Monday, May 18, 2015

Article 12 - "Tutoring Style, Tutoring Ethics: The Continuing Relevance of the Directive/Nondirective Instructional Debate"


This week's article by Steven Corbett discusses directive and non directive tutoring as a continuum rather than a debate with distinct sides.  What are your opinions on this idea?  Do you believe that directive tutoring and non directing tutoring strategies are usually not used together, or do they sometimes blend within a consultation?  Which approach do you find most effective at the high school level?  Support your opinion with evidence from the article and your experience as a consultant.  

Remember to include the following in your COMPLETE PARAGRAPH RESPONSE:
  • Your impressions of the article (likes/dislikes/agree/disagree)
  • How does it connect to writing centers at large?
  • How can it be applied to the MHS Writing Center?

10 comments:

  1. In my opinion, I think that directive and non-directive tutoring can sometimes blend in together during a consultation. There are in some instances where one style of tutoring controls the session but I have been a part of consultations where I have asked the writer what they think about a certain aspect, and if I don't get an answer, I will tell the student my opinion of what he/she should do. I try to allow the student to think for themselves because just like Harris said, "what better way is there to convince a student that writing is a process that requires effort, thought, time, and persistence than to go through all that writing, scratching out, rewriting, and revising with and for our students?" He also says that in order for students to, "perform such moves as 'scratching out' and 'rewriting,' tutees must have some confidence in their ability to do so." The best way for the student to learn how to become better at writing is to help them become better writers through a more non-directive approach. However, at the high school level some students that come in for a consultation are not going to know what to do all the time and are going to need some more guidance than say a college level student. This is when a more directive approach may be beneficial. Just like our weekly consultations that occur every week need a little more of the "hand-holding" method, certain consultations in the high school require that as well. Overall, I am one to let the students think for themselves during a consultation so I tend to take a more non-directive approach.

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  2. I think that there are certain instances when non-directive and directive tutoring each have pro's of their own, of which the other strategy lacks altogether. For instance, when I've had a consultation, I can take an extremely minimalist approach and just let the student lead most of the debate by simply pointing out the teacher's comments and asking what the student thinks they need to change. On several occasions I've been able to just reflect the student's inner thoughts and, while reading the paper, clearly get a good idea of what they are trying to say and then repeat it in different ways. This tends to have the student feel like it's more of a conversation than a formal evaluation, and they open up and flourish. This is similar to the example given in the article by Carol Severino and Joe and Eddy. A non-directive approach is where you ask open-ended questions and leave the responses up to the students so they can voice their own opinions, ideas and struggles. For certain consultants this is very effective, as seen in Eddy's consultation, "...Eddy starts off right away asking Joe open-ended questions like how he feels about the paper, and where he wants to go from there. For Severino, this sets a more conversational, peerlike tone that carries through the rest of the tutorial." This creates a calm, soothing atmosphere where the client can voice their struggles openly and the tutor, instead of blatantly and explicitly telling the client what to do, tends to ask questions that lead the client to their own discovery. However, with some clients, this approach will only push them further into their shell. We are all aware that self-esteem is not in high supply, and when a client feels self-conscious or shy about their writing abilities or thoughts, asking them open-ended questions will only frustrate them and push them away. That's why it's also important for consultants to have experience with directive strategies and tactics. As Nancy Grimm states in her argument, "[non-directive pedagogy makes students] guess about what the mainstream culture expects or [frustrates] them into less productive attitudes." Asking directive questions is a simple way to fix this and allow the student to relax and get comfortable with the material as they feel they're learning more about it. All writing centers should have consultants that are strong in both of these areas of consulting in order to provide the most well-rounded and effective learning environment for the clients that seek assistance. My methods are usually to try a non-directive approach, just to see what the student knows and determine a baseline for their strength and writing ability. Then, I'll ask a few open-ended questions, and if I come up empty handed, I will quickly transition into a more directive approach and simply review, stating what I would do in their situation, or the possible options they have, or simply strategies that they can apply when they leave in order to improve their writing skills.

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  3. Directive vs non-directive is, in my opinion, a silly argument because both are necessary in different situations. This debate, as the article said, involves much more than just instructional theory, and rather, the fierce argument of non-directive tutoring is, in many cases, a justification for political issues. Specifically, the crippling fear of plagiarism that higher education possesses drives forward this argument. That is not to say that non-directive tutoring has no benefits; in fact, leading questions should be used in a consultation whenever there is an opportunity to do so. However, the proponents of non-directive pursue it so fiercely completely ignore the benefits of directive tutoring, which is much more similar to traditional teaching than the peer tutoring of the writing center. Ultimately, flexibility in a consultation is very important, and attempting to remove either non-directive or directive styles out of the approach would lessen our ability to do our job: helping students with writing.

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  4. I would have to agree with Mickael on this one. This is a silly argument; to have a perfect consultation, I believe you have to have a happy-medium of both directive and nondirective. As in writing centers, the consultant's job is to evolve each client they deal with, and to make them a better writer. If one stays completely directive, the client doesn't think for themselves, therefore, they don't take anything away from the appointment. However, if the consultation is completely nondirective, the client could get lost and go off in the wrong direction. I feel that in our high school writing center, we should strive to lean towards non-directive, but accept that directive will be needed. A consultant should allow the client to think for themselves, but be there to directly explain and help the client understand what they should be doing; like a guide. Reading this article, the article talked about an appointment between an African-American consultant, and a Navajo client. I feel as though this example wasn't necessary for the paper; I felt like it came out of nowhere. Otherwise, the article was well structured, I just don't personally see an argument that is feasible between directive and nondirective tutoring; they should be blended.

