Writing Center Journal


Most tutors are trained in a core writing centers belief: Student writers who talk about their writing are student writers who will achieve better learning outcomes. Our comparative study—one of few in writing center research—examined the points in conferences in which student writers talked the most. We examined the very long turns (VLTs) of eight native English speaking (NES) student writers and eight non-native English speaking (NNES) student writers across 16 writing center conferences. We found that NESs contributed more VLTs than NNESs and that more NES conferences contained VLTs. We also found that stating goals for the conference occurred in half of the NES conferences, specifically, in the opening stage, while no NNES conferences had stated opening goals. In the three NNES conferences that contained VLTs, two contained a statement of a sentence-level goal, a description of potential content for the paper, and a period of time spent reading aloud from the paper. Of the VLTs preceded by questions, pumping questions (questions that prod student responses) occurred most frequently. We discuss the role that student-writer motivation and familiarity with the typical conference script played in the results and some implications of this comparative study for tutor training.