The Peer Writing Assistant Program focuses on helping students to develop and improve their academic skills. Appointments are available to all students at UNSW enrolled in an award program.
Peer Writing Assistants (PWAs) are peer or graduate students who are chosen because of their broad experience with academic skills. They work as ‘critical readers’ of student writing.
PWAs meet individually with students in The Learning Centre for 50-minute consultations to attend to that particular student's concerns. They offer feedback on developing drafts of papers, listen and ask questions and help student writers gain a perspective on their writing.
PWAs offer constructive and helpful learning support so individual students can become better writers and learn how to use the conventions, the rules, and the processes of writing. They help individual students with the organisation of ideas, the structure of assignments, and aspects of academic writing like paragraph structure, clarity, and academic style.
The PWA program at The Learning Centre began in 2nd Semester 1997. The first group of Peer Writing Assistants were selected as a result of collaboration with various Faculties across campus. This co-operation ensures the vitality of postgraduate life at UNSW and also ensures that postgraduates get hands-on experience as academic mentors working with individuals and with groups.
The PWA program is based on the principle of collaborative learning in which a more experienced student helps out another student in any area of generic academic skills. The program focuses on 'how we do thing's, rather than any course content.
PWAs work with Students who want to improve their writing skills and are enrolled at UNSW in an award program.
The students who visit The Learning Centre might come in only a few times for specific assistance, or attend at different times throughout their degrees. Some students seek help on their own, others appear at the recommendation of academic staff, and in some cases, are referred by other support services within the university.
PWAs can help students:
PWAs help students develop the skills to become an independent learner
PWAs do not evaluate students' work or tutor them. While PWAs may engage with students in discussions so that students can develop ideas and practice the phrasing and vocabularies of academic discourse, for help with specific subject content, students should see their lecturer or tutor.
PWAs do not edit, correct or proof-read students' work. The role of the PWA is that of a 'friendly audience', an interested and inquisitive reader, listening closely, asking questions for clarification, and actively responding to the student's ideas. They may not look at every sentence or every page.
PWAs also work with academic writers only. The can't help with job applications or résumés (take these to Careers and Employment service) or help with personal correspondence or applications. PWAs also can't advise on IELTS tests or help with take-home exams.
Students can make appointments online, using our Consultation Booking System. CoFA students can also book online.
Our Peer Writing Assistant Program was an inaugural recipient of Carrick Institute Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning 2006 as part of the 2006 Australian Awards for University Teaching.
The Carrick Citations are part of the Australian Government’s expanded programme of national awards designed to recognise and reward teaching excellence in the higher education sector.
What UNSW students say about consultations
"I always have trouble when it comes to writing essays. Through consultations, I get tips on how to make my writing more organised, coherent and make more sense to the reader."
"Well, for my first assignment I received a bare PASS—disappointing. I then booked 2 individual consultations to help with essay writing and to get feedback on ways to improve. I also accessed online resources on referencing and essay writing. For my second assignment I achieved 37/40—amazing—and I feel the LC has given me confidence to write/ argue and structure an incredibly great essay. THANK YOU LEARNING CENTRE."
"I love you guys! Thank you to [the Peer Writing Assistant] who helped me so much. I got a distinction for my essay with her help, my last essay that I did on my own I got a pass. Such an fantastic resource, I have been telling my friends and I will be coming in next semester for sure."
"I really gain lots of knowledge
and info about academic writing and gain confidence as well.
Much appreciated all the staff are so nice and very patient and helpful. it means lots to me!"
"What an excellent service, the resources, the one-on-one help, the feedback - I feel really set up to write well. Before I came to the LC my first mark was a PASS, after my sessions I received a High Distinction for my next essay—THANK YOU"
"I'm very grateful for this service and the dedicated staff that assist you to achieve your best. It is encouraging to see the progress that I don't believe would have happened without the help of this vital service."
(Comments from The Learning Centre 2009 Evaluation Survey)