

Wagner, Jenny. “Tutors’ Column: ‘Tutorial Balance.’” The Writing Lab Newsletter. 23.6 (Feb. 1999): 11-12.

Monroe County Community College Writing Fellows. Internet Survey. 26 Apr. 2007.

 

Theory to Practice: Prewriting
Brad Gakenheimer

One of the difficult things to do in writing is to begin a paper. Many tutees will come into the Writing Center and not know where to begin. They either have a hard time thinking of something to write about, or have a hard time coming up with ideas for their papers. The tutees tend to be stressed and overwhelmed and wonder if college is for them because they cannot even begin a paper. The one thing that the tutees do not realize is that they are not taking proper steps in the writing process in order to write their papers. Most of them have not learned these proper steps prior to their appointments in the Writing Center. Prewriting should be the first step in the writing process. Prewriting helps writers develop ideas and find the basis for their papers. Prewriting helps writers develop topic sentences, ideas for the body paragraphs, and eventually a thesis statement organizing all these sentences and ideas. Prewriting is one of the most important parts to the writing process. The job as tutors is to stress the importance of prewriting in the Writing Center by instituting a good strategy for the tutee to use. Prewriting is a good tool rarely covered in classrooms, therefore it needs to be taught in the Writing Center.

It is arguable that prewriting is the most important part of the writing process. A developed paper comes from ideas that were thought of through prewriting. Writers can think of their main points in their papers as they brainstorm and continue to think of more ideas. The ideas that come through prewriting will also continue throughout the writing process. Philip Greenfield, a professor at Mott Community College, stated in his article, “Prewriting,” “the purpose of prewriting, then, is not only to get out ideas out of our heads but also to look forward to what our ideas can do.” When a writer works more on his or her paper, he or she may eventually need more ideas; therefore, the writer resorts to his or her prewriting to think of these ideas. Prewriting allows the writer to link different ideas and connect thoughts, allowing the writer to stay on topic throughout the paper. Most prewriting strategies link the ideas in some way. I have noticed many of the tutees who come into the Writing Center are stressed and overwhelmed at the beginning of a session. Once they begin prewriting, they become more relaxed and find it easy to think of different ideas. Prewriting allows the writer to relax, coming up with a lot of different ideas that will make the paper a well-developed paper. Writing becomes easier, and the tutees become more confident in their writing, knowing they have something to work with. Also, they know that prewriting makes the writing process much easier.

With the importance of prewriting, the job of Writing Fellows is to emphasize prewriting in the Writing Center, instituting a good strategy for tutees to use. Many tutees come into the Writing Center realizing that they need to do something to come up with ideas; however, they do not know what to do or how to do it. When I asked some of my tutees in the Writing Center to fill out a survey, I was surprised at what I saw. When I asked the tutees whether or not they used prewriting before writing their papers, many of them answered no. I then asked them how they thought of ideas that they wrote about in their paper. Most of them said they started writing, and whatever came to their heads they wrote down. I then realized most of these tutees were using brainstorming and free writing. These tutees were using a prewriting strategy, and they did not even know it. These tutees have found brainstorming and free writing to be their prewriting strategies. However, there were those tutees who still had no idea how to come up with ideas, and writing papers was difficult for them because of this. I would then work with the tutees, explain the different strategies, and have then come up with a couple of ideas for each strategy. In the Longman’s Writer’s Companion (10-15), it describes the different strategies. Most of the tutees had this book and they were able to photocopy the page and post it by their desks or workstations where they wrote their papers. I gave the tutees one topic for each strategy, and told them to use the strategy to come up with ideas. For example one tutee started clustering for her topic. She kept coming up with more and more ideas, and she noticed how all of her ideas were connecting to the topic. She was then able to begin her paper. By helping this tutee use clustering as her prewriting strategy, I was able to help her leave the Writing Center with something she will continue to use on all of her papers. The purpose of tutoring is to not only help tutees with their writing assignments, but to also help with learning skills so they can improve their writing. Instituting a good prewriting strategy is an important part to developing the skills of writers.

Helping a student discover a good strategy is important, because this skill is rarely covered in the classroom. Part of my survey questioned whether or not students were taught prewriting in the classroom by their teachers. About ninety percent of the students who filled out the survey did not learn prewriting in any classroom. I also surveyed the Writing Fellows, and most of them said that they did not learn prewriting prior to taking Advanced Composition. This suggests that these different prewriting strategies, important parts to writing, are rarely covered in classrooms, not even composition one and two classrooms. Therefore, it is the job of the Writing Fellows in the Writing Center to teach these prewriting strategies, most of the time introducing these strategies to the tutees for the first time. Prewriting can set the groundwork for a piece of writing. Just as a foundation is needed when building a house, prewriting is need in building the foundation for a paper. Many tutees do not learn this prior to their Writing Center appointments, and the Writing Fellows need to realize this when explaining prewriting to the tutee.

A good piece of writing comes with the development of ideas. Prewriting helps to develop ideas and focus on the main points of a paper. When beginning the writing process, a writer should be prewriting and using the strategies that work best for him or her. In the Writing Center, the goal is to help writers become better in their writing in order to enhance their college experience. By identifying good strategies that the tutee can use, the tutor helps the tutee to begin his or her paper, and write well-developed pieces of writing. Helping the tutee understand the foundation of writing through prewriting is important in enhancing the tutee’s knowledge of the writing process. Writing a paper becomes easier when having the right skills. It is the job of Writing Fellows to help develop the tutee’s writing skills to enhance their college experiences. Prewriting is just one of the skills that can help writers improve their writing.

Works Cited

Anson, Chris M., Robert A. Schwegler, and Marcia F. Muth. The Longman Writer’s Companion. 3rd ed. New York:
          Pearson Longman, 2005.

