CAPTA Connects Tutor Presentation Recap: “Vitalizing the Variety: Initiation and Outcomes of an ESOL Outreach Program in the Writing Center”

Over the next several weeks, we will be featuring Tutor Presentation Recaps from our 2015 Conference, CAPTA Connects. This recap is by Amna Baloul and Roheena Naqvi, both Senior tutors from the Edison Writing Center.

In a writing center scenario, tutoring second-language English learners demands a different approach than for fluent speakers of the language. Nancy Hayward wrote about the inherence of culture in tutoring these students; she discussed contrastive rhetoric: the concept that a person’s style of composition is reflective of his culture. For a generalized example, some cultures are highly sensitive regarding politeness. This translates into indirectness, where the writer will “open up a topic and talk around the point,” something that has a negative connotation in the United States. With such considerations in mind, how can a high school writing center develop a relationship with the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) education department? What approach to tutoring would make this collaboration effective?

In this presentation, two third-year tutors, Amna Baloul and Roheena Naqvi, discussed their initiation of a tutoring program for ESOL students, experience actually assisting them, and how they measured the relationship’s effectiveness. We often see that this department is secluded from the majority of a school community, thus preventing social integration with the rest of the student body. Consequently, ESOL students are not able to adapt to oral English as readily, let alone written English. They may also “feel intimidated, fear being judged, worry about taking risks, or be unfamiliar with the assignment” (Bruce 2009).  At this presentation, attendees had the opportunity to answer a series of questions on writing center connections with the ESOL department. These questions addressed matters such as social integration and communication methods.

According to previous research conducted within our school, some of the ESOL department staff expressed concerns in the student’s’ ability to interact with general education students and the level of comfort that they would feel, even with multilingual students in the writing center. Moreover, many ESOL students may have heard of the writing center in their school, but they likely do not know what it constitutes and will not make the effort to find out. Bearing this in mind, inceptive steps that presenters took to form the relationship included reaching out to teachers, introducing tutors, and developing a sense of familiarity between the two communities.

Bruce, in ESL Writers: A Guide for Writing Center Tutors, poses the notion that “international students have had little experience with writing centers. For them, the concept of shared responsibility for writing is often alien.” Thus, the element of communication was significant in this process. Presenters discussed instances of interaction with ESOL students prior to any tutoring sessions and how this impacted the program. Therefore, attendees were able to deduce the mutual benefits of casual interaction with such students before formal tutoring.

In order to effectively measure the student and teacher growth of their ESOL tutoring initiative, the presenters drew upon surveys and conducted interviews.  They also referenced tutoring reflections in order to exemplify tutor growth. By the conclusion of the presentation, attendees explored the process and outcomes associated with forming writing center connections with the ESOL community.

Handout 1

Handout 2

Leave a Reply