Too Confident or Not Confident Enough?: A Quantitative Snapshot of Writing Tutors’ Writing and Tutoring Self-Efficacies

Roger Powell
Buena Vista University

Kelsey Hixson-Bowles
Utah Valley University


When writing center administrators (WCAs) consider educating tutors, they do so with a range of perspectives in mind. Tutors need to first be confident in both their tutoring and writing abilities. However, new tutors must also be able to put themselves in the perspective of a struggling student writer who they may work with in a tutoring session. In this article, we conceptualize this issue dealing with self-efficacy or “people’s beliefs in their abilities to produce given attainments” (Bandura 307). Research has begun to explore this topic (Nowacek and Hughes), but has not specifically called this “self-efficacy.” Composition research has a long history of examining self-efficacy, but little research has explored tutors’ self-efficacy. This research has not examined the relationship between tutoring and writing self-efficacies, nor has previously research considered how tutoring experience may impact self-efficacy. To extend this conversation, we developed and administered a survey to writing center tutors across the US to answer the following research questions: What are tutors’ writing and tutoring self-efficacies? Do tutors’ writing and tutoring self-efficacies correlate? Do experienced tutors have different writing and tutoring self-efficacies than new tutors? Results indicated that tutors had high writing and tutoring self-efficacies (mean scores were from 80-100), but the range varied pretty significantly (ranges for writing were 40-100 and ranges for tutoring were 49-100). Writing and tutoring self-efficacy scores were strongly correlated (r=.815 and p =.001). Finally, tutoring self-efficacy and tutoring experience were weakly correlated (r=.186 and p =.025). These results suggest that tutoring and writing self-efficacies inform one another and that tutors have different experiences with developing self-efficacy with their tutoring and writing, which suggests that tutoring and writing self-efficacy is very individualized.

When writing center administrators (WCAs) set about educating new tutors, they do so with a range of perspectives in mind. Tutors must be prepared to help students who struggle with writing, to push students who succeed with writing, and to work with all those in between. Ideally, WCAs want tutors to be confident in their writing abilities as well as their tutoring abilities in order to navigate the variety of situations they will encounter. At the same time, we—at least, your authors—do not want tutors who are overly confident; we hope tutors maintain an understanding of what it is like to struggle with writing. This is a complex issue that WCAs must consider when educating tutors. As WCAs ourselves, we conceptualize this complex skillset as pertaining to self-efficacy, or “people’s beliefs in their abilities to produce given attainments” (Bandura 307). Self-efficacy, especially tutors’ self-efficacy in writing and tutoring, can present challenges in the ways tutors develop.

To illustrate, we offer the following stories gathered from colleagues at conferences about how self-efficacy may impact new writing tutors. Although most tutors experience some level of anxiety when they start to tutor, one was nearly paralyzed by fear. The tutor was worried about questions she could not answer and felt a deep responsibility to know everything about writing and tutoring. Despite reassurance that the tutor could reference resources as needed, the tutor’s self-imposed, high expectations mixed with a lack of self-efficacy in her writing knowledge manifested in panic attacks before sessions, an over-reliance on team tutoring, and an avoidance of tutoring independently.

The other new tutor had the opposite problem—too much self-efficacy in writing. In fact, this tutor’s confidence seemed to block him from being open to learning new things about writing and tutoring writing. When new concepts or strategies were presented to this tutor, he would shoot them down as subpar to his own knowledge. The problem became especially clear at a staff meeting when the new tutor asked why they should continue tutoring people who “just can’t learn how to write”—a sentiment that stands in direct opposition to the pedagogy of his and many writing centers. It appeared as if this tutor’s self-efficacy in his writing knowledge left him unable to imagine ways of tutoring people who struggle with writing. Ultimately, both tutors’ writing self-efficacy impacted their tutoring self-efficacy and vice versa.

 While these anecdotes may seem familiar to many WCAs, little research has examined writing and tutoring self-efficacy and how it might impact both new and experienced tutors. However, a recent chapter in Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies begins to move writing center research in this direction.  In that chapter, Rebecca Nowacek and Brad Hughes claim that tutors should be prepared to take on the role of “expert-outsiders” (181). By expert-outsider, the authors mean tutors who are confident in both tutoring and producing quality writing but also humbled by unfamiliar writing and/or tutoring situations. Nowacek and Hughes’ advice seems to articulate the exact conundrum our anecdotes raise. However, Nowacek and Hughes speak towards the idea of “confidence” which varies from self-efficacy. Identifying this issue as self-efficacy has a dual purpose: 1) it communicates that in order to tutor/write, tutors need confidence in tutoring/writing and in themselves, and 2) it allows us to draw on the broader conversations in composition and writing center studies related to self-efficacy. And while Nowacek and Hughes’ chapter is very useful, it does not examine tutors’ tutoring and writing self-efficacies in empirical, RAD-based ways that may provide deeper understandings of how tutors’ tutoring and writing self-efficacies work and inform (or don’t inform) one another.