Esweb.mcc.edu. 2006. Greenfield, Philip T. “Prewriting.” 13 Apr. 2007. <http://esweb.mcc.edu/ ~pgreenfi/prewriting.html>.

Survey. Personal. Apr. 2007.

 

An Untimely End to Writing Conferences
Kyle Miller

On one side, the tutor fills the last fifteen minutes of the session with mindless banter entwined with awkward silences. The other side has the tutor summing up in five minutes what should be said in thirty. With either extreme, the tutor is left with a bitter aftertaste as the realization of a failed tutoring session sinks in. Evidently, the tutor covered too little or too much in the time allotted. This conclusion, however, may overlook the system behind the writing center. The fault may not lie with the tutor, but with the predetermined length of the tutoring session. Writing center appointments vary in length from college to college, but the thoughts of tutors and students dictate that the length of writing conferences are most efficient when simply divided into time slots of various lengths depending upon the type of assignment.

College writing centers use different conventions for creating appointments, from a concrete half-hour to a more liberal thirty to sixty-minute range. In the discussion of appointment lengths, it is important to address what is currently in place at a number of different institutions. After all, the conventions used to schedule appointments are in place for a reason; if a fundamental problem existed within this realm, the convention would not exist. Various writing centers include separate time limits for assignments of differing lengths compared to others with a strict, absolute time constraint in place.

Depending upon the institution, writing center conferences can have concrete lengths with no regard to the type of assignment. At the Norman M. Eberly writing center, conferences are set at a one hour limit (“What,” par. 2) while at the Hamline University College of Liberal Arts, students “can sign up for a ½ hour appointment” (“Writing Center Policies,” par. 4). These constraints appear to be the rule at such institutions that may lead to an unfortunate end. If a student walks in with a short essay, it may be difficult to fill an entire hour. On the other hand, with only a half hour, a student needing assistance on a research paper will most definitely require at least one additional appointment to fully cover the assignment. When that second or third appointment cannot be guaranteed, the student may be left without a tutor for the remainder of his composition. Even more extreme is the situation at the Imperial Valley Writing Center where students can only schedule “25-minute tutorial sessions” (“Writing Center Home,” par. 1). In less than a half hour, even the tutoring on a short essay could be underdeveloped. A five-minute difference may seem trivial, but those last minutes are often vital to review a session to ensure the tutee walks away with a lesson he or she can remember and use again.

A number of college writing centers use the type of assignment as a basis for an appointment’s length. Several colleges use ambiguous conventions for their writing conference lengths. The writing center at KSU has sessions that “last up to 45 minutes” (Dudley, line 9). While this convention may lend itself well to the vast variety of assignments students bring to the writing center, the lack of a definite conclusion could cause organization to dissipate. Without that concrete end, a tutor may be more likely to prematurely wrap up a session because of an apparent diffusion of responsibility to fill those 45 minutes with helpful advice. Boise State University, however, bases the length of an appointment on the length of the student’s paper. For three or four page papers, thirty minutes are set aside, but for papers five to eight pages long, an hour is reserved for tutoring (“Boise,” par. 24). This approach reserves at least thirty minutes for any given paper and extends that to an hour for research papers or other lengthy assignments. The Penn State Undergraduate Writing Center has thirty-minute tutorials for four page papers. Additionally, “if no one is waiting and both [the student] and the tutor would like to spend a little more time discussing the paper, a session may last as long as 45 minutes or an hour” (“Penn,” par. 9). This case-by-case system is adaptive and sensitive to the many exceptions that continually arise in the writing center.

Those directly involved with the writing conferences, tutors and the students receiving the tutoring, have their own ideas about the limits placed upon the lengths of appointments. There is no one better attuned to the appropriate length of a tutoring session than the tutor and the students who receive the benefits. At the Monroe County Community College Writing Center, tutors must grow accustomed to hour appointments for research papers and half-hour appointments for everything else. This system allows enough time for any given session: the thirty minute “standard’ that stands out as an average of all writing center appointment lengths. According to Jeffrey Kurnit in “Is There a Future for the Writing Lab?” a session less than thirty minutes, more specifically twenty minutes, is “inadequate” (par. 3). Furthermore, MCCC’s appointments cannot last longer than an hour, which is designed to maximize what a student can remember. After an hour, a student begins to forget what was covered and attention dies out. This convention, therefore, covers the basis for an effective tutoring environment, and those that interact with the writing center generally agree.

With some exceptions, tutors agree that imposing a limit on appointment lengths is helpful, if not necessary. Limitless tutoring sessions could cause a complete lack of focus on both participant’s parts as well as disorganization. Given too much time to sit and work on the same assignment could leave the tutor and student exhausted, burnt out, and frustrated. Furthermore, it is generally agreed upon that the division of “non-research” and “research” are adequate. However, there are those who believe more divisions are necessary to better prepare the tutor for his or her upcoming session. This has much validity: “non-research” is a broad category that could include a variety of assignments of different lengths. It may be more appropriate to instead have students indicate the length of their papers and proceed from there. For instance, half-hour appointments could cover papers less than one page to five pages in length while hour time blocks could be set aside for any papers greater than five pages. This would eliminate the issue that arises when a student brings in an eight-page, non-research paper or a research paper only three pages in length.

Tutors have strategies, however, for dealing with the problems that undoubtedly arise from the system used to determine the length of writing center conferences. When pressed for time, tutors often end the session as normal, but insist the student returns for another appointment to finish covering the entire assignment. Additionally, if it is possible, the appointment could continue slightly beyond the predetermined time. For short assignments that fail to fill the whole time slot, tutors often try to practice good writing habits with the tutee, discuss repeated errors and how to fix them, and cover miscellaneous questions. Regrettably, some sessions end early and the student walks away without a care as to what he or she may have learned in the additional minutes.

