Transfer of learning in the development of peer tutor competence

Caroline Brandt, Nicholas Dimmitt


Many universities run Writing Centers to provide support for students wishing to improve their academic literacy. These centers are ideal venues for peer tutoring, which may benefit both student-tutors (through tutoring skills development), and those tutored (through opportunities to discuss writing with a supportive peer). In the context of a university in the GCC region, peer tutors, prior to working, must complete required Communication courses. The syllabuses reflect student-centered and collaborative post-process writing approaches, where scaffolding is emphasized over direction, and word-by-word instructor correction of student writing is de-emphasized. Peer tutors also undergo preparation aimed at equipping them with an understanding of the rationale for these approaches and the skills needed to adapt them to tutoring. Given these experiences, the researchers set out to determine whether tutors are able to articulate such understandings and apply them to tutoring. Interconnected interpretative methods were deployed, including tutoring observation, consultation-conversation analysis and semi-structured interviews with tutors. Results indicate that tutors have significant recent experience of non-directive writing classes and may be aware of the rationale and benefits of such approaches. However, in their tutoring, content appears to be transferred from their most recent experiences but their style relies on instruction predominated by telling, explaining, demonstrating and directing, reflecting formative experience at school. The relationship between tutors’ experience, preparation, articulation and practice is explored, and recommendations are made to enhance Writing Center practices, in line with the concept of a constructively-aligned instruction system where all components address the same agenda and support each other.


peer tutoring competence; Writing Center; academic literacy skills; transfer of learning; student-centered learning

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