Prior self-efficacy research in composition and writing center studies has discovered that the concept is vital for student success. For example, Frank Parajes and Margaret Johnsons’ study uncovered that when students had high writing self-efficacy they also experienced lower writing apprehension. In this study, students who had lower writing apprehension also produced higher quality writing.  Further affirming this claim, Parajes’ extensive literature review on self-efficacy in writing found that self-efficacy in writing impacted writing performance. Similarly, through data from two empirical studies on writing transfer, Dana Driscoll and Jennifer Wells argued that higher self-efficacy can promote the transfer of writing knowledge and skills.

Writing center studies articles on the concept of writing self-efficacy provide further evidence for its impact on writing and student success.  Several strong practitioner pieces in WLN offer advice on how tutors might help students with writing self-efficacy (Hawkins, Lape, and Lawson). Beyond this theoretical work, empirical, RAD-based research in writing center studies has highlighted the benefits of writing center visits on student writing self-efficacy. For example, James Williams and Seiji Takakus’ study examined how writing center visits impacted students’ self-efficacy and found that the more a student visits the writing center, the higher their self-efficacy in writing. In their study “Transfer and Dispositions in Writing Centers: A Cross-Institutional Mixed-Methods Study,” Pamela Bromley et al. discovered that repeated writing center visits increased students’ self-efficacy but also found that the more visits that a student makes to the writing center, the more likely they would be to transfer their writing knowledge and skills from composition courses to other courses that required writing and even to professional contexts. The writing center therefore helped facilitate writing transfer when students gained more writing self-efficacy from their visits.

Although this research is important and useful to composition classrooms and writing centers, it does not specifically focus on tutors. Combing the literature on self-efficacy in tutoring revealed that less knowledge exists on tutors’ tutoring self-efficacy. Though, two pieces stand out. Margaret Bartelt offers a useful approach to helping tutors develop higher self-efficacy in tutoring by reflecting on their past tutoring experiences. Furthermore, Shaun T. White’s master’s thesis examines how a six-week tutor training program might increase tutoring self-efficacy. The results of this project indicated that tutors’ self-efficacy in tutoring did increase as a result of this training program. These studies again show that self-efficacy in tutoring is important to tutors’ success.

However, to our knowledge there exist no studies that try to determine what exactly tutors’ writing and tutoring self-efficacies are, or in other words, which levels of self-efficacy they might have. And although we can assume that tutoring and writing self-efficacies inform each other based on anecdotal evidence, there exist no empirical, RAD-based studies that show this relationship. Finally, we also do not know if this relationship changes over time as tutors gain experience and adopt the “expert-outsider” perspective discussed in Nowacek and Hughes’ chapter. Testing these assumptions can inform current tutor education best practices. Learning about tutors’ writing and tutoring self-efficacies, their relationship, and if they change over time, can help us to better understand and educate tutors like the ones we described above. Our study aims to begin this exploration through a quantitative survey. We pursued the following research questions:

  1. What are tutors’ writing and tutoring self-efficacies?

  2. Do tutors’ writing and tutoring self-efficacies correlate?

  3. Do experienced tutors have different writing and tutoring self-efficacies than new tutors?


To answer our research questions, we created a survey that adapted two existing scales measuring self-efficacy in writing and tutoring, which we describe in the following section. Also in the next section, we describe data analysis and participant demographics.

Survey Design and Distribution

In order to study tutors’ writing and tutoring self-efficacies, we developed the Tutoring Writing and Academic Writing Self-Efficacy Scale (TWAWSES).  The instrument to measure writerly self-efficacy was adapted from Katherine M. Schmidt and Joel E. Alexander’s Post Secondary Writerly Self-Efficacy Scale. Though Schmidt and Alexander created this scale with the intention of tracking writing center patrons’ writerly self-efficacies, we felt it was the most appropriate writing self-efficacy scale for writing tutors because its design was explicitly focused on a writing center context. Furthermore, Schmidt and Alexander’s scale does not include questions about specific disciplines’ writing conventions or specific genres1; it includes a mix of higher-order and later-order concerns; and it uses “I can” statements, which focus the participants’ attention on “future ability belief” (“Need and Development of a New Scale”).

