Questions I wish I would think to ask.

Why is it always AFTER an interview that you think of the great answer that would have landed you the job, or AFTER an exam that you think of the evidence that would have clinched your argument?  Well, this is the start of my ongoing list of – now pre-planned – questions that I wish I would ask DURING my Mentoring sessions.  Some of them I already do, some of them I hope I will!  Please feel free to add to this yourself too.

dog_question

Opening the conversation:

    • Are you enjoying your studies?
    • What would you like to discuss today?
    • Do you have the work/assignment details with you? When’s the deadline?
    • What have you done so far?
    • Which aspect would you like to focus on first? (This is especially helpful when a Writer comes with lots of issues in mind.)
  • Starting a topic (especially if the Writer’s not sure how to begin):
    • What DON’T you want to talk about in this essay?
    • What do you think is the best way to NOT start this project?
    • Can you mind map or list a few ideas of how a student might go about this project, from being first handed the assignment in the lecture?
    • Is there any small job you can start with that is remotely likeable?
    • Can you imagine how it will feel pulling an all-nighter right before the deadline because you still haven’t started?
  • What’s the question asking?
    • I’m new to this topic, can you explain it to me please?
    • Have you revised your lecture notes to see if those are any help?
    • Can you break it down into smaller parts?
  • Resource problems:
    • Have you had a look in the library?
    • What searches have you done on the library catalogue?
    • Have you tried looking at your textbook’s bibliography?
    • What does Google say?
  • Planning:
    • So you have no idea AT ALL about what to write? (Said right, this always results in a laugh, and the beginnings of a dialogue!)
    • How do you think you will begin? Will you start with a conclusion or a middle, for example?
    • Have you drafted a plan? Would you like to start now?
    • How is your timetable looking?
    • What does writing mean to you? Is it something you do after reading and note-taking, or something you do as you go along to organise your thoughts?
    • Can you use colours, mind maps, or post-it notes round your room to organise your thoughts?

garfield

  • Drifting from the question:
    • How does this support your argument?
    • Why are you telling me, the reader, this?
    • If you could only make three points in this essay, what would those be?
    • Have you considered writing in bullet points first, then writing those up?
    • Can you tell me what this is about in just one sentence?
  • Referencing/plagiarism:
    • What is a reference for?
    • Have you ever used references before as a reader? If so, what information would you like to find there?
    • How would you feel if your work was used and not referenced?
    • When you read your textbooks, can you see how the author references literature?
  • Personal issues (e.g. finding time to study, boyfriend trouble):
    • How does that make you feel?
    • How do you think that might impact on your studies?
    • What would you advise a friend to do in a similar situation?
    • Can you come up with three ideas of how to improve the situation so that you can continue studying successfully?
    • Is this something you feel you need to talk to someone about? (So that I can signpost.)
  • Lack of signposts:
    • Could you read this out for me/talk me through this essay please?
    • I’m confused: when are you changing topic? How are you doing that?
    • If the University removed all of its signs, and there was nobody about to ask, how would a new student find their way around? How do you think that might apply for your essay?
    • When you read books and papers, what do you hope for from the writing, especially if it’s a brand new subject for you?
    • Have you ever read a bad piece of writing that has no structure to it, or a great piece that guides you through it?
    • Do the ideas in your introduction match those of your conclusion?
  • No evidence of an opinion/argument:
    • So what do YOU think about this topic? What’s your opinion of all this?
    • Do you agree with this argument?
    • Is it important for a reader like me to know that you (dis)agree?
    • How have you balanced both sides of the argument?
  • When asked for confirmation on a fact or idea:
    • Well what do you think? Do YOU think this is the right idea?
  • Trouble finishing the project:
    • Have you had a break?
    • Have you tried writing in a different location, or time of day?
    • Do you have an understanding friend who will let you chat to them about this topic?
    • Have you tried reading a new book on the topic for more inspiration?
    • Is there a small reward you can promise yourself for finishing?
  • When asked to proofread:
    • What particular parts of language are you concerned about? Can you show me some of your writing?
    • What do you think you should change it to?
    • Can you spot any errors in this sentence? (I can see five.)
    • Now you understand the rule, how will you amend the next sentence?
  • Interpreting feedback:
    • Does it make sense to you?
    • How might you apply this advice?
    • Can you understand how your Tutor, as a reader, feels?
    • Have you spoken to your Tutor about this?
  • Confidence boost:
    • What do YOU think?
    • Have you chatted to a friend about this topic?
    • You’re doing so well with this, what do you need me for? (Must be said with a smile!)
  • Closing the conversation:
    • How do you feel now?
    • What will you do next?
    • Would you like another session, (or offer time to think about the topic more first, if the Writer seems to hesitate)?

frog

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