USF Writing Studio

Compression Sessions: Managing Short Writing Consultations

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016 | Posted in Uncategorized by dmfarrar | No Comments »

When I first started Compression Sessions, I found them to be more stressful than the regular, fifty-minute appointments.  The Compression Sessions seemed rushed, and, in the allotted fifteen minutes per session, I felt like I wasn’t helping the writer in a significant way.  However, over the past few months, I’ve discovered some methods for ensuring that Compression Sessions are as productive as possible.

1. Manage expectations
This goes for both the consultant and the consultee.  As a consultant, you’re not going to be able to address every issue within an entire essay, and it takes some time to get comfortable with that idea.  Instead, focus on the most critical, pressing issue(s), as well as what the student wants addressed.

At the beginning of the session, it’s important to clarify what a compression session entails, and what the writer can realistically expect out of it.  Compression sessions are tailored to short documents, and specific issues.  Writers will bring in five or even ten page documents, so setting clear expectations initially can help lessen disappointment.

2. Don’t rush
It may seem paradoxical, but take your time.  If you gloss over a document quickly, it often becomes difficult to make any real improvements.  Instead, focus in on certain problem areas and go slowly.  Even if you and the consultee only get to a small portion of the paper, at least that portion will show true improvement.

3.  Cut down on intake and outtake
Usually, consultations start off with a review of the assignment, questions about the writer’s concerns, etc.  Luckily, we have an intake form.  This form helps focus the writer by asking them to choose one main issue to address.  It also helps to minimize intake time.

Similarly, the end of a standard session is reserved for outtake.  Even in a compression session, it’s important to leave the writer with some lasting takeaway of what to work on.  However, given the time constraints, outtake is an area that can be proportionally shortened.

4.  Manage disappointment
Sometimes, at the end of a session, a writer will be disappointed when they haven’t gotten through much of their document.  They might see an empty waiting area and ask if they can take the next session.  The answer, unfortunately, is no.  It’d make for an awkward situation if another student walked in a minute later for a session.  And ultimately, if the sessions are taking longer than fifteen minutes, the student brought in a document that would have been better suited to a full session.  When in doubt, blame it on the bosses!  Say something like, “Studio rules only allow for fifteen minute sessions.”  In the end, it’s not your job to justify the length of a session. 

Happy consulting!

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