Sample Results PWTARP

The most comprehensive report on our findings appears in this article–

Hughes, Bradley, Paula Gillespie, and Harvey Kail. “What They Take with Them: Findings from the Peer Writing Tutor Alumni Research Project.” The Writing Center Journal 30.2 (2010): 12-46. Print.

From a high school English teacher:

1.) What are the most significant or meaningful skills, values, or qualities you developed in your work as a writing tutor? Please list them. For those you deem most important, could you illustrate by an episode or event that took place during your time as a tutor or a trainee?

  • Processing Skills – As a student, listening and writing were commonly practiced skills – I listened to the professor and copied down notes of profundity, only to review these proverbial phrases before writing a paper or studying for a test. When did I have or take the time to process what the professor taught me? And would I even know how to practice this skill? Being a tutor at the Writing Center forced me to practice the skill of processing. A writer would read, speak, and verbally brainstorm, as I would take notes on his ideas; however, I didn’t have the luxury of setting these notes aside only to return to them at a time of convenience and analytical readiness. I had to find and practice a skill that would fall between that time of listening and responding, but one that would have to be practiced almost simultaneously with both of these skills. Working at the Writing Center educated me in how to listen while simultaneously processing the information, analyzing what I bring to what I have just heard as much as what I have taken from it. The processing needs to be immediate and thorough, as well as effective in facilitating an analytical response.
  • Meta-communication Skills – While working at the Writing Center allowed me to practice professional discussion, as an extrovert and a pretty articulate person, I don’t think I was in much need of verbal language and presentation skills. However, working at the Writing Center aided me in developing my oral communication skills in that I was able to practice communicating about communicating. The written text is a concrete form of communication, and in tutoring sessions, it was my job to analyze this communication, while communicating to the writer about this communication. Verbally explaining written text was a challenge with which I was unfamiliar. I recall my early writing center days when I assumed the writer understood my verbal explanation of the written text – I moved too quickly and lacked thoroughness in my communicating about what was being communicated. As I progressed as a tutor, however, I noticed how developed I was becoming in my communication skills – communicating about communicating is one of the fundamental skills I use as a teacher. That ability to unite text and voice in explanation was one of the most significant skills I developed at the Writing Center .
  • Adaptation in Explanation – I tutored students who varied in level from PhD candidates to freshmen who didn’t know the essentials of grammar. No experience better prepared me for teaching than working at the Writing Center . It helped me develop as a teacher in that it made me aware of and conscious about what vocabulary was appropriate for what teaching strategy, what explanation technique was effective for what level of understanding, what analogy was productive for what experience, what pace and review was necessary for what kind of student, and what kind of connection needed to be established between tutor and student to make this a constructive and valuable session.

From a newspaper writer:

1.) What are the most significant or meaningful skills, values, or qualities you developed in your work as a writing tutor? Please list them. For those you deem most important, could you illustrate by an episode or event that took place during your time as a tutor or a trainee?

The most significant skills / qualities I developed in my work as a writing tutor are as follows: patience and listening skills, candor / directness, and problem-solving abilities. I like the question’s use of the word “develop” because none of these skills come easily to me, although tutoring gave me the opportunity to work with some intensity to begin to acquire them. Tutoring helped me to develop patience in the sense that I had to curb my nervous energy and SLOW DOWN to allow students to answer my questions and/or work through problems on their own. I had to listen to students, both what they were saying and what they weren’t , in order to get a clear sense of their needs and come up with a way to help. I worked on candor in the sense that I had to reflect to my tutees (through my questioning) my sense of the weaknesses in their papers, a task which was difficult for me, especially as an undergraduate. Finally, at the same time that it put me in the position of telling tutees things they might not like to hear (i.e., your paper needs work), tutoring helped me to develop problem-solving skills, to assist students in devising plans for revision.

In response to current survey question #2–Of the abilities, values, or skills that you listed above [in response to question #1], would you illustrate those that strike you as most meaningful by sharing an episode or event that took place during your time as a tutor or a trainee?

From a student who’d graduated three years before from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who’d been an undergraduate writing tutor for four semesters.  Was a communication arts and religious studies major at Wisconsin.  Currently an M.Div. graduate student.

