Category Archives: feedback

Growing Leadership Muscles Through Feedback: Showing Students Where They’re Going


Dr. Shaneika A. Dilka, PhD

Psychology Professor, Kaplan University

shutterstock_331568996

Feedback is one of the most vital elements in the learning process. Faculty, instructors, mentors, tutors, etc., serve critical leadership roles in academic institutions and as such, should work to grow their leadership muscles by providing quality feedback to students. Following a recent discussion on using the principles of transformational leadership to improve classroom interactions and outcomes, I was challenged to think about the topic more narrowly and to consider sharing specific details and methods related to linking transformational leadership style to the art and practice of academic instruction. This was perceived as a challenge, perhaps, because both leadership and instructional styles are highly personal and uniquely developed professional skills. Also, the idea of linking transformational leadership and instructional methods did not seem unconventional. After all, Slavich and Zimbardo (2012) suggested that most instructors already display behaviors related to transformational leadership in their classrooms every day. In fact, if we reframe the discussion and evaluate what we do in the classroom, in our instruction, we see that we grow or flex our leadership muscles every day! In the online classroom, one of the most powerful tools at our hands is feedback, and as leaders and instructors, delivering effective feedback can have major implications for our students.

Consider the purpose of feedback; at its most basic level, feedback is intended to give students information about their performance. Hattie and Timperley (2007) suggest that three questions should be asked during the feedback process by both students and instructors, “Where am I going? How am I going? and Where to next?” (p. 88). Through leadership, facilitation, and well-crafted feedback we can continually consider where our students are going and guide them to ask the question, where am I going?, as they develop their work as well. Faculty members can set high standards and provide challenging opportunities (inspirational motivation; see Bass, 1985) through goal identification. Providing students with feedback that is clear and identifies challenging goals that are focused on the primary task will guide the student to answering the question, where am I going?. Feedback structured in such a way generally results in goal-directed behaviors, discrepancy reduction, and increased commitment to the identified goals (Hattie & Timperley, 2007).

How can we show students where they are going? This is often a difficult question because the answer requires an incredibly personalized approach for each student, another dimension of transformational leadership (individualized consideration; see Bass, 1985) that is ever-present in the classroom. To show students where they are going, my intent is always to guide, never to tell. I reinforce existing goals that have been identified, or set new goals when appropriate. In feedback, answers, corrections, and errors are generally not identified individually; rather, resources are provided (i.e. relating to theory, formatting, etc.) to students and they are encouraged to engage in problem solving strategies to further enhance their work (intellectual stimulation; see Bass, 1985). This approach is challenging, self-directed, and increases learners’ autonomy. In some cases, it may be necessary to provide an example of the appropriate method or approach the student should follow; when such cases arise, an example is provided along with additional resources. My primary purpose using this feedback approach is to raise the students’ awareness in order to make them more active in the feedback process, asking, where am I going? Students learn to identify their paths, apply scholarly judgment, and develop invaluable research skills. And as faculty, we are able to flex and grow our leadership muscles, providing our students with the feedback they need  to determine where they are going.

where-am-i-going-how-am-i-going-where-to-next

References

Bass, B. M. (1985). Leadership and performance beyond expectations. New York, NY: Free Press.

Hattie, J. & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81-112, doi: 10.3102/003465430298487

Slavich, G. M., & Zimbardo, P. G. (2012). Transformational teaching: Theoretical underpinnings, basic principles, and core methods. Educational Psychology Review, 24(4), 569-608. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10648-012-9199-6

Deadlines and the Online Academic


Dr. Tamara Fudge, professor, Kaplan University School of Business and IT

They say that patience is a virtue, but in reality we know it’s often in short supply. It’s 7 am on Wednesday morning – a scant seven hours past an assignment deadline – and a student frantically emails, “Why isn’t my paper graded? Didn’t you receive it? Was there something wrong?”