The instrument to measure tutoring self-efficacy was adapted from White’s Perceived Self-Efficacy Survey. Similar to Schmidt and Alexander’s scale, White’s scale used “I can” statements. White’s scale is fairly unique in its sole focus on tutoring writing self-efficacy—it provides an array of tutoring work tasks. Our survey asked tutors to rate their confidence in their abilities to do twenty-one writing tasks related to writing for academic purposes as well as twenty-four tutoring tasks. Participating tutors used a sliding scale of 0 to 100 to report their confidence in each writing and tutoring task (see Appendix B for TWAWSES). We used Qualtrics as the platform to administer the survey. Additionally, our survey collected demographic information about tutors’ year in school, gender affiliation, number of semesters they have tutored, and their institution classification.

This instrument was first validated through a recursive revision process in which we asked a few volunteers to take the survey and give us feedback. Following validation and IRB approval, the survey was distributed to the WCenter listserv, WPA listserv, and the following Facebook groups: Directors of Writing Centers, International Writing Centers Association Summer Institute 2014, Sigma Tau Delta Midwestern Region, Sigma Tau Delta High Plains Region, PeerCentered, and CCCCs Graduate Student Special Interest Group in Spring of 2016. Members of each listserv and Facebook group were encouraged to distribute this survey to tutors they knew. Because these listservs and Facebook groups are used quite frequently to exchange ideas about writing center tutoring and administration, we administer our survey in this manner because we aimed to reach more participants and because we felt the members of these groups would be interested in our results.


The results of the survey were analyzed using SPSS 23 statistical software. First, we analyzed the demographic information of our participants by finding percentages of year in school, numbers of semesters tutoring, and the Carnegie classification of the institution that tutors worked for (see Tables 1 and 2 in Appendix A). Next, we ran descriptive statistics to determine if the data was normally distributed and to determine the means, medians, and ranges for the tutoring self-efficacy scores and the writing self-efficacy scores. 

After descriptive statistics, we ran tests of correlation between each writing self-efficacy score and each tutoring self-efficacy score. Given that all individual, writing self-efficacy scores correlated with all individual, tutoring self-efficacy scores, we combined all writing self-efficacy scores into one variable and all tutoring self-efficacy scores into one variable. After making the variables all writing self-efficacy and all tutoring self-efficacy, we ran correlations again. Finally, we tested the correlations between number of semesters tutoring and all writing self-efficacy scores as well as number of semesters tutoring and tutoring self-efficacy scores. Because the data was not normally distributed, we ran the Spearman-Rho test of correlation between all of the scores to determine their statistical relationship. 


We also collected demographic information from all of our participants (n=146). Table 1 reports how many years our participants had been in school (see Table 1 in Appendix A). As Table 1 displays, many of our participants were more advanced students, such as juniors (29.5%), seniors (19.9%), master’s students (17.8%), and PhD students (10.3%). However, we also received responses from first years (2.7%) and sophomores (13%). The 6.8% who did not answer this question were likely professional tutors who were not enrolled in a program; however, our survey did not explicitly ask tutors to report this demographic. We did, however, find that tutors identified as 73.3% female; 24% male; and 9% unspecified or preferred not to answer.

Table 2 displays how many semesters participants have been tutors (see Table 2 in Appendix A). The majority of participants reported having 1-2 semesters of experience (45.2%) or 3-4 semesters of experience (23.2%). 14.4% of tutors reported having 5-6 semesters of experience, 4.1% reported having 7-8 semesters of experience, 2.7% reported having 9-10 semesters of experience, 9.6% reported having 11 or more semesters of experience, and .7% did not answer.

In collecting this information, we asked participants to report the institution they currently attend and/or work for. Using the Carnegie classifications, we categorized each institution for the following criteria: private not-for-profit or public, highest degree granted, primary enrollment, and size and setting. We collapsed some of Carnegie’s categories because we did not need their level of specificity. For instance, under enrollment, we collapsed “very high undergraduate,” “high undergraduate,” and “majority undergraduate” into “primarily undergraduate.”

Tutors who took our survey came from a range of institutions, including institutions outside of the United States (4.1%).  Within the United States, institutions ranged from small, private, and not-for-profit to large, public, and doctoral. The most prevalent institution types include: public, doctoral, primarily undergraduate, four-year, large institutions (35.6%); private not-for-profit, baccalaureate, primarily undergraduate, four-year, small schools (10.2%); private, not-for-profit, doctoral, primarily undergraduate, four-year large institutions (9.6%); and private not-for-profit, master’s, primarily undergraduate, four-year, medium institutions (8.2%).

Results of Tutoring and Writing Self-Efficacy

In this section, we provide results about descriptive statistics of our survey and statistically significant correlations between writing and tutoring self-efficacy. We use our research questions to organize these statistics in the following subsections.

Research Question 1: What are tutors’ writing and tutoring self-efficacies?

