Connective Thinking, Mimetic Thinking, and Minimalist Tutoring Pedagogy For the past two years, I have worked as a tutor at the Rutgers Writing Center as a “minimalist tutor.” Anthony Lioi, author of “Small Victories: The Practice and Process of Tutoring,” defines minimalist tutoring as “a method that requires students to solve their own problems under the supervision of a tutor who acts as a coach, a more experienced peer, rather than an editor” (Lioi, 1). At Rutgers, minimalist tutoring works in conjunction with The New Humanities Reader, which was put together by Kurt Spellmeyer and Richard E. Miller and has as its goal the promotion of “connective” as opposed to “mimetic” thinking. Lioi offers the clearest distinction between connective and mimetic thinking when he says, “’mimetic thinking,’ [is] designed to demonstrate mastery of a pre-established realm of knowledge, and ‘connective thinking,’… links disparate realms of learning in new and unexpected patterns to solve problems unanticipated by traditional forms of knowledge” (Lioi 1). To this end, minimalist tutors are trained in a “hands off” method that emphasizes the importance of giving students exploratory writing exercises to do on their own during the tutoring session and discourages the practice of “correcting” students’ papers to “create a ‘perfect’ paper” (2). In my time at the Writing Center, I worked with many students and had much success with the minimalist tutoring methods. However, sometimes with some students, I did not seem to be very effective. I was never sure why the tutoring did not seem to be helping these students, and I couldn’t tell what, if anything, they had in common with each other that would make minimalist tutoring less effective. I was often tempted to break the “rules” of minimalist tutoring and to apply a more hands-on approach, but I was afraid I would be even less useful to them if I did. Finally, I was faced with a student who simply was not getting anywhere with the tutoring, even though I could tell he was working hard. I decided to break the rules and give him the help I thought he needed. In the process, I figured out that minimalist tutoring fails many students for the exact reason that it is effective with so many others. The emphasis of connective thinking over mimetic thinking in the Rutgers Writing Program, and the way that emphasis is translated into minimalist tutoring practices, ignores the specific needs of students who come to Rutgers without a strong background in expository writing. The student in question, Dave, came into the Center struggling with, among other things, figuring out how much information is appropriate in an introductory paragraph. This problem was contextual but it was also structural: he very literally did not know how much information to present about each article in the first paragraph. He fluctuated between two sentence paragraphs in which he only partially introduced some of the authors he was using to page-and-a-half accounts of every subject in each article under discussion. For instance, the second half of his rough draft for his last paper reads: …Faludi describes the Citadel which is a private military college. She writes about the fourth-class system in which the cadets are ranked from freshman to seniors with freshman being the bottom of the food chain. With this, she discusses the freshman hazing that takes place, and the bond between the cadets. She also writes about how women do not play a large part in cadet’s lives, but the cadets fill their place. This leads to why the men to not want women to join. It also shows a woman’s point-of-view when she is accepted and then rejected when it is found out that she is female. Faludi ends by writing about the cadets dating cross dressers from a local bar” (student paper 2,3).
Clearly, this introduction of Faludi is entirely limited to summary, and includes mention of topics Dave did not intend to analyze in the rest of the paper. His...
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