I pour my fourth cup of coffee,  sit back down, check through the 60-100 assignments I have downloaded for grading to ensure that her assignment is indeed among them, and begin to write a nice response that yes, I received the assignment, I am still in the throes of grading, and my bosses give faculty five days after a deadline to get grading completed – and I will meet the deadline.

After the fifth cup of coffee and some chocolate for fortification, I get back to grading. I’m thinking that grading  might only take the rest of the day. Then I realize I have a meeting at 10 am and another at 1:30 pm, a PowerPoint presentation due before the end of the business day, and several hours of curriculum work that need to be done before tomorrow, too. Late in the afternoon, another faculty member calls me with an issue he needs help resolving. My day and my grading plans are getting sucked into that black hole Carl Sagan warned me about long ago.

Typing with one hand while eating dinner with the other and watching the dog in the backyard out of one eye, I realize something: my students simply might not know what I do. Yes, I teach. But what does online teaching really entail?

When we were little kids, we thought a teacher was just some ruler-wielding person who made us do math (shudder), insisted we color inside the lines, and controlled bathroom breaks. By high school, we realized that teachers had to grade assignments, too, but we were still surprised to see them at the grocery store. Teachers have to eat and buy toilet paper, too?  Mind-blowing.

So, here’s the crux of this blog post.  In addition to teaching students about course content, how to write, how to behave professionally, and how to think critically for the workplace,  online professors do the following (and I have probably forgotten something):

  • Answer email daily from students, other faculty, and the administration
  • Attend several meetings each week regarding policies, curriculum, and other topics
  • Participate in school and university-wide committees
  • Write curriculum (I also do some instructional design that involves coding and video work)
  • Develop and update seminar content and load items in the seminar room
  • Create images, videos, and text for appropriate announcements
  • Post in the discussions, which includes some research to find links that help to answer questions and move the discussion forward
  • Check the gradebook every week to see who needs help
  • Send emails every week to students who are missing work or have low grades and send messages to advisors about the same
  • Encourage students to use the Academic Success Centers for writing, technology, math, and science
  • Deal with violations such as plagiarism, behavior issues, etc. – this especially takes a lot of time to ensure fairness
  • Devise makeup plans for students who are experiencing major life disasters such as a death in the family
  • Call advisors when there is something crucial in an effort to best help the student
  • Assist other faculty with solving problems and provide materials and guidance for other faculty teaching the courses we lead
  • Research and prepare papers and presentations for professional development – and then send the papers out for publication, and practice and perform those presentations
  • Grade discussions, seminars, and assignments (see chart below for assignment grading)
  • Keep records of all of the above

gradingtime

(Idea from the Ohio Education Association Facebook page)

It may help students to realize that in any given term, we may well be teaching more than one different course, and preparation is unique for each class.  Also,  like our students, we  have families and other obligations.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love my job. It’s creative, it’s investigative, it’s mind-stretching, and it’s enhancing the lives of others by imparting knowledge and guiding students in learning great workplace skills.  Teaching is what I am, not what I do.

I just ask for a little patience. As I pour coffee cup #6, I have to respond to another email: Dear student, please rest assured that you will get your assignment grade soon. Thank you for your patience.

 

How to Give Criticism – Positively


Linnea Hall, MSBA, JD. Professor, Kaplan University School of Business and IT

 

People generally think of criticism in negative terms.  After all, Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines criticism as “the act of expressing disapproval and of noting the problems or faults of a person or thing”  (“Criticism”, n.d.).   So how can we not take that negatively? Yet, as professors, we must constantly critique (criticize) student work to encourage improvement.

In order to understand the best way to criticize student work (and let’s face it, sometimes we aren’t just critiquing, we are criticizing) we must understand the different types of criticism.  In the psychology field, there are two general types of criticism: constructive and destructive (Peterson, 2010).

