I’m what we call a ‘one woman band’ at my University  – no writing centre and struggling as the only tutor to provide sessions in academic writing through workshops,  from 1st yr undergrads, up to and including, post-grads. Along with that, I am battling against a manager who is determined to restrict and limit what I can offer.

Having said that, I am always looking for ways to expand and reach students. It is difficult for a number of reasons. Firstly, up until 2010/11, students received one-to-one support with me and, compared to that, they do not see that the workshops have value – they are group sessions and there is little room for any one-to-one support. Secondly, students generally seem reluctant to attend. Some areas, I know, do offer Study Skills modules in the first year, but there are no such models for second and third years. To try and ensure that the workshops are attended, they are arranged directly through tutors. This has certainly helped and I am trying (where I can get away with it), to encourage students, following these workshops, to contact me directly and book sessions for themselves as small groups.

I’ve got a website up-and-running, which includes news of workshops, study guides, etc and a link to my Moodle site, where there are further guides and tutorials. I’m also intending to try Twitter for the new academic year – all this an attempt to get the workshops into the culture and life of the university.

I have very close and rich relationships with many colleagues across the Uni who are happy and willing to work with me and last year did a six week block of tandem teaching in workshops with the students’ subject lecturer. Amongst the other obvious benefits, it was very good fun!

I look forward to reading others’ experiences, especially if you, too, are in a similar position.

Mary

7 Comments

  1. Mickey June 11, 2012 at 9:41 am - Reply

    Mary, perhaps some students are reluctant to attend workshops because the subjects don’t interest them? Do you think advertising around campus for students to send you topics they’d like to see covered in workshops might give you a better idea of which workshops they would attend?

  2. David Mathew June 12, 2012 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    Hi Mary.
    Am I right in thinking that you’re in the UK somewhere?
    I’m at the University of Bedfordshire. We run writing retreats for staff who are then able to pass on to their students some of the skills they pick up on our residential events. It’s certainly not a cheap way of doing things, but after the initial financial layout some of the benefits are seen to be well worth it.
    Happy to discuss further if you’re interested.
    Best wishes
    David

    • Mary June 13, 2012 at 12:19 am - Reply

      Yes, very intrigued.

    • Mickey June 14, 2012 at 3:35 am - Reply

      Hi David, could you tell us more about the writing retreats? Perhaps even provide a link to the program’s website?

      Thanks,
      Mickey

      • David Mathew June 15, 2012 at 12:21 am - Reply

        Hi!

        The website needs updating, which I’ve done this morning (it takes a while for the changes to go through), but here is the link:

        http://www.beds.ac.uk/learning/writingretreat

        Basically, it’s a three-day residential programme with a structured build-up of several months and clear goals for each delegate to meet every step of the way. Then, at the end of the three days, the delegate sends the paper to the journal that he or she selected earlier on in the year.

        These happen in April.

  3. Mary June 12, 2012 at 7:20 pm - Reply

    Yes, I’ve done advertising campaigns, but there has been little response and there are a number of reasons for that, too long for a blog post. However, I have taken a lot of heart from Lotte Rienecker’s ‘How to Start….’ I’ve found that there’re things I’m already doing: collaborative teaching with staff in the disciplines; a website and intranet (Moodle) site where students can find materials, links, info on workshops, etc., and a couple of other things. I’m going to see what I can do by inches!

  4. aminton September 28, 2012 at 11:17 am - Reply

    Seems like so many of us have the same concerns…..and with so few solutions. I continue to ask myself if I am tutoring my students in the most efficient way, but sometimes, depending on the student, efficiency doesn’t allow me time to be of benefit to a struggling student, snd if they walk out of a session as confused as they were when they walked in, how have I done my job? There are no two students who learn exactly alike, and because my students are mostly developmental or ESL, I find it is important to tailor the session according to their particular learning styles, which mean using bright colored markers on a whiteboard, brainstorming on newsprint
    pads with Crayons, or teaching how to pick out and highlight the important passages in their books or assignment sheets. However, I find that the students specifically request me at the lab, which is causing problems with the other writing (there are only the two of us). Is there a one size fits all method of coaching students in writing? And if so, how does it work? Am I working incorrectly? I, too, have had mini workshops and worked with groups and have always had a good turnout. I also speak to classes about the writing lab, but the result has been that we are now deluged with students. I am either doing something terribly wrong or terribly right and I don ‘t know which is true.

    I’m basically a one man show, but didn’t plan it that way.

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