On February 3, Ball State University played host to over eighty-five middle and high school students from Delaware County for the university’s second annual Peer Tutoring Day. Every year, this event is hosted to honor and support the area high school students who dedicate their time to serving as peer writing tutors at their respective schools.
According to Dr. Susanna Benko, professor of English at Ball State and professional development liaison to Muncie Community Schools,
“The goal of Peer Tutoring Day is to bring together all of these writing centers and tutors into one place–as a sort of conference,”
“There is no city in the United States of our size that has this many writing centers in their schools, and this is the students’ chance to meet one another. Peer tutors can work together, become inspired by the efforts at other schools, and learn from tutors who work at Ball State’s Writing Center. This event is about celebrating the work they are doing and growing their expertise and confidence.”
A number of area schools, such as Burris Laboratory School, Yorktown High School, Northside Middle School, Southside Middle School, and the Inspire Academy, have established writing centers in recent years. As part of these initiatives, students have a safe space to share and get feedback on writing assignments from any of their classes.
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Some schools offer the center during the school day, while others provide it as an after-school activity. Dr. Jackie Grutsch McKinney, currently the director of Immersive Learning at Ball State and formerly the director of the Writing Center in Ball State’s College of Sciences and Humanities, has helped teachers establish writing centers in middle and high schools and provided them with the resources they need to train both students and staff.
Dr. Grutsch McKinney, a former president of the International Writing Centers Association, is widely recognized as a leading authority on writing centers. She has authored three books and numerous articles and chapters in writing studies, with a focus on writing centers.
A $2.9 million Student Learning Recovery Grant from the Indiana Department of Education was awarded to Ball State’s Teachers College, funding school-based writing centers and initiatives including Peer Tutoring Day.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous learning recovery projects have been funded thanks to this funding. Although Yorktown schools are not eligible for the grant money, Dr. Grutsch McKinney from the school’s writing department helped organize this year’s Peer Tutoring Day.
“Building a writing center in a school requires a lot of work from the teachers and a lot of time to integrate into the life of a school,”
“Our hope with this grant was to get the writing centers launched, connect teacher leaders to a network of others doing this work, and help them configure a writing center that works for their particular school environments. What these teachers are doing is changing the whole of Muncie. It’s incredible.”
Dr. Grutsch McKinney used some of the grant money to pay secondary school teachers stipends for running writing centres and to buy supplies and furniture for those centres. The most fruitful use of funding, however, has been the introduction of a salaried position for Community Writing Aides, who work out of the Ball State Writing Center to support instructors, collaborate with schools, and train and mentor student tutors.
Northside Middle School’s writing center instructor for eighth graders, Dr. Nicole Cardassilaris, remarked,
“There’s no possible way I could have done this without the Community Writing Aides.”
Many lives are being impacted by this multifaceted programme, and the focus is squarely on the student volunteers who have taken on the role of peer tutors. The peer tutors improve as writers, students, and school leaders as a result of Dr. Grutsch McKinney’s training and materials. Students who receive tutoring are able to strengthen their writing and gain confidence as a result of constructive criticism.
More and more students are improving their writing, critical thinking, and communication skills thanks to the efforts of the writing centres. The act of tutoring itself fosters students’ professional development, providing them with access to more chances and more marketable abilities in the job market.
Community Writing Aides from Ball State University are earning valuable work experience while assisting children in grades three through twelve with their writing. Schools benefit from the programme in various ways, including higher test scores and greater adherence to state standards since more kids have access to one-on-one tutoring from peers they already know and trust.
With the success of these initiatives, teachers Dr. Grutsch McKinney and Dr. Benko hope to implement similar writing centers at other schools within the Muncie Community School Corporation, with a focus on Muncie Central High School.
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