One-woman band: up-date

The last time I wrote, I described my situation as a ‘one-woman band’ study support tutor, with a manager who was making my life impossibly difficult, with all the consequent knock-on effects on my physical and emotional health. This year, as the result of a merger, the hierarchy has shifted, so although I still have the same manager, the ‘Eye of Mordor’ seems to have turned her sights elsewhere and I am being left in peace to get on with my job. There’s no support, of course, but that’s nothing new.

My first bit of news is that I think the website I set up has helped to give the study support workshops a more prominent profile. I have all the workshop dates and details up there, study guides, and other things like useful web links. The second bit of news is that I finally managed to succeed in my argument to return to one-to-one support for students, alongside the workshops. As a result of that, business is brisk. I have always found in the past, that one-to-one support often leads to group sessions as students spread the word amongst their friends and they discover they’d all like to work on the same thing. So I am anticipating that the two different ways of supporting students will feed off each other.

Along with the website, I’m continuing to advertise on the All Student and All Staff emails and, in some programme areas where I have regular workshops running, I’m enrolled onto their Moodle sites so that I can email those groups directly. On one Moodle site I also have my own Study Support area where I post up subject-specific study skills guides.

I’m also trying Twitter – that’s a learning curve! My idea was to have another way of upping the profile of study support amongst the students. I have a limited number of followers and I’ve no idea how many, if any, are my students! Anyway, I think the story of my twittering and tweeting is best left for a separate quote.

The moral of this up-date is: manager keeps out of the way; business thrives.

One woman band

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.


Tips from Hanyang University Center for Teaching and Learning English Writing Lab

Our center in Korea has a number of links to resources for engineering and science writing particularly for international graduate students. The materials were designed for Korean students but most tips are not language specific.


When working with engineering and science English learners who have difficulty explaining science concepts during a tutorial, I have often found it useful to bring out the scrap paper and have them draw out the relationship on paper or use simple algebra-like equations: Do you mean (a + b) + (c + d) OR (a) + (b + C)  + (D) to show which words, phrases or clauses go together in a sentence, particularly complex lists.

Serving international students

To better serve Walden University’s growing international student body, our writing center has begun an initiative to assess the needs of our international and multilingual students, support faculty in working with these students, and develop our own resources and services to better meet the needs of these students. While Walden is based in the United States, our students are from around the globe, and many are seeking their Walden education while still residing in their home countries.

As an online, asynchronous center, we must cope with a variety of pragmatic, technological, cultural, linguistic, and academic barriers in student outreach, communication, and support. As we continue to seek student and faculty cooperation and consider the options and direction for this initiative, we would love to learn from writing center directors and staff working in international contexts–or indeed from anyone who has ideas about or experience in working with international students.

To start the conversation, we’ve compiled a list of initial questions; please feel free to chime in on any or all of these, or to bring up any issues that we’re overlooking.

  1. Do you use the traditional American writing lab model for tutoring (e.g., tutor as coach rather than editor, focusing on higher-level concerns rather than line edits)? If so, how successful have you found this model to be? How receptive have your students been to this model? And have you adapted this model at all to fit your academic or cultural context?
  2. What would you say are the three top challenges or frustrations you’ve faced in working with students? In working with faculty?
  3. Do you work chiefly with undergraduate or with graduate writers? If both, do you take a different approach based on the students’ level of education?
  4. Does your staff consist of students? Of professionals? Are your tutors native or nonnative English speakers?
  5. What services do you offer? Do you offer, for example, workshops, writing groups, or instruction beyond one-on-one consultation? If so, how are these services structured (e.g., in class or outside of class)?
  6. Where in your university are you housed? For example, are you part of the English department or an academic skills center?
  7. Do you actively promote yourself to students and if so, how? And how successful have you found your outreach to be?
  8. Are your services face-to-face, online, or a combination?

We look forward to hearing about successes, challenges, ideas, and tips to help us develop our services. Thanks!