Month: November 2015

CAPTA Connects Tutor Presentation Recap: “Vitalizing the Variety: Initiation and Outcomes of an ESOL Outreach Program in the Writing Center”

Over the next several weeks, we will be featuring Tutor Presentation Recaps from our 2015 Conference, CAPTA Connects. This recap is by Amna Baloul and Roheena Naqvi, both Senior tutors from the Edison Writing Center.

In a writing center scenario, tutoring second-language English learners demands a different approach than for fluent speakers of the language. Nancy Hayward wrote about the inherence of culture in tutoring these students; she discussed contrastive rhetoric: the concept that a person’s style of composition is reflective of his culture. For a generalized example, some cultures are highly sensitive regarding politeness. This translates into indirectness, where the writer will “open up a topic and talk around the point,” something that has a negative connotation in the United States. With such considerations in mind, how can a high school writing center develop a relationship with the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) education department? What approach to tutoring would make this collaboration effective?

In this presentation, two third-year tutors, Amna Baloul and Roheena Naqvi, discussed their initiation of a tutoring program for ESOL students, experience actually assisting them, and how they measured the relationship’s effectiveness. We often see that this department is secluded from the majority of a school community, thus preventing social integration with the rest of the student body. Consequently, ESOL students are not able to adapt to oral English as readily, let alone written English. They may also “feel intimidated, fear being judged, worry about taking risks, or be unfamiliar with the assignment” (Bruce 2009).  At this presentation, attendees had the opportunity to answer a series of questions on writing center connections with the ESOL department. These questions addressed matters such as social integration and communication methods.

According to previous research conducted within our school, some of the ESOL department staff expressed concerns in the student’s’ ability to interact with general education students and the level of comfort that they would feel, even with multilingual students in the writing center. Moreover, many ESOL students may have heard of the writing center in their school, but they likely do not know what it constitutes and will not make the effort to find out. Bearing this in mind, inceptive steps that presenters took to form the relationship included reaching out to teachers, introducing tutors, and developing a sense of familiarity between the two communities.

Bruce, in ESL Writers: A Guide for Writing Center Tutors, poses the notion that “international students have had little experience with writing centers. For them, the concept of shared responsibility for writing is often alien.” Thus, the element of communication was significant in this process. Presenters discussed instances of interaction with ESOL students prior to any tutoring sessions and how this impacted the program. Therefore, attendees were able to deduce the mutual benefits of casual interaction with such students before formal tutoring.

In order to effectively measure the student and teacher growth of their ESOL tutoring initiative, the presenters drew upon surveys and conducted interviews.  They also referenced tutoring reflections in order to exemplify tutor growth. By the conclusion of the presentation, attendees explored the process and outcomes associated with forming writing center connections with the ESOL community.

Handout 1

Handout 2

CAPTA Connects Tutor Presentation Recap: “Benefits of Peer Tutoring: How Peer Tutoring Helps Develop Traits From the IB Learner Profile”

Over the next several weeks, we will be featuring Tutor Presentation Recaps from our 2015 Conference, CAPTA Connects. This recap is by Sarah Adeli, a Junior tutor from the Edison Writing Center.

It is commonly believed that writing centers are established for the sole purpose of improving the writing of tutees. While this is the ultimate goal of writing centers, it is misleading to believe that tutoring is only beneficial for tutees. Students who are accepted into writing centers already possess one necessary skill set: the ability to write. However, many people don’t realize that peer tutoring allows tutors to unconsciously build and strengthen certain traits that are initially present.

This presentation, called “Benefits of Peer Tutoring: How Peer Tutoring Helps Develop Traits From the IB Learner Profile”, will be an in depth study of a writing center that demonstrates the development of IB learner traits through peer tutoring. The goal of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program is to develop internationally minded people who will help create a better and more peaceful world. The IB Learner Profile consists of ten attributes that students must exhibit in order to fulfill this goal. Attendees hopefully learned how tutors develop traits mentioned in the Peer Tutor Alumni Research Project, such as communicators, reflectors, and risk takers, and they also discovered if these traits help the writing center as a whole fulfill the aim of the IB program.

In preparation for the presentation, the presenters conducted interviews and gathered information through surveys in an effort to determine the IB characteristics most prominently found amongst tutors, and how the traits mature through tutoring. To further explore this, the presenters examined how different writing center related activities, including outreach programs and classroom assignments, relate to the growth of these traits. This information was applied to situations that escalate beyond writing centers, such as the advantages in college and future careers, and how these developed traits influence their academic standing.

The session was concluded with a collaborative discussion amongst participants. Peer tutors had the opportunity to share and discuss traits that they have found to be most eminently developed through peer tutoring. The audience became informed of the various beneficial traits tutors develop and strengthen throughout their writing center career, and how they can implicate similar strategies to those of the Edison Writing Center in an effort to replicate their results.

Link to view presentation:

CAPTA Seeks Nominees for 2015 Executive Board Elections

This fall, CAPTA will hold elections for three open positions on the CAPTA Executive Board. Members of the Executive Board will be directors and peer tutors of secondary school writing centers or those involved with secondary school writing centers. All board members serve staggered two year terms except for immediate past president and student representatives who will serve one year terms. Board members will meet on a monthly or bimonthly basis, as agreed upon by the Board itself.

