Beyond Dichotomy: Synergizing Writing Center and Classroom Pedagogies
Steven J. Corbett, George Mason University
Copyright Year: 2015
ISBN 13: 9781602356320
Publisher: WAC Clearinghouse
Conditions of Use
Corbett's book references a wide array of important literature and scholars in writing center studies in the areas of course-based tutoring (CBT) and of general writing center theory. However, the author assumes that the reader will have a... read more
Corbett's book references a wide array of important literature and scholars in writing center studies in the areas of course-based tutoring (CBT) and of general writing center theory. However, the author assumes that the reader will have a working knowledge of CBT prior to reading the book. Although he does give some background on the topic, I think a reader without such existing knowledge or someone looking for a how-to guide for setting up a CBT program might feel a bit lost. The literature review provided and the study of CBT that is conducted and discussed in the book are both quite comprehensive and would prove useful to those readers with familiarity to CBT who are looking to contribute to their knowledge base or to those who are interested in evaluating their CBT programs or in conducting a qualitative CBT study similar to the one Corbett described. The materials provided in the appendices would be particularly helpful for readers who wish to replicate the study.
All of the information in the text is well-researched, and Corbett's reasoning is sound.
The book's content is up-to-date and the first two chapters of the book which contain primarily a review of literature and theory could be updated easily. However, the meat of the book is the information about the CBT study Corbett conducted and its analysis. As that study has already occurred, it cannot be updated; however, the study could be replicated, and analysis of the additional study could be added and perhaps compared to that of the first study. It might be especially helpful in updates to include of a study of how CBT might work in an online setting given that online learning has become widespread due to the Covid pandemic and will most likely continue even after the pandemic ends.
Corbett's writing style is quite clear, and audiences who possess a working knowledge of CBT will have no difficulties in understanding the content. Those without such knowledge may be a bit more challenged. However, Corbett manages to reference a great deal of literature in the field without getting mired in jargon, so even those readers without prior knowledge of CBT, though they may initially struggle some, will be able to follow the information in the text.
There are no issues with consistence in the text.
Modularity is not this text's strongest point. The book is laid out a bit like a dissertation, and since it is primarily an analysis of a single CBT study conducted by the author, it would greatly lessen the impact and understanding of the content of the text to read the chapters out of order or to read some without reading the others. A case could be made that the first two chapters could be used in a course as a literature review for students studying CBT. Chapter 3, which provides macro- and micro-analyses of one-to-one tutorials, could possibly stand alone as it might be useful as an example for students who are conducting observations or analyses of tutorials, but the instructor would need to provide a bit of context first.
A discussion of the organization of this book is somewhat dependent on who the book's intended audience is. If the book is intended for those who are considering implementing a CBT program, then more background about CBT and the logistics of how a CBT program work should be included nearer the beginning of the book to provide more practical advice as well as a better conceptual framework. If the audience is readers with familiarity to CBT who are looking to contribute to their knowledge base, those who are interested in evaluating their CBT programs, or those interested in conducting a study similar to the one described, then the book's organization (which essentially follows the literature review, methods, results, discussion format) would be adequate.
There were no major issues with the interface of this text although there did seem to be more blank pages than necessary in the pdf version.
The text's prose was clear and no grammatical errors were apparent.
The book is not culturally insensitive, but it does touch on some issues of CBT and diversity in regards to race and those with learning challenges in a rather precursory way. I wish these issues would have been explored in more depth.
Although I found that Corbett's book was well -researched and contained a fair amount of useful information, it read more like a dissertation than a textbook. It makes a useful reference book on the topic of CBT, but I am not sure how useful or practical it is as a course textbook (unless it is serving as one of several books the students in the course might be reading about writing center theory). I would love to see this book expanded to include other topics regarding CBT such as some more practical and logistic information about implementing CBT, a study analyzing how CBT works in an online environment, and further discussion on the diversity issues that Corbett mentioned but did not explore.
