The Oxford Guide for Writing Tutors

Insights of Student Tutors Provide Critical Guidance in the Writing Process

Dr. Lauren Fitzgerald
Dr. Lauren Fitzgerald

The Oxford Guide for Writing Tutors: Practice and Research (Oxford University Press, 2015), which I co-authored with Professor Melissa Ianetta, of the University of Delaware, is a guide for undergraduate and graduate students who help other students with their writing in writing centers and other tutoring programs in colleges and universities. The Guide covers both the basics and theoretical and practical complexities of writing center tutoring as well as provides assignments designed to support discussion, writing, and inquiry. It is the first such guide to include scholarship authored by undergraduate tutor-researchers as well as extensive references to and bibliographic citations of scholarship in the field that both supports and challenges disciplinary common knowledge.

The idea for this volume emerged from my and my coauthor’s work in a total of eight writing centers for a combined 50 years as well as our deep involvement in writing center scholarship, including co-editing the flagship journal of the field, The Writing Center Journal (2008–2013). My co-author and I have long shared an understanding of the importance of tutor knowledge to the growth of our field, and this shared belief is what led to this project. More personally, I was inspired by the hundreds of student tutors in YU’s Wilf Campus Writing Center to whom I’ve taught writing pedagogy since 1997 and who in turn have supported thousands of students, faculty, staff, and alumni from nearly every YU school and program. The insights of these YU student tutors continue to improve and refine my understanding of collaborative learning and one-to-one writing instruction.

The Oxford Guide for Writing Tutors was not only inspired by YU students, however—former Writing Center tutors Efrayim Clair (’13YC, ’14Azrieli), Arel Kirshstein (’14YC), Israel (Sruly) Heller (’14YC) served as research assistants on the first edition, thanks to a Faculty Book Fund at Yeshiva College, sponsored by Dr. Kenneth Richard Chelst, Dr. Bertram M. Schreiber, and Dr. Fred Zwas. Other YU student tutors provided insights about writing and tutoring as well as feedback on drafts of the book. Given the centrality of writing tutors to my understanding of my discipline, it seemed to me absolutely necessary to include their voices in this text.

Since it was published in 2015, The Oxford Guide has been adopted for tutor education courses at colleges and universities across the country and internationally, including at Columbia University, Georgetown University, Oberlin College, Iowa State University, the University of Washington, and the University of Guelph, among many others. Highly unusual for a textbook, the volume has been favorably reviewed in four academic journals in the field of writing studies. In addition, because of the success of The Oxford Guide, in 2015, my coauthor and I participated in videoconference at the University of Wisconsin–Madison; in 2016, I presented on writing centers at the University of London’s School of Advanced Studies; the next year, we were interviewed about the book and keynoted the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing at Hofstra University. The keynote, “Tutors Front and Center: How the Writing Center Works,” focused on research conducted by undergraduates who work in writing centers around the country.

My coauthor and I are currently hard at work on the second edition of The Oxford Guide, which OUP approached us about less than a year after the book had been published, and which we hope will be out in 2020. Thanks to another Chelst, Schreiber, and Zwas Book Fund Grant, we were able to hire former Writing Center tutor, Shaul Elson (’18YC) to serve as a research assistant.