Table 3 reports the average scores for all writing self-efficacy scale items (see Table 3 in Appendix A). Nearly all averages fell between 80 and 100, and tutors’ writing self-efficacy in the ability to concentrate on writing tasks was the lowest average score of 77.14. On the opposite end of the spectrum, tutors’ self-efficacy in the ability to recognize incomplete sentences had the highest average score of 96.12.

Because averages were high, we also examined range and median, revealing more variation between the scores. Table 4 represents the range and median for each score (see Table 4 in Appendix A).

Medians were also between 80-100, which again indicates that participants rated their writing self-efficacy high. However, the range varied greatly from 40-100, depending on the task. This means that some participants scored their writing self-efficacy as low as 0 and as high as 100. The writing self-efficacy items with the highest ranges include:

  • I can attribute my own success rather than to luck with external forces.

  • I can write a paper worthy of praise.

  • I can write a paper without experiencing overwhelming feelings of fear or distress.

  • I can find ways to concentrate when I am writing, even when there are many distractions around me.

The tutoring self-efficacy means, medians, and ranges all seemed to follow a similar pattern. The means are displayed in Table 5 (see Table 5 in Appendix A).

Again, the mean scores fall between 80-100, but there was some variation between the highest and lowest mean scores. Tutors’ self-efficacy with the ability to provide helpful feedback in online sessions received the lowest mean score of 76.78 and tutors’ self-efficacy with their ability to work with writers of the opposite sex received the highest mean score of 96.25.

Table 6 highlights the medians and ranges for tutoring self-efficacy scores (see Table 6 in Appendix A). With the tutoring self-efficacy scores, medians again fell between 80-100. But, ranges were anywhere between 49-100, which also means that some scale items received scores of 0-100. Specifically, the following tutoring self-efficacy scores showed the most range:

  • I can positively influence fellow writing consultants.

  • I can establish positive relationships with directors and graduate assistants.

  • I can consistently and correctly file and complete writing center forms and paperwork.

  • I can comfortably work with writers of the opposite sex.

  • I can provide helpful feedback in online tutoring sessions.

Research Question 2: Do tutors’ writing and tutoring self-efficacies correlate?

To find correlations, we took each individual scale-item score and ran correlations. What we found was that every writing self-efficacy score correlated with each tutoring self-efficacy score. We then combined all writing scale items and tutoring scale items to create two new variables: all writing self-efficacy and all tutoring self efficacy. Next, we ran correlations between those new variables.  Table 7 highlights the statistically significant correlations for all writing and tutoring self-efficacy scores (see Table 7 in Appendix A).

As Table 7 indicates, as tutors report high self-efficacy in tutoring tasks, they also report high self-efficacy in writing tasks. The scores showed a positive, strong, statistically significant correlation between participants’ tutoring self-efficacy and writing self-efficacy scores (r=.815 and p =.001). This means that as participants’ tutoring self-efficacy scores increased, so too did their writing self-efficacy scores.

Research Question 3: Do experienced tutors have different writing and tutoring self-efficacies than new tutors?

As we mentioned in the introduction, little research has examined how writing and tutoring experience may impact tutoring and writing self-efficacy, and we therefore decided to see if there was any correlation between tutoring experience and writing and tutoring self-efficacy. In this study “tutoring experience” meant numbers of semesters tutored. Table 8 highlights the tutoring self-efficacy scores that were statistically, significantly correlated (see Table 8 in Appendix A).

As Table 8 indicates, as tutors’ experience tutoring increased, their tutoring self-efficacy scores increased. There was a positive, weak, statistically significant correlation between participants’ semesters tutoring and their tutoring self-efficacy (r=.186 and p =.025).  However, the weak correlation indicates that there were some outliers, which means that there were some reported scores that decreased as tutors gained more experience. Essentially, there was always a consistent increase or decrease in self-efficacy scores as tutors gained experience.

When we examined writing self-efficacy and numbers of semesters tutoring, there was surprisingly no statistically significant correlation between number of semesters tutoring and the writing self-efficacy scale items.


This study had several limitations. Because this study is quantitative in nature, it was not our goal to gain in-depth understandings of how tutors had certain levels of self-efficacy and/or why they reported self-efficacy in the way they did. Instead, we hoped to gain an understanding of the general patterns of tutors’ writing and tutoring self-efficacies.