In his text, Beyond Dichotomy: Synergizing Writing Center and Classroom Pedagogies, Steven J. Corbett uses a case-study approach to examine course-based tutoring (CBT), focusing on how course-embedded tutors negotiate the pedagogical concepts of... read more
In his text, Beyond Dichotomy: Synergizing Writing Center and Classroom Pedagogies, Steven J. Corbett uses a case-study approach to examine course-based tutoring (CBT), focusing on how course-embedded tutors negotiate the pedagogical concepts of authority/trust building and directive/nondirective negotiations. In the introduction, and particularly the first chapter, Corbett provides a comprehensive and clear description of what he calls the “parent genres” of CBT—writing center tutoring, writing fellows programs, peer writing groups, and supplemental instruction. Doing so adequately contextualizes his study within writing center scholarship more broadly. Additionally, he presents a thorough literature review of the ubiquitous minimalist-nondirective v. directive tutoring debate in Chapter 1. The conclusions he draws from his own study of CBT are well situated within the discipline, and he uses them to contribute to our theoretical understanding of CBT while also providing practical takeaways in the conclusion.
Overall, Corbett’s exigence, literature review, and presentation of writing center scholarship seems mostly accurate to me. While he provided a pertinent overview of writing center scholarship’s ever-changing perspectives on our marginalization, I did feel that at times he conflated the relationship between writing centers and the writing classroom with the relationship between writing centers and the institution more broadly. While the latter is often portrayed as contentious, with colleagues and administration not fully understanding the work we do, I’m not sure those feelings of marginalization necessarily apply to colleagues who are teaching writing.
I was initially skeptical of Corbett’s focus on the directive/nondirective tutoring debate since writing center work over the past decade has worked to dismantle this dichotomy. However, his focus on CBT contributes importantly to this dismantling. He asks, how do tutors balance directive/nondirective methods and teacherly/studently roles in CBT? This question is timely and applicable beyond CBT as the boundaries of writing center work are continually expanding beyond traditional one-to-one tutoring. As we ask tutors to venture outside of the center and facilitate workshops, engage in writing center pop-ups, give presentations, etc., we must consider how they negotiate their identities and their tutoring methods in these spaces. I have shied away from focusing on this debate in tutor training because I have considered it to be dated, but I plan to assign both Chapters 1 and 3 to my tutors this year.
Corbett’s narrative writing style is clear and accessible. I read the entire book relatively quickly because he doesn’t overburden his prose with jargon or write with an overly “academic” tone. I appreciated his style as a reader and as a practitioner who plans to assign parts of the text to undergraduate and graduate tutors.
Corbett uses terms, particularly CBT, consistently throughout the text. However, he does take for granted that the audience already has some understanding of what course-based tutoring looks like. As a practitioner who has never been involved with CBT outside of facilitating in-class workshops, I found this terminology to be a bit opaque at first. As I mentioned, he provides an adequate discussion of the theoretical perspectives and parent genres of CBT, but did not really explain what CBT literally entails (e.g. sitting in the class, providing one-to-one tutoring, meeting with the instructor) until page 74 when he begins to explain his participants’ CBT teams and how they interact. So, if you are like me and felt a bit unsure of how Corbett imagines CBT, skip ahead and read 74 – 85 when he describes the CBT models his participants follow. I felt the same way about his references to peer response sessions, which he describes in detail beginning on page 139.
As I mentioned above, Corbett’s text is divisible into smaller reading sections, though Chapters 3 and 4 build on one another, which seems unavoidable in a study like Corbett’s. I plan to assign Chapters 1 and 3 together because I think the review of literature about the directive/nondirective debate and his analysis of one-to-one tutoring sessions will provide a comprehensive (macro and micro) picture for my tutors. Additionally, the detailed excerpts and explanations of tutoring sessions from Chapters 3 and 4 would be a beneficial compliment to the more general training manuals directors often use.
As an empirical (RAD) study, Corbett loosely adopts an IMRAD (intro, methods, results, analysis, discussion) format that makes logical sense. As someone who engages in such research, I would have liked to see more information about his analytical process, but I realize that’s not always possible or preferable in books.
I used the EPUB version of the book and had no problems. The text and images were clear.
As I mentioned above, Corbett’s writing style is clear and engaging. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this text. I noticed a few typos and some punctuation issues, but they were not distracting.
Corbett included a diverse group of participants. Though cultural differences were not on the forefront of his study, he included a description of how AAVE played a role in one African American tutor’s interactions with students (p. 130 – 133). This discussion did not, however, greatly impact his conclusions and seemed to be somewhat peripheral.
I would recommend this book to writing center practitioners and plan to use it in upcoming training sessions. I believe writing center scholarship must continue making the empirical turn, and Corbett's study is a good example of how doing so can help us improve our theory and practice.
