Learn about the ARC’s foundational principles and future vision

William Borelli, a writing tutor and economics major, interviews Dan Sanford, founder and director of the ARC.

1) How has the ARC changed or modified its pedagogical outlook to peer tutoring this year? What were some changes that the ARC sought to make institutionally to promote these changes? 

A focus this year has been reducing the separation between ARC and campus. PWSAs and PALs doing more in-class activities, programming at Ronj [Coffeehouse], and in the dorms: these are all ways of meeting students where they are, rather than waiting for students to come to us. 

2) What is unique about ARC’s approach to peer education? How does that differ between other peer education centers at our peer institutions? 

One of the biggest differences between ARC and peers is the format of tutoring we use. Most learning & writing centers are focused on individual appointments in which a student comes in and meets one-on-one with a tutor. We have that available for students who want it, but we are much more focused on drop-in labs, workshops, review sessions, and other types of learning where students can come together to learn from one another. It’s a much more social type of learning, and it demands a different set of skills from tutors who are facilitating learning interactions between students instead of interacting with one student at a time. It makes for a much less formal environment and much more collaborative learning, and I think it’s a big part of why students feel comfortable in ARC.

3) How does the ARC balance different approaches to different subjects? Is there anything that is unique about the way that peer educators approach tutoring in the humanities, social sciences, and hard sciences? 

These differences are enormous- different disciplines don’t just study different things, they have totally different approaches to what it is to know something and what the goal of research is. They also all have different signature pedagogies, tools for learning that are used in different disciplines (for example, fine artists use critique; biologists use lab reports). Peer tutors have to navigate all of this. One of the important things that tutors do is make explicit what they know about how disciplines work so that they can help mentor students in them.

4) What are some upcoming changes that ARC plans to make in regard to its philosophy on peer tutoring?

As a staff (both the tutors and the professional staff), we all deeply interested in equity and social justice, and how this can be integrated more deeply into our mission. Right now, we’re thinking a lot about language rights. Sometimes writing centers and learning centers, in trying to help students, end up unintentionally reinforcing societal attitudes about which languages and dialects and preferable to others. We’d like for ARC to be a space where this never happens.

5) Any new programs we can expect the ARC to roll out next year?

We had been slowly piloting remote tutoring, with the idea that we would begin rolling it out slowly, to more and more disciplines and in more and more formats, over the next couple of years. We all rather got pushed into the deep end of the pool on that one, when the pandemic hit. Now that we all have all this experience with remote tutoring, we’ll absolutely make this more of a permanent part of ARC. It’s exciting thinking that not even the short walk across campus, or just not really wanting to see someone that day, has to ever be a barrier to a student accessing support. 

6) How is the ARC responding to concerns about the Fall 2020 semester and how is the ARC preparing for the possibility of remote classes. 

We are ready! We’ve learned so much about remote tutoring, and if it emerges that we’ll be remote in the fall, ARC is more than prepared to keep doing what we do. The last month has given us so much opportunity to experiment on what works and what doesn’t. It should go quite smoothly launching ARC fully remote for the fall, if that’s what we need to do.

7) Anything else that I missed that you feel is important to share?

I’m so proud of the work that the peer educators do, and honored to work with this group! ARC is so widely utilized and so positively regarded on this campus, and that’s 100% because of the incredible work they do.