Department of English

Writing Center

The PIE Principle

PIE stands for Praise, Instruct, and Encourage. These three steps in motivating students during a tutoring session are based on principles developed by Ed J. Pinegar, an instructor of religion at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT.

As much as students come to us wanting to know that is wrong with or how they can fix their papers, they equally need to know what they are doing right in their writing.  One of the most effective ways to develop trust and comfort in a tutoring session is to first praise the student on a few of the stronger aspects of his or her writing.  No matter how weak the writing may be, make it a habit to point out the good things that exist—before attacking the problems.  A student is much more enthusiastic and willing to work on the problems if he or she at least knows something is good.  However, use caution as you do this; make sure you are being completely honest in your praise.  If we compliment poor aspects of writing, it will only perpetuate the problems.

This is the most widely discussed area of tutoring.  Remember that one of the primary goals of instructing (at least in the Writing Center) is to foster independence and confidence.  Craft your instruction in a way that he student can really soak in the rules and further improve his or her writing independent of the tutor.

Because most students are nervous about revising a paper, the more positive reinforcement they receive, the better!  Bring the aspects of praise and instruction together to assure the student or what he or she is doing well, what he or she can do to improve, and how you have confidence is his or her abilities.  Go through the things that you discussed in your tutoring session to reassure the student of all the things he or she has learned.

Student Example, Part 1:

Emily Dickinson, her poetry, and her style of writing all reflect her own feelings as well as her own ultimate dreams.  Her withdrawal from the world and her impassioned art were also inspired in part I think by a tragic romance.  A series of tormented and often frankly erotic letters were found to prove that this unsuccessful romance had a strong impact on her emotions—enough impact to seclude her from any outside life.  This paper concerns two of Emily Dickinson’s poems, number 288 and number 384, which are both prime examples that reflect the dejection she was experiencing.

Praise:  Although this piece lacks specifics and is rather unorganized, the writer has attempted to write a good introduction.  Strong word choice like “impassioned,” “erotic,” and “dejection” immediately engage the reader and indicate that the writer has some interest in writing about the subject.  The student has also attempted to create a thesis.

Instruct:  Since the Writing Center emphasizes student ownership, it would be important to give the student advice on whatever topic he/she felt was necessary.  General advice for this student may be ... “Your thesis seems a little vague.  What did you have in mind when you mentioned the themes of dejection in Emily Dickinson’s poetry?”

Encourage:  Point out to the student his/her good understanding of Emily Dickinson’s background information.  Encourage him/her to use specific examples in comparing Dickinson’s life and poetry.

Now, try your hand at this example, using the PIE principle.

Student Example, Part 2:

In poem number 288, Dickinson reveals her loneliness.  In line number one, she introduces herself as “Nobody,” as if it is her plural name.  Nobody also refers to someone that people do not know much about.  I think the word Nobody uses both meanings in this poem.  She then asks the reader if they are Nobody too.










These student examples were taken from:
Ryan, Leigh. The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors. 3rd ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2002