This text comprehensively covers writing center pedagogy, writing fellows programs, peer writing groups, and supplemental instruction. Each topic is thoroughly discussed and connected to each other and to course-based tutoring. The Introduction... read more
This text comprehensively covers writing center pedagogy, writing fellows programs, peer writing groups, and supplemental instruction. Each topic is thoroughly discussed and connected to each other and to course-based tutoring. The Introduction and Chapter One provide an excellent primer or review of the major topics in writing center pedagogy, writing fellows, and peer writing groups. Supplemental instruction is adequately covered, but not in the same level of detail as the other topics. The author explains this by saying, “The final branch of peer education we will look at, supplemental instruction (SI), is the least amount of coverage in peer education literature” (20). Even with the limited literature, SI is adequately covered and connected to the other topics throughout the text.
This text is extremely accurate and carefully supported with the most relevant sources. This is especially evident regarding writing centers and writing fellows. To a large degree, readers will gain a workable knowledge of the major topics in writing center and writing fellows before they reach the deeper discussions of course-based tutoring.
This text is relevant to the current trends in US higher education. Peer tutoring is growing as more and more institutions are asked to instruction more students while receiving less funding. Developing programs in which students can collaborate and mentor with each other is a valuable tool, one that is gaining even greater traction in many career paths. It is unlikely that this text will become obsolete for decades to come.
This text is logically arranged and easy to follow. While it is best read in order, it can be divided up and taught out of order with very little scaffolding. The case studies are almost stand-alone articles instead of chapters. They are easy to follow, and provide sufficient background to prevent the need of referring the index or searching for terms.
This text is well written in a clear, lucid style. Jargon and terminology are used, but they are clearly introduced. The prose is easily accessible to a wide audience, suitable for most high school students.
This text is extremely consistent, a highly valuable trait in such a text. It follows the guidelines from good writing: move from known to new information. It maintains a smooth, concise style that avoids confusion and having to re-read sections to understand how the information fits together. In fact, most of the time the information doesn’t just fit together—it flows together seamlessly.
This text is easily divisible, using logical and informative headings. While the text works best if read in order, all be the final chapter could be taught with limited scaffolding. Combining the Introduction with either Chapter Three or Chapter Four would create an interesting and compelling assignment for analysis or discussion.
This text is logically and methodically arranged. It follows a solid known-to-new approach, making the text easy to read, easy to follow, and easy to discuss.
I did not observe any issue with this text’s interface. The links all worked, the images were all clear, and there were no display issues.
I did not observe any grammatical issues. This is not to say that there aren’t any, but any errors are so minor as to be overlooked.
I did not observe any instances of cultural insensitivity or of offensive statements, terms, overgeneralizations, or any other offensive content. All of the examples and discussions are inclusive of all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
This text was enjoyable to read and very informative. I have worked in writing centers for over a decade, and I was impressed with the treatment of writing center topics, writing fellows topics, and the connections among the various peer-tutoring models. I plan on using this text to teach my Writing Center and Writing Fellows staff.
Beyond Dichotomy: Synergizing Writing Center and Classroom Pedagogies offers a comprehensive review of Course Based Tutoring (CBT) as the first two chapters comprise a thorough literature review. read more
Beyond Dichotomy: Synergizing Writing Center and Classroom Pedagogies offers a comprehensive review of Course Based Tutoring (CBT) as the first two chapters comprise a thorough literature review.
Well-documented, the initial chapters present an accurate overview of relevant theory; however, the small sample of tutors observed in chapter four and analyzed in chapter five seems overburdened by the conclusions drawn.
The text builds upon the theories presented in the opening chapters and suggests a few ways of integrating tutoring into a writing course, which can be adapted to traditional or emerging writing practices.
While the introduction is a bit long and the literature review somewhat dense, the case studies and their analysis are concise. The informal writing style (often first person), will appeal to some. Neither classroom teachers nor writing center personnel will have trouble understanding the terminology.
Corbett states his intent in the introduction and reiterates it throughout the text, explaining what he will address at the beginning of each chapter.
The first two chapters could stand alone, but chapter four draws its conclusions from chapter three, so would be more useful taken together.
Based upon the intentions set out in the introduction, the chapters flow logically.
The pdf version functions like other pdfs. Chapter links in the Table of Contents would make navigability easier.