Students who come to the writing center have their own opinions of what creates an efficient, comfortable, and helpful tutoring session. It is logical to survey the ideas of those who benefit most from the writing center’s services because students are aware of the causes of their comfort. While students may not always know what is best for their own learning, the tutor position does not reveal every facet of the session. Many students attending the MCCC Writing Center prefer the appointment length convention currently in place. Given the choice of an unlimited appointment, most students would prefer something more conservative, despite the initial appeal of unlimited aid on an assignment. The fact that students can overcome the idea of unlimited tutoring suggests it would not be beneficial to the learning experience.

Even though writing tutors and students agree on the necessity of time limits in the writing center, the more important issue may lie in coordinating the length and the type of assignment. At MCCC, the “research” and “non-research” divisions may cause avoidable problems amounting to the tutors forced to stumble over ten pages of text in a half hour or compensate for the radical opposite in an hour. Other options may hold the key to solving these issues. A system based upon the length of a paper, for instance, allows for more specificity. However, even if we never perfect writing center session lengths, tutors will find ways to compensate for the shortcoming of any system.

Works Cited

“The Boise State Writing Center.” BSU Writing Center. 17 Apr. 2007 <http:// www.boisestate.edu/wcenter/faq.html>.

Dudley, Joe. “The Writing Center @ KSU.” 23 Feb. 2007. 17 Apr. 2007 <http:// dept.kent.edu/english/WritingCent/
          writngcenter.htm>.

Kurnit, Jeffrey. “Is There a Future for the Writing Lab?” Community Review 12 (1991-1992): 47. Academic Search Premier.
          Ebsco. Monroe County Community College. Monroe, MI. 23 Apr. 2007 <http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/>.

“Penn State Undergraduate Writing Center.” Penn State Writing Center. 17 Apr. 2007 <http://www.psu.edu/dept/cew/           writingcenter/UWC/tutoringFAQ.htm>.

Questionnaire on Writing Center Appointment Length. Monroe County Community College Writing Center.
          Monroe, MI. 23 Apr., 2 May 2007.

“What We Do.” The Norman M. Eberly Writing Center. 17 Apr. 2007 <http:// alpha.dickinson.edu/departments/
          engl/writingcenter/>.

“Writing Center Home.” Imperial Valley College Writing Center. 17 Apr. 2007 <http:// www.imperial.edu/rwlab/           Writing%20Center%20home.htm>.

“Writing Center Policies at Hamline University’s College of Liberal Arts.” Hamline University College of Liberal Arts.
          2007. 17 Apr. 2007 <http://www.hamline.edu/ cla/academic_services/writing_center_policies.html>.

 

Theory to Practice: Agenda Setting
Joshua Petree

After the first week in the Writing Center, I noticed that my approach to tutoring was not helping students enough in completing certain goals. As a result, by the time these sessions were almost finished, the students and I were just starting to address the real issues of their papers. In consideration of how to become more effective throughout these tutorials, I decided to further concentrate my attentions on a more focused agenda while conducting a tutoring session. Further on, I found that setting a developed agenda inside each writing session plays a key role in developing a session’s overall effectiveness. In incorporating this method with much greater thought and detail, I have now committed to these four primary agenda rules in everyone one of my Writing Center appointments: 1. Setting the session’s agenda within the first five minutes of a session, 2. Following through the issues agreed upon by the tutor and tutee, 3. Giving the session a critique, and 4. A final assessment of what was covered within the session.

Setting an agenda within the first five minutes is central to accomplishing the goals of tutoring. In The Allyn and Bacon Guide to Peer Tutoring, the authors suggest that even though establishing what issues to address takes a few minutes away from the appointment, the exchange of time will be “certainly crucial to the [overall] success of the session as a whole” (Gillepie 33). In my experience, setting the agenda does take a few minutes away from sessions; however, I have found that taking five minutes from a half-hour appointment is still more beneficial in a tutoring session, rather than not taking the time to set an agenda and then stumbling upon the real issues of a paper half way through the appointment. In addition, a tutoring session that has a clear focus is off in the write direction, which gives the tutor confidence in engaging in each new agreed upon step within a session’s agenda.

In light of all of this agenda setting, trying to come to a final agreement on what goals to set can be challenging. This especially becomes chaotic when all of the differing objectives that a student and a tutor brought to the Writing Center are laid out on the table. However, as hectic as this sorting out process may be, an agreed upon agenda still must be developed within a short amount of time. As recommended throughout one tutoring strategies article, first find out “what are the expectations of the learner” when trying to further the agenda process (Landsberger). This part of the agenda setting is important in regards to helping the tutor in not over neglecting any of the tutee’s concerns. Once this is accomplished, a tutor can then state his or her own goals. After both of these tutees and tutor’s goals become expressed, deciding upon what goals to keep and which ones to throw out is next. In trying not to dictate the whole session, tutors will at times have to compromise some of their own agenda ideas, even when a student’s goals might not be as essential as some of the goals that tutors may want to address. For example, in some cases, it won’t be uncommon if the student wants to address more low order concerns, while a tutor may want to first address high order concerns, such as assignment quotas, thesis, and main body points. In trying to reconcile a high and low order concern agenda, tutors might suggest the importance of establishing these proper higher order concerns first, and further suggest that a session can be divided between high and then low order concerns in the second half of the session. However, after addressing high order concerns, a student may have to go back and rewrite the paper, which may eliminate any low order problems that are discussed next within the agenda. In these cases, addressing low order concerns may at first seem meaningless, However, a tutor can still find out a lot about a writer’ bad habits when reviewing a paper, even though it may end up being totally rewritten. For example, after reading the tutee’s draft and discovering where the student is having trouble, such as fragmented sentences, punctuation, etc., a tutor can help remind the tutee of what low order concerns to be aware of in rewriting the next draft.