Destructive vs. Constructive Criticism

Scholar woman

©2015Clipart.com

First, let’s look at destructive criticism.  The main purpose of destructive criticism is to tear someone down.  It is meant to demoralize and make someone feel inferior.  It may even be based in personal negative feelings towards the person to whom the criticism is being offered (Raver,  Jensen,  Lee,  & O’Reilly,  2012).   According to Raver, et al.  (2012), those who receive destructive feedback are more likely to be angry at the individual giving feedback and are more likely to blame the feedback giver for any failures on the part of the recipient.

On the other hand, constructive criticism should encourage the recipient to improve by giving helpful suggestions. Constructive criticism should also include a promise of additional support (Bernat, 2008; Petress, 2000). The tone should be professional with a goal toward helping the student to understand how to improve upon future assignments (Petress, 2000).   Most importantly, constructive criticism should be “encouraging, affirming, and supportive for the purpose of building confidence” (Petrass, 2000,  para. 3).

So how do we know whether we are offering constructive criticism or    destructive criticism?  Let’s look at two examples of instructor comments on a student paper:

Destructive criticism

Bob, while I appreciate your efforts, it’s really clear that you did not put much effort into this paper.  You have only one source, your information is minimal, and you have demonstrated no independent understanding of the subject matter.  If you want to pass this class, you are going to need to spend a lot more time researching and put forth significantly more effort on your content.  Please let me know if you have any questions.

Constructive criticism

Bob, your paper has some good content but could use improvement.  For instance, the statement regarding the increased susceptibility of intellectual property to theft as a result of digitization is very good.  However, some additional information would demonstrate your understanding of the topic.  For instance, in the article you referenced it explained that while analog copies are degraded copies of the original, digital copies are exact replicas.  The article also discussed the methods of distribution and how they have changed with digitization.  This information would have helped to further explain the issues related to this topic. Additionally, using multiple sources can help to provide multiple viewpoints which leads to a more robust understanding on your part.  I would recommend on your next assignment that you begin with an outline.  Find two or three articles on each topic area and then identify at least two ideas in each article that you can discuss.  The Writing Center can help you to understand outlining, and then you can email me your outline before you start your paper so I can offer suggestions for improvement.

Final Thoughts

The first example is passive-aggressive.  There is an attempt to provide guidance in a positive manner, but it is very negative in its tone and offers no specific areas of improvement.  On the other hand, the second one identified where the student’s efforts were correct, encouraging the continuation of this behavior, and then it offered specific examples for improvement, and finally guidance and support for improvement.  This type of criticism is constructive; it is  encouraging and helpful and should be the goal of all instructors.

References

Bernat, P. (2008). Career center. Finding the “constructive” in criticism. Biomedical Instrumentation & Technology,42(2), 111-113.

Criticism. (n.d.).  Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/criticism

Peterson, K. M., & Smith, D. A. (2010). To what does perceived criticism refer? Constructive, destructive, and general criticism. Journal Of Family Psychology24(1), 97-100. doi:10.1037/a0017950

Petress, D. K. (2000). Constructive criticism:  A tool for improvement. College Student Journal34(3), 475.

Raver, J. L., Jensen, J. M., Lee, J., & O’Reilly, J. (2012). Destructive criticism revisited: Appraisals, task outcomes, and the moderating role of competitiveness. Applied Psychology: An International Review61(2), 177-203. doi:10.1111/j.1464-0597.2011.00462.x

When Commenting on Student Writing, Use This Shortcut with Extreme Care


By Chrissine Rios, MA, Kaplan University Writing Center

I’ve encountered both good and not so good practices for tutoring and teaching writing over the past twenty years, and the difference between the two often comes down to how to best use a tool.

TextExpanderThere is one tool in particular that I could not do asynchronous paper review half as well without. For me, the brand has changed over the years as I began with Typeitin by Wavget then used Spartan Multi Clipboard and now use TextExpander by Smile, but all do the same thing: paste previously written comments on a paper. I’d recommend any of these clipboard programs to any tutor or instructor who regularly reads and responds to student writing online.

