Trends in Research on Writing as a Learning Activity
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Abstract

“So what would you say your thesis is so far?”
Tutor Questions in Writing Tutorials

Limberg, H., Modey, C. & Dyer, J. (2016)
Journal of Writing Research, 7(3), 371-396

Two long-standing assumptions on which writing centers operate are that individual tutoring helps students’ writing development and that the actual talk of such tutoring enables such development (Bruffee, 1984; Lunsford, 1991; Gillespie & Lerner, 2008; Mackiewicz & Thompson, 2015). Questions, long thought of as one of the most important pedagogical tools, enable writing tutors to tap into students’ knowledge of writing, help them clarify the writing task, advance their thoughts, and advise them indirectly on how to proceed further. Whereas writing center lore has emphasized the importance of questioning in non-directive tutorials, scholars have only recently begun to explore empirically tutors’ actual use of questions more generally in tutorials, the differentiated functions of questions, and the strategic use of questions in tutorial discourse (Thompson & Mackiewicz, 2014).
In this study we present an original, empirical scheme for coding question types in writing tutorials derived from 15 writing tutorial sessions in our own corpus of the genre. We apply this functionally oriented scheme to one typical session to show how questions operate locally, how they are distributed across a session, as well as how they achieve both pedagogical and organizational goals within such interactions. The use of questions in this tutorial is compared with question use in 14 other sessions to discover patterns in tutors’ questioning behavior. Our findings provide insight into how tutors’ strategic use of particular question types can empower students to become more active participants in the tutorial.

PDF | doi: 10.17239/jowr-2016.07.03.03

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