Tutor Research Symposium Reflections
The Tutor Research Symposium, in partnership with the Southeastern Writing Centers Association, was held on March 28th at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, Georgia. Student employees of the Georgia Tech Communication Center, attended this event and presented a roundtable discussion. The presenters were Justin Dehorty, a third year Biochemistry major and peer tutor, Samantha Healy, a fourth year Biology major and peer tutor, and Joseph Mycock, a second-year Aerospace Engineering major and research assistant.
Joseph Mycock’s Reflection
The concept of a professional conference, particularly of a writing center and tutoring conference, was very new to me prior to attending the symposium. I have never attended a true professional conference before, let alone presented at one, so I attempted to participate in the symposium with an open mind, few expectations, and an organized plan of what I wished to discuss in our roundtable presentation.
The presentation and discussion were certainly learning experiences for me, as I was previously unfamiliar with the roundtable format. I had expected the discussion to be more one-sided, with presenters speaking at the audience for at least half the session, and then stimulating more collaborative conversation at the end with constructive questions. I soon learned however that the role of the presenter in a roundtable discussion is not as directive and authoritative as I was expecting. The initial questions we posed to the audience led to in-depth discussions between all audience members and ourselves, and this discussion prompted me to ask new questions that I had not originally planned to ask, and prompted additional questions from audience members. The result was an equal-sided, well-developed, multi-faceted, and largely singular conversation that moved largely on its own from one topic to the next. It felt more organic, more like a true conversation among colleagues, than the lecture-like atmosphere I was expecting.
This feeling of a “conversation among colleagues” was also surprising to me. Though there were some students present at the conference besides Justin, Sam, and myself, most of the participants were writing center professionals with advanced degrees in writing and communication. Surprisingly, however, Sam, Justin and I were treated as equals. I noticed that the older participants eagerly conversed with us and were genuinely interested in what we had to say, much as they were with other older participants. This level of equality and respect I received from the other participants made me more confident and more engaged in the conference. I think that Sam, Justin and I all felt more comfortable during our presentation as well as a result of this equality and respect. It made the conference engaging, rewarding, and certainly worthwhile, and I would certainly attend again in the future.
Samantha Healy’s Reflection
The Agnes Scott symposium allowed me to put a name to a lot of the experiences I have had over the past three years at the Communication Center. For example, many of the appointments I have are with English Language Learning students who incorporate pieces of their own culture into their writing. At the symposium, I learned that this was called “code meshing.” In a workshop focused on code meshing, I was given many strategies to foster this creative use of writing.
In addition to attending workshops and discussion panels, Joe, Justin, and I were able to lead a roundtable discussion on diversity in the Georgia Tech Communication Center. I had never given this type of presentation before, so I was initially a little nervous. However, once we started talking, the audience was engaged and before I knew it our time was up. I enjoyed getting the opportunity to talk to other writing centers about the unique campus culture at Georgia Tech and how we try our best to cater to that here in the Communication Center. It was neat to be able to open a dialogue and see how other writing centers provide the best services for their student bodies.
Justin Dehorty’s Reflection
As a new Peer Tutor in the CommLab this semester, choosing to attend the Agnes Scott symposium was one of the best decisions I could have made. On a personal level, the symposium aided in the acceleration of what I consider to be my ongoing learning process as a tutor. Just as the CommLab’s new-tutor “shadowing process” served to provide me with essential reference points and standards for my own sessions, many of the symposium’s workshops exposed me to an even broader set of tutoring experiences and opened my eyes to different perspectives on certain situations. For example, one workshop at the symposium addressed the topic of how to properly deal with students who have disabilities. While I’ve not personally been in many of the scenarios that were discussed, I found advice such as “always maintain eye-contact with the student rather than the interpreter” invaluable in better preparing me to handle potential tutoring sessions that I may encounter in the future.
In a more general sense, I also feel that the symposium was beneficial for the CommLab as a whole. In leading a round-table discussion on the topic of “Diving into Diversity,” Sam, Joe and I were able to facilitate a discussion in which we were able to share a few of the CommLab’s current practices and projects as well as hear how other Communication Centers are addressing similar issues to our own. It was particularly interesting to hear the highly-varied opinions on the implementation of technology into tutoring sessions, and how another Communication Center is “breaking barriers” in a greater effort to expand their presence throughout their own campus and surrounding communities. A week later, we were able to share all that we learned with the rest of the CommLab during our monthly Peer and Professional Tutor meeting, and in the long run, I believe that our continued presence at future events like the Agnes Scott symposium will be invaluable for both the CommLab and the Georgia Tech community at large.