Editor’s note: Dear CWCAB is a new feature that provides answers and updates to perennially asked questions. Dr. Stacia Moroski-Rigney will search WCenter archives, journal articles, and Facebook groups and reach out to “experts” to give brief answers and provide further resources. Over time, Moroski-Rigney looks forward to the blog becoming a clearinghouse, centralizing a curated list of answers and resources for new WC administrators and for those starting new projects.
The Summary and Better Practices
As a new or new-ish WC director, most of us have this question… unless we’ve inherited a class! The top answers are also listed below. Perhaps the most common strategy is to plan regular staff meetings with readings or presentations assigned beforehand. (Keep in mind that, ethically, most researchers agree that tutors should be paid for their prep time and time spent in meetings as well. If you don’t have the funds to do so, look below for more ideas.)
The best advice is–don’t let yourself be frustrated. At some universities/schools, there is no place within the curriculum for a class on tutoring writing. At some universities, accreditation takes every spare credit hour for some of our students, and they can’t add another class. At other schools, adding a course to the curriculum is a years-long process of approval.
Tutor training can happen in many ways. Below you’ll see advice, books, articles, and additional resources to get you started on your path to the answer that works for you and your institution.
Most Common Strategies
- Pre-semester meetings or retreats
- Readings for regular staff (weekly/bi-weekly/monthly) meetings
- Paid hours for professional development (readings, webinars, workshops, speakers, conferences, videos, blogs, etc…)
- A monitored always-open online chat
- A one-credit hour or paid practicum
- Peer mentor groups or partners
- Read tutor training course syllabi online for more ideas
A CURATED LIST OF RESOURCES
Melissa Ianetta: “My first answer: I would agitate ceaselessly for a credit bearing class until I got it. (Teaching the first one at Georgia Tech right now. W00T!) My second, perhaps more useful, answer is: Development needs to be ongoing for us all. Thus, were I unable to offer a credit-bearing class, I’d probably do more of what we currently do for ongoing development: LMS website where tutors are expected to complete modules, paid time dedicated to professionalization and support for conference participation. Especially at the regional level because it’s a bargain, fiscally speaking.”
Karen Johnson: “When a credit-bearing class is not possible, you can efficiently provide just-in-time educational opportunities for your tutors. One way to generate ideas about how to teach tutors about topics you deem important is to go to the WLN archives and use the search engine. Go to https://wlnjournal.org/archives.php and type in words that reflect the educational session you’d like to provide. The search engine will generate the appropriate scholarly articles, book chapters, and blog posts related to your topic. Browse through the resources to select the ones that fit your need, read through the ideas, and create your own educational session, adapting authors’ suggestions to meet your desired learning outcomes.”
Michael Pemberton: “Though I’ve usually been able to offer a “Tutoring Writing” course for prospective tutors, enrollment in face-to-face classes has taken a big hit in the last couple years, so I’ve had to adopt alternative training approaches. Our initial training takes place in a full-day orientation meeting before the beginning of the fall semester, which is when new tutors generally begin work. Then, I conduct ongoing training and professional development in our biweekly staff meetings. I typically send the tutors a current article or chapter about writing center work (tutoring online, working with international students, anti-racist tutoring strategies, etc.) and we discuss them seminar-style in our meetings.”
Floyd Pouncil: “In my experience working with peer and professional tutors, it is important to redefine or reiterate the environment surrounding your training on a regular basis. Writing center leadership must fight for competitive pay, job security, and individualized professional development for their staff. Because tutor training can take shape in many ways outside of a credit bearing course (which is, arguably, unethical given the circumstances around recruiting staff/curricula outside of English/writing majors), no one should work for free or less than their time is worth if you create non-course training programs. Our job as writing center leaders is to advocate and get our people paid—well!”
