For Faculty

January 3, 2008 | 2 Comments

Contact Mary Ellen Bertolini for a list of Trained Peer Writing Tutors

Just as faculty benefit from having their peers read their work prior to publication, so too, students benefit from having their work read by their peers before it is graded. In both cases, the readers bring their experience as writers of the same sort of works–to their experience as critical readers. Peer writing tutors can continue the conversation professors have with their students about writing. Peer Writing Tutors do not help students with writing in place of the professor but in addition to the professor. Tutors are trained to be the authorized help for students, to ask probing questions about the papers they read, and to make positive suggestions for improvement of those papers.

Sessions work best

  • When the tutor has a clear idea of the professor’s writing expectations for students,
  • When students in the class see the sessions with the tutor as an important part of the writing process for all students in the class, and
  • When the professor emphasizes the importance of those sessions by making them mandatory.

Best Practices

  • Meet with your peer writing tutor early in the semester or before the beginning of the semester.
  • Give a copy of your class syllabus to your peer writing tutor.
  • Make your expectations clear to the writing tutor and to your class.
  • Introduce your writing tutor to your class.
  • Make at least some sessions with the writing tutor obligatory.
  • Encourage your writing tutor to circulate a list of specific appointment times before meetings.
  • Allow your writing tutor ample time to meet with your students.
  • Stay in contact with your writing tutor through meetings, emails, and phone.
    FYSE & CW Faculty Speak:

    I have had the tutor in class for writing workshops and also meeting one-on-one with the students outside the class. The combination works well because the tutor knows what I am looking for, and the students trust the tutor.

    I think the one-on one contact was helpful.

    The interaction with the writing tutor makes [students] realize the importance of clarity and coherence . . . I discussed this with the tutor at the beginning of the semester.

    The tutor was very useful as another voice to provide students with feedback . . . I also think that students were able to talk more candidly about the writing process [with the tutor].

    The individual meetings got good feedback from most students.

    I think that having an independent relationship between the students and the tutor works best.

    The peer writing sessions enable the college writing students to have additional early feedback on an initial draft or key portion of their papers.”

    [The writing tutor] can both model a writing process and the importance of giving feedback on writing.

    One professor offers advice to her peer writing tutors:CWW’s advice to PWTs. You might find it useful to see how she directs the interaction between her tutors and the students in her class.



    1) Peer tutors assigned to writing intensive courses may work up to 60 hours during the semester. Those hours may be distributed among the following paid activities: attending classes, attending scheduled meetings with the instructor (scheduled Writing Program meetings are also paid but do not count in the 60-hour limit), conferring with students on their writing outside of class time.

    2) It is the responsibility of the writing tutor to keep a record of hours worked and to submit time on Banner and log sheets every two weeks to the Head Peer Writing Tutor (Sarah Franco).

    3) The instructor and the tutor should meet regularly to share insights and to coordinate their roles and their expectations. Before the tutor meets with students to confer on writing, both the instructor and the tutor should agree on the tutor’s role in the conference, the kinds of comments the tutor should offer, the kinds of feedback the instructor would like at the end of the conferences.

    4) The instructor should introduce the peer writing tutor to the class during the first week of the semester and make it clear to the students how and when they should consult with the tutor. Since the students who most need help are sometimes the most reluctant to seek it, the instructor might make it mandatory for all students to see the writing tutor on, for example, the first one or two assignments.

    5) Writing tutors should set limits on when they will tutor, and make those limits clear to the students (no 4 a.m. calls, no papers an hour before they are due).

    6) Writing tutors are more like gardeners than like plumbers: it is their job to grow writers rather than to fix papers. The pen, pencil or keyboard should be in the hands of the writer, not of the tutor. The tutor’s most useful tool is the ability to ask probing questions.

    7) Tutors should not grade writing, nor should they comment on the instructor’s grades in conferences with students. Tutors are coaching rather than evaluating; they should always encourage students to take their questions or complaints about grades directly to the instructor.

    8) All writing tutors are required to attend scheduled (and paid) Writing Program training meetings during the semester they are tutoring. Failure to attend meetings will cause the tutor to be dropped from the program. Writing Program meeting time is NOT counted as part of the 60 hours maximum paid tutoring time.

    Instructors: choose the tutor from among your majors/advisees. Ideally it would be a student who has taken the course, or a similar course, with you, has written for you, and understands your expectations. We will work on the student’s tutoring skills in weekly Writing Program meetings beginning the second week of classes.


2 Comments so far

  1. Catharine Wright on September 21, 2004 1:40 pm

    This is such a thorough, helpful resource. I’m linking this to the Teaching Resources page in the CTLR site right now. I hope it works to link directly to this entry!

    In the future I think we should make this directly off the main menu of the ctlr site. Do you agree?

  2. Mary Ellen on September 21, 2004 4:39 pm

    Yes, definitely!

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