Karen Johnson, Associate Professor at Shippensburg University, and Ted Roggenbuck, Associate Professor at Bloomsburg University, direct writing centers in the same state system. Over the past several years, they have collaborated to develop cross-institutional trainings and research. Their ongoing discussions and scholarship about educating writing tutors span several publications, conferences, and workshops, piquing their thirst for topics surrounding tutor education.
Key to our success in the important work of writing centers is our effectiveness in providing tutor education. Our field has over three decades of scholarship on how to educate writing tutors in a multitude of settings, but the wealth and variety of resources can create challenges for those seeking guidance. However, that we also have a number of excellent and popular (though not universally used) resources such as The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors, The Longman Guide to Peer Tutoring, and The Oxford Guide for Writing Tutors does suggest at least some consistency in how we educate tutors. But to what degree do we share core beliefs about tutor education, how do we know what aspects of our programs to prepare writing tutors are most effective, and to what areas are we not paying adequate attention? Moreover, what are effective contexts for educating tutors? Although credit-bearing courses appear to be ideal contexts for tutor education, what particular aspects of a course make it effective? And for directors who are unable to offer a course or even paid time for educating tutors, how can they effectively prepare tutors for the different rhetorical situations and writers they will encounter?
Despite our rich history and multiple resources for preparing tutors, our field has not yet scrutinized the scholarship to articulate best practices. Unlike our close disciplinary cousins in the field of content peer tutoring, we have neither established best practices for educating writing tutors nor provided large scale, evidence-based research that would empirically identify those best practices. In Researching the Writing Center, Rebecca Day Babcock and Terese Thonus (148-150) note the advantages peer tutoring research has over writing center research in that peer tutoring research has used meta-analyses as well as empirical and cross-institutional studies to develop standards for best practices. Although meta-analyses and empirically-based studies would be essential for developing core principles to guide writing tutor education, these types of evidence should also be balanced with the experience of knowledgeable practitioners. When discussing how the Council of Writing Program Administrators’ created the “NCTE Beliefs About the Teaching of Writing,” Linda Adler-Kassner explains that the development of core principles took place through a process that “represented best practice (research and experience) in the field and reflected input from members” (79). We consider her parenthetical definition of best practice important: Research and experience–not just research, and not just experience, but both. We also value the process she describes that reflects the knowledge and experience of the community.
Can writing centers distill from both our research and our experience core principles to guide our efforts in preparing our tutors? What content do we consider essential in educating our writing tutors, and what evidence do we have for believing it to be so? What are our most effective methods for educating writing tutors, and again, what evidence do we have to argue for their effectiveness? For this special WLN issue related to best practices in developing tutor education, its contents, and its delivery, we are soliciting essays that help us pursue these questions.
We encourage a wide variety of submissions, including but not limited to these starting points:
- What core principles can guide a director’s effort to prepare writing tutors? How do research and practice support these principles across a variety of missions and institutions?
- What essential behaviors, knowledge, and skills must writing tutors acquire through our education programs that can be applied across institutions? What experiences and research inform the identification of these outcomes?
- Which methods and contexts are most effective for educating writing tutors? Is a credit-bearing course the most effective venue for tutors to acquire strategies and knowledge? How should we collect and evaluate evidence to examine the effectiveness of our varied education programs?
- In what ways do writing tutor education programs differ from content tutor education programs? Are there significant differences between each program’s education strategies and content? How do we know whether or not our writing tutoring education programs are more effective than are content-area tutoring programs for educating our tutors to work with writers?
- Researchers in the field of peer tutoring have used individual studies and meta-analyses to generate “best learning assistance practices” (Babcock and Thonus 150). Knowing that best practices are developed from both experience and research as well as from input from invested members, what process could we develop to establish some best practices in our tutor education?
- Do tutoring organizations, such as the College Reading and Learning Association, the National College Learning Center Association, and the Association for the Tutoring Professional, provide sufficient certification models for writing tutors and centers? If so, why?
- Describe a certification model that would provide research-based standards for writing center pedagogy while allowing institutional flexibility for the diversity of writing centers. What would be the benefits and drawbacks of such a certification program?
- What are the reasons that the IWCA should not move toward standardization or support the development of a certification program?
- What role might nationally standardized assessment (not institution-specific plans) play in legitimizing our tutor education programs?
- Send article proposals (300-500 words) by January 1, 2017, to Karen Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org and Ted Roggenbuck at email@example.com. Please provide full contact information with your submission. In your proposal, clearly describe your focus, the theoretical and research base from which you will draw, and your plans for structuring a 3000-word article or a 1500-word essay for a Tutor’s Column (Works Cited and Notes included in the word count). If a number of quality proposals are received, a monograph may be published. Please note that articles accepted for the WLN may also be included in the monograph, and proposals for longer pieces may be considered for publication in the monograph.
- Invitations to submit full articles will be issued February 15, 2017, and invitations to submit a contribution to a monograph will be March 13, 2017.
- Manuscripts for WLN will be due June 1, 2017, and contributions to a monograph will be August 4, 2017.
- Adler-Kassner, Linda. The Activist WPA: Changing Stories about Writers and Writing. Utah State UP, 2008.
- Babcock, Rebecca Day, and Terese Thonus. Researching the Writing Center. New York: Lang, 2012. Print.
- Fitzgerald, Lauren, and Melissa Ianetta. The Oxford Guide for Writing Tutors: Practice and Research. Oxford UP, 2016.
- Gillespie, Paula, and Neal Lerner. The Longman Guide to Peer Tutoring. 2nd ed. Pearson Longman, 2008.
- Leigh, Ryan, and Lisa Zimmerelli. The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors. 6th ed. Bedford/St. Martins, 2016.