There were few noticeable punctuation errors and the occasional confusion of “less” and “fewer.”
The book's parsing of races in chapters three and four was somewhat confusing, seeming to stretch to include a discussion of AAVE in the assessment of Madeleine’s tutoring style. There was no concurrent discussion of Asian cultural norms in the discussion of Laura’s.
BEYOND DICHOTOMY: SYNERGIZING WRITING CENTER AND CLASSROOM PEDAGOGIES seems an important read for Writing Center directors, tutors, and those interested in the dynamics of tutoring, suggesting a framework for setting up further observational studies.
This text is extremely thorough in addressing all aspects of course-based tutoring: how all tutors, instructors, and learners need to rethink how writing is taught and connected to the classroom. The case studies connected well with the theories... read more
This text is extremely thorough in addressing all aspects of course-based tutoring: how all tutors, instructors, and learners need to rethink how writing is taught and connected to the classroom. The case studies connected well with the theories fully explained prior to their incorporation. The index was sufficient albeit a bit limited; but the Appendix more than made up for the limited information. This text not only provides the why, but it also specifically provides the how tutors, instructors, and learners of writing can implement such pedagogy.
The author offers heavily researched and backed accounts of how CBT is needed. His experiences and studies in the reinforce conceptually unbiased ideas throughout the text..
This text is a refreshing instruction manual for all collegiate-level teachers and tutors. As often referenced, there has always existed similar theories like Corbett's suggested approaches, but none establish so well the variety of ways in which teachers can effectively implement change. The relevance of these possible avenues is unquestionable. And although it is always a challenge to convince teachers, tutors, and administration to embrace change, I believe this text will remain a significant foundational guidebook for decades to come.
The terminology is excitingly challenging at times and perhaps most accessible to the professional journal readers and writers. It is a great way to dive into the terminology most relevant in today's studies of tutoring and writing, as the author fully explores the concepts as they are mentioned.
Corbett does not let the reader down; with stylistic prose and extensive research dominating his philosophy his book has the potential of changing how many writing centers function. As he mentions his influences and connects his proposals to many of the scholars in the field today, he invites the writing teacher especially to become excited about bettering writing. Hope is what he establishes throughout.
Each chapter could be utilized by readers who are focused on different aspects. As many institutions are focused on assessment and bettering student learning outcomes, Chapter 5 could easily be used as a reader for English faculty and administration to start the conversation. Chapter 1 could be used individually to help reshape writing centers, how and what they teach. Each section can promote significant discussion, and the online version was exceptional.
The Table of Contents is a clear map of what is to come in the text, and this scholarly journal is very comparable to other texts. There is a logical organization of content from the tutoring styles, methodology, case studies, and the conclusion ending with purpose of Corbett's approach. It was intriguing to read, and the structure of the text made it hard to leave a chapter unfinished.
The interface between writing centers/tutoring and writing classrooms was efficient. The navigation was easy; read as a pdf it took a moment to get used to the quickness of the arrow down margin, but besides that distraction all else was easy to maneuver. All graphs and charts were clear and easy to follow.
Corbett's writing style is engaging and translates well his passion for the subject without inflating language. No grammatical errors were seen.
The examples referenced in the text are highly sensitive to today's extensively diverse student population. Each college has its own personality, whether urban or suburban, or a particular demographic or socioeconomic factor. When Corbett addresses linguistic elements in the case studies, there is an unspoken acknowledge of difference that welcomes all readers to embrace the concepts being presented. The community college student specifically could benefit greatly from a move towards synergizing the writing centers and the writing classrooms. There is a move towards certificate programs and learning skills that can apply to life and the classroom, and all of the methodology mentioned in Corbett's text is needed.
I will definitely promote this textbook at my college. We have four campuses and a great need for redesign of or writing centers. The text also will encourage many faculty, tutors and administrators to rethink one-to-one tutoring approach and how student outcomes can improve. Thank you for a great text!
While no book can completely cover EVERYTHING regarding tutoring, composition pedagogy, and writing center work, Corbett adequately covers a few relevant issues such as: tutoring style and strategy, analyses of tutoring sessions, and conflict in... read more
While no book can completely cover EVERYTHING regarding tutoring, composition pedagogy, and writing center work, Corbett adequately covers a few relevant issues such as: tutoring style and strategy, analyses of tutoring sessions, and conflict in the tutoring session. The text also provides examples, with extensive dialogue, of tutoring sessions. Corbett includes a brief index, but no glossary. The index could be more extensive, but it is adequate for the genre.
