January 11, 2017
Writer: Dain Knudson
Students in the Department of English are applying The Learning Model with increasing success, thanks to a new program that employs in-class tutors. The Writing Fellows program provides foundation English classes with experienced students who guide, grade, and give feedback to students, in conjunction with the instructor.
"It is different than a TA or writing tutor in the sense that these fellows are embedded in the class, so you may have three fellows in a class of 20 or 25 students," said Terry Gorton, a Department of English faculty member who leads the program.
The fellows take small groups of students and help reinforce what is being taught. Fellows review class work, keep groups on topic, and also offer tutoring on principles that students might find confusing.
"It is amazing how capable these students are at guiding their fellow students," Gorton said. "They give them direct, individual, and small group assistance throughout the entire semester and help improve their papers and other assignments."
The Writing Fellows program is just one of many examples of disciple leadership at BYU-Idaho.
"It benefits the students, the fellows, and the teachers. It uses The Learning Model to enhance classroom learning and teaching," Gorton said.
Tyler Oswald, a faculty member in the Department of English, noted that not only does the Writing Fellows program develop disciple leaders, but it also puts a focus on realizing the potential in every student.
"Students get to see these writing fellows struggle and overcome concepts, just like they do, and that can give them hope," Oswald said. "The writing fellows help keep our students from falling through the cracks, and because of that, our class retention rate is close to 100 percent."
One of the greatest benefits to having in-class tutors is the connection they form with students.
"Because of experience and age gap, sometimes I don't quite see things the way students do," Oswald said. "The writing fellows are able to look at it from the perspective of the student, which allows them to relate to them in a way I might not be able to."
Alex Austin, one of Oswald's tutors, has realized how beneficial the program can be for creating an active classroom environment.
"I think the biggest benefit to the Writing Fellows program is allowing the class to do more," Austin said. "It can be difficult in a writing class to accomplish as much as you want because of the tremendous work load on the teacher. Having more people look over papers, work with students, provide feedback, and mentor students; allows more learning to take place for each individual."
Overall, the Writing Fellows program is a tool that focuses on the everyday student and develops the skills necessary for students to become a disciple leader in their homes, the Church, and their communities.
"It is hard to imagine any other program that has more potential to create disciple leaders than the Writing Fellow program," Gorton said.