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blogging on the installment plan (or not)

so, as my 4 pm blogging deadline approaches, i've only had a chance to skim 'the proofreading trap'. i'm going to offer my thoughts now, and maybe try to throw out more once i've had a chance to sit down and read more thoroughly.

it seems to me that it's ok that myers' piece is somewhat inconclusive, because it really only becomes meaningful when we put it into conversation with our own experiences consulting anyways. i think we've already been discussing in class the issues central to this article-- is proofreading ok, when is it ok, etc...i like what wendy started when she said that we shouldn't overwhelm someone by pointing out a bunch of technical errors. at the heart of what she's saying, it seems, is that our overall concern is keeping the student engaged and comfortable (to the best of our abilities) within a session. perhaps proofreading might be a tool we use (among many) to keep a student engaged in a consultation. that sounds like a complete oxymoron, but especially in the case of non-native speakers, proofreading might be a way to keep them from feeling overwhelmed as we push our goals of non-directive tutoring. again, as wendy said (thanks, wendy!), it would have to be a directed kind of proofreading. i've found that when i've worked with NNS students who had grammar concerns, i could mix strategies: i might read through it, and see if i can identify patterns to the types of errors being made (so that we can focus on a manageable amount of work) and point these patterns out (a rather proofreading-heavy strategy); next, we could read the paper out loud together and together identify errors (shares the work a bit more); if this goes well, i might ask them to correct a section on their own, or a student might say they feel comfortable correcting the rest later (hands over the work to the student). i've had consultees take their papers and correct everything quite easily after i pointed out a type of error, and had others in which we read and worked through the entire paper out loud. it depends on the language skills people bring with them.

point being, i think it's best not to get too wrapped up in trying to identify THE WAY to use or not use proofreading. perhaps it's doesn't always have to be antithetical to writing center philosophies, especially when combined with other types of strategies, and when used with the ultimate goal of making writing feel less scary for the individual writer.

ooo, this comment's already gotten big (maybe there'll be no sequel?). i wanted to bring up a point to from the thonus text last week, since we didn't talk much about it. it really made me realize how present the instructor always is in a consultation: their assignments, their support (or lack of support), their instruction...i've found myself encouraging a lot of students to try to pick their instructors' brains more, to clear up their expectations and the material they're working with.

so i'm starting to think about the instructor's responsibility in the 'triangulation' of a consultation, as well as how it relates to a student's responsibility in a consultation. i think sometimes we expect ourselves to be able to respond well to every student's concerns. but what if a student hasn't spent enough time with their material, and the instructor has done little to explain it? or what if you can't quite figure out what an instructor really wants? if a student's good at thinking out loud, you can work through some of these issues more easily. but i've had a couple of sessions where students don't want to be a part of brainstorming (don't want to/have trouble thinking out loud), but also don't know their material or anything about what the teacher expects. i'm not sure how much i should expect of myself in such a situation.

Comments

This is interesting, Miranda. I'm only part way through "The 'Proofreading Trap'" as well, but your post sparked a couple of things that I keep thinking about as I read. I wanted to say them before I forgot.

I'm intrigued by your idea of using proofreading as a learning tool, especially with NNS students. Not to bemoan my trials in Spanish class again but, I find that when I'm confident using a particular grammatical structure, I feel as if my mind is freed a little. When I don't have to worry about grammar, it is easier for me to think in spanish, which is the goal after all. It gives me peace of mind when I have nailed a grammatical point. It ceases to piss me off and inhibit what I need to learn next.

Also, the other day I worked with a NNS student whose prose was extremely clear and was practically spotless. There were maybe three article errors. However, I noticed later that when I asked her a question about one of her ideas, she totally misunderstood what I meant and began responding to who-knows-what. It was a little arresting. Her paper was so focused, natural, and clear, and yet the way I had worded my question (which, granted, could have been insane) had momentarily confused her. So I'm thinking...that sometimes, sentence-level grammatical issues can crop in conversation and prevent other things from happening. In my particular session, both my consultee and I had to rethink the way we had spoken in order to connect. We had to be wary of grammar in order to focus on the higher-order issues these scholars are always suggesting we address...