Bloom's Taxonomy: Application, Analysis, Evaluation
How Did It Go
Last spring I had my ENG 220 Peer Tutoring students comment upon and tutor the blogs and students from ENG 099, basic writing. This year I paired them with my ENG 101 class(es) for the first time. I first put them with my ENG 101 cluster, "Global Politics," where during the first two weeks the students read Walter Mosley's wonderful polemeic Workin on the Chain Gang. For the first blog assignment, the 101's had to summarize the introduction to the text and meditate informally on a correctly cited quotation from the piece in 250-300 words.
I paired my 220 peer tutor students with my 101s first last week. The 220 students were nervous at first and I threw them right into the mix. We had been studying how to approach working with students for three weeks at that point. Yet when it came to actually conversing with students, the peer tutors became anxious with the awesome responsibility that really comes from commenting on other students' work. Some of them were commenting upon blogs that the 101 students had already commented upon between themselves; in a couple examples below, you can compare the differences. The peer tutors encountered very real writing issues right away, including a student whose English-language issues curled into possible plagiarism(here) (please note you're looking at a blog that's been revised with the comment beneath it in mind already). I had to sit down next to each peer tutor and walk through templates for responding and even work through their emotional reaction to the subject matter (Mosley is intense!). See the following links: EXAMPLE EXAMPLE EXAMPLE
The most difficult aspect of this was getting the peer tutors to focus on higher order concerns. We re-did this exercise yesterday and I changed how I gave them instructions and where I told them to focus their efforts: focus on higher-order concerns and always have the 101s stretch their critical thinking. For the peer tutors, the biggest issues were their fears of hurting people's feelings and their confusion about what to do if the blogs 'were good already.' Again, I sat beside everyone and worked out their confusions and suggestions. Some people had more difficult tasks than others. Tutors that finished early I allowed to comment upon other blogs. Here are some examples from the second week to contrast with ones above.
Overall, I'm satisfied with how both classes have evolved. In the future, I would lay out some general guidelines to follow for the peer tutors beyond my description of the activity itself on our 220 course blog. I also believe there's real practical value in the students learning by doing and by my conferencing with them one on one.
Next week, I plan to have the tutors reflect on their 101 comments in their blogs (so far, if you click on their names (220 course blog, on right) you can see their observations of tutors on the Writing Center.