Campus / News / September 21, 2009

Resources abound for academic assistance

For many Knox students, moving on campus has meant learning to complete their assignments all on their own without school-organized study groups, parents to read over essay drafts, or that one good friend who always understood calculus before anyone else. This kind of independence may seem frightening, but here at Knox, students looking for help are never alone.

Thanks to programs like the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), the Red Room, and Knox’s newest program, Writer’s Bloc, there are plenty of opportunities for all students to hone their skills. Last year, the CTL served 553 students.

These programs offer students the opportunity for tutoring in the sciences, mathematics, English, foreign languages and history courses, to name a few. They also allow Knox students the ability become tutors themselves and training programs for tutor candidates.

“We get really amazing kids who want to help their classmates,” said CTL director John Haslem. “We’re not just academic support. We’re an opportunity.”

Students who are interested in becoming tutors are trained to do their jobs by taking an introduction to peer tutoring. Tutors with high skill levels volunteer to go on and run small group projects. Peer tutoring counts as Knox’s experiential learning requirement and is printed on the student transcript.

In previous years, students have desired more hours for assistance, especially on the weekends. Writer’s Bloc, a new program for the year, will attempt to service that need.

“It’s not just for people failing the class,” said Haslem. Students use these programs to enhance their work at all levels, whether they are working on FP papers on Honors Projects.

The CTL also offers assistance to students with special needs, including physical and learning disabilities. Students who need audio instead of visual instructions, are dyslexic, or need extra time in completing their work can receive assistance from the CTL.

“We want to give them equal access to the learning opportunities at Knox,” said Haslem. Students can make appointments at the CTL to discuss their need for assistance.

The CTL has certification from the College Reading and Learning Association and will be recertifying at the end of this year.


Currently, the CTL is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and offers help with revising and restructuring essays for any subject. Students can use the CTL on a walk-in basis or schedule an appointment. Haslem suggests scheduling an appointment around midterms and finals to ensure that each student can be helped when they are available.

Students should bring their assignments and essay drafts when they seek help from the CTL. The tutors at the CTL are students trained to assist others in enhancing their work.

This year, the CTL tutors are expanding their focus from just providing instruction to students on their essays.

“[The students] had been walking out with better writing, but not as a better writer,” said Haslem. “We’re going to empower students to think in new and more substantive ways.”

The tutors will be working on a more theory-based way of revising papers, and hope to convey these theories to their students so they understand why the tutors make the changes they do. The tutors will focus on organization, thought development, sentence level mechanics, and clear thesis statements.

“We want to change the way students see what we do here,” said writing coordinator Neil Richter, ’09. “Hopefully, we’ll not just make better papers, but also better writers.”

The CTL is located across from Post Hall in a yellow house.

Red Room

The Red Room is a peer tutoring opportunity on campus that allows students to help others in several different subjects at Knox. Located on the second floor of Seymour Library, the Red Room is open every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Last year, the Red Room served 327 students, a far larger number than the number of students served when the program started six years ago.

“Once students realized the resource was there and tried it, they were really helped,” said Haslem. “This has become an amazing program.”

The Red Room is lined with tables, each one allowing for help in a different subject. Many tutors are trained to help in more than one subject area and can find themselves a spot as according to where they are needed. Many students find the Red Room useful because their peers often know the styles of the professors who created the assignments, and have perhaps even done the assignment themselves at one point. They can offer valuable insight into what is really required from the assignments.

“Through a peer, tutoring becomes a little bit more comfortable,” said Jane Varakin, Academic Coordinator at the CTL. “It’s really a learning community.”

When students use the Red Room, they sign in and out. This year, tutees will be able to evaluate their experience in the Red Room and each individual tutor to provide the best assistance in the future. As there is more need for a subject, the Red Room can train and hire more tutors.

Writer’s Bloc

This is a new program that will be getting its start at the beginning of fall term. Headed by Richter, Writer’s Bloc will meet Sunday and Monday in the Red Room from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. This program is meant to help students with any kind of writing, creative or otherwise. Students can even bring in their assignments and receive help on how to best outline their project and how to begin.

“You can really get to a place that is academically important,” said Richter

Students are welcome to receive assistance on a walk-in basis. Two writing tutors will be available at each session.

Laura Miller

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