Photo by Matthew Claybrook.
The Writing Center tutor-training program recently received the International Tutor Training Program Certification from the College Reading & Learning Association (CRLA).
In the Writing Center, trained peer tutors offer writing advice to students during all stages of the writing process, on all levels of composition, from overall argument structure to syntax and punctuation.
The training process to receive the International Tutor Training Program Certification was lengthy. The tutors who received the training are seniors Robin Bissett, Ariel Del Vecchio, Tiffany Nguyen, Ari Fletcher-Bai, and junior Hannah Friedrich. All of the Writing Center tutors who received this certification had to complete 10 hours of coursework and 25 hours of face-to-face student tutoring and then underwent multiple observations and evaluations by CRLA to receive certification. The Writing Center tutors completed all of these steps in the spring of 2019, and the application to receive certification was sent in at the end of the spring. After the standard four-month waiting period, all of the Writing Center tutors were awarded a Level 1 certification.
Jennifer Rowe, director of tutoring programs, believes this certification will not only benefit students who visit the writing center but also the university and the tutors.
“The Writing Center has always provided its tutors with training. A couple of years ago we started a semester-long training course that was based upon best practices in the Writing Center field. Last year, we made the decision to align our tutor training course with the standards set by the CRLA, which is the primary certifying organization for peer tutors in the United States and beyond. Basically what it does is provide internationally recognized set of standards to align university tutoring programs with the best practices of the profession,” Rowe said.
The CRLA offers three levels of certification. The Writing Center program is now certified on Level 1 and will work toward Level 2 this year. The process for obtaining all levels is similar to the process that tutors went through. There is a training curriculum, a series of observations and evaluations, and the requisite number of tutoring hours for the tutor. They differ in content, becoming increasingly theoretical as the training goes on.
“This is important for Trinity Writing Center tutors because it not only ensures that we’re sort of aligning our tutoring practices with the university’s mission and with the best practices in the field, but we’re also providing the tutors who are the most important people in this organization with meaningful pre-professional development opportunities. So this certification is important for many reasons, but it’s important for them because it’s an official recognition of the work that they do,” Rowe said.
The Writing Center tutors see the value in their training and in receiving the CRLA Certification. The tutors did not have to pay to participate in this certification and were paid per hour for the training they went through. All training hours were paid through the Writing Center student worker budget and through funding from the Starting Strong Quality Enhancement Plan.
“I’m very excited about the CRLA Certification for the Writing Center because the entire Trinity community, both in our standing in the educational world and our credibility as an on-campus resource, benefit from this achievement,” wrote senior Robin Bissett, Writing Center tutor in an email.
Tiffany Nguyen, a Writing Center tutor, experienced this pilot program and has seen how it has helped her better assist students.
“In the beginning, as I did this training, it sort of just seemed like it was there. It was sort of helpful, and I felt like I could take it or leave it. But then being able to apply these thoughts in addition to my own understanding of the writing process that I had accumulated before joining the Writing Center, those things together showed me that this is working,” Nguyen said
The certification helped acknowledge the work that the Writing Center tutors do to help students, according to Nguyen.
“Seeing students being helped and their relief that their writing is better is a part of the excitement that comes with it. That was something that was really affirming for me. It didn’t feel real until we got the news that we got the certification. I’ve accomplished something that someone else beyond the students that I’m helping have recognized,” Nguyen said.
Tutors outside of the Writing Center are also starting to work towards International Tutor Training Program Certification.
“I think it really is important for Trinity in that we started with the Writing Center tutors as a small sort of pilot program, but now we’re going to include in the certification process the QRS tutors, that’s the new math center: Quantitative Reasoning and Skills Center,” Rowe said. We’re going to include those tutors, so that’s another 10 as well as participating course-embedded tutors, specifically the chemistry tutors are all in the process of achieving this certification and will have completed their requirements by the end of the fall. And then again, it takes about four months. So by the end of this academic year, we’re hoping that a really good strong group of Trinity tutors across campus have this certification.”