A study of peer tutor training programs and a peer tutor training program for Drake University
Dawson, Mary Jean Lasell
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For many years universities and colleges have had writing workshops for creative writers. However, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, college and university administrators and department heads moved to establish workshops for remedial writers. Two things precipitated this movement: one, writing theorists recognized writing as a process, not just a product; two, the communication skills of first year students had declined dramatically. The need to improve the writing ability of students caused schools to open writing workshops for all student writers. Because of the heavy demand for the services of the workshops, schools turned to other students to staff the workshops. These students usually had no experience working with other students and, consequently, had to be trained. How the students were trained varied with each school depending on the needsof the particular school and the students. The project for this dissertation was to design and implement a peer tutor training program for Drake University which would be somewhat different than the program already in place. To accomplish this, literature concerning the use of peer tutors in writing workshops was reviewed and the peer tutor training programs of six schools were studied in depth. These programs are described and critically reviewed. After material had been accumulated, a training program for new tutors in the Drake Writing Workshop was designed which was a composite of features from programs at other schools, one already in place at Drake, as well as additional components not found in other programs such as extensive information on working with foreign (ESL)students. This program was implemented with three new tutors. The peer tutor training program that evolved consisted of nine training sessions. The program was designed to emphasize first what tutors needed to learn about meeting and helping clients of the Workshop with their writing and later what they could learn about working with the writing process to improve their own writing. Each session is described and the reactions of the tutor trainees reported. As a result of the peer tutor training program and the changes taking place at Unversity, several things need to be stressed in the next tutor training program at Drake: one, more emphasis and information needs to be given about working with ESL students; and two, because the University is moving toward intensive computer use, tutors need to be instructed about new methods of working effectively with the writing process when students use computers extensively to write papers. Also, tutors should be the writing forms and requirements disciplines other than humanities so problem writers can be led to the Writing Workshop. Another recommendation is that the University institute a University-wide writing requirement in all disciplines either at the junior level or sometime during the senior year which all students must complete successfully before graduation.
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