WCenter Searchable Archives Advice
- “A concern that I have about tutor training courses is that they potentially exclude students from marginalized communities who would be interested in joining your team, but need to support themselves financially while in school. A perk of pre-semester plus in-semester training is that this time can be paid, instead of students having to pay you (pay for the credits) for the training you are providing.” Rebecca Tedesco, 11-15-21
- “In communicating with others, I reorganized some things in the share folder (http://bit.ly/ActiveLearningToolKit) for tutor training activities. I added other institutions’ activities as well, so it’s all in there to view. This folder can be viewed by everyone and you can add or download the materials in there to share with others.” Ashley Cerku, 11-7-19
- The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors, eds. Leigh Ryan and Lisa Zimmerelli
- ESL Writers, A Guide for Writing Tutors, eds. Shanti Bruce and Ben Rafoth
- How We Teach Writing Tutors. Digital Collaboration in Writing Center Scholarship, eds. Karen Gabrielle Johnson and Ted Roggenbuck
- The Online Writing Conference: A Guide for Teachers and Tutors, eds. Beth L Hewett and Michael Pemberton
- The Oxford Guide for Writing Tutors, eds. Melissa Ianetta and Lauren Fitzgerald
The Book Chapters
- “Noticing’ Language in the Writing Center: Preparing Writing Center Tutors to Support Graduate Multilingual Writers.” Michelle Cox, et al. in Re/Writing the Center: Approaches to Supporting Graduate Students in the Writing Center, eds. Susan Lawrence and Terry Meyers Zawacki, University Press of Colorado, 2018, 146–62.
- “Separation, Initiation, and Return: Tutor Training Manuals and Writing Center Lore.” Harvey Kail in Center Will Hold, eds. Michael A. Pemberton and Joyce Kinkead, University Press of Colorado, 2003, 74–95.
- “Training Peer Tutors for the Secondary School Writing Center,” Elizabeth Ackley in The High School Writing Center: Establishing and Maintaining One, ed. Pamela B. Farrell, NCTE, 1989, 65-72.
- “Always in Beta: Incorporating Choice and Encouraging a Sense of Ownership by Revamping Tutor Training in a Secondary School Writing Center.” Connecting Writing Centers Across Borders, Brian Hotson, 7/10/18,
- “Empowering the Process: Redefining Tutor Training Towards Embodied Restorative Justice,” The Peer Review, 4.2, Rachel Robinson, Shelby LeClair, and Floyd Pouncil
- “Introducing Case Scenario/Critical Reader Builder: Creating Computer Simulations to Use in Tutor Education,” The Writing Lab Newsletter, vol. 38, no. 1-2, pp. 1-4, Brad Hughes and Melissa Tedrowe
- “Lessons of Inscription: Tutor Training and the ‘Professional Conversation.’” The Writing Center Journal, vol. 19, no. 2, 1999, pp. 59–83, Peter Vandenberg,
- “Neither Brave nor Safe: Interventions in Empathy for Tutor Training,”The Peer Review, 1:2, Fall 2017, Lana Oweidat and Lydia McDermott
- “Training Tutors in Emotional Intelligence: Toward a Pedagogy of Empathy.” The Writing Lab Newsletter, vol. 33.2, Noreen Lape.
- “Twenty-First Century Writing Center Staff Education: Teaching and Learning towards Inclusive and Productive Everyday Practice.” The Writing Center Journal, vol. 35, no. 1, Writing Center Journal, 2015, pp. 17–55, Sarah Blazer,
- “Questioning in Writing Center Conferences.” The Writing Center Journal, vol. 33, no. 2, Temporary Publisher, 2014, pp. 37–70, Isabelle Thompson and Jo Mackiewicz,
The Multimedia Resources
What Have I Missed? What are concerns in your LOCAL contexts? Where should we be looking? Please share in the comments!
About the Author
Dr. Stacia Moroski-Rigney is the new Director of Accreditation, Program Review, and Assessment at Michigan State University. She is also an affiliate graduate faculty member in Writing, Rhetoric, and Cultures (WRAC). Stacia co-authored The Pop Culture Zone: Writing about Popular Culture (1st ed.), contributed a chapter to COMPbiblio: Leaders and Influences in Composition Theory and Practice, and published articles in WLN and in SDC: A Journal of Multiliteracy and Innovation. She is a former President of SWCA, a former co-chair of the IWCA Summer Institute, and a former writing center administrator at Middle Tennessee State University and Lipscomb University. Stacia also works as a consultant for universities in first-year experience, writing programs, assessment, and writing centers.