Transfer and the writing center: A qualitative study of tutoring transitions

Daniel Kenzie, Purdue University


This thesis acknowledges transfer of learning between disparate contexts as a valuable educational goal and examines the explicit discussion of clients' prior knowledge in tutorials at the Purdue Writing Lab. 19 tutorials conducted by three tutors were observed to determine the extent to which prior knowledge was discussed in tutorials and reveal how, if at all, that knowledge was brought to bear on the focal writing task. Following the observation period, each of the three tutors was interviewed to collect their perceptions of student writers' prior knowledge and its appearances in tutorials. While observations show only limited discussion of prior knowledge, results from observations and interviews together show that authority and resistance constrain tutors' ability to address prior knowledge. This ability is further constrained by tutors' own prior knowledge, from which tutors draw when they cue clients to make connections. Genre, however, emerges as a useful device for mediating transfer and contextualizing instructors' desires and tutors' own instruction. This thesis calls for further research to elaborate on all of these dimensions and for tutor education to incorporate local inquiry and the pursuit of opportunities for transfer.




Bergmann, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Education|Rhetoric|Higher education

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