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Composition Tutorial

Composition Tutorial (CT) is a one-credit course that students are placed into on the basis of either their summer placement essay or their in-class placement essay assigned by their Seminar in Composition (SC) teacher. CT is taken concurrently with Seminar in Composition and the assignments that students write for SC provide the material for your work with the students in CT.

Students are placed into CT because they need extra support in sentence- and paragraph-level issues in their writing. Sometimes those issues may have to do with coherence and development, while other times they may have to do with understanding and using conventions in appropriate ways. CT and SC are meant to be complementary learning experiences for the student. Consultants don't usually spend a lot of time discussing with CT students the texts that they are reading for SC, but you may find that a student sometimes needs to have that kind of conversation with you in order to develop an argument. Similarly, we do not expect that CT is the only place where students get help with the sentence- and paragraph-level aspects of their writing: these issues should also be taken up in the Seminar in Composition classroom.

Laurie Baker created some materials on sequencing that suggest ways to arrange the work that your CT students do.

How CT Works

After CT students are assigned to you, will meet with them every week for the entire term. If you or they miss sessions, please make them up.

In your sessions, you will focus on the work that students are doing in their SC classes.

If you have a student who is in danger of failing, make sure that the student and the SC teacher are informed of this. Historically, when students and SC teachers have complained about failures, it has been because they had no warning. As the term winds down, keep in touch with SC teachers about students who are in danger. Students who work hard in CT can rally in the last month, especially if they know what they need to work on.

As you are talking to your CT students about the end of term, remind them that they need to give you three finished and edited papers that demonstrate that they are done with CT. These can simply be stapled together—no need for a folder or binder. The students can bring these to you at your last session with them, or they can leave them in your mailbox by the last day for undergraduate day classes (a Friday), which is when we close for the term. At their final session with you, they will also complete an evaluation of CT (the forms for this are in the CT paperwork drawer) and give it to Sandy.

Remember that the Writing Center is not open to students during finals week, but we do have a staff meeting on the Monday of finals week at 1:00. Please make sure that you have read all your students' portfolios by that time. At the meeting, we will complete paperwork for CT (including simple reports to inform SC teachers about students passing or failing CT). We will also have readers available for any portfolios about which consultants want a second or third opinion. If you are teaching CT for the first time this term and you are failing a student, we will ask a couple of other tutors to read the portfolio just to confirm your sense that it is failing work. Again, at that point, any failure should not be a surprise to the student or the SC teacher.

The final meeting usually lasts about an hour and a half to two hours. Many of us bring food to share.

Your CT Responsibilities

In addition to your on-going work with your CT students, you have ethical and administrative responsibilities to keep in mind.

Help Your Students Understand the Way That CT Works
Remind them that they must pass CT in order to pass SC. From the very beginning of the term, remind them that they need to give you a portfolio of three edited and proofread SC papers during the last week of classes. Please make sure that you are familiar with the course description for CT.

Meet with Your Students Every Week
Your CT students are paying for the one credit they get from CT, and you should no more cancel a lot of their sessions than you would cancel a lot of classes. If you have to miss a session because of illness or some other legitimate reason, it is important that you make up the missed time with your students. Do not ask your students if they want to make it up; just make it up.

Follow-up with Students Who Don't Attend CT
The Dean's office is very concerned about retention issues with first-year students. CT is a factor in retention since students who fail CT also fail SC. For this reason, it's important that you follow up by phone and email if one of your CT students doesn't show up for an appointment.

When students don't show up for CT, call and/or e-mail them immediately to remind them that they must keep or cancel appointments and that they must pass CT in order to pass SC. If you don't hear back from students, ask Sandy Foster to check to make sure they are still registered for the classes. If the students are registered, contact the SC teachers and report that the students are missing sessions.

If you call and email and the student still does not respond, please let Teraya White know. She is a retention specialist in the Academic Resource Center (412-648-7920 or white@as.pitt.edu). Teraya can follow up with the student to find out what is going on.

It can be frustrating to work with students who do not show up, but please just make the gesture of calling and emailing (it only takes a couple of minutes) and don't take the absence personally. There may be more going on in the student's life than simple resistance to coming to CT.

Maintain Contact with SC Teacher
There are three scheduled communications you must complete with the SC teacher for each of your CT students. The Associate Director provides you with forms for these communications, and you return them to her so that she can deliver them to the appropriate faculty:

1. After the student's first appointment with you, fill out a report form introducing yourself to the SC teacher and saying whether or not the student kept that appointment.

2. At mid-term, fill out report forms that tell students how they are doing in CT. Give one to each student, and give copies of the filled-out forms to the Associate Director to give to the CT students' SC teachers.

3. At the end of term, after our end-of-term meeting (which is always on the Monday after undergraduate day classes end during Fall and Spring terms; during Summer sessions, we typically carry out this work via email since we have so few CT students), fill out the report telling SC teachers whether or not their students passed CT.

In addition to this scheduled communication, you should also talk to or correspond with SC teachers if you or they have questions about students' work, if a student stops coming to CT, or if a student is failing CT for whatever reasons. You can find an SC teacher's e-mail address via the "directory" link on the WC Staff site.

If an SC teacher does not answer your e-mail or calls, tell Jean.

Report on Athletes' Progress in a Timely Way
We are required to report on athletes' progress several times during the term. This process allows the academic support office to intervene in a timely way if students are failing core courses. It is very important that you respond quickly and accurately to requests for this information to the Associate Director.




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If you have any questions about Composition Tutorial,
please contact Jean Grace via e-mail or (412) 624-5661.

webmaster: writecen@pitt.edu.



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