Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Ewa McGrail, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Michelle Zoss, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Jennifer Esposito, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Lynée Lewis Gaillet, Ph.D.


College-level writing center scholarship is an ever-increasing field of study (Fitzgerald & Ianetta, 2016; Murphy & Sherwood, 2011). Over time, high school writing centers have been established, often based on college-level writing center research (Fels & Wells, 2011). The problem, however, is that there is little, if any, empirical research studying the high school writing center and the experience of tutoring in one. The purpose of this phenomenological study (Moustakas, 1994; Van Manen, 1990, 2017) is to explore the experience of peer tutoring in a high school writing center. This study addresses the following questions:

  • How do high school peer tutors articulate their identities as peer tutors?
  • How do high school students make meaning of the peer tutoring process?
  • How do high school peer tutors perceive the tutoring process within a student-run high school writing center (HSWC)?

Writing center theory (Bruffee, 1984/1995; Lunsford, 1991/2011; Vandenberg, 1999/2011) and hermeneutics (Gadamer, 1975) provide a theoretical framework for considering this experience. After a review of the literature surrounding both college- and high school-level writing centers and peer tutoring, the researcher reviews the principles of hermeneutical phenomenology as the study of lived experience as a text to be interpreted (Van Manen, 1990). The researcher collected data through writing protocols, video elicitation, and interviews with participants who volunteered as peer tutors in an HSWC. The researcher’s analysis takes a hermeneutical and phenomenological approach (Gadamer, 1975; Grbich, 2013; Van Manen, 2014), analyzing and coding transcripts of the data sources as texts open to interpretation and containing distinct themes. The findings clarify how much the HSWC peer tutoring experience is comparable to peer tutoring in a college-level writing center, adding a more nuanced understanding of high school peer tutoring as a distinct phenomenon worthy of further study.

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