A Nearly Septuagenarian’s Adventures with Purdue Owl

  A Nearly Septuagenarian’s Ad ventures with Purdue Owl January 9, 2023 As a student, the Purdue Owl website was a source of great comfort for me. It seemed almost a tangible, billowy, yet safe and confining space; kind of like those bounce-houses filled with balls for kids. I would flit among MLA and APA and general writing tips: pulling up a sample reference page here, making sure I knew the difference between effect and affect there, and ended up by checking an in-text citation for a quote within a quote. I haven’t perused Purdue Owl’s website in some time, so, it is disconcerting to find it is completely tied into Purdue University’s writing lab. Now, you can also more readily access various sections of the style guide directly from the browser. If, for example, you want to check to cite a poster in APA format, Purdue Owl’s information is listed among the many sites you can choose in your browser. I can see how advantageous this fine-tuning is, and, in fact, I have already ma

The Importance of Being Both A Tutor And A Learner

As a frightened freshman, I wandered deep in the bowels of the library basement. My eyes darted from room number to room number, looking for the aid my professor promised I could find. At the end of the hall, a golden light shone from an open doorway. My approach was slow and I lingered on the threshold. All uncertainty vanished when I was greeted with a smile and welcomed into the new world of the Tutoring Center. At the time, I did not know I would spend most of my weekdays in that room as a senior or how mundane this new world would become. How could I? I didn’t even know how much insight I would receive from my tutor that day! Being a learner in the writing center is a wholly different experience than being a tutor, yet I know many of my colleagues have not had the same learning experiences that I have. I think this is unfortunate because there is much that a tutor can gain from being a learner. It was my freshman year of college and everything was new. For me, that meant that fear

Return of the Native

Way back when PeerCentered kicked off in the late 1990's, it was a live, real-time online discussion group conducted in a text-based chat system. Peer tutors from around the world gathered to talk about topics relevant to their work. As you might imagine, regular live online meetings weren't even remotely as ubiquitous as they are today, so maintaining and sustaining them was difficult. It was then that PeerCentered shifted towards the blog model that has occupied it since 2002.   With 2022 being the 20th anniversary of the PeerCentered blog, it seems appropriate to celebrate that through returning to our roots and revive the real-time online PeerCentered discussions. This time, however, rather than using a clunky text chat interface, we're going to hold them with live audio and video and all the bells and whistles that such an environment can provide.  Starting in January 2022, we'll have four monthly discussions for peer writing tutors and other interested parties. 

Consulting Like You: How to get in Touch with Your Consulting Style

          I remember my first year as a peer tutor at my high school’s writing center. I could not have been more than fifteen years old when I went to my very first orientation session. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I was enthusiastic to learn. That year, the managers of my center were very excited to tell us all about something called minimalist theory. Minimalist theory is a consulting style that focuses on getting students to think for themselves. I won’t go too much in depth here, but if you want to know more I wrote a different article on the subject called “Minimalist Theory: When and When not to Use it.”            The managers pushed this theory pretty hard, undoubtably because they wanted us to focus on practicing it. However, in doing so I, as an itty-bitty baby consultant, internalized the message that minimalist theory was the only way to teach writing. This was a problem for a number of reasons but the main one is that minimalism is most certainly NOT th

Tutoring High School Writers in Early Access University Writing Courses

by Al DeCiccio, Marina Abate, Haley Noone, Harley Pereira, and Bill Coyle (Salem State University), with Alexandra Kirby (Salem High School) Tom Deans and Jason Courtmanche have described how a college or university writing center can help change “incoming student attitudes toward writing” (58). This brief piece presents tutor and tutee evidence for their assertion. Tutors from the Salem State University Writing Center have reflected on their experiences tutoring early access Salem High School students enrolled in the University’s first-year writing course and a first-year history course. The high school students have also reflected on the tutoring they received. High School Students’ Reflections One of the Salem High School teachers provided responses from students answering this question: “How did tutoring help you grow as a writer?” ·          The tutors helped me expand my vocabulary, dig for deeper meanings, and find solutions to writing obstacles. ·          They help

Privatized v. Academic Online Tutoring: Determining the Effectiveness of Platforms