However, the tutors in our study reported rather high self-efficacy scores. Although this initially surprised us, this may be because of limitations to the survey dissemination, design, and analysis. For one, tutors who volunteered to do this survey may already be very confident tutors. Second, our scale design might have had an impact on the tutors’ self-efficacy scores. It was set up on a 0-100 scale, and this might have caused participants to think of traditional grading scales. This choice had the potential to shape tutors scores to resemble A, B, C, etcetera grades, which may account for their scores being in the 80-100 or A-B range. However, and as Albert Bandura claims, the 0-100 scale also allows researchers to capture greater nuances in self-efficacy than a smaller Likert scale of 1-5. This does not negate the limitation; rather, we’d like to specifically mention why we chose to utilize 0-100 scales. Further research with a similar survey design would help determine if the high scores were a limitation of the survey design, a problem with dissemination of the survey, an issue with survey analysis, or that the tutors who volunteer for a study just naturally have high self-efficacy with writing and tutoring.

Discussion and Implications

Overall, participants in this study reported high self-efficacy in both writing and tutoring. However, certain tasks, such as the ability to concentrate on a writing task and the ability to give feedback in online sessions, had notably lower mean scores. Although the mean scores were high, there was a large range between the lowest and highest scores with most of the data. In regards to the correlations, writing and tutoring self-efficacies are strongly correlated and tutoring self-efficacy and experience tutoring are weakly correlated. In what remains of this article, we discuss the results and discuss directions for future research.

High Self-efficacy but Wide Ranges in Scores

We believe the high self-efficacy scores in both writing and tutoring may be the result of a few key factors. First, and as mentioned above in the limitations, our survey mirrored a traditional grading scale. Tutors may be rating their tutoring and writing self-efficacy as if it were a grade. Furthermore, there were both peer and professional tutors in the study, which might account for the higher scores in tutoring and writing. With professional tutors in the mix, it makes sense that the scores were higher.

What we find most interesting, as WCAs, is the range of scores for both writing and tutoring self-efficacies varied greatly. We feel this reflects the very individualized way that tutors experience their self-efficacy in both tutoring and writing. No one tutor will have the exact same self-efficacy in each writing or tutoring task. Therefore, the range shows us the diversity amongst tutors. A similar explanation to the variation in the ranges for tutoring and writing self-efficacy scores might also be the different paths tutors might take in professional development. Like writers in a composition course, tutors develop at different rates, and it may take more or less time for particular tutors to develop their tutoring and writing abilities. In this development, tutors might be learning, and as they learn something new their self-efficacy may be temporarily lower with that tutoring or writing task than with something already familiar.2

Along similar lines, tutors also reported much lower self-efficacy with particular writing and tutoring tasks, and we feel that these may be areas that should be addressed in tutor training. For example, tutors reported the lowest mean scores with the writing self-efficacy scale item, I am able to concentrate on writing when there are distractions. This is a skill that tutors may want to invest time in as many writing centers are noisy and full of distractions. On top of this, some students also struggle with concentration and may need help from tutors to learn how to overcome this. WCAs could work with tutors on strategies for both removing one’s self from a noisy and distracting area and learning how to deal with other distractions that may come up. Tutors also reported a lower tutoring self-efficacy mean score on giving feedback online. Although this may be because a tutor lacks experience with giving feedback in an online context, it may also indicate that this is an area where tutors need more training as more and more writing centers add online tutoring. Not only could additional training for online tutoring be effective, but perhaps further research on why tutors lack self-efficacy in online tutoring sessions would give WCAs and writing center scholars more answers as to why tutors lack self-efficacy in this setting.

Correlations, Reaffirming Relationships, and Complex Experience

Our correlations between writing and tutoring self-efficacies seemed to reaffirm our anecdotal evidence that writing self-efficacy impacts tutoring self-efficacy and vice versa, especially given that the correlation was strong. This finding offers empirical evidence that self-efficacy (in writing and tutoring) is an important concept for tutor development.

Although our correlation findings support the relationships that many WCAs may already see in their centers, when we examined tutors’ experience alongside writing self-efficacy and tutoring self-efficacy, there appeared to be something more complex happening. Our assumption at the beginning of this investigation was that tutors’ self-efficacies in writing and tutoring would be higher the longer they had been tutoring. That is not what we found. First, there was no correlation between writing self-efficacy and the number of semesters tutoring. Second, there was only a weak correlation between tutoring self-efficacy and the number of semesters tutoring. Though there may be many explanations, we believe this indicates a humbling process for some tutors. What we mean by this is that as tutors gain more experience they, in theory, learn more about both tutoring and writing. As one learns more, one realizes how much more there is to learn and as we inhabit the beginner role by learning those new things we may not be fully confident.

Besides this humbling process, the lack of a correlation between writing self-efficacy and tutoring experience might result because we are dealing with tutors who have diverse experiences. Because tutors have diverse experiences, we think our results suggest that self-efficacy in writing is individually paced. Some may take more time to develop writing self-efficacy than others. There may be other identity/contextual factors, such as age, gender, socioeconomic backgrounds, university make-up, geographical region, preparation for college, and many others that may impact each individual’s writing self-efficacy to the point where no correlations would appear. It may also be that tutors are experiencing writing or writing situations that are brand new to them, and therefore we see a dip in writing self-efficacy.  

