Date of Award

9-2011

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

English

First Advisor

Donna LeCourt

Second Advisor

Anne Herrington

Third Advisor

Mathew Ouellett

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature

Abstract

This project questions a core value that writing center workers have long held about tutoring writing: that we change writers. Applying sociocognitive and Bakhtinian lenses, I was able to complicate theory-practice connections. Tutor-tutee negotiations during tutorials, tutees' perceived learning outcomes, and their revisions were compared with their reasons for revising so that I could investigate what tutees potentially learn from their tutors, how, and why. Data indicated if tutors' information/advice became, in Bakhtin's terms, internally persuasive to tutees. When the authoritative discourses tutors represent or endorse converge with students' internally persuasive discourses, they converge in students' revision choices as tutor-tutee interdiscursivity. I proposed that such a convergence can lead to "changed" writers, writers who alter their understanding of themselves as writers and/or modify their thinking about a given paper, concept, or process. Even though students granted their tutors considerable authority, most tutees examined their tutors' comments to see if they made sense and were worthy of internalizing as generalized concepts to help them meet current writing goals. In short, tutors do indeed change writers, as I have defined change in the context of this study. Work with specific papers can impact students in terms of their larger process and development as writers; tutors' strategies/concepts can become writers' strategies/concepts to be applied again in new contexts. However, even when tutees were internally persuaded and appeared to have changed as writers, analyses into their tutorials, revisions, perceived learning outcomes, and reasons for revising showed that some students took up their tutors' information/advice in ways beyond their tutor's control. What some students internalize can be situation-specific and may not necessarily translate to other writing projects, can be significant yet limited understandings of rhetorical concepts, and may not appear in their revised drafts. Students can also be resistant to rhetorical concepts and revision strategies, especially those they perceive as antithetical to their ideological views about process, content, or structure. Given the variety of reasons students revise, the multiple contexts and influences affecting tutorials, and the ensuing challenges inherent in assessing tutorials, I recommend that tutors do not measure their success based on the Northian idea of a writing center. Though we do change writers, I recommend writing center workers think about successful tutorials in more complex ways than our Northian goal might imply. Tutors' successes are not dependent on changes to writers but on their ability to collaboratively negotiate with writers. Instead of trying to prove the efficacy of writing center tutorials as direct cause and effect relationship, I recommend that writing center administrators try to demonstrate how tutorials foster several habits of mind that college students need to cultivate to become successful writers.

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