Once the agenda has been set, writing down the agreed upon goals helps keep the main concerns at the forefront of a tutor’s mind. As one text suggests, the agreement becomes like a temporary “contract” between you [tutor] and the tutee. (Landsberger). Even if the tutor only has to jot down on the paper two goals to work on, and the main point inside of the working thesis, this practice is very helpful when a tutor forgets the agenda’s main topics that are supposed to be addressed. For instance, outside and internal noises can cause a tutor to be easily pulled away from remembering the focused agenda inside a writing session, especially if the tutor just had three previous sessions before the current session. Landsberberger’s article continues to support’s this simple idea suggesting the use of some form of a scratch pad for agenda topics. He suggest at the beginning of a session to “write them down; post them; [and] refer to them!” In addition, written notes can also come in handy whenever specific ideas come to mind throughout a session, such what paragraphs or page numbers to come back too after the entire paper is read.

Following through with agreed upon objectives within a tutorial is difficult at times, but in the end, it keeps a session’s purpose and focus more intact. As assigned in one article, “it is both the tutor and tutee’s responsibility to keep this schedule on task” (“Setting”). Nevertheless, once a session has been rolling for a few minutes, sticking to your agreed upon ‘contract’ can still be challenging. Digressing from a session’s agenda can happen when a tutor or tutee may want to make comments or further suggestions on a particular issue that has nothing to do with the agenda’s task. As the same text further suggests, in helping a tutor keep the focus and purpose of a session, sticking to the agreed upon set of rules of a session, also helps cut down in “unnecessary struggles” within a session. For example, when new ideas come up in the middle of a session, the tutee and tutor can be easily engaged in less important ideas, rather than sticking to the agenda, even though, these ideas may be appropriate to address at another time. In this case, a tutor can advise that these new ideas be written down by the student, so that they can later address them by themselves or in making another Writing Center appointment. (“Setting”).

Once a paper has been read and understood by the tutor, it will be time in the agenda to give an honest critique. This can create anxiety for many of the students coming to the Writing Center. In doing so, Writing Center tutors must make sure to go about this process in a respectable, but still honest way. In continually following the agenda, in giving critiques inside a session, the suggestions that may given to a tutee must still be directed towards the session’s initial “contract.” By critiquing in the guidelines of this agenda, one creates more of an open environment for honest assessment, since the tutee knows that these sorts of critiques were already going to be addressed. However, the importance is also in how the tutor seasons the words. In Sternglasse’s text, the author suggest the importance of not critiquing with words of saying “pretty good” or “not bad,” basically, suggesting not to be too general when it comes to the specifics of issues that you plan to critique in the session. Instead, Sternglasse encourages being more specific in critiquing, and in directing questions about the issues at hand towards the tutee (126). Furthermore, completing a session’s critique and reviewing what was covered in the session finally gives the tutor a chance to confirm what concerns of the student’s were successfully addressed. Ultimately, this last process in following the agenda allows tutor and tutee to see the overall effectiveness in completing the tutorial’s original agenda list.

Reviewing what has been covered in a session finally gives the tutor a chance to confirm what concerns of the student’s were addressed. As Three Rivers Community College suggests, “ask the tutee to summarize what he/she accomplished during the session. (If he/she left out any main points, re-iterate these for him/her)” (“Setting”). When goals are initially established and have been addressed throughout a session, having the tutee summarize these ideas at the end of a session helps them see what has been accomplished. At the end of a session, making the tutee comment on all of the topics addressed enables them to finalize what was had been dealt with in relation to the session’s initial goals. In addition, other ideas that didn’t ‘make the cut’ in the session’s agenda can now be addressed to the tutee as future topics to address. Furthermore, as Peer Tutoring recommends, on page 183, “if the writer has time before the assignment is due, urge her [them] to come back [to the Writing Center].”

In summary, by incorporating these steps in my tutoring approach, I have found an overall increase in my session’s purpose, direction, and success in helping different students who visit MCCC’s Writing Center. Following a set agenda throughout tutoring sessions, ultimately, brings more clarity for students in what has taken place within their experiences in tutoring sessions. When these steps are used in agenda setting, the tutee is consistently reminded of the session’s purposes. After incorporating these agenda guidelines, I have found my tutees now leaving the Writing Center with a clearer understanding of what issues were addressed and had been dealt with throughout their writing sessions. In my experience, this has left these students with the sense of accomplishment and a new understanding in what to tackle within the next step of their writing process.

Works Cited

Gillespie, Paula and Neal Lerner. The Allyn and Bacon Guide to Peer Tutoring. 2nd ed. New York: Pearson, 2004.

Landsberger, Joe. “Tutoring”. 16 Mar. 2007. Study Guides and Strategies. 17 Apr. 2007 <http://www.studygs.net/tutoring.htm>.

“Setting the Agenda.” Three Rivers Community College. 2001 Three Rivers Community College 3 May 2007           <http://www.trcc.commnet.edu/ed_resources/tasc/ Training/Setting_Agenda.htm>.

Sternglass, S. Marilyn. Time to Know Them: A Longitudinal Study of Working and Learning at the College Level.
          London: Lawrence, 1997.

 

Time Management in the Writing Center
Brian Ready

Time management in a tutoring session is extremely important. A Writing Fellow’s ability to organize and time the session appropriately will likely increase the chances of the tutee experiencing a successful appointment. On the other hand, if a tutor fails to adequately manage the beginning, middle, and ending of each session, the tutee may leave the Writing Center with an unsatisfactory feeling. In order to accomplish the former, and not the latter, the tutor must be able to organize a session, and navigate through any problems that may arise during the appointment.

