It was requested that I introduce a separate question/proposal so that members of the community could discuss the practicality of a tag such as (tutoring) . I propose a (tutoring) tag that would indicate a more specific type of approach towards responding to a question.

~Thank you

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  • $\begingroup$ Mmmm... meta-tags. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mar 9 '13 at 14:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Asaf: Well, we already have 'homework', right? But yeah, I do rather doubt this proposal will be acceptable, though I wish that were not the case. $\endgroup$ – Tara B Mar 9 '13 at 14:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Tara: And we have big-list, soft-question and reference-request too. But meta tags are generally bad. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mar 9 '13 at 14:35
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    $\begingroup$ Can you provide some some of idea of what "more specific type of approach towards responding to a question" would be indicated by the inclusion of this proposed tag? $\endgroup$ – user642796 Mar 9 '13 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Asaf: Hmm, I don't really think of reference-request as a meta-tag. $\endgroup$ – Tara B Mar 9 '13 at 15:02
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    $\begingroup$ @Tara: And whose fault is this? :-) But more seriously, the reference request tag is a meta-tag because it indicates that the OP is looking for a reference, it does not indicate what is the topic of the actual reference. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mar 9 '13 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila: Right, I see. $\endgroup$ – Tara B Mar 9 '13 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ The "meta-tags" in faq $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Mar 9 '13 at 15:09
  • $\begingroup$ @ArthurFischer Any sort of response that elicits, or attempts to elicit the higher faculties of thought from the questioner's part, about their question. Open-ended questions, wisdom about the particular question or subject at hand, hints, or even partial answers are some suggestions. Use your imagination. $\endgroup$ – Rustyn Mar 9 '13 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Arthur: You give quite a few answers that I think would qualify; this is one, for instance. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Mar 9 '13 at 19:27
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    $\begingroup$ I'm pretty agnostic about this proposal so far, but I do strongly feel that a meta-tag such as this should be well-defined before being added. I still don't feel that it has been carved out enough for me to vote one way or the other. (As an aside, I'll take whatever compliments I receive from @Brian as praise from Caesar himself!) $\endgroup$ – user642796 Mar 9 '13 at 20:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Arthur: Did you just call Brian a crazy megalomaniac who will soon take over this republic and become its emperor? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mar 9 '13 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Asaf: Trust me, I’m not Norton II! $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Mar 9 '13 at 21:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Brian: Hah! That's a lovely slice of history. I was more worried that you'll go Nero, rather than going Norton though. :-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mar 9 '13 at 21:14

I think there will probably be a lot of objection to this idea, because this is apparently supposed to be a question-and-answer site rather than a tutoring site. But the fact is that it can be and is used for something more in the style of tutoring, and this is something I would like to see a lot more of, because I only participate here in the hope of helping people (and very occasionally getting some help myself) and it saddens me that so much of what goes on here is probably very far from helpful to the people asking questions.

I strongly support the idea of such a tag (I'm not quite sure what the best name for it is - 'tutoring' could sound a little as if it might be for questions about how to tutor maths, and it seems we can't expect people to read the tag wiki).

How I envision it working is that it would be used by people who specifically want to be guided towards a solution rather than having it handed to them all in one go. Ideally we would be able to somehow make it very clear that it is unacceptable to simply provide an answer to a question with this tag. It would also be nice for the sake of those who care about reputation$^*$ if people would vote on answers to questions with this tag based on the entire interaction rather than just the body of the initial answer.
Answering a question in more of a 'tutoring' style can take more thought and time-commitment than even a long 'straight answer', so I suppose it'd be nice to have this sort of interaction appreciated more.
This style of answering my also result in a final answer by the OP, and it'd be nice for this to receive some upvotes as well if it's correct, even if it may not be as well-written as most answers on this site.

This is far from a perfect solution to the "curtailing of students' potential" Rustyn has expressed concern about, since this tag would be used completely voluntarily by the asker. But it would at least help us not to rob a student of the greater learning opportunity of coming to the answer partially by themselves when they specifically don't want this to happen.

$^*$(I don't, although I do somewhat mind unexplained downvotes.)

