To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Writing Associates (WA) Program at Swarthmore College and inspired by the Peer Writing Tutor Alumni Research Project, we decided in the fall of 2005 to survey former WAs about their experiences in the program and what they took from these experiences to their lives after college. In the fall of 2009, we resent the survey to students who had graduated since the first survey. In total we surveyed 554 alumni, and we were able to use 297 completed surveys for our analysis.
In the spring of 2009, two current WAs analyzed some of the data and produced an initial report that was sent to alums and some people on campus. These students were most interested in the questions:
- How did your time as a WA influence your college experience?
- What were the downsides to working as a WA?
- How did your experiences as a WA transfer to your current profession?
They expected alums to comment on how their writing and tutoring skills improved, but they did not expect to hear alums mention such things as the ability to negotiate, to maintain diplomacy, and to develop a reflective practice as something they took from their time as Writing Associates. The alumni survey gave both alums and current WAs an opportunity to reflect on the knowledge gained through this opportunity of peer tutoring.
During the spring of 2009, a faculty committee utilized some of the results from this study to support a proposal to redefine the WA position as a fellowship rather than employment because of the educational benefits for the WAs themselves. Instead of providing anecdotal evidence, we were able to provide both quantitative and qualitative data to support our claim that peer tutoring is an educational experience for Writing Associates.
For more information about this research with Swarthmore alumni, please contact Jill Gladstein, Director of Writing, Swarthmore College, firstname.lastname@example.org.