When so many students new to academic style need help with the same matters of formatting and citation, essay structure, paragraph development, and sentence grammar, a clipboard can save hours of typing the same feedback over and over. Using a prewritten clip also guarantees that the feedback on the fifteenth paper in need of page formatting or source integration is as thoughtful and detailed as it was on the first paper. With a few key strokes, you can insert a clearly written response that more than draws attention to an area needing attention but also suggests a strategy, provides an example, and/or recommends a resource to help the student take the next step, so the student not only understands the feedback but knows what to do with it or at least where to begin.

Yet as wonderful as ready-made, well-written comments are, feedback also has to be relevant, useful, and personal to be substantive and pedagogically sound. Clipboard programs are no shortcut for close reading and critical thinking, nor are they a substitute for the reader-writer connection paramount to tutoring, teaching, and learning writing. Clips only work well in tandem with personalized feedback.

When using a clipboard to comment on papers, consider the following best practices:

1. Reread every comment you insert, every time. Comments need to accurately identify and explain the issue in the highlighted text. If you insert a comment for a fragment, and the comment describes the issue as a clause missing a subject or part of the predicate, but the text being highlighted by the comment has both a subject and predicate and is a fragment because a subordinator is making it a dependent clause, you’ll want to modify the comment or create a new comment for your clipboard that addresses the specific issue as exemplified by the student’s writing.

2. Use the clip only as a template. Modify the pasted clip by adding specifics and deleting unneeded details to ensure your comment is useful. If you have a clip on how to format an in-text citation that explains the elements needed, punctuation rules, and variations between quotations versus paraphrases, and the student has only misplaced a period, after pasting in the clip, delete the extra information. Further, praise the student for his or her strong grasp of citation format!

3. Use the specific language from the student’s text. If you have a clip to help a student identify and edit inconsistencies with grammar such as subject-verb agreement, your comment may only be useful if you also indicate which word is the subject and which is the verb in the highlighted passage. Don’t assume the student will know. Here’s an example:

Original Clip: Since the subject for the plural verb “___” is the singular noun “___,” the subject and verb do not “agree,” making your point unclear. As you edit, you’ll want to give subject-verb agreement extra attention to make sure both are singular or both are plural. You’ll find a terrific review of subject-verb agreement in the recorded KUWC workshop here. I hope you find it helpful as you revise and edit your paper, ____!

Personalized Clip: Since the subject for the plural verb “come” is the singular noun “the nurse,” the subject and verb do not “agree,” making your point unclear. As you edit, you’ll want to give subject-verb agreement extra attention to make sure both are singular or both are plural. However, sometimes when a prepositional phrase, such as “on nights” in the highlighted sentence, comes between the subject and verb, it can make the subject harder to identify. You’ll find a terrific review of subject-verb agreement that also addresses the use of prepositional phrases in the recorded KUWC workshop here. I hope you find it helpful as you revise and edit your paper, Julie!

 4. Be discerning. Once you have a large database of clips, it can be a little too easy to insert comments; however, too much feedback, even when well written and personalized, can hinder more than help. Comments should address the questions or concerns stated by student in the message with the paper submission, your sense of the highest order concerns for the purpose of revision first and editing second, and what is appropriate given your assessment of this student’s writing skills in the context of the class the paper is for. Ask, would detailed comments on citation format be necessary for a 100 level IT course? Probably not. Would a long explanation on how to write a thesis statement by useful to a graduate psychology student writing a case study assessment? It’s unlikely.

5. Finally, back up your clipboard program regularly. Developing a good database of clips takes time. I know because in the seven years I’ve been tutoring online, I’ve had to start over a few too many times. Computer and hard drive crashes no longer have to take your clips with them, however. Use the backup options of the clipboard program you choose, save your good work to the cloud, and enjoy the time you save by using a clipboard by shifting your focus to personalizing your already well-crafted comments.

 

 

 

 

What Every Instructor Should Know about Providing Feedback on Writing


(c) 2014 Jupiterimages

(c) 2014 Jupiterimages

By Chrissine Rios, KUWC ELL Support

Instructors teaching Writing across the Curriculum (WAC) know that writing and learning go together—writing is a method for acquiring content, and providing feedback on the writer’s purpose, ideas, and use of information helps students think more critically and write more substantively about the subject matter.

