Happy 2023! We are glad to be supporting and planning great events with you this new year. As always, we hope this quarterly newsletter finds you well.
We look forward to publishing your work and celebrating you accomplishments in this and our next Newsletter and Annual Conference. Find us on LinkedIn to connect and engage with any of our membership opportunities and services.
Amy Caton & NCLCA Publications Team
2023 FALL CONFERENCEWe’re excited to welcome you to Portland, Oregon for our 38th Annual Conference. Our conferences have been so successful because of each of YOU.
PROPOSALS DEADLINE IS APRIL 30, 2023Each year our members bring engaging and creative ideas that showcase the important work our field is doing. We encourage you to submit a concurrent session proposal or a pre-conference proposal. It’s important to take time to reflect on all the great work you are doing and share it with your colleagues!
Thursday, April 20 @ 1:00PM EST
Helping Students Do Better Academic Work
Facilitator: Leonard Geddes
Setting the Mission and Vision for Your Learning Center
By Tricia fox
Director of the Center for Student Success
Methodist College, Unity Point Health
While many of us are familiar with working under our institution’s mission and vision, sometimes we neglect to set a mission and vision for our own learning centers. Even if we do, many times we neglect to let our peer tutors engage in the process or allow them to develop their own mission and vision for their work. Even if your professional team and your peer team are working under their own constructed mission/vision, how long has it been since you have refreshed it?
In our peer tutor training at Methodist College, we ask our team to set a mission/vision for their work as peer tutors. The peer team mission and vision inspires and drives their work. It gives them firsthand experience with connecting their ideas to the college mission/vision and gives them a professional leadership experience at the student level. Currently, the peer mission is, “To provide a fun learning experience for a diverse student body through leadership and peer mentoring.” The peer vision is “To create successful student learners and strong future leaders.” These statements were generated entirely by our student team working with each other to articulate what they wanted to accomplish in their roles.
With our professional team, we take time in the quieter summer months to conduct a staff retreat, when we look at processes, new methodologies, and our existing mission/vision. Our mission/vision helps to drive our goals each year, as well as push our team to excel.
For both professional and student staff, we revisit our collective mission/vision annually, asking if we want to change the current statements or go about a refresh process, which often leads to a refreshing new perspective on the direction we want our center to move.
Currently, in the Center for Student Success, our overarching mission is, “To inspire students in developing the skills and strategies needed to become successful, independent learners.” Our vision is, “Empowering all students to realize their academic potential and ultimate success.” These phrases help to guide us and inspire us as we move forward as a learning center.
If your team is considering setting or refreshing your own mission/vision, then here are some helpful tips to keep in mind.
When setting a mission, here are some questions to keep in mind:
No matter how you write it, creating your mission and vision will provide lots of discussion, fun, and collaborative interaction with your team.
First Person Account of a Long Career in Tutoring
By David R. Couric
Instructional Specialist, Mountain View College
“I can’t be a tutor,” my wife says, “because I’m just going to correct the student’s paper.” Working around tutors, but not as a tutor, at a college for many years has taught her a valuable lesson in tutoring: Don’t just correct a student’s work because that’s not going to help the student in the long term. In the lingo of what is called “best practices,” minimalism in tutoring is the way to go. Do as little as possible and still help the students. It’s counterintuitive and very difficult to do consistently day in and day out. But a good tutor has to be committed to minimalism in some sense and in general. Of course there are some exceptions to the general rule, but the theory is that finding creative ways of prompting students to do it on their own with as much of a hands-off approach as possible will result in student success over the long run. Sometimes, though, some students need not only to be told something but also to be shown exactly how to do something specific. In practice, the exceptions will present themselves in the flesh, and the hope is that the next time it will be different because they will have learned something for good, a method to be used over and over in all writing, for example. The bottom line is that tutoring has to be student-centric, just as a business has to be customer-centric. Many times over the years students have stopped me and asked point blank, “Do you teach?” Or they might say, “You should do this as a teacher” or something to that effect. My reply will always contain the lesson on the distinction between teaching and tutoring. I try to make it clear to them by giving the illustration of a doctor and the patients. No one would ask a doctor why she or he doesn’t see groups of patients at a time. It has to be one at a time because each individual has individual and specific needs that have to be diagnosed separately and then each given a prescription accordingly. It’s the same with a tutor.
First, when I sit down with a typical student in the writing center to help review a paper, I often start by observing issues of formatting style, which usually ends with showing how to make sure the bibliographic source page and in-text or parenthetical citations properly relate. Second, I discuss issues of organizing ideas with the student, which most of the time means determining whether the topic sentences relate to the thesis sentence properly or need revising. Third, I address issues involved in properly editing grammar, which usually means looking for the most common error of all, the ubiquitous comma splice, among a few other usual suspects in the editing process.
The theory in best practices of writing tutoring is to start with the higher-order things, which would be the organizing of ideas and content rather than the lower-order things, formatting style and editing grammar. In practice, that’s not always possible, but generally it’s true. The only reason I would switch it around and start with the formatting style and then go to organization is that a paper sort of presents itself in that order. When I first look at a student’s paper, the first thing I notice is whether the overall appearance conforms to the standard format required. Some things stand out when they’re off and need to be attended to. But there are other times when the first thing is to begin with the thesis sentence and how to formulate it based on the teacher’s prompt, or instructions. In a way, the process is the reverse of how students used to learn the classical trivium of grammar, logic, and rhetoric, in that order starting with elementary school age. Classical education moved from lower order to higher order. Tutoring attempts to reverse the order in reviewing a student’s writing. Obviously there are many times when there’s overlap between the orders and so more than one is addressed at one time or in a back and forth manner. If education were done as it was classically, there would be much less need to dwell on lower-order issues. That is not where tutors find themselves in today’s modern educational world.
About the time elementary schools quit being called grammar schools, many years ago, students started learning less and less grammar. So many students have to make up for that loss in the first year of college, and that’s one of the job descriptions of tutors. Just as math students simply cannot move up to algebra without mastering arithmetic (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, percents), so writing (rhetoric) students are missing something foundational without first mastering grammar and logic because grammar is the arithmetic of writing. In a sense, what I do is best summed up by a motto that the Mountain View student activities office used for many years: "Empowering students for success, one life at a time," which I think all along and at the same time should have been the tutoring mission statement in a nutshell. *The greatest compliment I ever received from a student came just recently when a student had a unique answer to her own question of why she was in the writing center that day. She mentioned after a first consultation that she now knew why she was sent to me to get help. I took the bait and asked directly, “So why is that?” I had never heard the answer she gave, in all my 35 years of experience here: “Because you love what you do.” What do I do in the writing center? I pour my heart and soul into it, into the students.