Although there was a weak correlation between tutoring self-efficacy and tutoring experience, there may also be very individually, paced experiences shaping tutors’ tutoring self-efficacy as well. A tutor may not experience all tutoring tasks in the first year or even second year. Therefore, self-efficacy may shift depending on the tutor and what they have experienced. For example, maybe a tutor goes a whole semester and never tutors a student on a paper about a controversial subject. They may feel confident in this task because they believe they will be able to handle such a situation when it arises. However, another tutor might have tutored a student on a paper about a controversial subject and had a bad experience and perhaps feels less confident about that now. Two other tutors might have the same experiences and have the totally opposite self-efficacy scores. Other factors, such as the contextual or identity factors mentioned above, may play into the weak pattern that formed in tutors’ self-efficacy over time. Lastly, it might mean that as tutors gain experience, they are exposed to new tutoring situations, such as tutoring a graduate student in an online context or working with a faculty member with an article for publication. 

All of this is to say that tutors are realizing there is more to learn about writing and tutoring, and as a result we would expect self-efficacy numbers to decrease, if only temporarily. Given the snapshot nature of our quantitative data, we cannot know which learning experiences participants were experiencing at the time they took the survey. Furthermore, the participants were a mix of both peer and professional tutors, so although this humbling process may be happening for peer tutors, it might not be occurring for professional tutors. Therefore, we see a weak correlation or no correlation at all.

Future Research

Our quantitative study has affirmed some beliefs about writing and tutoring self-efficacy but also raised some new areas for exploration. In concluding this article, we suggest future research that might build on the results of this study. This future work might include both quantitative or qualitative approaches.

In terms of quantitative approaches, we first suggest several ideas to reconsider the survey design. Instead of the 0-100 scale, researchers might employ a 0-10 scale instead. This scale could still capture the nuances of self-efficacy but wouldn’t mirror traditional grading methods. In further designing the survey, one might also revise the scale items to include tutoring or writing tasks that are specific to the individual tutors at a specific writing center. This may capture the individual and contextual influences on tutoring or writing self-efficacy. In the spirit of accounting for tutoring experience, the survey might be administered multiple times with a semester or two in-between each attempt at the survey. All of these approaches may improve how self-efficacy is being captured in all its complex ways.

A general qualitative design that uses interviews and/or focus groups to hone in on individual tutors, their perceptions of their writing and tutoring self-efficacies, and how the two inform one another may be another promising direction for future research. We suggest such a research design for several reasons. First, our quantitative design was meant to capture a broad view of tutors’ writing and tutoring self-efficacies. The range in scores amongst tutors generated more questions. The qualitative follow-up could explore in-depth understandings of how individual tutors experience their tutoring and writing self-efficacies and how this might impact them as a tutor.

The qualitative follow-up would also present the opportunity for tutor participants to elaborate on why they have more or less self-efficacy with particular tutoring or writing tasks. For example, a qualitative study could explore why some tutors have lower self-efficacy in online tutoring or working with multilingual students. An interview may very well reveal other aspects of writing and tutoring related to tutors’ self-efficacies in writing and tutoring. This exploration might provide more insights into why tutoring and writing self-efficacies are so strongly correlated and might describe tutors’ experiences that demonstrate the correlation in specific, concrete ways. Overall, tutors’ writing and tutoring self-efficacies are an important, complex, and understudied aspect of tutoring writing. Further research can help WCAs and WC scholars understand the complex nature of tutors’ writing and tutoring self-efficacies as well as the applications of such knowledge to tutor education.


  1. We felt this statement was important because we wanted a writing self-efficacy scale that could be used by tutors from a variety of disciplines.

  2. For a more in-depth discussion of this, see the follow-up qualitative portion of this study forthcoming in a digital edited collection of WLN.

Works Cited

Bandura, Albert. “Guide for Constructing Self-Efficacy Scales.” Self-Efficacy Beliefs of Adolescents, edited by Frank Pajares & Tim Urdan, Information Age Publishing, 2006, pp. 307-337.

Bartlet, Margaret. “Am I a Good Tutor?” The Writing Lab Newsletter, vol. 19, no. 6, 1995, p. 8.

Bromley, Pamela, et al. “Student Perceptions of Intellectual Engagement in the Writing Center: Cognitive Challenge, Tutor Involvement, and Productive Sessions.” The Writing Lab Newsletter, vol. 39, no. 7-8, 2015, pp. 1-6.

