Colleagues again --
Russ is right that we should be able to present administrators with published
research supporting our preferred teaching methods. Here's a rough annotated
bibliography on the value of individual instruction that I prepared for one of
our writing centres at U of T, where administrators were coming on a bit too
strong about the virtues of technology and of group instruction. There are some
other historical references I look forward to rooting up later to give to Jan
Freeman for her proposed historical study. From the list, the White reference
may be the most useful item for Victoria.
National Writing Centres webpage: http://departments.colgate.edu/diw/NWCA.html
See the "startup kit" for the position statement by Muriel Harris at
http://departments.colgate.edu/diw/NWCA/Startup/Slate.html about what they do
and why it's justified, and a reading list of other articles at
Survey of First-Year English Programs (Cdn):
Shows the range in Canada, including a growing place for composition courses.
Little on writing centres specifically – much discussion on Inkshed list about
Susan Bell and Henry Hubert, "Report on Writing Centres in Canada," Inkshed 14:6
(September 1996), 11-18.
Concentrates on funding and staffing problems, but makes clear that all writing
centres give one-to-one tutoring; some have also developed different methods of
Margaret Procter, Post-Admission Assessment of Writing: Issues and Information
(U of T, 1995 -- with Victoria Littman as research assistant).
Undertaken to show U of T administrators that Ontario and other universities do
MANY things to teach writing, not just give tests. Writing centres are clearly
the mainstay here and elsewhere.
Muriel Harris, "Talking in the Middle: Why Students Need Writing Tutors,"
College English 37: 1 (January 1995), 27-41. (mailed)
The best theoretical and practical justification for the work of writing
centres; includes a reference list.
Ilona Leki, Understanding ESL Writers: A Guide for Teachers (Boynton/Cook,
Ch. 12 on Responding makes the point that ESL learners need intensive and
tactful comment on work in progress, with a balance between grammar and content
Edward M. White, Developing Successful College Writing Programs (Jossey-Bass,
Pages 38-61, part of the chapter on "Strengths and Weaknesses of Approaches,"
keep reverting to the strengths of individual instruction as part of other
methods, including courses based on literature and other types of content; in
large part based on his empirical research in the California state university
Richard J. Light, Harvard Assessment Seminars, 2nd report: Explorations with
Students and Faculty about Teaching, Learning, and Student Life (Harvard
University Graduate School of Education, 1992). Pages 34-42 mailed, also an
article by Marchese about this research.
Based on sets of surveys and interviews with students. One main finding is that
students say their writing improves only when they get timely and clear comments
from instructors, and that they need clear strategies for revising written work.
(Harvard has had composition courses since 1895, and also has a strong writing
centre giving individual tutoring. It has recently started working intensively
with students and instructors in courses throughout the disciplines and years.)
The report tends to undermine the usefulness of early-year courses by suggesting
that individual instruction is more effective.
B. S. Bloom, "The Two-Sigma Problem: The Search for Methods of Group Instruction
as Effective as 1 to 1 Tutoring," Educational Researcher 13: 6 (1989), 4-16.
Starts from empirical research showing that (in content courses) the average
student under individual tutoring gets grades that are two standard deviations
above the average student in the class. (Cf. also programs like "Success for
All," where at-risk students in elementary schools in inner cities are given
individual tutoring by trained instructors: they then succeed at amazingly high
rates. The Transitional-Year Program at U of T also takes underprepared and
underprivileged adult students and prepares them for university life by
combining rigorous basic courses with lots of individualized support, now
extending to the first year of the university program too.)
Russ Hunt wrote:
> I don't have any to hand, but I bet references to published studies
> substantiating some of the things we all know are true about
> remediation, on-line courses, etc., would be more help to Victoria
> than a chorus of vociferous "no"s from a clearly unauthoritative (in
> the eyes of an administrator) group like Inkshedders. Anybody know
> any offhand, or know how to find them quickly?
> -- Russ
> Russell A. Hunt __|~_)_ __)_|~_ Professor of English
> St. Thomas University )_ __)_|_)__ __) PHONE: (506) 452-0424
> Fredericton, New Brunswick | )____) | FAX: (506) 450-9615
> E3B 5G3 CANADA ___|____|____|____/ [log in to unmask]
> \ /
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~ http://www.StThomasU.ca/~hunt/ ~~~~~~~~~~~~
> To leave the list, send a SIGNOFF CASLL command to
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> For the list archives and information about the organization,
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(Dr.) Margaret Procter
University of Toronto Coordinator, Writing Support
Room 216, University College
15 King's College Circle
Toronto, ON M5S 3H7
(416) 978-8109; FAX (416) 971-2027
[log in to unmask]
To leave the list, send a SIGNOFF CASLL command to
[log in to unmask] or, if you experience difficulties,
write to Russ Hunt at [log in to unmask]
For the list archives and information about the organization,
the annual conference, and publications, go to the Inkshed Web site at