Writing Center on cutting edge of teaching theory


The Montana State University (MSU) Writing Center provides an environment where undergraduate and graduate students can meet with their peers to collaborate on writing. The center operates on theories and guidelines that have changed in recent years.

The MSU Writing Center has moved away from hiring instructors, and towards hiring students who tutor their own peers. The center currently has 22 peer tutors on staff, according to the MSU Writing Center website.

The center hires peer tutors because “students are comfortable working with them, and because the tutors are not disciplinary experts, student writers gain authority and confidence as they articulate what they know about their discipline,” according to the MSU Writing Center website.

Writing centers across the U.S. operate on the premise that peer tutors are coaches, instead of teachers, that provide reader feedback and encourage writers to develop their own ideas and revisions, according to the International Writing Center Association (IWCA) website.

For that reason, the MSU Writing Center believes that both tutors and writers benefit from collaborating in the writing process, by meeting, either online or in person, at any stage between brainstorming and making final revisions for a paper, according to the MSU Writing Center’s website.

Yet, a challenge for writing centers across the U.S. is not peer tutors, but visiting students who lack an understanding of tutorial instruction, choosing to turn to the writing center for proofreading and remediation, instead of collaboration, according to the IWCA website.

For peer tutors in this situation, this means deciding for themselves the time and degree of intervention that is appropriate, by gauging the needs of the student and the nature of their work.

At MSU, peer tutors are undergraduate and graduate students who maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA, from any major or college, according to the MSU Writing Center website.

The MSU Writing Center operates with the vision to “create a dynamic, collaborative environment that fosters and maintains a vibrant community of writers across the MSU campuses,” according to the center’s website.

– edited by Virginia Holst

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