Engaging Students in Writing Labs: An Empirical Study of Reading and Commenting on Student Papers
Writing Center literature fails to come to a consensus on whether students or tutors should read student papers during tutorials. This empirical study sought to discover whether the choice of reader and the timing of the tutor’s comments affected the engagement of the student in the tutorial. The study explored six patterns of reading and commenting styles with 30 trials of each. Both students and tutors completed evaluation forms following each tutorial; the results include a summary of the quantitative outcome, as well as insightful comments that were included on the evaluation forms. Both students and tutors believe that it does make a difference who reads the paper during Writing Center conferences and when tutors comment on the papers. Having students read their papers aloud while writing tutors made comments throughout not only helped student writers generate their own refinements, it also provided a condition where fruitful discussion could take place. Anecdotally, the study also raises timely questions about “control” and “agency” in the writing lab that will need to be addressed by future research.
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