Yet sentence grammar and making meaning also go hand-in-hand, so feedback on sentence-level concerns also helps cultivate strong academic writers. English Language Learners, especially, need feedback that improves their command over the English language, and this means WAC instructors should be versed in sentence fundamentals, beginning with English word order.

English has a fixed, Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) word order.  

In a sentence, the subject comes first, the verb second, and if the sentence uses a transitive (action) verb, an object receives the action of the verb and completes the thought.

Examples

  • Astronomers discovered a new planet.
  • Children should not watch violence on television.
  • Bears hibernate.

Subjects can be nouns, noun phrases, infinitives, or gerunds:

Subjects

Providing feedback on sentences with missing subjects and verbs:

A sentence without a subject or verb is often labeled a fragment and treated like a punctuation error whereas connecting the rogue phrase to the sentence before or after it will solve the problem. Unfortunately, all incomplete sentences aren’t as easily labeled or fixed as illustrated by these examples from an ELL graduate student paper:

  • During the first two weeks lost of Davis to the team.
  • With an expectation of having a project to be completed in eight weeks that normally would be longer.  
  • Jones under a time restraint of eight weeks, and low budget to accomplished product.

First, before commenting on any sentence, determine if it’s a pattern of error. Does it happen three or more times? If not, your feedback may not be needed. After a student has learned a new concept or strategy, it takes practice to make it a habit, let alone master it; meanwhile, mistakes happen. Pointing them out can deflate the student’s confidence and prevent further risk taking as trying something new, even if it’s the right way to do it, feels awkward and unnatural.

If it is a pattern of error, pick a representative sample and comment in the margin with the purpose of encouraging, instructing, and modeling a correction.

A sample comment might go something like this:

Writers use prepositional phrases to add details to a sentence as you have with “in eight weeks,” so you are on the right track with your details. However, prepositional phrases need to be attached to a main clause that has a subject and verb for the sentence to be complete and so readers know whom or what the sentence is about and what is happening.

Every sentence should therefore begin with a precise subject (usually a noun or noun phrase) and conjugated verb. 

Based on the details you have provided in the prepositional phrases throughout this passage, you are writing about an “expectation” for how long a project will take to complete, so as you revise, you may want to use “the expectation” or “the project” as the subject for the sentence.

Possible revisions [“modeling a correction” using the student’s wording as much as possible]:

  • The expectation was to have the project completed in ten weeks, although it normally takes longer.
  • The project was expected to take ten weeks to complete, although it would normally have taken longer.
  • The project should have taken longer than ten weeks to complete.

Notice that in each revision option, the sentence begins with a subject and a conjugated verb. As you revise, please double check that every sentence in your paper has a clearly stated subject and verb because missing sentence subjects and verbs make it hard for readers to understand what you mean. Please let me know if you have questions about these writing concepts. The Writing Center also has resources and tutors to help you with subjects and verbs.

In the next comment, more instruction could be given on verbs, as another pattern in this student’s paper is a mash-up of different verb forms, but in all, the comments would target no more than two or three issues. For a review of verb forms, click here, and feel free to share the resource with your students.

Although instructors do not need to become grammar experts to teach writing across the curriculum, feedback that targets specific writing and grammar concepts is more effective than a referral to the Writing Center for general “grammar help,” which can be ominous. Grammar is a large system of structures and concepts. If you aren’t sure what the specific problem is or how to articulate it, or if the issues are many, the subject and verb are good places to begin.

