About the Peer Writing Assistant program

The Peer Writing Assistant Program helps students to develop and improve their academic skills. Peer Writing Assistants (PWAs) are peer or graduate students with broad experience of academic skills. PWAs meet individually with students in The Learning Centre for 50-minute consultations to attend to that particular student's concerns. A student can have up to five consutlations per semester.

PWAs offer constructive feedback on developing drafts of papers, listen and ask questions, and help student writers gain a perspective on their writing, improve their skills and learn how to use the conventions, rules, and processes of writing. They also help with organising ideas, structuring assignments, and aspects of writing like paragraph structure, clarity, and academic style.

Background

The Peer Writing Assistant program at The Learning Centre began in 1997. The first group of PWAs 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 things', rather than any course content.

The 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. 

Who do Peer Writing Assistants work with?

PWAs work with students across all years of study who want to improve their writing skills. 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 are referred by academic staff, and in some cases, by other support services within the university.

What can Peer Writing Assistants help with?

PWAs can help students:

  • improve the structure of written assignments
  • develop arguments in writing
  • plan assignments and organise ideas
  • develop helpful writing and study strategies
  • practice the phrasing and vocabularies of academic discourse
  • improve their command of academic writing and structure
  • develop the skills to become independent learners

PWAs do not evaluate students' work or tutor them. Nor do PWAs 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 writing only. The can't help with job applications or résumés (those should be taken to Careers and Employment service) or with personal correspondence or applications. PWAs also can't advise on IELTS tests or help with take-home exams.

How can students make appointments?

Students can make appointments online, using our Consultation Booking System. Faculty of Art and Design students can also book online.