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  5. In my opinion, these tutoring styles do blend together, and nondirective and directive styles both work. The different styles sometimes need to be used in a consultation with a student, based on how they respond to the consultation. In personal experience, I do tend to use both because some students are willing to do certain things and not others. In some consultations, an open-ended question may provoke the client to think, but they might not want to take initiative to write it down. In that instance, it’s important to help the student out and write things down for them. In the high school level, I think a mix of both works best. Some students are more willing than others to answer questions and think about the paper, while others aren’t. If a consultant remains completely directive, the student may not have anything to really take away from the consultations besides edits they know to make later. If there is a blend of both styles, the student has fixed this paper and learned new ways to improve their essays later. The author writes, “the question of how and when tutors should use techniques like open-ended questioning versus telling students what the think they should do…” is one that we cover in our training. We really base this on how the student is responding because some want to figure it out for themselves while others just want the answer. Both styles work in a consultation, but I think a balance works better than anything else. I like this article because I’ve never actually considered the difference between the styles, so reading how opinions vary was interesting.

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  6. In my opinion, directive and non directive tutoring blend together during many consultations whether it was intentional or not. Like many instances that can occur during consultations it all depends on the client/ consultation. Generally, I think it's important to find a balance between directive and non directive tutoring. If there is a happy balance then students can use their own knowledge plus the knowledge that was given with help from a different perspective. However, I think in some special cases, the ethics of directive tutoring are much more effective than non directive tutoring. This isn't to say that every consultation should be like this, and I do in fact believe that there should generally be a balance between the two styles, but it really all depends on the consultation. Anything can change and consultants need to be able to adapt. When talking about the cases concerning directive tutoring, the article says, "'by being so careful not to infringe on other's turf- the writer's, the teacher's, the department's, the institution's- the writing center has been party to its own marginality and silencing.'" This quote explains the possible faults in pure non directive tutoring. This can connect to writing centers at large because I believe all writing centers should find the balance between direct and non directive tutoring. This article can apply to the MHS Writing Center because I believe we should have an equal balance as well.

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  7. Like others before me, I agree that the idea of non-directive versus directive approaches is dumb, because each approach can be used effectively in different scenarios. For example, when consulting a shy and quiet consultant, it's beneficial to take a more directive approach, to try and get them to open up. However, for clients who are steadfast and outgoing, it's sometimes better to allow them to sit in the "driver's seat" of the consultation, although not enough to completely derail the consultation altogether. Also, both of these styles aren't particular to a certain type of student; they both can be used effectively in the same consultation. In real consultations, I have used both of these methods to make the consultation process smoother. Most of the time, I start out with a directive approach to help the client adapt to the consultation process, then later I switch to a non-directive approach if necessary.
    Overall, I thought Corbett's article didn't particularly stand out, because the topic itself was banal. Also, his debate style, being more a "continuum of practices than a polarity", made me lose interest in the debate itself. This article connects to our MHS writing centers, along with writing centers at large, because it helps consultants understand that these two approaches to consultations are unique in their own sense, meaning that neither approach is superior to the other.

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  8. I think we all can agree that directive and non-directive approaches are both effective in different situations. It all depends on the client you are working with. If you are working with a very responsive client who is interacting with you through out the consultation, then non-directive strategies will probably work best. This is because it will benefit the client the most by allowing them to problem solve with your guide. On the other hand, directive styles are best for reluctant clients. These students are not always willing to respond to your questions and may need a more directed approach. This allows the client to still gain something from the session even if they don't want to be there. While, again, these two styles have their own time and place, through my experiences, a more directive approach is typically more effective in our WC. Most of my consultations involve more reluctant students than students that are willing to be their. I often start with a directive approach which, in turn, warms the student up to the consultation, allowing for a more non-directive approach.

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  9. When it comes time to look at the debate between directive and non-directive approaches during consultations, it's important to remember that certain consultations require different strategies. So yes, I do believe that there should be incorporation of both types of consulting during a consultation. For example, I have a weekly consultation with a client who has a learning disability. During these consultations I find it much more effective to use the directive approach with her because she may not be able to find the ideas clearly. By showing her what I think might be beneficial, it allows her to capture what the end goal of a paper should be much more easily than if she were developing the ideas on her own. Furthermore, being a bit more directive in this scenario can also help her so that she can think of these ideas independently the next time. However, when I'm in a normal consultation setting with a student who doesn't have such learning disabilities, it may be a better option to let them think of the idea on their own. In this setting, the student is much more polished in their writing ability and can find a solution much more easily than in a special ed consultation. Corbett says that, "we should continue to carefully scrutinize tutoring style and method via the directive/non-directive continuum." He lays out a very solid basis for what the plan should be, saying that there should be an equilibrium present when considering the directive or non-directive conundrum. After all, is there no such thing as a chocolate and vanilla swirled ice cream cone? This idea is much like that of the ice cream decision, because sometimes we can get away with having a balance of both vanilla (directive) and chocolate (non-directive). Inevitably, consultations should involve a steady influx of both directive and non-directive consultation tactics, based on the consultation scenario.

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  10. As the wise Brett has stated before me, the debate between directive and nondirective is, as he put it, dumb. I also disagree with the fact that Corbett believes this debate is political. First of all, Corbett never actually defines what either a directive OR nondirective approach is. He talks more about the debate between them than the actual principles. From what I can infer, the debate should not even be debated. In my opinion, there isn't one specific approach for consultations. Each appointment and each client is different, as are the tutors. Therefore, what approach a tutor takes depends on several factors and it changes constantly. Tutors must adapt for the client's preferred style, not the other way around. Thus, writing consultants and our consults ts and MATtawan should have multiple styles tucked under their belt. Some consulants prefer visual teaching or a less engaged style, so we, as professionals, should be prepared to help them in whichever way they learn best. In conclusion, the debate mentioned is dumb, there are not just two possible approaches to take for a consultation.

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