The open positions are:

At-Large Member (three open seats): At-large members will be integral members of the board, responsible for providing input and participating on Standing Committees to further the purposes and mission of the organization. They will have voting rights on the board. Secondary school writing center directors, administrators, and university partners are eligible to apply. Two year term.

Please consider running for a position or nominating a colleague. Serving on the board is a great way to promote the work of writing centers, meet writing center colleagues throughout the region, and gain professional development.

How do I nominate a colleague or tutor?

Before the December 4 deadline, email the name and email address of the person you would like to nominate, and the position for which you are nominating. We will take care of the rest.

How do I self-nominate?

Self-nominating is very common, and we encourage it, so don’t be shy. Please read these guidelinesand write a brief bio as instructed. Email your bio, as well as the position for which you are running, to by the December 4 deadline.

Online elections will be held from December 11-December 18.

The new board members will be notified via email on December 18th and will attend our January 12th board meeting.  

CAPTA Connects Tutor Presentation Recap: “Tutors- We are family: The Dynamics of a Tutoring Family Explained”

Over the next several weeks, we will be featuring Tutor Presentation Recaps from our 2015 Conference, CAPTA Connects. This recap is by Katherine Woodward, a Senior tutor from the Edison Writing Center.

My presentation contrasted varying methods of learning to tutor, specifically through the use of mentoring (tutor) families, which consist of experienced tutors teaching new, novice tutors how to perform a tutoring session.

To my surprise, when I surveyed the CAPTA schools, few have a mentor family structure, although roughly 29% of surveyed tutors felt that observations were the most beneficial resource in the process of learning to tutor. I connected the Social Learning Theory (SLT) to tutor families in order to give psychological evidence to support the mentor family structure at my writing center. Albert Bandura believed and proved that people learn how to behave from their environments, specifically through observational learning, which is the act of learning by observing models and then imitating their behaviors.

In connection to tutor family structures, the model is the mentor (experienced tutor) of the family and the observer is the mentee (novice tutor). I also referenced Albert Bandura’s Bobo Doll study to exemplify the Social Learning Theory. This study aimed to evaluate whether or not children would imitate aggressive behaviour modelled by an adult. The children were broken up into three groups: Group 1, Group 2, and Group 3. The first group was exposed to adult models that showed aggressive behaviours, such as smashing the inflatable Bobo dolls. The second group was exposed to a non-aggressive model organizing toys for 10 minutes and the third group was a control group that did not contain a model. After observing the models, all of the children were put into a room with Bobo dolls for the experimenter to watch and evaluate their behaviour in relation to their models. Bandura found that 88% of the children who had  observed the aggressive models were significantly more aggressive both physically and verbally than those who had not been succumb to the behavior of an aggressive model.

This reflects the findings of the Social Learning Theory because children used observational learning through aggression. This study proves that mentor relationships harvest a positive and beneficial learning environment for tutors because mentor families allow first year tutors to observe and learn from their mentors and furthermore imitate their mentor’s behaviours in their own tutoring sessions.

The aim of my presentation, which I hope I succeeded in, was to inspire my fellow peer writing center tutors and/or directors to establish a mentor family structure within their own writing centers because I feel that this structure in place at the Edison Writing Center is an exceptional one that allows tutors to thrive, succeed and better themselves as tutors and as writers. If you are interested in learning more about my presentation please clink on the below links!




Survey Results:

CAPTA Connects Tutor Presentation Recap: “Writing Across the Curriculum: How to Build Lasting Connections with Teachers and Departments”

Over the next several weeks, we will be featuring Tutor Presentation Recaps from our 2015 Conference, CAPTA Connects. This recap is by George Schulz, a Junior and second-year tutor from the Edison Writing Center.

Over 90% of the Edison Writing Center’s visits are associated with an English class. However, what many students do not know is that the Writing Center is built for students in all types of writing. The EWC addresses this misconception by connecting with departments and teachers with a project called WAC Outreach Committees. For those of you that are not familiar with WAC, the acronym stands for Writing Across the Curriculum. Our Writing Center features sub-committees run by tutors with seniority to reach out to these neglected departments.

I attended the CAPTA conference this fall to present about our WAC Outreach programs and to help build a model for Writing Centers to use for an effective system. Personally, I always feel a huge amount of stress before I present in front of people, especially when I have never even met this people. My presentation started off with a massive flop though when the computer I was planning on using didn’t work! Instead of panicking, I adapted to the unusual circumstances and gave it my best shot.