10 Things Students Say About Instructor Feedback


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© 2012 Jupiterimages

Last week, I attended the webcast Office Hours: Students Share Successful Feedback Tips because I think it is always good to hear what students have to say about feedback.  In the KUWC, one of the primary ways we interact with students is by giving feedback, written, verbal, video, and more.   The students being interviewed yesterday were responding to a survey given by TurnItIn: Closing the Gap: What Students Say About Instructor Feedback.  What was interesting to me is what they said largely reinforces what we know and what research has said about feedback and student writing.  Here is what they said:

  1. Give more feedback.
  2. Give specific feedback.
  3. Comment on early drafts and ideas.
  4. Make the comments on early drafts largely focus on ideas because they will work on the grammar and mechanics later.
  5. Comment on thesis statements (and ideas).
  6. Be available and involved early in the writing process.
  7. Give examples and help improve understanding of the different writing genres required for different classes.   Example: English Literature vs. Engineering
  8. Give audio feedback.
  9. Respond in a timely manner, especially when students submit electronically.
  10. Utilize technology for feedback, especially if it helps give higher quality and more in-depth feedback.

The TurnItIn Survey had 1000 students respond in a 3-week period.

Sixty-seven percent (67%) of students reported that they receive general comments on their papers, but fifty percent (50%) of those said the general comments were not helpful.

I find this interesting because it supports the idea of giving specific feedback, which is strongly advocated by Beth Hewitt in her book The Online Writing Conference.  Especially in the online setting, students need specific feedback and examples of how to revise their work.  I find this to be true in our own work here in the Kaplan University Writing Center.  For example, “Check your commas throughout the paper” is at least more specific than “Work on your grammar and mechanics.”  However, it may not be specific enough, especially in the online setting.   A more specific comment might say, “One way to correct this comma splice is. . .”  Now, this is not to say that every comma splice in the paper should be corrected for the student.   However,  a specific example may help a student who is struggling with commas.   In our case, we also include links to resources on this topic and invitations to visit our other tutoring services.

ManComputerAppleKUWC2

At the same time students want high quality feedback, they also want to receive that feedback in a timely manner.  This was no surprise.  What was a surprise is  17% of the students in the survey reported that it was taking 17 days or longer to get papers returned.  That seemed a very long time.  However, I was quite glad to see that 19.6%  of the students reported getting their papers back within 3 days, which is an impressive return time in a class full of students.

The tension remains:  How do we give high quality, formative feedback in a timely fashion?  Technology may be the answer for some.

It serves students when they know when to expect their papers.  Research on self-efficacy (Bandura) suggests that timely feedback allows people to change their behavior.   While Bandura is not writing specifically about writing, he is writing about changing behavior, and timely feedback will allow students to change their writing practices and behaviors.

What are your favorite feedback methods?

Ten Truths Tutors Keep from Students


 

Chrissine Rios, KUWC Tutor

Chrissine Rios, KUWC Tutor

Students tell tutors what they would never tell their instructors: that their children do their Internet research, that they don’t speak English so are using an online translator, that they made up the “person they know” in their essay because they don’t know anyone interesting enough to write about. Tutors appreciate this kind of honesty because these are the reasons the students sought tutoring—to learn how to research, to improve their writing skills in English, and to brainstorm topics.

However, students also tell tutors what their instructors said:

“My instructor said to send my paper to the Writing Center, and you’ll tell me what’s wrong”;

“My instructor said my sentences have grammar mistakes, and you’ll fix them”;

“My instructor won’t grade my paper until you help me rewrite it.”

“My instructor said my paper has plagiarism, and you can help me find it.”

Whether or not an instructor said exactly what the student understood and relayed to the tutor is irrelevant. The student is expecting the tutor to do what the instructor said, and the truth is, tutors won’t, which is the basis of these ten truths that tutors keep from students, and whether they are “truths” is irrelevant too. Tutors simply do not tell students the following:

1. Your instructor is wrong. Tutors defer to the instructor when students want to know if an instructor is wrong about a writing concept or APA formatting rule. Tutors also remain impartial when faced with claims that we do something we don’t like help a student rewrite a paper for a higher grade. Tutors are masters at refocusing a conversation onto the student’s writing. Unfortunately, students can be less receptive to learning strategies for editing when they are expecting editing

2. This is an A paper. Tutors encourage and motivate students by affirming their skills and efforts; however, we don’t speak hypothetically or otherwise about grades, even when the student’s goal is not to learn more effective writing strategies but to raise a grade

3. Sure! I’ll look at your paper during our Live Tutoring session. [Shaking head, no.] Tutors read and review papers, but not in Live Tutoring. Reviewing a paper takes time and focus, and when a student just wants someone to “quickly look at it because it’s due tonight,” they are not asking for tutoring. They want proofreading, which tutors don’t do even in Paper Review.