The process by which a Writing Fellow organizes his or her appointment sets the tone for the tutoring session. If a Writing Fellow begins the session with a plan to take a certain amount of time for each session, the session has a better chance of becoming a success. While some might suggest the importance of flexibility in a session, it is equally important to remember the time constraints in a session. A Writing Fellow must recognize that a tutee will not be able to learn a plethora of information during the session; but yet, still teach on more than one issue. To help with this process, most Writing Fellows and I agree that one should develop an estimated time limit for each part of a session.

The beginning of any tutoring session sets the tone for how the rest of the appointment will run. If a tutor takes too long reviewing the assignment or making introductions to the tutee, the rest of the session may be set back, and the tutor may scramble to recover. Conversely, if the tutor hurries through the introductions and does not adequately read over the assignment, then the session runs the risk of being too short, or long-winded. One writing fellow stated in a response to my Writing Center questionnaire on time management, “I spend about five minutes with what I call the ice-breaker time – explain the W.C. (Writing Center) and what we do, ask if they’ve been in before, what the assignment is, what particular problems they are having with the assignment and what they would like to work on (Ready, questionnaire).” Generally, the majority of Writing Fellows who filled out my questionnaire agreed that the five-minute time frame provided ample time to begin a session.

Towards the midway point of a tutoring session, the tutor often has already begun discussing with the tutee ways to improve his or her paper. Generally, though, only about fifteen minutes per session are actually used to tutor students. Most Writing Fellows stated that they give the tutee about five minutes to read over his or her paper, and then begin tutoring the student on specific landmines in his or her paper. However, the tutor should never spend too much time on a single topic. Instead, as I employed different techniques and strategies into my tutoring sessions throughout the year, I found it best to spend about three to five minutes for each of the three to four topics discussed in the session. This will allow the tutee enough time to grasp the material, and yet, the tutor will not give the tutee too much information to digest.

Similar to the beginning of an appointment, around five minutes is often allowed by Writing Fellows to correctly end a session. In the end of a session, it is best to summarize the appointment to make sure that the tutee comprehended what the tutor attempted to teach. If the tutee does not understand, I would always try to re-state my examples as best I could, and if he or she still did not understand, then I would suggest a return visit. Also, one must type out a report form during this time, and should account for any unforeseeable problems with the computer or printer. However, one way to alleviate this problem may be by typing out the report form as the session progresses. This is the plan of action that one Writing Fellow uses. According to the Writing Fellow, “I usually use every minute of the tutoring time because I type as I go on the report form (Ready, questionnaire).”

Unfortunately, problems do occur in a tutoring session and a tutor must know how to navigate through the obstacles. Often times, a tutor must deal with more than a tutee’s paper. If a tutee is unresponsive to help, the tutor may find it difficult to expand the tutoring session, because one often needs feedback to know what he or she should concentrate the session on. Also, if one has a personable and social tutee, it may be difficult to end the session on time and to address all of the points needing attention during the session.
If a session appears to be moving along too quickly, some Writing Fellows find it best to offer a return visit and summarize the appointment as best as possible. One Writing Fellow in particular mentioned, “I indicate to them the appointment time is just about up, quickly go over the few things we did talk about, and suggest another visit with myself or another W.F. to finish going over the rest of the paper (Ready, questionnaire).” The The Allyn and Bacon Guide to Peer Tutoring, by Paula Gillespie and Neal Lerner, also agrees with this Writing Fellow’s method. It states, “It’s often a good idea to offer the writer something such as, ‘We have ten minutes left; do you still want to talk about the five pages we haven’t looked at or is there another priority we should address’ (42)?” By offering these words to the tutee, the tutor remains in control of the session, and shows that he or she will not panic. After all, any mistakes made in the past should be forgotten. There is no point in dwelling on mistakes that occurred earlier in the appointment. Instead, the Writing Fellow should summarize the topics discussed in the session, and offer a return visit.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if the appointment becomes long-winded, the use of open-ended questions by tutors will often allow the session to reach its appropriate time length. During a conference I had with a Senior Writing Fellow, I noticed this approach used on me. I have a tendency to be quiet, and I may not have given the tutor a lot to work with. So, the tutor asked me questions to find out what parts of my paper I liked or disliked, and what I needed to work on the most (Ready, personal observations). By the tutor doing this, I became more talkative, learned more about my paper, and the session ended on the appropriate time without becoming long-winded.

Of course, if the tutor mishandles these situations, the tutee will face the effects of the tutor’s poor time management skills. Especially early in one’s tutoring career, the time management aspect is often not the tutor’s repertoire. After all, one must incorporate a variety of different tasks in each appointment. The tutor has to introduce himself properly, listen as the paper is read, decide what needs to be changed or tweaked in the paper, and summarize the session. However, even if the tutor is masterful at all of the above tasks, if the tutor does not handle the time correctly in the session, it will all be for naught.

If a session has run too long, often times the tutee is flooded with information on one particular point of interest in the paper, and may not have received enough information about other topics in his or her paper. As one Writing Fellow mentioned in a response to my questionnaire, “Some concerns need more time than others and if you're sitting there focusing on one thing, and not moving on, then there's a problem (Ready, questionnaire).” The majority of students who enter the Writing Center will need help on a variety of topics, and Writing Fellows must be made aware of that. If a tutor spends too much time covering one topic, the tutee may not be able to process all of the information given to him or her on that particular topic, or feel unprepared to tackle the other issues present in the paper.

