Skip to main content

Peer Tutor Handbook: Part 4: Best Practices and Policies for Tutoring Writing in the Keleher Learning Commons

Peer tutoring is a core component of student success at USM. Here's the Keleher Learning Commons approach.

The Socratic Method

An ancient proverb says, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for that day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life.” That philosophy is incorporated into the tutoring program at the Academic Skills Center and is especially appropriate when helping students with all stages of a writing assignment. We feel that learning to write well will be a helpful skill for students throughout their lives.

While tutoring in the area of writing, the Socratic Method – which encourages asking questions of students to help them discover corrections needed rather than have the tutor make corrections – is preferred. When the student makes and understands the changes s/he is making in a paper, learning that can be reapplied is occurring. The goal of tutoring is to foster student independence following the principle that tutors can help students help themselves by stimulating active learning and building students’ confidence in their own abilities. Throughout all stages of the writing process, tutors use diagnosis and the Socratic Method to find students’ levels of comprehension before moving to new concepts.

Writing is a cyclical process, not linear. Through discovery and analysis, the student can readjust her/his paper during all stages of writing. Tutors encourage students by first helping them identify their strengths and using these to overcome weaknesses. Hopefully, students can then make necessary changes or revisions while developing the confidence to become independent writers.

(adapted from Austin College’s Peer Tutor Handbook)

Plagiarism and Citing the Session

As you know, plagiarism is a serious offense and occurs as the result of passing the work of another off as your own. Because of this, please ensure that any and all work that a tutee does during a session is his/her own and is NOT yours. To help with this, refrain from making any markings directly on a student’s work, and use the Socratic Method to ask questions to help the student arrive at his/her own answer.

To further avoid plagiarism, please have the student appropriately cite any assistance he/she received. Here are some sample citations to help: 

MLA style:

Works Cited

Williams, Shana. Assistance given to the author at the Keleher Learning Commons Tutoring and

Writing Center. Ms. Williams and I worked on developing a thesis statement in response to gender roles in William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. During our session, we discussed how to answer the academic question, write a well-developed thesis statement, and subsequently outline the remainder of the paper. Ms. Williams modeled outlining strategies for me that I was able to mirror and implement when writing my own paper. Leavenworth, KS. 21 Sept. 2018.

APA style:

References

Mendoza, Enrique M. A. (2018). Assistance given to the author at the Keleher Learning Commons

Tutoring and Writing Center. During the session, Mr. Mendoza and I not only jointly discussed the implications of the writing assignment, but also how to structure my overall Economics report. Although the theme of the report is my choice, Mr. Mendoza helped me to come up with the proper focus and scope of an economics topic and, from there, we were able to develop a working thesis and outline to help guide me in my research. As a result of this session, I am much more comfortable with the direction of my project and understand what is expected of me. Leavenworth, KS. 

Chicago style:

BIBLIOGRAPHY

               Beckley, Victoria A., Ph. D. Assistance given to the author at the Keleher Learning Commons Tutoring and Writing Center. Dr. Victoria Beckley and I jointly discussed the patriotic spirit of the colonists prior to the American Revolution. Through the process of extended proofreading, I was able to change the organization of my paper and significantly improve my grammar and mechanics. While we agreed that the sentiment of the colonists was disdainful towards the British Crown, I disagreed regarding the relationship between the Crown’s oppression and the colonists’ actions. Through this discussion with Dr. Beckley, I was able to further develop my argument and articulate the scholarship surrounding “mob mentalities” and revolutionary happenings. Leavenworth, KS, 21 September 2018.

Or:

NOTES

               1. Beckley, V. A., Ph. D. Assistance given to the author at the Keleher Learning Commons Tutoring and Writing Center. Dr. Victoria Beckley and I jointly discussed the patriotic spirit of the colonists prior to the American Revolution. Through the process of extended proofreading, I was able to change the organization of my paper and significantly improve my grammar and mechanics. While we agreed that the sentiment of the colonists was disdainful towards the British Crown, I disagreed regarding the relationship between the Crown’s oppression and the colonists’ actions. Through this discussion with Dr. Beckley, I was able to further develop my argument and articulate the scholarship surrounding “mob mentalities” and revolutionary happenings. Leavenworth, KS, 21 September 2018.

Markings

Do NOT mark directly on students’ papers, especially in red pen. Try to use scratch paper whenever you can, or the back of the paper to model rules. The student should do any and all marking directly on his/her text.

Consider having the student use a highlighter to locate a thesis or other organizational elements. This is a great tool for visualization and can help with outlining and maintaining proper structure.

Policies & Prodedures

Policies

In order for students to get the most out of their sessions and to ensure that they’re able to do their own work independent of tutoring, here are the policies for writing help sessions:

  • No more than two sessions on any one assignment – it’s best to use this “two-session limit” like bookends to the writing process. Use the first as a brainstorming session and the second to go over a completed draft prior to the student’s submission of the work
  • Do not review writing on the day that it is due. Doing so places a high probability on having a stressful session and on plagiarism. Prohibiting students from doing this will also teach them proper time management skills.

Procedure for Conferencing About Writing

Always start with the assignment sheet. Ask the student to furnish the assignment’s directives and work through what the instructor is asking for. Look for key verbs (i.e., summarize, analyze, synthesize, evaluate, etc.), and ensure that the student understands how to tackle those tasks.

Next, ask the student if (s)he has received any feedback on any previously submitted writing. If so, definitely use that prior feedback as a guide for your session. Instructors like to see their students improve, so students should not continue to make the same mistakes on subsequent assignments. Have the student identify any previously noted problem areas, jot them down, and keep the list handy as you move through the session.

Then move on to what, if any, writing the student has brought in. Many students will come to sessions with the intent to brainstorm, in which case provide a space for students to do so. If the student does have writing in tow, one of you should read the composition aloud. If a student does not feel comfortable reading, you can do it. Reading aloud allows both you and the student to catch any awkward sentence structures, sentence-level errors, clarity, flow, and readability issues. By using this practice, students will often hear when something doesn’t sound right and correct it themselves; applaud them for doing so on their own