SASS peers help students develop skills to succeed at university. Our programs are free and confidential. We can help students:
- develop learning strategies and writing skills,
- make the transition from high school to university,
- overcome academic challenges, and
- develop peer leadership skills.
Peer Learning Assistants
Our programs would not be possible without the generosity, enthusiasm and commitment of our student volunteers. Known as Peer Learning Assistants (PLAs), these students promote learning strategies on campus through workshops, one-on-one coaching and promotional activities.
We recruit in January for undergraduate students of all faculties and years to begin their work with the program the following September. Interviews generally occur in March.
“Not only do we get that feeling of satisfaction when we help someone, but we also help ourselves by using the techniques we teach. It’s a win-win!” – PLA, 2012
“I can honestly say that being a PLA was by far my favourite extra curricular experience at Queen’s!” – PLA, 2015
“My confidence as a presenter and as a student is so much better now–plus my marks have gone up now that I am practicing what I teach!” – PLA 2011
Why volunteer with us?
- You will be provided with extensive training in many learning strategies (e.g., time management, effective studying, exam preparation, note-taking, reading, focus and concentration).
- You will learn how to plan and deliver workshops to Queen’s students.
- You will learn about and practice group facilitation skills and presentation skills.
- You will meet other fantastic students and enjoy leadership and student development opportunities.
- You feel rewarded in your work with first-year students and International students.
- You will be provided with references and ongoing support.
Peer Writing Assistants & Science Peer Writing Assistants
Peer Writing Assistants (PWAs) at the Writing Centre are skilled upper-year and graduate student volunteers who enjoy helping others become better writers. PWAs provide advice on any first and second-year course, while Science PWAs advise on first and second-year courses in all science and mathematical disciplines. PWAs and Science PWAs provide a vital component of our program, extending the service the Centre offers to students in developing their writing skills and confidence.
PWAs are trained to work on-on-one with students taking first and second year courses, helping with clarifying the terms of the assignment, brainstorming, pre-writing and structuring, providing feedback, and directing students to the resources they need to produce good papers. For many students, this service makes a significant difference in their academic performance and confidence.
Sessions are always challenging, and no two are alike. They all, however, take a collaborative approach between the PWA and the student seeking assistance—i.e., PWAs do not proofread, or make writing decisions, for the students they help. Instead, they help students develop their own skills in writing, editing and critical thinking, in the context of working on a particular assignment.
PWAs also occasionally offer workshops on writing-related topics. Our program is evolving, and it is likely that new opportunities will arise in the near future.
”I’m so grateful for my experience as a PWA. From the workshops, the training, and the support we received to the actual sessions with students, the program allowed me to help others while also strengthening my own skills (for example, I finally learned how to properly use a semicolon). Grammar is no longer as daunting as it first was when I joined the program. My favourite moments as a PWA came in sessions when I saw that an idea suddenly clicked with a student, and we’d both get really excited. Ending a session with a student knowing I’d really helped them was the best feeling. Because of my experience as a PWA, I was able to go into my publishing program with a renewed and strengthened confidence in my skills and abilities. My positive experience in the program has also opened me up to the wonderful and rewarding world of volunteering.”
Kirstie Turco, PWA 2014-2015 & 2015-2016
“Being a PWA was one of the best things I did during my time at Queen’s. Working alongside students in our one on one sessions, I ended up learning so much about all the different approaches to the writing and editing processes. There is nothing more satisfying than the feeling you get after seeing a student leave a session with a newfound sense of confidence about their assignment.
On top of that, the entire community of the program, from my fellow PWAs to our program leaders, made the experience so fun and worthwhile. Our access to resources like writing workshops and the training we received helped me polish my writing and vastly improved my grammatical skills. I use these skills daily in my efforts towards a career in journalism, and my time as a PWA helped me feel confident in my skill set as I enter my masters program in journalism. The PWA program is not only a rewarding extracurricular that helps others, but an amazing tool for self-growth and learning as well. I can’t recommend it enough.”
Sanam Yar, PWA 2015-2016
What kind of time commitment is required?
PWA sessions take place Monday-Thursday, 6:30-8:30 pm, and Saturdays 11:00 – 1:00 pm in four 25-minute sessions per evening. Currently, each PWA volunteers for two hours per week from mid-September to the end of November and from mid-January to the end of March.
In addition, we have an hour-long team meeting twice per term.
Training takes place:
- in the summer: PWAs have short readings and online AODA training to complete (about 4-5 hours total)
- on September 10, 2017: a full day of in-person training on campus (about 7 hours)
- throughout the year: PWAs attend one or two hour-long sessions on topics related to their roles, and also choose two out of many possible additional sessions to complete over the academic year, to support their development (about 3-4 hours total)
- online: PWAs complete a series of short lessons in grammar and style over the summer and fall term (about 8-10 hours).
Why become a PWA or Science PWA?
Knowing that you’re helping others is a good feeling, but that’s not the only reason to become a PWA. You can also strengthen your own writing, editing, and communication skills, belong to a fun team of people from diverse faculties and backgrounds, and receive practical training in a variety of areas from professional staff. If you intend to pursue an academic, communications, or teaching career, this experience is a helpful addition to your CV, and perhaps a way to connect with professional staff who can challenge and support your growth and give you a great reference when you graduate.
How can I apply?
We are always looking for enthusiastic students to volunteer with our peer programs! Read more about other peer programs like QSuccess or continue below for information about opportunities at SASS.
Peer Learning Assistants
Peer Learning Assistant (PLA) volunteers work with the Program Coordinator to prepare and deliver workshops to undergraduate students with the aim of enhancing students’ academic success and helping them learn how to learn at the university level. You’ll deliver workshops and drop-in coaching sessions on topics such as reading, time management, avoiding procrastination and basic writing strategies. You’ll be amazed at how much you can contribute to students’ academic success as a part of the program!
Peer Writing Assistants
Peer Writing Assistants (PWAs) are skilled upper-year and graduate student volunteers from any discipline who enjoy helping others become better writers. They provide a vital component of our program, extending the service the Centre offers. PWAs are trained to work one-on-one with first and second-year students looking for writing support. They help with clarifying the terms of the assignment, brainstorming, pre-writing and structuring, providing feedback, and directing students to the resources they need to produce good papers. For many students, this service makes a significant difference in their academic performance and confidence.