The services provided by the University Writing Center are an essential part of the University's general effort to improve the writing ability of its students. The Writing Center works closely with the English Department, the coordinator of the Graduation Writing Test (GWT), and all faculty on campus who assign and teach writing in their courses. Your work in the Writing Center is good preparation for a teaching career, and you will find your experiences relevant to many other fields as well. We have found that most employers are impressed with an applicant who not only writes well, but has actually tutored writing.
As you work as a tutor in the Center you will encounter writers of many different backgrounds and many different levels of ability. Cal Poly Pomona's student population is ethnically and linguistically diverse. You will tutor basic writers who have undeveloped writing skills as well as fluent writers who have come in for some feedback on a controversial argument, or need some help with library research techniques. You will meet with students who are taking pre-baccalaureate English courses such as English 095 and 096 as well as students who are writing senior theses and other complex projects. Students will come in with lab reports, business memos, essays about literature—all the different kinds of writing that are assigned on this campus.
Clearly you cannot be an expert on every kind of writing in every subject, and you shouldn't try to be. As a Writing Center tutor, your basic function is to be a sympathetic reader, to model the communicative process by reading the paper with the student and indicating what problems or confusions you experience in understanding the paper. Of course, in some situations, a tutor with specific expertise might be appropriate for a follow-up appointment, but as a reader you have something to offer every student. Over time your experience and expertise with different types of writing will grow.
After you have gained experience and confidence in one-on-one tutoring, you will be offered in-class assignments, one-time writing workshops, GWT workshops, and other tasks. We will do our best to offer you opportunities to improve your tutoring and teaching skills, and to use your own special talents and abilities in the Writing Center.
John R. Edlund,
University Writing Center
Cal Poly Pomona
Before the early 1970's the emphasis of writing instruction was almost exclusively focused on the final product. Writing teachers lectured on grammar, punctuation, and usage, made assignments, and wrote comments and corrections in red ink on the final draft.
Since the publication of Janet Emig's Composing Processes of Twelfth Graders in 1971, however, the emphasis of most writing researchers and composition instructors has shifted away from the end product towards the process of writing itself. Emig, using a case study approach borrowed from cognitive psychology, discovered that many of the problems visible in the final product originated in the process the writer used to create that product. This insight led to a realization that marking up final drafts was not a very effective way to improve writing ability. For the next two decades a great deal of research in composition was devoted to exploring the nature of the writing process and developing a process-oriented pedagogy.
The concept of the Writing Center itself grew out of this shift in focus. Writing Center tutors intervene in the process of the writing, before the final product is complete.
Composition researchers often divide the writing process into four stages:
Though it is initially helpful to think about these stages as discrete and sequential, any experienced writer knows that there is much overlapping between them. For example, the activities associated with the pre-writing stage (invention, discovery, etc.) can also occur during the composition stage, and even during the revision stage. In other words, the writing process is normally recursive. It is also important to remember that each individual writer has different habits and practices, there being no single correct process for everyone.
One of your tasks as a writing tutor is to uncover problems which may arise in the student's own writing process. Insufficient attention to one of the stages, especially pre-writing or revising, or attempting to do all of the stages at once, can result in writer's block, undeveloped ideas, incoherence and other serious writing problems. For example, writers who report that they always write with music or television on, but always have trouble focusing and developing their ideas, may want to consider changing the environment in which they write. Writers who move directly to proofreading after writing each sentence may also have difficulty developing their ideas.