Corbett’s chapters each offer a particular viewpoint regarding writing center and writing pedagogy; the information is accurate and coherent. In particular, Corbett addresses the idea of “reclaiming the writing classroom into ‘the idea of a writing center’” which might not be practical by all writing tutors or teachers, but his simulated tutoring sessions and strategies appear accurate, at least in theory.
Corbett provides relevant subject matter that is timely and useful for those working in the field. His text is written using a very conversational and lucid style; although, some of the dialogue seems stiff when relating examples of what happens in certain tutoring sessions. This 'stiffness' doesn't affect the relevancy or longevity. It does lack, however, more diverse approaches to the tutoring of writing and writing center practices such as OWLs (Online Writing Labs) and other electronically-mediated approaches.
Corbett has a clear writing style. Each chapter is preceded by a clear, inclusive title. The text is not particularly convoluted or dense, but it does include terminology and syntax fitting for the discourse, and not necessarily the general public.
The information and writing style is consistent. Corbett’s approach and theoretical underpinnings are consistent with many other scholars in the field.
The chapters in this text can be used alone or as a complete text for those interested in writing center and/or pedagogical approaches. One should have at least some prior knowledge of writing center or writing instruction in order to make the most of Corbett’s work. If used individually, the chapters would work best with instructor or professorial guidance for those without significant experience with the topic.
The organization, structure, and flow of Beyond Dichotomy is sufficient for the genre. The chapters are individualized, but the overall flow of the text is good.
The interface between writing center work and writing, or composition instruction is adequate. This text is free of any significant interface issues; text and images were clear and easy to navigate. The book can also be printed (as a whole or in sections) for those who prefer to annotate with pen or pencil, and it also reads well as a separate pdf file.
There were no noticeable grammar issues. Corbett's writing style is easy to understand and grammar appears more than satisfactory.
The cultural relevance is appropriate for those working in community college or private/public university writing centers or composition classroom. Corbett’s text does not appear heavily biased or culturally insensitive; however, it does not explicitly address race or ethnicity.
Good resource for those interested in the tutoring or teaching of writing in the post-secondary classroom. Corbett's other texts are equally engaging.
Table of Contents
- Front Matter
- Introduction: Sharing Pedagogical Authority: Practice Complicates Theory When Synergizing Classroom, Small-Group, and One-to-One Writing Instruction
- Chapter One: Tutoring Style, Tutoring Strategy: Course-Based Tutoring and the History, Rhetoric, and Reality of the Directive/Nondirective Instructional Continuum
- Chapter Two: Methods and Methodology: Locating Places, People, and Analytical Frames
- Chapter Three: Macro- and Micro-Analyses of One-to-One Tutorials: Case Studies at the University of Washington
- Chapter Four: Conflict and Care while Tutoring in the Classroom: Case Studies at the University of Washington and Southern Connecticut State University
- Chapter Five: Conclusion: Toward Teacher/Student, Classroom/Center Hybrid Choices
- Works Cited
About the Book
How closely can or should writing centers and writing classrooms collaborate? Beyond Dichotomy explores how research on peer tutoring one-to-one and in small groups can inform our work with students in writing centers and other tutoring programs, as well as in writing courses and classrooms. These multi-method (including rhetorical and discourse analyses and ethnographic and case-study) investigations center on several course-based tutoring (CBT) partnerships at two universities. Rather than practice separately in the center or in the classroom, rather than seeing teacher here and tutor there and student over there, CBT asks all participants in the dynamic drama of teaching and learning to consider the many possible means of connecting synergistically.
This book offers the "more-is-more" value of designing more peer-to-peer learning situations for developmental and multicultural writers, and a more elaborate view of what happens in these peer-centered learning environments. It offers important implications—especially of directive and nondirective tutoring strategies and methods—for peer-to-peer learning and one-to-one tutoring and conferencing for all teachers and learners of writing.
About the Contributors
Steven J. Corbett is Assistant Professor of English at George Mason University. He received his Ph.D. in English Language and Rhetoric from the University of Washington-Seattle in 2008, and he was assistant professor of English and co-coordinator of composition at Southern Connecticut State University-New Haven from 2008-2013.