The International Writing Centers Association is proud to announce the recipients of the Best Article Award for 2010:

Bradley Hughes (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Paula Gillespie (Florida International University), and Harvey Kail (University of Maine) for their co-authored “What They Take with Them: Findings from the Peer Writing Tutor Alumni Research Project” (The Writing Center Journal 30.2 [2010]: 12-46).

Harvey Kail, Brad Hughes, and Paula Gillespie (left to right), 2011

Harvey Kail, Brad Hughes, and Paula Gillespie (left to right), 2011

The IWCA’s Best Article Committee was chaired by Steve Sherwood of Texas Christian University and included Matt Gilchrist, Elisabeth Piedmont-Marton, and Dawn Fels.

“What They Take with Them: Findings from the Peer Writing Tutor Alumni Research Project” presents the major findings from narrative survey research with a sample of 126 tutor alumni from three universities, demonstrating that being a peer writing tutor has multiple, long-lasting effects on former tutors. Using the results from these surveys, the article argues that writing centers do more than help student writers; peer tutoring, with its training and experience in collaborative learning, is itself a powerful form of liberal education that writing tutors and writing fellows take with them into their lives and careers. The article provides writing center professionals with a “second claim” for funding and support.

The article was nominated by an august group of writing center scholars, including Kenneth Bruffee, Jon Olson, Muriel Harris, Melissa Ianetta, Lauren Fitzgerald, Brian Fallon, Mara Holt, Jody Cardinal, and Nancy Grimm. Some excerpts from their nominations:

“The publication of the article represents a monumental achievement for the field of writing center studies, and the article exemplifies all the criteria for the award: it addresses research and assessment issues of long-term interest in the field; it deepens understanding of the impact of peer tutoring; it documents the value of peer tutoring; the research model it advocates has been useful to many in the field, including large flagship universities, private colleges, and community colleges; it provides a model of collaborative and cross-institutional research for the field, and it makes a compelling argument incorporating the voices of many former peer tutors.”

“The research and scholarship that the authors undertake represents the very best of writing center research because it answers questions about peer tutoring that have long gone unanswered and provides evidence about peer tutoring in writing that until now we have only been able to explain as a hunch or through anecdotal evidence.”

“The essay is a carefully written, thoughtful, educationally significant work about students who, as undergraduates, served as peer tutors in their colleges. Many of these former peer tutors, now in their 30s, 40s, and some already in their 50s, have responded to research requests frankly and in discerning and perceptive terms. What their responses reveal is that peer tutoring is a transformative educational experience, giving students skills, values, and social engagement necessary for both a liberal education and a full life. The essay argues, among other things, that peer tutors can explain usefully not only what they “take with them,” but also how peer tutoring works, why it is necessary, what tutors and their students gain in learning to write by engaging with their peers, and why, for an adequate college education, peer tutoring is essential. . . . This article deserves the highest commendation.”

“The publication of this article represents a milestone in writing center scholarship. As the authors themselves note, the benefits of Writing Center employment for peer tutors has been a topic of long-term interest for Writing Center scholars and professionals for over 30 years. To my knowledge, however, we have not had a publication containing research that both illustrates the nature and broad range of these benefits and most importantly, demonstrates their existence with empirical evidence. By providing substantive proof that writing center employment fosters the development of various skills and intellectual and interpersonal competencies among undergraduate tutors, the authors make an original and significant contribution to writing center scholarship.”

“This essay promises to make a profound impact on writing center scholarship both by documenting the new important knowledge generated by PWTARP and by analyzing this data in an insightful and well-written analysis that speaks meaningfully to all writing stake holders: tutors, writers, directors and senior administrators.”

“It’s truly a major piece of research. It’s essential reading for all administrators who question the use of peer tutors or fund them insufficiently. . . . Moreover, this is research reported with solid theory grounding it. And it’s so well written and so clear.”

“My vision of our Writing Center’s purpose and value within the context of our overall institutional mission has been deeply influenced by the connections Hughes, Gillespie, and Kail have revealed between writing center employment and the nature of a liberal arts education.”

More on the Peer Writing Tutor Alumni Research Project can be found here:


Other nominated articles were:

Bromley, Pam, Kara Northway, and Eliana Schonberg. “Bridging Institutions to Cross the Quantitative/Qualitative Divide,” Praxis, Fall 2010,

Harris, Muriel. “Making Our Institutional Discourse Sticky: Suggestions for Effective Rhetoric,” The Writing Center Journal 30.2 [2010]: 47-71).

Hirschhorn, Jane. “Bridging Quantitative Analysis with Qualitative Experience: Two Concerns Working Together for a More Comprehensive Perspective.” Praxis, Fall 2010,

Prejean, Kelli. “Reaching In, Reaching Out: A Tale of Administrative Experimentation and the Process of Administrative Inclusion,” Praxis, Spring 2010,

Schultz, Matthew. “Synch or Swim: (Re)Assessing Asynchronous Online Writing Labs.” Praxis, Fall 2010,

Simpson, Jeanne. “Whose Idea of a Writing Center Is This, Anyway?”  Writing Lab Newsletter 35.1.