Note that some of these strategies are more applicable in tutoring contexts, but most of them are also effective in faculty-student individual–or group–conferences.
What we mean by 'challenging' conferences
- Overwhelmed by their work (or things unrelated to their work)
- Unrealistic about their goals for the tutoring session
- Overly reliant on or respectful of the tutor and unwilling to volunteer their own ideas
- Disengaged from the tutoring session
This page offers examples of some things that students in these states might say, and some strategies for responding to them and helping them. Some of these strategies may be more applicable for tutoring contexts, but many also work effectively in faculty-student individual conferences.
When students say they want to work on everything...
- Help the student set priorities for revision in a realistic, manageable way.
- “We can’t work on everything in this paper in one session. What issues are you most concerned about? What issues do feel like you need the most help with? What issues do you think I could help you with?”
- “You said you have trouble with X, Y, and Z. Let’s read through a paragraph and work on X together. Then, if we have time, we’ll deal with Y and Z.”
When students say they don't know how to fix their mistakes...
Students may also say, “I’m really bad at grammar/writing,” or “Can you just read my paper and fix things?”
- Acknowledge the student’s concerns and validate their efforts:
- “I know grammar can be hard/confusing/frustrating to learn. It takes a long time to master a language. But you took an important step by coming here today!”
- Draw boundaries in a friendly but firm manner:
- “I can’t fix your grammar for you, but I am here to help you learn to find patterns of error so that you can begin to fix them on your own.”
- Respond with affirmation and/or refer to classroom experiences:
- “You got into BU, so I know you’re smart. You made the effort to come here today, so you obviously care about these matters.”
- “What have you been focusing on in class? What are you most interested in?”
- Respond with tough love (while still employing a friendly tone):
- “Remember that it’s your paper, and it’s your responsibility to own it.”
- “If you and I went to the gym together and you watched me work out, how much would that really help you?”
When students don't contribute to the session...
- Give the student some time alone to work independently:
- “I’m going to get a drink/use the bathroom. Why don’t you read through a paragraph and circle/underline words or phrases that you have questions or concerns about?”
- “You don’t seem very interested in what we’re doing. Let’s regroup. Can you tell me more about your class/about the assignment/about what’s on your mind right now?”