Bromley, Pam, et al. “Transfer and Dispositions in Writing Centers: A Cross-Institutional Mixed-Methods Study.” Across the Disciplines, vol. 13, no. 1, 2016, pp. 1-15.

Driscoll, Dana Lynn, and Jennifer Wells. “Beyond Knowledge and Skills: Writing Transfer and the Role of Student Dispositions.” Composition Forum, vol. 26, 2012.

Hawkins, R. Evon. “’From Interest and Expertise’: Improving Student Writers' Working Authorial Identities.” The Writing Lab Newsletter, vol. 32, no. 6, 2008, pp. 1-5.

Lape, Noreen. “Training Tutors in Emotional Intelligence: Toward a Pedagogy of Empathy.” The Writing Lab Newsletter, vol. 33, no. 2, 2008, pp. 1-6.

Lawson, Daniel. “Metaphors and Ambivalence: Affective Dimensions in Writing Center Studies.” WLN: A Journal of Writing Center Scholarship, vol. 40, no. 3-4, 2015, pp. 20-27.

Nowacek, Rebecca S., and Bradley Hughes. “Threshold Concepts in the Writing Center: Scaffolding the Development of Tutor Expertise.” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, edited by Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle, Utah State UP, 2015, pp. 171-185.

Pajares, Frank. “Self-Efficacy Beliefs, Motivation, and Achievement in Writing: A Review of the Literature.” Reading & Writing Quarterly, vol. 19, 2003, pp. 139-158.

Pajares, Frank, and Margaret J. Johnson. “Confidence and Competence in Writing: The Role of Self-Efficacy, Outcome Expectancy, and Apprehension.” Research in the Teaching of English, vol. 28, no. 3, 1994, pp. 313-331.

Schimdt, Katherine M., and Joel E. Alexander. “The Empirical Development of an Instrument to Measure Writerly Self-Efficacy in Writing Centers.” The Journal of Writing Assessment, vol. 5, no. 1, 2012.

White, Shaun T. A Case Study of Perceived Self-Efficacy in Writing Center Peer Tutor Training, master’s thesis, Boise State University, 2014. 

Appendix A: Tables

Table 1. Year in School. Valid percentage refers to the participants who filled out the entire survey. If they left information blank, then we removed their responses from the overall percentage.

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Table 2. Number of Semesters Tutoring

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Table 3. Means for All Writing Self-Efficacy Scores

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Table 4. Medians and Ranges for All Writing Self-Efficacy Scores

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Table 5. Means for All Tutoring Self-Efficacy Scores

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Table 6. Medians and Ranges for All Tutoring Self-Efficacy Scores

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Table 7. Correlation and Significance for All Writing Self-Efficacy Scores and All Tutoring Self-Efficacy Scores

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Table 8. Correlation and Significance for All Tutoring Self-Efficacy Scores and Experience Tutoring

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Appendix B: Tutors’ Self-Efficacy

Start of Block: Consent

Q1 We are conducting research on tutor's self-efficacy (confidence within their self) with their writing and tutoring. You are eligible for this study because you are currently a writing center tutor and are currently tutoring college-level students. For this study you will be asked a short questionnaire to obtain your demographic information and your ratings of your own self-efficacy with writing and with tutoring. You will be asked 12 questions and this survey should take about 10 minutes to complete.

Risks are minimal for your involvement with this study. If you choose to participate in this study, you will not experience any risks that are greater than the ones you might experience in your everyday life. This survey should benefit your future professional lives.

Participation in this research study is completely voluntary. You have the right to withdraw at anytime or refuse to participate entirely without jeopardy to your academic status or standing with the university. You may choose to skip a question if it makes you feel uncomfortable.  You may also withdraw from the study at any time by simply closing the browser during the survey. Your identities and responses to the survey will remain confidential and only the researchers will know your identity

You may be selected to partake in a 30-40 minute interview following your responses on this survey. This interview is voluntary and you may choose to not participate in this interview. If you choose to participate in the interview, there is a portion of the survey that asks for your name and institution. This institutional name will remain confidential. If you do not wish to participate in the interview, you will not write your name in the portion of the survey that asks for your name.

If you have any questions about the survey, please contact us: Author at_________ Author 2 or via email at as well as the faculty sponsor, __________Also, this study is under the supervision of the IUP Institutional Review Board.  If you have any questions regarding this IRB protocol or the rights of research participants, you can contact the Institutional Review Board at ___________

Q2 I have read and understood this consent form and desire of my own free will to participate in this study. By clicking on the “yes” button below, I show that I am 18 years or older, I am a tutor who works with college level writers at a writing center, and I indicate my consent to participate in this study. 

