Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Improving Your Online Writing Center for International Students (Also Helpful to Traditional Writing Centers)

Educational consultant Beth Hewitt offers this advice. Here’s the abridged version. The full version is at Academic Impressions.

Show respect for the student's knowledge. "International students have different knowledge, not just deficient knowledge,"

Sell yourself as an instructor. Tutors can build credibility by the way they frame the conversation -- "I realize this is done differently in your native language, but English handles it this way..." -- and by using the student's own writing to provide demonstrations and examples, rather than turning to hypothetical sentences or arguments.

Make an art of clockwatching. Hewett advises: "Make sure your staff develop a strategic sense for how to allocate the time they have with the student.

Identify the student's needs. Related to the last point, the tutor needs to be adept at managing and responding to the student's expectations, so that you can balance giving the support students believe they need and the support they most need.

Be careful to speak at the student's level. This requires some degree of sensitivity, as some international students may have a limited grasp of English.

Contextualize the tutorial. International students may face particular challenges understanding the expectations of academic writing in English. The nature of the assignment itself may be at issue. For example, some second-language students may be adept at writing exposition papers, but may lack any experience in writing an argument

Teach by doing. "Show the student how to address the problem." Hewett recommends that instructors walk international students through a four-step process, using examples from the students' own writing. The process is: what, why, how, and do:

  • What is the problem?
  • Why is it a problem?
  • How do I fix it?
  • Now do.


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