One thing that is characteristic of these projects in our Writing Center is that fact that they eventually fade away. In attempt to analyze what caused these issues, I conducted case-studies for our center to help find the flaw. The model that I created for Writing Centers looked like this:


Year One

  • Second year tutor begins the program

  • Several first year tutors are made apprentices

Year Two

  • Apprentices take initiative

  • Third year tutor supervises

  • New first year tutors are made apprentices

Year Three

  • Apprentices take initiative

  • The original apprentices supervise

  • New first year tutors are made apprentices


  • Committees are large so that if a student leaves, the program does not die

  • Tutors are involved in several committees and share a small role

  • Committees hold workshops with the entire Writing Center to help build skills in tutoring in discipline

  • Committees develop materials, workshops and connections with departments

  • After all workshops, director-mandated reflection on the workshop is completed

Hopefully other Writing Centers can draw from our own pitfalls and create their own successful WAC programs. We also invite teachers and students who feel like the Writing Center has a place in their department to reach out to us so we that we can help your classes!


CAPTA Connects Tutor Presentation Recap: “A Breath of Fresh Air: How Writing Center Atmospheres Create a Stronger Connection Between Tutors and Tutees”

Over the next several weeks, we will be featuring Tutor Presentation Recaps from our 2015 Conference, CAPTA Connects. This recap is by Emma Gallagher, a Senior tutor from the Herndon Writing Center.

I presented on Writing Center atmosphere at the CAPTA Connects 2015 conference. I first outlined what the atmosphere of the writing center should be. The writing center atmosphere should be comfortable, professional, and accepting. We want our tutees to know that we are there to help them. No one is too smart or not smart enough to get help. In the writing center we accept everyone with opens arms. We try to make them comfortable enough to really get into a discussion about how their work could be improved. And, of course, the tutees have to be professional at all times. We never know who in the center is paying attention to what we are doing or saying.

I then introduced the four main aspects of the writing center that contribute to the atmosphere: layout, size, resources, and extracurricular writing center activities. I discussed what a good layout should achieve, which included privacy, room for group and individual tutoring sessions, accessibility and flow. I showed several examples of layouts that a writing center could have, and discussed their positive and negative attributes, which aligned to the goals of the layout. I then spoke about other physical attributes of the center such as how at Herndon we always have music playing to make the center seem more approachable. These things all contribute to the atmosphere of the writing center because they can make the atmosphere more comfortable for the tutee. If the layout has flow and the relaxed music is playing, then the center is more likely to attract potential tutees.

Next, I talked about the size of the writing center. I remarked on both the physical size of the center and the number of tutors, saying that it is hard for one to grow without the other. I added that too big a center can lead to distractions and overwhelm a tutee, while too small a center can intimidate a tutee and prevent possible tutoring sessions. The size, if it is not managed, can lead to a negative atmosphere. Too many tutors can lead to a social atmosphere and too few tutors can lead to an oppressive and potentially seemingly judgmental atmosphere.

I then moved on to discuss what resources each writing center has to offer. In order to ensure a scholarly atmosphere, tutees must have access to books, computers, teachers, and, of course, tutors. Finally, I approached writing center related extracurricular activities. I said that at Herndon we have a Spoken Word Poetry days and a day called “Haiku for Cake” to celebrate the National Day on Writing as well as Scrabble parties and other things to attract students to the writing center which makes it seem more approachable. I wrapped up my presentation by stating that a perfect atmosphere leads to better connections between the tutors and the tutees.

CAPTA Connects Tutor Presentation Recap: “I Wish I Had the Courage To …’: How Courage Boards Empower High Schools”

Over the next several weeks, we will be featuring Tutor Presentation Recaps from our 2015 Conference, CAPTA Connects. This recap is by Katie Wolfteich, a Senior tutor from the Edison Writing Center.

Tutoring is intimate. Many tutees are reluctant to come to the writing center because they are hesitant to share something so personal – their writing – with strangers. While writing centers seek to proffer a welcoming, collaborative space, there will inevitably be tutees with fears of vulnerability and criticism that can make a session more painful than it ought to be. But how can writing centers address this problem, which is more closely correlated with the individual than with the writing center itself?

In her TED Talk on her “Before I Die” wall, Candy Chang describes how her project to promote contemplative space in urban areas opened up her New Orleans community to each other (Chang’s board has engendered similar boards worldwide, including a “Courage” board in Alexandria, Virginia, with similar results). Boards like these allow individuals to reveal their secrets while remaining anonymous, and thus become more comfortable with a degree of vulnerability – perhaps even to the point of embracing it. My presentation sought to examine how writing centers can implement a Courage Board in their high school, and its potential effects on community tolerance of vulnerability.

I began my presentation by asking audience members to write down one thing they wished they had the courage to do, switch papers twice, and then read aloud from the paper they’d received. Through this exercise, which demonstrates in a microcosm the vulnerability and ensuing sense of community this project inspires, I showed rather than told my audience about my theory. Some of my favorite quotes from the room included, “I wish I had the courage to be my own personal cheerleader” and “I wish I had the courage to tell others the truth, even if they don’t want to hear it” – and I know that I, personally, felt more connected with my audience after that exercise.

Then, of course, I did tell them a little more. I explained my inspiration for the Courage Board, citing research on the psychology of sharing personal information and how it facilitates connection, and the procedural steps one might take to implement the project in a high school. In this vein, I also discussed its limitations.

Since the presentation, I have been in contact with people who have done similar projects at their schools, and I hope to move ahead with my own at Edison.