  • Yes, I am 18 and I consent

  • No, I withdraw

End of Block: Consent


Start of Block: Demographics

Q3 How long have you been a tutor? (Ex. four semesters)


Q4 List where you have been a tutor (Language Institute, writing center, student support services, etc):


Q5 What is the name of your institution? (ex: Pennsylvania State University, Coe College, Johnson County Community College). 


Q6 What is your major/program?


Q7 What year are you?

▼ Freshman . . . PhD Student

Q8 What gender do you identify with?

  • Male

  • Female

  • Other

  • Prefer not to answer

End of Block: Demographics

Start of Block: Writerly Self-Efficacy

Q9 The following will ask you questions about your writing for academic purposes (ex writing a course paper). Please use the slider scale to rate your confidence in your ability to do the following [Editor’s note: the slider-scale graphic appears in full issue]:   

0 Know I cannot do it










100 Completely sure I can do it

I can identify incomplete, or fragment, sentences.

I can invest a great deal of effort and time in writing a paper when I know the paper will earn a grade.

I can articulate my strengths and challenges as a writer.

I can find and incorporate appropriate evidence to support important points in my papers.

I can be recognized by others as a strong writer.

When I read a rough draft, I can identify gaps when they are present in the paper.

I can maintain a sense of who my audience is as I am writing a paper.

I can write a paper without feeling physical discomfort (e.g., headaches, stomach-aches, back-aches, insomnia, muscle tension, nausea, and/or crying).

When I read drafts written by classmates, I can provide them with valuable feedback.

When I have a pressing deadline for a paper, I can manage my time efficiently.

I can attribute my success on writing projects to my writing abilities more than to luck or external forces.

When a student who is similar to me receives praise and/or a good grade on a paper, I know I can write a paper worthy of praise and/or a good grade.

Once I have completed a draft, I can eliminate both small and large sections that are no longer necessary.

I can write a paper without experiencing overwhelming feelings of fear or distress.

When writing papers for different courses (for example, Biology, English, and Philosophy classes), I can adjust my writing to meet the expectations of each discipline.

I can map out the structure and main sections of an essay before writing the first draft.

I can find ways to concentrate when I am writing, even when there are many distractions around me.

I can find and correct my grammatical errors.

I can invest a great deal of effort and time in writing a paper when I know the paper will not be graded.

I can identify when I need help on my writing.

I can evaluate the usefulness of others' feedback on my drafts when revising.

End of Block: Writerly Self-Efficacy

Start of Block: Tutoring Self-Efficacy

Q10 The following will ask you questions about you as a tutor. Please use the slider scale to rate your confidence in your ability to do the following:












I can positively influence fellow writing consultants.

I can influence a writer to become involved and engaged in their writing assignment.

I can influence a writer to stay on task with a challenging writing assignment.

I can influence a writer to stay on task with a challenging writing assignment.

I can reduce a writer's writing anxiety.

I can influence a writer to believe they can do well on a writing assignment.

I can perceive failures as challenges rather than problems.

I can navigate a session where the writer is writing about a controversial subject.

I can draw on my strengths when faced with challenges.

I can identify resources that would benefit the writer.

I can establish positive relationships with directors and graduate assistants.

I can consistently demonstrate a professional attitude with colleagues and writers

I can participate in extracurricular writing center activities (i.e. complete writing center forms and paperwork).

I can consistently and correctly file and complete writing center forms and paperwork.

I can discern what non-consulting tasks need to be done in the writing center independently.

I can provide writers with details that support my feedback.

I can direct and maintain a focus on Higher Order Concerns (AKA Global Issues, such as developing ideas, organization, etc).

I can establish a rapport with writers during a consultation.

I can comfortably work with writers of the opposite sex.

I can request advice from writing consultants with more experience.

I can complete a tutoring session in the tie allotted.

I can be flexible and receptive to the writer's needs and inquires.

I can comfortably work with writers that have physical or learning disabilities.

I can provide helpful feedback in online tutoring sessions.

I can proficiently discuss grammar and sentence structure with writers.

Q11 Do you think there is a relationship between yourself as a writer and yourself as a tutor? If so what is the nature of that relationship?



Q12 Do you think that tutoring has made you a more confidence or less confident writer? Why? 



Q13 What benefits (if any) have you gained from tutoring? 



End of Block: Tutoring Self-Efficacy


Start of Block: Block 4


Q18 Do you have any additional comments you'd like to share?



Q19 Would you be willing to participate in a 30-40 minute follow up interview?

  • Yes

  • Maybe

  • No


Q20 Please provide your name and email address so that we can contact you to set up a follow up interview. We will keep your name and contact information confidential. 

  • First Name ________________________________________________

  • Last Name ________________________________________________

  • Email ________________________________________________

End of Block: Block 4