One of the purpose of the tutorials is to meet face to face with the students to discuss problems, difficulties, questions, issues, etc. they are having with writing the critical review. Another purpose of the tutorials is to give me the opportunity to ask clarification questions about the content, and it gives them the opportunity to display their knowledge about their topic, which is also good practice.
Tutorial Observations -
- Students are more aware of how writing is done in their fields - one student in the hard sciences commented that complex sentence structure is commonly used, whereas participles aren't - he didn't provide/show specific examples of this; however, it's important to note because it shows that students are paying attention to how language is used in their respective fields
- Many students struggle with clearly stating the purpose of their papers - this observation is more from reading the drafts than from the tutorials, but it seems to be the most common writing issue we discussed in tutorials - the question I have is how can this be better taught prior to the students writing the first draft? or is it best taught by students writing the first draft? To write their purpose statements, I give students this sample - The purpose of this paper is to (local focus) to (global focus). Students fill in the parenthese with the missing information. It seems somewhat prescriptive, however, at least it gives them something to try on until they can find their own sentence that is a better fit for them.
- The audience issue also came up - Who are the students writing the critical review for? Several students told me that they thought I was their audience, so they didn't include complicated or technical information in their critical reviews because they thought I wouldn't understand what they were writing about. While this may be true, I encouraged the students in our tutorial discussions to conceptualize their audience as someone who knows their field, topic in order for them to get the most out of the assignment. It seems that the audience for most of the writing done by graduate students is someone who knows the field, topic.
- The logistics of the tutorials is often problematic, not only for this particular class but for others as well. Some students don't come on time to the tutorials. Of course, this throws the schedule off, forcing other students who come on time to wait. For the most part these students seem to be forgiving, but there are some who get upset. I don't blame them and try to prevent this as much as possible, but it doesn't always work. Also, students often miss their tutorial times for various reasons, but then show up later expecting to discuss their paper at that exact moment. Other problems that have arisen are students showing up without their papers or students missing the tutorial without reason and then wanting to reschedule. These problems seem to be persistent with scheduling tutorials. I have yet to figure out how to remedy these situations. However, it seems that those students who do understand how a writing tutorial works, see benefit in it.