Introduction: On location in classroom-based writing tutoring

Candace Spigelman, Laurie Grobman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingForeword/postscript

2 Scopus citations


In filmmaking parlance, actors work "on location" when they move from the sound stages, where the bulk of movies are filmed, to sites where geography and social life more closely represent the director's intentions. The clear connection between the notions of "on location" and "on the scene" suggests the film crew's submergence in the local environment, community, or culture. When one is working "on location," exigencies are less readily choreographed; variables, such as climate, local inhabitants, or political conditions, cannot always be controlled. Our title, On Location, marks the movement, or relocation, of tutoring to the classroom, a setting beyond or outside of traditional language and literacy support. On-location tutoring occurs in the thick of writing instruction and writing activity, and on-location tutors operate within complex, hierarchical, contested classroom spaces. Tutoring "on location" means carrying on one's back strategies and principles for sharing and building knowledge among peers in sites that-in myriad ways-threaten, contradict, demand, and support such projects. In contrast to the more familiar curriculum-based peer tutoring model, classroom-based writing tutoring describes tutoring arrangements clearly integral to writing instruction-writing support offered directly to students during class. Classroom-based writing tutors facilitate peer writing groups, present programs, conference during classroom workshops, help teachers to design and carry out assignments, and much more. Their instructional sites range from developmental writing classes to first-year composition to writing across the curriculum classes to "content" classes where writing is assigned. Because on-location tutoring extends to a vast array of classroom contexts, its theories and practices have relevance for the many educators across the university who, in their varied and significant roles, advance writing instruction and strive to make writing central to students' academic work. We therefore offer this volume to faculty in composition and across the disciplines, writing center administrators and personnel, writing across the curriculum (WAC) administrators, graduate teaching assistants, and undergraduate tutors who seek continued discussion and assessment of classroom-based tutoring efforts. In On Location, we argue that if classroom-based writing tutoring is to be staged and executed effectively, it must be understood by all stakeholders as a distinct form of writing support. Classroom-based writing tutoring is no less than an amalgamated instructional method, operating in its own specific space and time rather than as an extension of a single strand of tutoring principles. In the introductory discussion that follows, we borrow from genre theory and, in particular, from the concept of genre hybridity to conceptualize the distinctiveness of this tutorial form. While we acknowledge genre theory as, first and foremost, about texts and textual conditions, current research into the nature and application of genre for writing theory and for composition pedagogy succeeds in stretching (and sometimes breaking) existing textual boundaries. We expand the concept of genre, taking quite literally what has been understood metaphorically in the notion of genre as location. Thus, Charles Bazerman describes genres as "environments for learning. They are locations within which meaning is constructed" (1997, 19). Anis Bawarshi contends that "genres do not just help us define and organize kinds of texts; they also help us define and organize kinds of situations and social actions, situations and actions that the genres, through their use, rhetorically make possible" (2003, 17-18) and further: "Genres function in the social practices that they help generate and organize, in the unfolding of material, everyday exchanges of language practices, activities, and relations by and between individuals in specific settings" (23). Locating and materializing genre in this way offers useful applications for discussions of teaching and tutoring in general and for classroom-based writing tutoring in particular. It is our hope that On Location will signal a new phase in scholarly research on classroom-based writing tutoring. While earlier scholarship has focused on logistical and administrative issues and processes, emphasizing, among other points, the worthiness of such programs and how to set them up, this volume asks harder questions, which challenge, interrogate, and even critique classroom-based writing tutoring practices and principles. It poses new theories and offers alternative vantage points through which to reconsider long-standing theoretical controversies. At the same time, we are cognizant of newcomers' questions regarding logistical and administrative issues, especially as configurations of class room-based writing tutoring multiply. In our concluding chapter, we suggest strategies for successfully implementing this important instructional practice, and we propose future sites of theoretical and practical inquiry. This introductory chapter begins by tracing the intersecting instructional models that produced the hybrid genre we call classroom-based writing tutoring. To encourage our colleagues in their various roles to consider on-location tutoring, we discuss its value and importance for varied constituencies: from students to tutors to faculty to administrators. To acknowledge practical and theoretical difficulties arising from generic blending and blurring, we describe central conflicts for educators currently using or seeking to implement this form of writing support. Finally, we map the literal and conceptual territory that occupies our contributors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationOn Location
Subtitle of host publicationTheory and Practice in Classroom-Based Writing Tutoring
PublisherUtah State University Press
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)0874215994, 9780874215991
StatePublished - Dec 1 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


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