  Testing Online Tutoring Online tutoring may be a constant of the tutoring landscape, but the question of effectiveness remains. Which organizations are best prepared to meet the needs of students: writing centers affiliated with universities or “professional” tutoring agencies, such as Pearson-Smarthinking? It is this question I intend to address in conducting a proposed experiment. Important Background Information  The concept most central to this proposed experiment is that of knowledge claims. In his book Reformers, Teachers, Writers: Curricular and Pedagogical Inquiries , Neal Lerner identifies the three primary types of knowledge claims that appear in a writing center:  “writerly knowledge,” “emotional knowledge,” and “role knowledge” (Lerner 115).  “Role knowledge” is arguably the most important knowledge claim (Lerner 115).  While analyzing transcripts of student sessions, Lerner noticed there was a correlation between the presence of “role knowledge” claims and the “success”

Dear Me Blog

  Dear me… As a junior in college, you were just trying your best and going through the motions  (like everyone else) . You  wanted  to fit in and emulate what you thought a typical college student should look like. Then, along came the opportunity to become a  w riting  c onsultant.  That’s immediately when the fear started, I began questioning myself and my own personal writing. I was unsure how I, a typical college student, would have enough skills to help others.  How would I manage being insecure with myself when I was supposed to be someone my peers looked to find their own confidence? When it came to your first day of work, you were sitting in the writing lab waiting for your learner to show up with anxiety pouring out of your body. It was probably the most anxious you ever got in your life - aside from applying to college in the first place. You were so excited to  meet your colleagues, yet so nervous that you were going to disappoint them.  Thoughts streamed through your head

Dear me...

Dear me, It's not about you, but it will affect you, this work. Expect that. Learn to embrace that--the fact that your writing voice isn't in the limelight--it shouldn't  be in the limelight, like some sort of escritorial savior on the lookout for less "experienced" writing that needs a crutch, ready to swoop in and redeem whatever "needs" redeeming. You're not a crutch. You're not even a walking boot. Examples of being a crutch/walking boot: 1. "If I was writing the thesis, I might word it something like this..." 2. "What about using this phrasing for the transition?" 3. "I'll rewrite this part of the paragraph, and you can fill in the rest." Don't get me wrong: It's tempting to say and/or do any of the aforementioned "helpful" actions/statements, and, admittedly, you probably will a few times, when you're crunched for time in a given session or when you're frustrated and fe

Your Written Voice Matters: Embracing Writing Language against the Standards of the Academy

In consultations as a tutor, I notice students struggle with their own written language based on the demands of the academy. Many students enter college feeling their writing is inadequate compared to the academic material they read for courses. This anxiety leads to students and clients adopting writing practices that causes them to lose their personal writing voice and to view any mistake they make as a personal failing instead of the process of writing. Worse, clients come in fearing to use their voice in assignments through overly citing materials, believing they cannot possibly offer anything analytically or mechanically to the academic discussion within their assignment. Fear of sounding unintelligent or demonstrating their incompetence shapes this tactic regardless of discipline and rank, instead of the generalization of student laziness. How do we, as writing consultants, address this issue of encouraging clients to value their learning and written voice while also guide them t

"Dear me..."

I'd like to start a series of posts here on PeerCentered written by peer writing consultants who have recently graduated or will be graduating soon. The title of the project is "Dear me..." and conceptually, it is asking you, as a peer consultant, to write a letter to your past self when you began working as a peer writing consultant. So, in other words, it is experienced you, writing back in time to inexperienced you, letting you know what to expect, what is going to happen, what you learned, or how this work will change you. The content of the letter is completely up to you, but just has to start with "Dear me..." If you don't have a PeerCentered account, please contact me at and I'll add you to the blog.  There is no review process for PeerCentered, and you post all on your own.  I'm thinking this is a summer project, but if it extends beyond summer 2020, I think that is cool. So, Dear me...

Minimalist Theory: When and When not to Use it

Minimalist theory is one of the most valuable tools a consultant has when  helping a  student  improve as a writer.  It allows writers to come to their own conclusions and thus helps them improve their future writing.  However,  minimalist theory is sometimes hailed as gospel  and enforced as the  only  way to  consult.  While minimalist theory is certainly valuable, it defiantly isn’t the only way to consult nor is it the only way to have a student improve as a writer.  It is important as a consultant to be able to  distinguish when and when not to use minimalist theory.   Minimalist theory is, in its basic form, a type of consulting that allows the consultant to let the writer come to their own conclusions about their writing. It is more hands off and guiding rather than straight up telling the writer what they should do to improve their writing. It may include asking the writer questions or asking them to practice their skills. Take this exchange between a consultant and a Jun