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February 18, 2007

My Second Tutoring Session

My second tutoring session presented me with a bit of a challenge in comparison to my first. Instead of tackling a formal essay, which is what I tend to expect, my student came in with an assignment sheet and simply wanted help brainstorming for ideas. I was a bit caught off guard and I had the student thoroughly explain the assignment, the class, and the novel the assignment was based on in great detail. Eventually, we dove into discussing several possible ways the student could go about addressing the requirements of the assignment. First, we discussed the novels themselves and how the characters fit in to the question of interest. After discussing several characters and the novel as a whole, the student began to make notes on specific characteristics that would be relevant to his essay. Ultimately, the student left the session with a rough outline of how he could begin the assignment and what key points he would need to prove in order to have a strong argument.

Although this was a situation that I was less accustomed to, it provided me with valuable experience concerning the importance of the brainstorming process. This is definitely not my favorite type of tutoring session because I felt somewhat conflicted about the student’s ownership over the ideas that the student took with him, and whether I had fostered his ability to brainstorm or if I simply gave him ideas that he would not have come up with on his own. Either way, it was a productive session; I tried to keep specific suggestions to a minimum while continually asking the student questions rather than putting forth original ideas. I look forward to more tutoring sessions that are a bit more structured and conventional in nature rather than more sessions similar to this one. Until next Tuesday~


Posted by aimroby at February 18, 2007 05:36 PM


I think you raise a really legitimate concern about whether the student has complete ownership of the ideas when they come in wanting to brainstorm. While I think helping people sift through ideas they've already come up is very much a task for tutors, I wonder if Sweetland shouldn't have a policy regarding that kind of preliminary no-work-done-beforehand-brainstorming session. It sounds like you handled it the best you could!

Posted by: holricha at February 20, 2007 08:16 PM

I have also dealt with the trials of a brainstorming session, and I can say from personal experience that it was very difficult. In my situation, the student wanted help writing a paper concerning "anything" within The Aeneid or The Odyssey. I knew very little about both books and was at a loss in how to help her get started. We eventually read a bit of the text and she proposed some ideas, but I didn't come away from the session feeling that I had helped her. Your suggestions, however, seem to have worked for the student you tutored, and I will keep them in mind if I encounter another brainstorming session.

Posted by: zkarram at February 20, 2007 09:33 PM

Like Holly already said, I do think the issue of brainstorming with students is potentially problematic. For example, I know that whenever I speak with a professor about a paper of my own, I always feel like I should pursue the ideas they’ve mentioned even if they’re not quite like the ones I had in mind. However, I think you took a really smart approach here by asking the students as many questions as possible, and it’s one I’ll probably employ too if I ever encounter one of these brainstorming sessions.

Posted by: flygrai at February 21, 2007 07:27 PM

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