Date of Award

5-1-2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

English

First Advisor

Cogie, Jane

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to determine the roles that Native English speaking (NES) and non-native English speaking (NNES) tutors play in sessions with NES and NNES tutees in a U.S. Midwestern university's writing center, according to the perceptions of both types of tutors and tutees. The study also aimed to determine the extent to which the "native speaker fallacy"--the preference for anything related to native speakers over anything related to non-native speakers--was evident in these perceptions, particularly in tutoring strategies, difficulties in tutoring, and tutoring competence. The researcher collected data for the study from pre- and post-session interviews of both types of tutors and cross-analyzed coded patterns from this data with patterns found in pre- and post-session interviews of both types of tutees and with the researcher's observations of the participants' sessions. According to the research results, both tutors' and tutees' perceptions as expressed in their interviews were more affected by the tutors' status, NES versus NNES, than by specific qualifications of the tutors to assist tutees, with the responses revealing the participants' assumption of native speakers' superiority. Despite cross-analyzed findings that NNES tutors were perceived as more able to explain the causes of error, findings also revealed NES tutors' confidence in their NES status as compensating for their lack of grammar knowledge and NNES tutors' perception of themselves as inferior and needing to compensate for their non-NES status through teacher-like directness in assistance offered. Also, despite tutees' expressed appreciation for NNES tutors' explanations of errors, tutees still expressed a preference for NES tutors and applied a double standard, with NNES tutors seen as effective only if proved to be good writers and NES tutors assumed to be effective by virtue of their native speaker status. Drawing upon findings suggesting the influence of the native speaker fallacy on the participants' perceptions, the researcher concludes by discussing the significance of this study for identifying possible university initiatives to enhance appreciation of diverse cultures and for suggesting that although intrinsic knowledge of language seems preferred over learned knowledge, possessing both types of knowledge and the flexibility to employ more fluid roles as both peer and teacher would seem to equip tutors for more productive sessions.

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