Technology and the role of peer tutors: How writing center tutors perceive the experience of online tutoring
In the literature of writing centers, and in particular the literature around online peer tutoring, the voices of the tutors themselves are conspicuously silent. We read the perspectives of writing center administrators, but not those of the people actually providing the service. As administrators of writing centers, we are at a loss as we attempt to prepare our tutors for the online environment because there is little data that addresses the tutors' perceptions of what it is like to conduct a tutorial in a virtual environment. Thus, we are left with theory and practice that is little more than an adaptation of face-to-face tutoring pedagogy.
This study began with the premise that the perceptions of peer tutors of their tutoring experiences, especially those experiences in the online tutoring environment, are a valuable resource. To tap this resource, this study asked tutors to reflect on their perceptions of the online tutoring environment, their perceptions of their own tutoring in the online tutoring environment, and their perceptions of any changes they felt necessary to accommodate the online tutoring environment.
This was a situated exploratory study conducted at the Washington State University Vancouver Writing Center, which focused on 4 tutors at that site. It drew on Jim Bell's (2001) “reflection on practice” model in which peer tutors reflect on their face-to-face tutoring practices. The goal of this study was to address the gaps in the literature of tutor training through an understanding of the perceptions of these tutors as they negotiate tutoring online.
Data for this study was collected over a period of two semesters. The researcher took the role of participant/observer/interviewer for these semesters. Interviews with tutors were audio taped, transcribed, and coded according to a scheme created from the transcripts.
The significance of this study is the inclusion of the often silent voices of the tutors who perform online peer tutoring in the body of literature covering that task. It presents first-hand perceptions of online tutoring that can add to our understanding of the nature of online tutoring and, in turn, assist in the development of training programs for peer tutors.
0745: Higher education