Body Language: Unspoken Peer-to-Peer Communication

Even though a tutor may be emotionally invested in the session, not showing the other person through their body language has destructive potential.

By: Madeleine Van Delden (’20)
First-Year Tutor


Outside stakeholders often look at writing center work in its most basic and simple terms. However, the tutoring in a specific session can be very complex because every  writer is different. By looking at more basic differences between a student and a tutor such as English level, writing style, or even attitude, it is obvious that certain students may be more comfortable receiving help than others. This is why tutors need to adapt to their circumstances and tutoring sessions to make sure that the environment and the student is comfortable. No writing center tutor can be great, unless they gear the session towards what the other person’s wants and needs, focusing on what they are capable of achieving. Everyone has gotten stuck at some point in their writing and having someone, especially a person you would like help from, ignore your body language or signs of frustration and not be able to move on from the topic, sentence, or anything that is posing difficulty is disheartening. Not only is growth mindset applicable in this situation but basic human instinct and observation of the student to make sure they feel welcomed into the workspace.

Students feeling overwhelmed and embarrassed for seeking help should be greeted by support from each and every tutor in the room. Even though a tutor may be emotionally invested in the session, not showing the other person through their body language has destructive potential. For example, when a student is in a session and the tutor fails to maintain eye contact, they appear uninterested and look bored, which could impact that students attitude towards the writing center and sometimes writing itself. The tutor should not only be focused on what the student has to say but their body language should mirror their thoughts. To successfully get across the message of interest, nodding, smiling, or short responses that show your enthusiasm for the session can go a long way.

The article, “Holding Your Gaze: Non-Verbal Communication Strategies in Writing Center Work” by Brad Hughes, highlights these very issues throughout tutoring and show effective solutions, strategies, and practices for tutors to work on. The student’s needs should be the top priority in every session and a great technique for writing center’s to work on this would be to think about their intentions and priorities before starting a session. To my surprise, the article mentions tutors needing to implement self-restraint into their pedagogy and steer away from “clinical intuition.” When a tutor is knowledgeable of a certain topic or field, it is a possibility for their excitement to inhibit the ideas of others. Even though the tutor is engaged, they are engaged with the topic instead of the feelings, thoughts, or ideas from the person they are tutoring. Finding a happy medium of interest, practicing eye contact, and truly engaging in your session is proven to be an unbeatable Writing Center force.

Work Cited

Hughes, Brad, et al. “Holding Your Gaze: Non-Verbal Communication Strategies in Writing Center Work.” Another Word, University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center , 9 Apr. 2018.

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