The Online Tutor as
Cross-Curricular Double Agent

Research in Peer Tutoring

Current research in peer tutoring investigates previously unquestioned writing center "best practice." Pivotal in the current literature are questions asked by Irene Clark and Dave Healy in their 1996 article "Are Writing Centers Ethical?" and Stephen North in "Revisiting the Idea of a Writing Center" from 1994.

Clark and Healy identify what has been "best practice" for the past decade as "textual noninterventionism" and call this hands-off practice "writing center orthodoxy." Clark and Healy elucidate the serious theoretical and pedogogical limitations of this orthodoxy.

In "Revisiting," North attempts to amend some concepts which may have been founded on his article "The Idea of a Writing Center" (published a full decade previous to the revisitation) and are now widely held. Although North's 1994 article attempts to reconceive some ideas, his modifications are not nearly as radical as those suggested by Clark and Healy.

Clark and Healy and John Trimbur note that peer tutoring itself is problematic. Student-to-student interaction is not the only point of contention in writing center theory and practice; other points of conflict are part of current writing center research.

DSU OWL tutors are trained in the "best practice" based on "noninterventionist" practices, but as our research has revealed, they were practicing a "fix-it-shop" kind of interventionist tutoring. The collision of forces that constitute the writing center and the resulting "double agency" our "best" tutor followed vividly illustrate the conflicts discussed in much writing center literature.

Online sources on peer tutoring include