Proofreading vs. Teaching How to Proofread

This week’s first reading was “Avoiding the Proofreading Trap: The Value of the Error Correction Process” by Jane Cogie, Kim Strain, and Sharon Lorinskas. This chapter talked about what it called the “ethical” issues of proofreading during ESL tutoring sessions. Like last week’s, this reading advocates for the value of self-editing, even with ESL students. Teaching ESL students to self-edit aids their independence as writers and as a result makes them better students. The article brings up various strategies in how to do so. One that I thought was particularly useful was the idea of teaching ESL readers to rely on available resources. While it is ironic that we are teaching students to transfer their dependency from a tutor or a professor to a resource as a way to teach them to be more independent, directing students to a resource they can use to find their errors on their own is, in fact, a form of independence. Another useful tip was the idea of starting a reading log, which would help students record their problems and begin to see patterns in their mistake. The chapter also included a checklist to aid in the self-editing process, which is useful in helping ESL students to become less reliant on a tutor or professor to proofread a paper.

The second reading this week was “Can you Proofread this?” by Beth Rapp Young. This reading also talked about the importance of avoiding proofreading for a client and instead teaching them how to be independent writers by teaching them how to proofread. This is a topic we have discussed since the first week of class, when we talked about various Writing Center misconceptions– such as that Writing Center consultants are there to proofread rather than teach writing. Also present in this article is the discussion of negotiation: the necessity of reading through a paper yourself to make sure that you as a tutor prioritize global concerns that the client may or may not be aware of in addition to working on what issues the client identifies. This makes me nervous, because I worry that I might miss these concerns or that what I see as fulfilling the criteria might differ from what the professor, who will be grading the paper, will see as fulfilling the criteria.

However, for as much as we discuss the importance of prioritizing global errors, we forget that this approach also has its faults. When grading, professors are not going to be happy with a paper that is riddled with local errors, and the prioritization of global errors means that these lesser concerns frequently end up unchecked. Even if a client is leaving the Center with a greatly improved paper where global errors are concerned, if we do not find a way to handle both local and global concerns, that student is not going to receive the grade that he/she desires and thus could think that the Writing Center is an ineffective tool because he/she does not understand our methods. This is where it becomes important to teach even NES students how to proofread their own work. We cannot get to every error in a single tutoring session, and it becomes inefficient for students to continually have to make follow up appointments. If we teach them to proofread, they can focus on the local errors themselves and the tutor can guiltlessly focus on the global errors, knowing that the client will handle lower-order errors on his/her own.

While I liked these articles, I thought that they were redundant to the last few week’s readings. I think we have talked about the importance of teaching proofreading, especially where it pertains to ESL students. Though we had already covered these topics, these articles did introduce different strategies that will be applicable in a tutoring practice. As someone who likes patterns and understanding “hows” and “whys”, I really like the idea of keeping an error log. That way, it makes it easy to identify error patterns and it makes identifying those “hows” and “whys” that much easier. Once you understand why a student is making the errors that they are, you can easily correct them, making you a more effective tutor. I also like the idea of referring a student to resources, because I think that lends to our ethos as tutors, because we are not pretending to be authorities on every subject. We are consulting resources written by those who are far more expert on the subject than we are, and as a result, it is almost like these authors are backing us up. In consulting resources and referring students to them, we take the pressure to know everything off of ourselves, and we are better tutors because we are not pretending to be the final word on every subject.

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