Lots of little episodes and events come to mind, but what is most striking to me is all the opportunities that opened up!   In my internship on Wall Street between my junior and senior year, I was immediately funneled to the “content” division, entrusted with writing articles I knew *nothing* about, simply because the management had confidence in my ability to write.  During my year-long service in rural Idaho (AmeriCorps term), I gained a great deal of experience writing grants, and even coaching the District Court Judge on her writing . . . I remember one day I even sat down with her (a successful judge with much experience) and conducted what amounted to a WF [writing-fellows tutoring] session, helping her highlight her main idea, then critically examine how her sentence structures supported and/or detracted from that trajectory.   This year, as I finish my fourth semester in seminary, I specifically noticed on my written evaluations from faculty that they found my writing “deft” and “a pleasure.”  At my Field Education site (Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, largest Pres church in the Northeast), Dr. Tisdale (my supervisor), wrote in my evaluation that my writing was one of the biggest supporting components of my promise as a powerful preacher and teacher.  In pastoral care situations, especially in the context of an urban affluent congregation, my ability to carefully construct email communiqué has proved invaluable as well.

In response to these examples, a naysayer might claim, “well, I bet if you looked at her grades and academic evaluations before her experience in the Writing Fellows program, you’d see that writing and communicating has always been her strength.”  In a way, this might be a true.  However, I know for certain that before 316 [the training seminar for writing fellows at Madison] and grappling with my first “Fellowing” experiences, I did not have nearly the confidence I do now in looking at sentences, paragraphs, an entire paper as a whole and quickly evaluating strengths and weaknesses.  I did not necessarily feel equipped to help others with writing, nor did I have the security I now possess in accepting (eagerly!) criticism of my own writing from others!


In response to current survey question #5–Do any of the qualities you listed in question one play a role in your social or family relationships? Can you give an example?

From a student who’d graduated three years before from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Had majored in biological aspects of conservation and in English.  Had been an undergraduate writing tutor (a writing fellow) for six semesters.

Socially, I think that increases in listening skills, empathy, and the ability to put aside my agenda (a listening skill, really) have been important to me. I am not a good listener by nature and I struggle sometimes to understand where people are coming from and why they might feel the way that they do. Writing Fellows developed an awareness of these qualities in myself. I think that the relationship with my wife has been most positively affected by this awareness. We are both strong leaders and very opinionated, but we have worked in the eight years or so that we have been together on ways to communicate and listen.

Question # 1. What are the most significant abilities, values, or skills that you developed in your work as a peer writing tutor?

My time as a peer tutor honed my skills in being able to focus on the “heart” of a writing project, and to develop a writing strategy (mine and others’) of targeting a project to its intended audience–considering what information it is fair to consider as “common knowledge” and what arguments need to be made above and beyond that shared information. I developed methods of interviewing writers that led to discovering the purpose of the writing project. And I developed an internal value system that acknowledges the significance of all writing, and attributes all writing with recognition of its important status in the thought process.


Question # 3. Did those abilities, values or skills that you developed as a peer tutor seem to be a factor in your choice of job or graduate work? Would you elaborate?

As difficult as it is for me to conceive, almost 20 years have elapsed since my first stint as a peer tutor in the Writing Lab. What might be slightly less amazing is that, in many ways, the extraordinary experience that began in Neville Hall–of writing and talking about writing with other writers–never ended.

A few months after graduation, I landed a free-lance writing position at my hometown newspaper, and it wasn’t long before I was hired as a full-time copy editor. I found myself working with material of every imaginable level of quality, and with professional and amateur writers of varying degrees of talent. All the skills I had begun to hone with my peers at Orono would evolve into the tools I worked with every day in this ‘‘real world.’’

More than 18 years later, I can say that my professional life and my relationships to my peers have been shaped and, in large part, sustained by those same growing skills. I’m a better copy editor because I can talk to reporters (and photographers) about the ideas they’re trying to relate, and I can help them discover how to tell those stories more effectively. I’m a better headline writer because I can choose the words that convey the meaning of our shared knowledge and experience. I’m a better newspaper page designer because I can communicate the sum of that process–visually and literally–to readers.

No workday goes by, quite frankly, without some echo of what I learned as a peer tutor.