Date of Award

Fall 12-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Bennett A. Rafoth, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Gloria Park, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Gian S. Pagnucci, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Rebecca Day Babcock, Ph.D.


This study uses the control-value theory of achievement emotions as a framework to examine how writing center peer tutors respond cognitively, affectively and behaviorally to student writers’ negative achievement emotions toward the writing students bring to the writing center. The study is informed by recent scholarship that asserts that sometimes when students visit the writing center, they feel a variety of emotions toward their writing, some of which are negative achievement emotions that can have harmful effects.

The study’s findings come from a survey of 28 undergraduate and graduate level writing center tutors, as well as written reflections, interviews, and audio recordings of tutoring sessions from 3 undergraduate and 4 graduate tutors. Statistical analysis of the survey, and coding of the reflections, interviews, and audio recordings, revealed findings that contribute to writing center and composition studies.

Participating tutors reported significant numbers of tutoring sessions involving students feeling negative emotions, and regularly addressed students’ negative achievement emotions as part of supporting students’ writing. Tutors attributed writers’ negative achievement emotions to lack of confidence in their writing abilities, partially due to ineffective scaffolding of writing assignments and feedback from faculty. Participating tutors made efforts to intervene in the control element of the control-value theory, attempting to raise students’ confidence. The tutors believed that immediate decrease in negative emotions was important to a tutoring session’s success, and rarely acknowledged situations during which degrees of negative emotions might be beneficial in motivating students to strive. Tutors in the study reported little success in mediating value elements of students’ writing processes, struggling to help students connect assignments to their long-term goals. Despite overall empathy for students, some participating tutors could not reconcile their intellectual understanding of the challenges students face with those tutors’ positive feelings toward faculty and academic achievement. Findings from this study complicate some assumptions about the effectiveness of peer writing tutors, and suggest compositionists more closely examine faculty practices in assigning writing that is meaningful to students’ long-term goals, and in scaffolding that writing.