Revising Trimbur's Dichotomy: Tutors and Clients Sharing Knowledge, Sharing Power

Leanne Michelle Moore

Abstract


For many years in writing center scholarship, John Trimbur’s essay “Peer Tutoring: A Contradiction in Terms?” has dominated discussion about the elusory nature of the peer tutor. It is accepted knowledge that a writing consultant is not truly a peer, since he or she has a degree of expert knowledge. At the same time, the consultant is not truly a tutor, either, since he or she is also a student. When trainers initiate tutors into writing center culture, they must help their employees negotiate the two seemingly conflicting roles of a peer tutor so as not to “short-circuit” student collaboration. Trimbur fears that the expert knowledge tutors share with their clients creates an atmosphere in which tutors hold power over their clients, thereby inhibiting collaboration. In this essay, however, I argue that the writing expertise tutors have does not necessarily place them in such a position of authority that student collaboration is sabotaged. Trimbur’s concern that tutor expertise be played down in tutor training is, in the end, damaging to writing center sessions. Kenneth Bruffee’s article “Peer Tutoring and the ‘Conversation of Mankind’” is used to point out that the social creation of knowledge makes it impossible not to hold power equally between tutor and client within a context of collaboration. Two other articles, Eric Sentell’s “Caught Between a Teacher and a Tutor” and Rita Malenczyk and Lauren Rosenberg’s article, “Dialogic for ‘Their Own Ends’: Increasing the Pedagogical Independence of Peer Tutors in the Writing center and the First-Year Writing Classroom,” are used to show how the limits of Trimbur’s dichotomy are being stretched in real writing center situations. The essay continues to explore the author’s experience abroad to help illustrate the real-life contexts in which collaboration, expertise, and power go hand-in-hand.


Keywords


Writing-Center Consulting; Writing-Center Training

References


Bruffee, Kenneth. “Peer Tutoring and the ‘Conversation of Mankind.’” The Longman Guide to Writing Center Theory and Practice. Eds. Robert W. Barnett and Jacob S. Blumner. New York: Pearson Education, Inc. 2008. 206-217. Print.

Malenczyk, Rita, and Lauren Rosenberg. “Dialogic for ‘Their Own Ends’: Increasing the Pedagogical Independence of Peer Tutors in the Writing Center and the First-Year

Writing Classroom.” Writing Lab Newsletter. 36.3-4. (2011): 6-9. Print.

Sentell, Eric. “Caught Between a Teacher and a Tutor.” Writing Lab Newsletter. 36.3-4. (2011): 10-13. Print.

Trimbur, John. “Peer Tutoring: A Contradiction in Terms?” The Longman Guide to Writing Center Theory and Practice. Eds. Robert W. Barnett and Jacob S. Blumner. New York:

Pearson Education, Inc. 2008. 288-295. Print.


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