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Hume Center as Support for ELLs

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The Hume Center plays a crucial role in supporting the development of English language learners' writing and communication skills. In many ways, Hume is the ideal place for language learners to receive support throughout their time at Stanford for these reasons:

  1. Hume provides intense individual attention. In few other arenas at Stanford can students get this degree of one-on-one attention focused on the student's learning goals.
  2. Tutorials focus on rhetorical context. As Ilona Leki states, "Writing centers may be the ideal learning environment for students whose first or strongest language is not English: one-on-one, context rich, highly focused on specific current writing need, and offering the possibility of negotiation of meaning" (1). Hume tutorials allow students to critically assess the rhetorical situation of a given assignment in relation to their own writing experiences and challenges.
  3. Hume tutorials are interactive. Students are active participants in Hume tutorials. The interactive style of Hume tutorials reinforce learner autonomy—the ownership of one's own language learning, which is seen as pivotal in achieving fluency. In addition, through Hume sessions, students learn strategies for revision and self-editing.
  4. Hume connects students' writing experiences across their academic courses. While individual courses are terminal, students can visit Hume throughout their time at Stanford. Hume thus invites students to think about the transferability of writing skills. According to Talinn Phillips, “the writing center has the potential to bridge writing contexts for second language writers as they move from intensive English courses or non-existent writing backgrounds into their individual disciplines" (28).
  5. Hume provides a nurturing, low-stakes environment. English language learners often overly focus on errors and their own sense of deficiency. Because their participation is Hume tutorials is voluntary and not a formally assessed act, ELLs can learn to approach writing in a more relaxed state—which is key to successful language development.  As Muriel Harris and Tony Silva note, writing center instruction "casts no aspersions on the adequacy of the classroom or the ability of the student" (525).
  6. Hume invites the formation of socioacademic relationships. In a study of undergraduate English language learners, Ilona Leki found that the formation of socioacademic relationships is  key to language learners' success (Undergraduates in a Second Language 262). In fact, in some cases, students could not experience progress in language development until they had formed this sort of relationship. Socioacademic relationships are not permanent friendships or even relationships that extend beyond an individual academic context, but are rather constituted by regular, comfortable interactions with another individual in an academic environment. For many language learners, working with a Hume tutor constitutes a socioacademic relationship. ELLs' ability to discuss their academic anxieties and successes in a comfortable environment at Hume provides the stability that Leki argues is necessary for academic growth. T.E.A—Thursday English Afternoons—is also a great way for international students to form socio-academic relationships.


Harris, Muriel and Tony Silva. Tutoring ESL Students: Issues and Options.” College Composition and Communication 44. 4 (1993): 525-537.

Leki, Ilona. Undergraduates in a Second Language: Challenges and Complexities of Academic Literacy Development. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2007.

Phillips, Talinn. Examining Bridges, Expanding Boundaries, Imagining New Identities: The Writing Center as Bridge for Second Language Graduate Writers. Diss. Ohio U, 2008.