Harvey Kail, University of Maine
Paula Gillespie, Florida International University
Bradley Hughes, University of Wisconsin-Madison
If you have ever trained or supervised peer writing tutors or been a peer tutor yourself, you have probably noticed that tutoring is as beneficial for the tutor as it is for the writer, maybe even more beneficial. Collaborative learning really does seem to work in two directions, although not in entirely transparent ways. What interests us, and we hope what will interest you, is how significant the experience of collaborative learning is for peer tutors even after they graduate from college, leave the Writing Center or Writing Fellows Program behind, and plunge into their post-graduate lives. We recognized that something of real interest was going on in this regard because so many former peer tutors kept in touch with us over the years through letters, emails, and triumphant announcements about jobs, notices of publications or business openings, or a wedding or a birth. In a sense, all these messages said the same thing to us: for many of our former students, being a peer writing tutor was vitally important not only in their college education but in their life experience.
What, we wondered, do students take with them from their education and experience as peer writing tutors that would account for this continued engagement? We want to answer that question with as much specificity and depth as we can because we believe that something really special in higher education is going on in writing centers, where an innovative pedagogy of collaborative learning and teaching has been harnessed to provide access to the powerful resources of language. Answering this question in deep and systematic ways is what the Peer Writing Tutor Alumni Research Project (PWTARP) is all about.
Through this website, we want to share the methods we’ve developed and some of our results from years of working on this research. And we want to invite you to join us by conducting similar research with your own peer-tutor alumni and by sharing some of your research through this website (in the section titled “contributions from colleagues”). The survey has been designed so that you can add questions to it, questions that reflect issues of particular interest to you. This research project and this website are works in progress, and we hope that you will contribute to their development and to our understanding of what students carry with them into their lives as a result of their work with us, with student writers, and with each other.