On the other hand, if a tutoring session has dragged on and the tutor is scrambling to extend the session to its appropriate length, then the tutor may have overloaded the tutee with a variety of information, and not enough detail. Glyn Owen, who wrote “The Tutor’s Role” inside The Management of Peer-Group Learning, has a name for this type of tutor: “Pace-making (97).” Owen describes this particular tutor in a negative light, by stating, “His urgency and impatience pressurize students into a search for ‘answers’ rather than reflective thinking (97).” When I first began tutoring, I often was the “Pace-making” tutor. Often times, I simply would fill the tutee with a lot of different information, and continue to point out different items for the tutee to work on until time expired in the appointment. This made me a poor tutor, and did not allow the tutee to think, or develop his or her paper. However, as I matured as a tutor and began to comprehend the importance of time management, I was able to spread my appointment out in an effective manner and prepare myself in case the situation presented itself again. Because I have learned of different techniques to use to prolong a session without slowing the development of the tutee, I am no longer a “Pace-making” tutor.

Tutor’s have a difficult and strenuous task to complete during every session. Regardless of the day a tutor is having, he or she is expected to provide a cordial welcome into the Writing Center for the tutee and begin the appointment. The tutor them must examine the assignment, listen as the tutee reads his or her paper, make suggestions for the paper, take questions from the tutee, summarize the appointment, and fill out a report form. All of this must be done in thirty minutes. Yet, rarely do people stop and think about how important managing one’s time in a Writing Center appointment can be. Sure, all Writing Fellows must remember the rules and ethics of the Writing Center, how to approach high-order concerns in a paper, and how to cope with the different learning styles that tutee’s may bring to the Writing Center. But, it is equally important to have an estimated time length for each part of a session, and develop strategies to put in place in the event that the appointment may either run over or under the appropriate session length. Without proper time management skills, all of the tasks that must be completed during each appointment might be left unfulfilled, and hundreds of students could be left with an unsatisfactory feeling as they left the Writing Center.

Works Cited

Gillespie, Paula and Neal Lerner. The Allyn and Bacon Guide to Peer Tutoring. 2nd ed. United States: Pearson, 2004.

Owen, Glyn. “The Tutor’s Role.” The Management of Peer-Group Learning., England: Society for Research, 1983.

Personal Observations. Monroe County Community College Writing Center. Apr. 2007.

Ready, Brian. Questionnaire. Apr. 2007.

 

Theory to Practice: Instructor's Viewpoint
Cary St. Charles

I am writing this paper to examine the impression of Writing Centers from the educator’s side of the experience. I hope to gain an understanding of how instructors feel about the difference that involvement with the writing center makes in their curriculum and to overall grades. Studies have been conducted to show an increase in the writing ability of the participants; I hope to gain an understanding and control for my research about the improvement that the writing center can have with one-on-one tutoring sessions.

I have learned that since the 1970’s writing centers have become more popular within the academic community for the recorded successes in addressing the writing problems that face remedial and college level students (Jones 1). Personal experience has shown me that active involvement with the tutoring sessions invokes communication on many different levels. With enhanced communication comes the ability to cover many different learning styles that improve the results of a tutoring session. When a tutors are able to express their ideas in ways that do not involves the act of writing, the ideas that they are trying to present within their body of work can be expressed in a way that the tutee can understand. With this understanding, the tutor can then learn the issues that need attention, and the tutee can learn strategies to help with the repeating problems within their body of work. With the information that is gained by interacting with the tutee, I have learned and gained knowledge that I feel I would not have known without personal experience in the Writing Center. As Jones stated in his journal article, I too have come to understand that the knowledge gained within the Writing Center is not just gained by the tutee (Jones 3).

I have found through my work in the Writing Center that interaction is not limited to the tutor and tutee; it is a process that actively includes the professor’s guidance and knowledge of the subject matter. The tutor can gain knowledge through professional interaction with an instructor that takes place in understanding the requirement of the assignments and helping the tutee to fulfill those requirements. I have come to appreciate the power of instructing an individual who understand constructive criticisms, and is able to make changes in their writing styles.

When meeting with students in a fellowed class, I have found that many tutees feel that they are already “undiscovered” novelists. They do not need instruction on how to perfect the art of writing and openly reject any suggestions for improvement, whether the rejection is spoken or non-verbal. The situation I mentioned is unconscious incompetence. I have also been witness to conscious incompetence and have learned how each session is very different, and strategies need to be flexible to gain positive results. With the establishment of a good strategy and plan of action, a good product will be created (Dillon).

I have learned that one-on-one interaction with the tutee allows for more expressive communication with the writer. I have come to learn that it is the communication that motivates student writers to start expressing idea’s and topics that they want to cover within their paper. I have seen that students who come into the writing center usually leave with more confidence than what they came in with. Casey states there are many obstacles to good writing (Jones 3), but a good tutoring program can help to overcome those obstacles. As Baker states in his journal article, “It [the program] builds their self confidence and gives them extra reinforcement of the concepts (Baker 3). My experience with the writing center has supported that theory.

The main question that I wanted answered in writing this paper was how the faculty felt about the benefits of participating in the fellowed class program through the writing center. Responses to my questionnaire suggested that respondents were pleased with their involvement in the program. I inquired to the length of their involvement in the program, and the answers varied from 19 years to this being their first semester of involvement. The overwhelming feeling was that their involvement in the Writing Center, has not only improved the writing skills of the students, but “made the papers easier to grade” (Kovach 1).

Required assignments varied from a one time appointment with the Writing Center to many scheduled meetings to ensure that the timetable for the assignments due dates could be met. When asked if there was an improvement in the quality of student writing one respondent said, “the Writing Center add[s] value to their papers [which] are better because of the interactions with the Writing Center” (McCloskey 1). When asked about the improvement, if any, with the grades of tutored papers compared to non-tutored papers Dr. DeVries stated “that there is both, an improved grade and improved quality from the process established in the Writing Center” (DeVries 1). The same sentiments were echoed by Dr. Holladay. He stated that the papers that are fellowed show a full grade improvement over non-tutored papers (Holladay 1). I have found that this information to be repeated in Jones work describing how writing centers are helping students gain an awareness and understanding of their weakness, while learning how to improve upon them.

