Not all students are prepared equally well for the wide variety of writing tasks that confront them. The Gustavus Adolphus College Writing Center recognizes that differences of preparation, proficiency, and linguistic and cultural background need to be taken into account in helping students to become more effective writers. We believe that writers benefit from conversation about writing at all stages--planning, drafting, revising, and editing--and the Writing Center staff understands that writers encounter these stages with differing degrees of strength and comfort.
Our staff of experienced undergraduate peer tutors meet with student clients for individual consultations. They encourage students to discuss the writing experiences they share as members of the academic community of the College. At the same time, the tutors help students to clarify their understandings of the stylistic and substantive expectations emphasized within various academic disciplines. The Center also serves as a resource library for students. It provides specialized handouts, as well as access to style manuals, handbooks, and other print resources from multiple disciplines. Our web site is linked to other writing centers and writing center organizations across the United States. We seek to help students become stronger writers by:
- facilitating students' drafting, revising, and editing processes
- helping students recognize and practice conventions for good writing across the curriculum
- encouraging and contributing to a culture of collaboration among students
- fostering students' sense of communicative responsibility
The Writing Center fulfills its mission in two primary ways:
- by providing individualized tutoring sessions on-site--either by appointment or on a walk-in basis--to students from across the college
- by providing workshops and coordinating outreach efforts that bring the Writing Center staff to particular populations of Gustavus students
Our peer tutoring model emphasizes collaboration, and Writing Center pedagogy is grounded in social constructivist theories of language. These theories suggest:
- Conventions for written communication arise out of specific social and cultural contexts.
Each student in a classroom may come to us with very different language practices from his or her home community. A writing center tutorial allows students to share those practices with another student and to experience the act of negotiating meaning.
- Language is, at its very nature, a social entity.
The act of composing is equally social and collaborative, since the ideas we write down are actually the product of our interactions with others. Writing center tutorials focus on language as a social practice and, in turn, enact a social practice.
- Writing implies a reader.
Writing center tutorials provide real readers, critical readers for their student clients. Tutors help those clients to experience the ways that their words affect others. Perhaps more importantly, peer tutors are NOT teachers themselves--there is nothing punitive about a peer tutor's comments, and there are no grades at stake.
- Collaborative tasks prepare students to participate in their communities.
Peer tutoring can help tutors and clients learn how to communicate with others whose ideas, beliefs, values, and language practices may differ from their own.
- Students' voices and values matter.
A tutor's role in the tutorial is strictly facilitative. Peer tutors can model strategies, discuss expectations about the conventions for writing within a given discipline, and help clarify assignments for students.