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Writing Tutor Education Program

The Writing Center @ Penn State Learning believes that peer-to-peer collaboration is a foundational part of learning to become a better writer. We also believe that writers never stop learning, but instead develop more enhanced awareness and skills the more they practice. Our writing tutor education program builds on the rhetorical concepts that students are introduced to in the English Department’s Program in Writing and Rhetoric, and challenges students to apply that knowledge in tutoring situations. 

In class and training, conversations about writing support a process-oriented approach, and often focus on key elements of the rhetorical situation, including audience, purpose, genre, and medium. Tutors are trained to consider style and grammar within the context of a project’s audience and purpose. In addition, we believe writing is a form of social justice and we aim to center marginalized voices, identities, and perspectives in our conversations, readings, and work.

Our program values the diverse linguistic community at Penn State, and encourages tutors to consider the many ways language differences can be used to create meaning in a writing project. Using a translingual approach, tutors are encouraged to consider the ways in which writers move between languages, dialects, and discourses throughout their daily lives. 

All of our peer writing tutors have successfully completed a 3-credit course that prepares them for tutoring. Both course options include a 10-week course practicum during which students work as writing tutors-in-training with The Writing Center @ Penn State Learning. 

English 250: Peer Tutoring in Writing aims to create writers who are tutors and communicators who are strong listeners. Students learn strategies for tutoring writing, along with rhetorical approaches to reading and analyzing writing projects in multiple disciplines and genres--notably those found across university disciplines. Through class discussion, hands-on tutoring practice, and written analysis and reflection, students will learn to approach writing and conversation with a collaborative stance. The course also involves personal reflection on language practices, linguistic differences, and educational experiences. The goal is that by the end of the course, students are prepared to read, research, tutor and write with curiosity, confidence, openness, and empathy. Successful completion of the course and practicum qualify students for potential employment with The Writing Center @ Penn State Learning.

Any undergraduate regardless of major or semester standing is welcome to apply for the course (prerequisite ENGL 15 or equivalent). Students interested in becoming Peer Writing Tutors should start by filling out the course application or contacting Beth Parfitt, Scholar in Residence for Writing and Communication.

Applied Linguistics 250: Peer Tutoring for Multilingual Writers provides a theoretically grounded introduction to the principles and practices of peer tutoring with multilingual writers (writers for whom English is not a first language.) It is designed specifically for undergraduate students who wish to be employed as Peer Writing Tutors with The Writing Center @ Penn State Learning. Undergraduate students of any major and any language background are welcome to enroll in this course. Students who want to work as Peer Tutors must have completed their own first-year writing requirement; it is recommended that they have completed ENGL 202 also. Prerequisite: ENGL 15 or ESL 15.

Students taking APLNG 250 may request to complete their practicum at The Writing Center in anticipation of potential employment after the course ends. Students interested in APLNG 250 should contact Amber Martin.

Peer-to-Peer Mentoring

As part of the required course practicum, tutors-in-training are paired with an experienced writing tutor who serves as a peer mentor for the duration of their training. These mentors work alongside tutors-in-training, observing their work and offering guidance and knowledge on their tutoring practice.

Professional Development

All peer writing tutors are encouraged to attend staff meetings and professional development trainings as part of their ongoing education. The Writing Center frequently partners with organizations on campus to explore topics that are important to our tutor staff, including mental health awareness, working with ESL writers, resume workshops, and conference presentations.