Acadia’s Writing Centre provides students with the tools to improve their academic writing skills in any discipline or area of study.
At the Centre, students can book 50-minute appointments or drop in for one-on-one or group sessions where they receive guidance on a variety of issues with their writing process, from grammar, to essay structure, or any other questions related to their writing. The sessions are free and open to all students at any stage of their writing process. Dr. Stephen Ahern, Writing Centre Coordinator, says the Centre strives to be a welcoming space for students from all disciplines.
Ahern, who is also an English professor at Acadia, gives presentations in classrooms on effective writing strategies, and to inform students about the Centre’s services. He says the Centre currently employs ten tutors, who are also Acadia students, and explains tutors have backgrounds in different disciplines, and their main goal is to provide writing skills that are essential for students’ academic career, regardless of a student’s major.
“What I focus on is the shared common expectations of academic writing,” says Ahern. “I go into Sociology classes, Chemistry classes, or help Honours or graduate students with structuring a thesis. What I’ve been delighted to find is that there are differences with disciplinary expectations but the core of what academic writing is, across all fields, remains the same.”
An important part of tutoring at the Writing Centre is that students receive help from fellow students. Senior Tutor and Music major Breanna Stewart says students come in with all kinds of questions and that her goal as a tutor is to work with students to address concerns and ensure they leave the tutorial session feeling more confident about their writing.
“Students come in and they usually give us an idea of what they’re struggling with. We look at the assignment together and we can pick out what issue to focus on. The goal is to ensure that by the end of the tutorial session, students have a better idea of how to approach the issue in the future,” she says.
After a session, tutors fill out a report, which students can access, detailing what was covered in the session. This record helps both tutors and students keep track of a student’s progress.
Ahern emphasizes that the tutors’ approach is always to teach rather than simply fix or edit students’ work.
“What tutors are trained to do is to look at a student’s work, identify areas that need improvement, and teach students what the problem is, why it matters, and how it can be corrected in the future. A month from now, students might be writing an exam or a paper and they’ll be able to apply what they’ve learned.”
All tutors undergo extensive training before they start working at the Centre. During training they cover various key topics such as effective tutoring strategies, tools for writing essays, lab reports, business case studies, and ways to provide ESL help, among other writing concerns. Once employed, tutors meet regularly for ongoing training on other specific topics, always taking students’ feedback and comments into consideration.
“We receive great feedback from students and faculty,” says Ahern. “It’s gratifying to watch students grow from first year to fourth year.”
Stewart agrees, adding that “it’s rewarding to see students come in thinking their writing is challenging and leaving a session having acquired a new outlook on their own abilities.”
The Writing Centre is located in the library, it’s open for 60 hours a week, and students are welcome to book appointments online – or just drop by to see if a tutor’s available to help them with whatever they’re working on.
Visit the Writing Centre's website here.