4. I have read your paper and checked your grammar. Students can ask us to check their grammar all day long, but tutors provide holistic reviews of papers. We read with an eye toward focus and development, which includes the thesis, organization, paragraph unity and cohesion, the citation and integration of research, and if the student appears to be in the editing phase, one, two, or three sentence-level concepts to master for greater accuracy, clarity, or concision. Tutors may also highlight a misspelled or missing word in order to remind the student to proofread, but tutors do not check grammar, make changes, edit, or proofread. In addition to our feedback, we provide links to handy-dandy and relevant resources on revising and editing with practical steps and strategies that students can apply as they write their next drafts.

5. I will teach you grammar. During Live Tutoring, tutors will look at a sentence or paragraph when addressing a student’s concerns about grammar, but tutors will not comb through it line-by-line looking for every grammar mistake. Effective tutoring sessions are focused. Additionally, learning grammar like learning to write a paper takes time, more than one tutoring session. Together, the tutor and student will determine what to work on first and focus on that, and the tutor will provide the student resources that the student can refer to as he or she works independently to apply the new concepts. 

6. I will happily revise and edit your paper. Not going to happen. Students must remain the sole authors of their papers. Tutors providing paper reviews do not even use “track changes.” Better, we provide feedback using comment bubbles in the margin of the paper. We also provide video reviews to talk though our observations, suggestions, and resource recommendations.

7. You need a comma here, here, and here, and don’t need one there. Tutors identify a punctuation pattern or two needing attention, highlighting an example or two and modeling a possible edit or two, but we don’t point out every wayward comma. We raise awareness about mechanics and punctuation, introduce rules, concepts, or strategies as places to begin when learning about these matters, and we recommend resources such as The Comma Placement Tutorial to help students gain more command over their punctuation skills.

8. Your third reference isn’t alphabetized and needs parentheses around the issue number. Tutors will name some APA formatting matters to address when editing, but tutors will not point out every element of a citation that needs attention. Instead, tutors will provide links to resources on How to Format a Reference Page or APA Common Citations, so students can compare their formatting with expert examples and apply the conventions accordingly.

9. This paragraph is plagiarized. Tutors review citation guidelines and strategies for integrating sources, and we recommend resources such as the Plagiarism Self Assessment video, podcasts such as What is Plagiarism? and workshops such as APA the Easy Way. But tutors are not plagiarism detectors. We don’t use Turnitin® or have access to instructors’ plagiarism reports. If a tutor intuitively or otherwise knows a paper contains plagiarized content, we share our observations and concerns with the student and make it a learning moment, recommending revision and pointing the student to the resources on our Plagiarism Information Page and Citation Guides.

10. I will let your instructor know you were here. Tutors do not report back to instructors. Tutoring is a voluntary service provided free to all students at Kaplan University. Students should not be required to attend tutoring either since tutors cannot be held responsible for students’ grades or coursework. If an instructor formally refers a student to tutoring through the ELL Tutoring and Outreach Program or Writing Fundamentals, the referring instructors will receive a copy of the initial outreach and confirmation upon request that the student did or didn’t respond to that outreach, but in general, what happens in tutoring, stays in tutoring.

Tutors want to help students succeed. We share a common goal with instructors in this mission. But when tutors work one-on-one with students, we become their advocates, and our focus turns to their writing and writing processes and how they can hone and develop their skills not just so they write better papers for one class, but so they become more effective writers whatever the writing situation. This is why tutors not only keep some truths from students but some from instructors too.