The information from the responses makes me very aware of the influence as a tutor that I have with the students who come into the Writing Center. The responses tell me the sense of responsibility and sense of fear that I have felt in sessions were justified. The answers show me that there is a large support network established within the college faculty to ensure the success of the student while providing the necessary tools for the tutor’s success as well. This is a theory that is discussed in a journal article by Madrid, and shows how there was an improvement when there was a team learning effort (Madrid 159). In her article she shows how learning in a cooperative environment is much more conducive to the learning process than learning in a competitive one. I have come to learn and understand the true power of this statement; there is a great responsibility that has been placed upon my shoulders as a tutor.

My experience with the Fellowed Class Program definitely allowed for me to understand the importance of having a supportive Professor. I was fortunate enough to have been assigned to Dr. Kovach, and this was her first semester using the program. Upon meeting her class for the first time to arrange for appointment sign-ups, I was very apprehensive about what expectations she would have of me as a tutor. She quickly put my mind at ease, and was always available to answer questions that I encountered. Her high level of involvement with her class, combined with her commitment to the Writing Fellows program enabled me to see the importance of having a supporting team for success. With the correspondence that Dr. Kovach and I shared, I was pleased and reassured to know that many of those whom I met in the Writing Center were pleased with the guidance and reassurance that they received in their appointments. I feel that the greatest indicator of a good job is the return of a tutee without the requirement to attend attached to their assignment.

I understand that in the Writing Center, as tutors, we help to provide that support network; whether it is a net of reassurance, or one of motivation, the tutors must be flexible. There are three important ideals to having a successful Writing Center. “The first is to have tutors who are prepared for the experience and trained within their field. The second is to have a long term commitment to the success of the program, and lastly specific program goals” (Baker 1). Having gone through the Advanced Composition program I understand the reason for what we are being taught, even though the course is extremely demanding, because we are then expected to go instill in the tutee’s correct methods and practices for writing. I feel that the Monroe Community College Writing Center is very involved with instructing those whom make appointments. Showing the importance of establishing a good foundation for writing practices and pointing out areas of improvement within tutees’ writing, are fundamentally instilled as core curriculum. Having the opportunity to be involved in the Writing Center, I have found that everyone involved wants to pass on their personal knowledge to those willing to hear the message. With those whom are involved in the Writing Center having gone through the same course, helps to ensure consistent guidelines for the writing approach that dispels any discrepancy of meeting with different tutors. Personally I have found the Writing Fellows is a very rewarding experience for several different reasons. The first, I have been able to face several of my own personal fears of inability to write at this level. Second, I learned that I can help and teach others, and have them gain a greater knowledge of themselves through the writing process. With the knowledge that I have gained through this experience, I feel that I have a greater understanding to see the abilities of others and learn how to instruct someone to overcome their writing fears.

The faculty responses that I received were a great source of pride and achievement but humbling at the same time. To belong to a program that receives the accolades of the professors and affords me the opportunity to awaken others to their potential and see their self-confidence grow is magical. I am very grateful for the opportunity to have participated in the program, and hope to continue into the future.

Works Cited

Baker, John D, et al. “An Investigation Of An After School Math Tutoring Program: University Tutors + Elementary
          Students= A Successful Partnership” EBSO HOST. 127.2 (Winter 2006): 1-4. 12 Apr. 2007 <http://
          0web.ebscohost.com.catalog.toledolibrary.org>.

Madrid, Leasher, et al. “Effects of Team Competition Versus team Cooperation in Classwide Peer Tutoring”
          EBSO HOST. 100.2 (Jan./Feb. 2007) 155-60. 11 Apr. 2007<http://0-web.ebscohost.com.catalog.toledolibrary.org>.

DeVries, James. Personal Interview. 17 Apr. 2007.

Dillon, Timothy. In class Lecture. Jan.-May 2007.

Holladay, John. E-mail survey. 16 Apr. 2007.

Jones, Casey. “The Relationship Between Writing Centers and Improvement in Writing Ability.” EBSO HOST. 122.1
          (Fall 2001): 1-10.28 Mar. 2007 < http://0-web.ebscohost.com.catalog.toledolibrary.org>.

Kovach, Terri. E-mail survey. 18 Apr. 2007.

McCloskey, William. E-mail survey. 15 Apr. 2007.

 

Procrastination
Thomas White

I’ll do it in a minute; just give me more time; it’s not that important. I am guilty of saying these sometimes, but I hear it even more from other people. There are driving forces that lead people to procrastinate. These forces affect the way the way students think and act, directing them to a path of resistance, lack of time to complete their school work, undeveloped papers, and lower grades. However, procrastination hinders the human capacity to further one's abilities not only in academics, but outside of academics as well. The causes and effects of, and solutions to procrastination differ on an individual basis.

Causes of procrastination derive from the individual’s thinking process, and therefore vary between academic and personal life; however, counterfactual thinking is involved in both. Fuschia M. Sirois, part of the Department of Psychology in the University of Windsor, defines counterfactual thinking as “thoughts [that] are mental simulations of possible outcomes that did not happen but can be imagined as having occurred.” Upward counterfactual thinking is a thought process of how a situation might have been handled better and downward counterfactual thinking is the opposite: a thought process of how a situation or outcome might have been worse (269). A majority of people unconsciously use these simulated processes to reflect on their lives. Downward counterfactual thinking contributes to procrastination in all aspects of life. Because of this, academic procrastination creates a ripple effect on a student’s personal life. Although, procrastination in a student’s personal life also radiates to the academic life as well, I explore the other way around.

