Directiveness in tutor talk




Directiveness, Non-directiveness, Macro-pragmatics, Micro-pragmatics, Writing centres, Writing consultations, Writing tutors


The reigning orthodoxy in writing centres has been to avoid directive approaches and embrace non-directive approaches to tutoring. Although this ‘myth has been debunked by various writing centre scholars since the late 1990s, many guidebooks on tutoring still adhere to it. We believe that theory-led empirical research on tutor approaches and actions is necessary to demonstrate the situation-dependent efficacy of directive approaches, and thereby dispel the myth that a peer role is preferred to a teacherly role. This paper starts addressing the need for theory-led empirical research on directiveness by applying theories of linguistic pragmatics to analyze writing centre consultations, and assist writing centre tutors to develop a critical awareness of both their actions and students’ responses. First, an overview is given of the description of directiveness in the writing centre literature. This is followed by an overview of micro- and macropragmatic theories on speech acts in linguistics, and suggestions on how they may be applied to better understand the role of directiveness in writing centre consultations. This is followed by an overview of present research project, and an analysis of two excerpts (speech events) from a particular consultation. The article is concluded by a reflection on the findings, and suggestions are made on how to apply them towards improving writing centre pedagogy at the institution where the research was  conducted.


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Author Biography

Avasha Rambiritch, University of Pretoria, South Africa

Avasha Rambiritch is a lecturer in the Unit for Academic Literacy at the University of Pretoria where she teaches a number of academic literacy and academic writing modules at undergraduate and postgraduate level. She is also the co-coordinator of the writing centre. She has a PhD in Applied Linguistics (Language Practice) and has published eight research articles in accredited journals, as well as co-authored an article in a book published by a reputable international publisher. Her research interests include academic writing, writing centres and social justice as well as language testing.



How to Cite

Carstens, A., & Rambiritich, A. (2021). Directiveness in tutor talk. Perspectives in Education, 39(3), 151-168.



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