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  • $\begingroup$ I like this in principle, though i think it would be difficult to make work on a large scale given the design of the site. The comment space makes it difficult for multiple threads of conversation to go on simultaneously (seemingly by design), for one. I have no experience with chat (the interface seems quite cumbersome), But that may be one outlet. It also requires a certain disposition on the part of the person seeking help. That said, as an answerer, even now, on rare occasions you get lucky. $\endgroup$ – cardinal Mar 9 '13 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ @cardinal: I'm definitely more concerned about it from the askers' perspective. Fairly frequently full answers are given even when only a hint was asked for. $\endgroup$ – Tara B Mar 9 '13 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ Dear @TaraB: Yes, I understand. My comment was intended from that perspective as well, even if, by the end, it didn't seem like it. :-) $\endgroup$ – cardinal Mar 9 '13 at 16:42
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    $\begingroup$ @cardinal What's wrong with it beginning as a small dialogue in the comments and then at some point, (if necessary), the: "let us continue this discussion in chat" option. $\endgroup$ – Rustyn Mar 9 '13 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ @cardinal: Once you install the MathJax bookmarklet, chat isn’t too bad, provided that only one discussion is taking place, with a severely limited number of participants, and the site architecture does support private rooms. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Mar 9 '13 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Rustyn: The main problem with this is the current reputation requirement for chatting. $\endgroup$ – Tara B Mar 9 '13 at 19:27
  • $\begingroup$ Hi @Brian: Thanks. Yes, I have robjohn's very nifty bookmarklet. I've entered the chat a few times on purpose and probably more times on accident. I think navigating through it could be more intuitive, though it's relatively painless via the "let us continue this discussion in chat" link. I wholeheartedly agree that it would be hard to manage several people simultaneously trying to engage the OP in this manner through comments or chat. That was one aspect of what I was attempting to express in my first comment. :-) $\endgroup$ – cardinal Mar 9 '13 at 19:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Brian: And, I should probably be a little more adventurous. :-) $\endgroup$ – cardinal Mar 9 '13 at 19:32
  • $\begingroup$ @cardinal: I know it from experience in the main MSE chat room: there’s nothing quite like trying to follow four separate conversations going on simultaneously, even with the feature that lets you link a post to the one to which you’re responding! $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Mar 9 '13 at 19:32
  • $\begingroup$ @cardinal Why is it that several people are engaging the OP and not just one? After all, this sort of thing isn't for reputation and it's not like there'd be community members slobbering over being the first one to tutor the OP. $\endgroup$ – Rustyn Mar 9 '13 at 19:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Rustyn: I’ve seen it happen when people ask a question in the main MSE chat room. There was also, for a while, a room set up for someone who was working through Just & Weese’s set theory text, and several of us were helping with the discussions there. That one worked reasonably well: we were all pretty good about not getting in one another’s way. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Mar 9 '13 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ @TaraB I don't forsee a problem... Comments should be ample enough. I don't understand how anyone who actually wants tutoring would need a massive dialogue. $\endgroup$ – Rustyn Mar 9 '13 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ @BrianM.Scott Well as long as the slobbering tutors don't get in each other's way... $\endgroup$ – Rustyn Mar 9 '13 at 19:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Rustyn: It happens sometimes, if the OP has a blind spot. Or if the person answering the question has a blind spot: see this embarrassing chain of comments. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Mar 9 '13 at 19:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Brian: You never visited big chatrooms in the early days of the internet, or IRC chats, have you? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mar 9 '13 at 19:52

I see a basic problem with the proposed tag: Who will add the [tutoring] tag to a question? That is, how can we know if tutoring-style answers are desirable for a question? This seems difficult for anyone else to judge unless the asker explicitly says so. Already we have the situation that it is deemed inappropriate for anyone but the asker to add the [homework] tag, and it's likely that the same objections will be raised for [tutoring].

So it's not at all clear to me what benefit this tag will provide. For questions that clearly ask for hints and guidance, tagging it [tutoring] adds no information. For questions that are essentially pasted from an exercise and provide little further context, there will be debates and friction in the comments about whether or not the tag should be added; meanwhile both full answers and tutoring attempts will continue to be posted. Compared to what happens at present, the only difference is the addition of comment drama.

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    $\begingroup$ Certainly if such a tag were to be introduced, it should only ever be added by the asker. I don't think this would be at all likely to cause as much 'comment drama' as with the homework tag. $\endgroup$ – Tara B Mar 10 '13 at 19:43

this is not useful as a tag, but it is a good idea that people ask for the type of help they want. In fact this already happens sometimes so no change is needed.

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    $\begingroup$ Unfortunately people are not always given the type of help they ask for. I've seen numerous examples of very detailed hints when all that was asked for was a hint to help with getting started. Of course I don't believe just adding a new tag will fix that. $\endgroup$ – Tara B Mar 10 '13 at 19:45

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