Counterfactual thinking in academics allows the student to put off his or her homework by making excuses of how it could be worse. In doing this, “downward counterfactuals can serve an affective function and be strategically used to improve mood in response to negative events” (Sirois, 270). The student feels better if he or she makes excuses about why procrastination occurred and how his or her work could have been worse, boosting the self esteem of the student. In my experience in the writing center, I have had students say, “well, I’m not doing too bad. Even though I haven’t had time to do my paper, I think I’m in quite good shape,” when clearly they were not. The statistics from the student survey I conducted showed that 71 percent of the students surveyed procrastinate to a severe degree, while 57 percent procrastinate extremely frequently (White, Survey).

The effects of academic procrastination can transform into personal life procrastination. Murat Balkis claims, procrastination is caused by “self downing (negative and disparaging self talk), low frustration tolerance, and hostility” (378). In my own experience, procrastinating my homework and research papers lead to high frustration because of how much work compiled into a huge mountain of impossible tasks. Toward the end of my semester, I focused on nothing but homework, even calling off my fast food job to finally finish my homework. This frustration resonated throughout my personal life and I ended up having a short fuse, ready to explode at any obstacle in my path, and all of necessities to be done, such as spring-cleaning and my reputation at work, were placed at the bottom of my to-do list. This mimics Balkis’ conclusion that “low self-efficacy and high anxiety were the significant predictors of increased procrastination for everyday, nonacademic activities” (378). Many of the students who procrastinate who I tutored seemed to have high anxiety because of the workload they put off, and this anxiety interrupted their lives outside academics.

The effects of procrastination resonate throughout academic and personal life, resulting in lack of development in many areas. Balkis emphasizes that “research has revealed that procrastination is related to low grades, low self-esteem, self discipline and self-efficacy as well as ineffective learning skills, boredom, task assertiveness, anxiety, depression, fear of failure, irrational thinking, cheating, time management and instant gratification” (379). There is a correlation between procrastination and an inability to learn, affecting the whole thought process in and outside of school, leading to ineffective and sloppy homework and job experience.

Undeveloped academic papers and lower grade point average scores (G.P.A.) scores are directly related to academic procrastination. This is evident in the questionnaire that I handed out to the Monroe County Community College Writing Fellows. When asked about the development of the papers of their tutees who significantly procrastinate, all respondents concluded that either the papers were extremely underdeveloped or the tutees were still in the prewriting stages of the paper. One of the respondents replied, “Obviously, for the papers I see, there is a definite lack in the development of a central thesis, paragraphs with one central focus, significant analysis of their data, etc., appropriate transitions, introductions, [and] conclusions.” Another answers, “Their papers are severely underdeveloped and often appear thrown together at the last minute without any thought or care as to supporting details or organization” (White, Questionnaire). In the survey given to students about their procrastination, students who procrastinated to a greater degree and more frequently generally had lower G.P.A. scores than those who did not (White, Survey). Because there is a direct correlation between procrastination and underdeveloped papers and G.P.A. scores, I conclude that procrastination impedes a student’s academic abilities.

Overall, procrastination affects all aspects of life, especially if procrastination hinders or regresses self-esteem, learning skills, and reputation. If school measures a student’s ability to perform academically, then procrastination will limit a student’s ability outside of school. In the survey I conducted, 92 percent of students admitted that procrastination affects their lives other than in academics (White, Questionnaire). The percentage is phenomenal because it shows that America’s college students limit themselves and their ability to perform. This affects many areas of life, especially in the work place and home. In the workplace, time is money, and if a worker puts off his or her duties, the reputation of that person becomes negatively affected, leading to underachievement and lack of recognition of abilities. In the home, duties cannot be neglected without significant consequences, such as not fixing a leaky roof will result in mold and bacteria growing in and around the holes, and even simpler, putting off washing dishes will result in a pile of dishes that can not be eaten off of until they are washed again. These will happen, however, when a student procrastinates his or her homework and waits until the last second and focuses on nothing else but the homework.

Motivation and structured goals are intertwined forces that battle procrastination. Striving toward structured goals eliminates procrastination factors by setting and following an agenda. Balkis mentions this in a list of possible solutions to counter putting off commitments (379). These structures create organization to perform tasks that need to be accomplished. An
example of this is setting aside a certain amount of time to finish homework, specifically, in a part of a paper, any part of the writing process, such as prewriting or revision. Commitment, whether to homework, housework, or any personal goal, is completely useless unless motivation is a key driving force. Anything completed without motivation will turn out sloppy and half attempted, defeating the purpose of doing it in the first place. This was evident in my procrastinating tutees’ papers. Their papers had no substance, and thus had no purpose; however, when I related the subject of their papers to their lives, most of them saw a connection and became motivated to write. Motivation is what molded their papers into elaborate pieces of art.

Procrastination hinders the human capacity to further one's abilities not only in academics, but outside of academics as well. The causes and effects of, and solutions to procrastination differ on an individual basis. With the help of motivation and structured goals, putting off important tasks can be eliminated, creating a better paper, more efficiency in the workplace, or even a cleaner house.

Works Cited

Balkis, Murat. “The Evaluation of the Major Characteristics and Aspects of the Procrastination in the Framework
          of Psychological Counseling and Guidance.” Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice. 7.1 (Jan 2007): 376-85.
          Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. Monroe County Community College Library, Monroe, MI. 24 Apr. 2007           <http://search.epnet.com>.

Sioris, Fuschia M. “Procrastination and Counterfactual Thinking: Avoiding What Might Have Been.” British Journal
          of Social Psychology. 43.2 (Jun 2004): 269-86. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. Monroe County Community
          College Library, Monroe, MI. 24 Apr. 2007 <http://search.epnet.com>.

White, Thomas J. Questionnaire on Writing Fellows’ Tutee Procrastination. Monroe County Community College,
          Monroe, MI. Apr 2007.

_ _ _Survey on Student Procrastination. Monroe County Community College, Monroe, MI. Apr 2007.