From Conferences to Consulting

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We use midterm conferences in our writing program—one on one time between teachers and each student.  Often these are moments to check in, see how things are going, warn a student in danger, or offer a student direction (or hope) for the rest of the semester.  More often, these feel like cursory affairs—students are all too often just to get them done and after sitting through 15 or 20 I think I am too.  (Fatigue happens.) This semester I’ve tried to reframe the conference as a consulting session.  I told students that our meeting is their exclusive time with a writing expert who can offer whatever help or advice they need.  I encouraged them to think about what they want out of the session—do they need me to comment on a draft?  Work through some persistent problem of language? Devise a plan to get a specific grade by semester’s end? I’m hoping my students take me up on the offer.  I want the conferences to be productive and I think the best way to make that happen is to make them very student-driven.  I have mine all day Wednesday.  I’ll try to follow up in a later post.
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About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.