Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tutoring Center

In a recent meeting of colleges throughout the southwest, the value of on campus tutoring centers was discussed. On campus tutoring centers, for the most part, help increase student achievement and retention.

Another idea that most colleges find useful is, supplemental instruction. Supplemental instructors are students who have either already taken the class, or can tutor the material in the class. They sit in during the lecture and after class or at some other time, they meet with the class to review the material and answer questions. One college took it one step further, during the supplemental instruction period they first watch a video that pertains to the material covered in class, then they help the students with questions.

Some of the issues with supplemental instruction are finding qualified people and constant turnover since supplemental instructors graduate high school, college, or go to a 4 year university.

Some of the issues with the tutoring center are staffing and attendance. It is not sufficient to have a tutoring center if it is not staffed with qualified, capable people. Most tutoring centers hire high performing students to tutor other students, the only problem is that there may not be sufficient students willing to tutor to make the tutoring center effective. Not to mention that the best student-tutors graduate high school, or go on to a 4 year university, so tutoring centers are constantly losing their best tutors. One way to address this problem is to require instructors in the college or high school to tutor at the center a couple of hours per week.

The number of hours can be dependent on the number of units the instructor teaches (at a college) or some other method (at a high school). Now, teacher's unions may have an issue with this, since the instructors are made to tutor. This problem can be resolved without alienating the teacher's unions. It's all a matter of incentives, money is not the only incentive, what good is money if much of your free time is taken up grading papers? Grading papers-an equally powerful incentive. So if requiring instructors to tutor at the center causes problems with the union, a school may make it voluntary BUT offer a grading service as a powerful incentive.

So a college or high school can offer to grade a certain percentage of a teacher's papers, dependent upon the number of hours the instructor tutor's at the center. The more hours the instructor tutors at the center the higher the percentage of paper's the school grades.

Since most textbooks have complete solution manuals, it is much easier to find qualified graders than it is to find qualified tutors. Also, it is much easier to replace graders than it is to replace tutors, and at a lower cost. Furthermore the effect of a "bad" grader is far less damaging than the effect of a "bad" tutor.

The second issue is attendance, what good is staffing a tutoring center with qualified people IF the students who most need it don't use it? First a school will constantly advertise the tutoring center, if a student needs help - he/she will know where to go. Instructors can offer extra credit to students who do attend the tutoring center and finally a school may make it a requirement for students to go to the tutoring center, with the option to not attend for high performing students. Before a student decides to take a class, they must be absolutely sure they have sufficient time to take the class AND attend the tutoring center - this can be reinforced when they sign up for classes - do you have sufficient time outside of work to attend the tutoring center??

We can modify this even further, before a student signs up for a class a software program will analyze their grades to determine if tutoring should be a requirement. If the student is high performing then no tutoring requirement will be necessary, if the student is average performing then he/she will need to attend only a certain number of hours, if the student is low performing then he/she will need to attend even more hours.

This can also be made real time, if the software system detects that the student's grades in a class fall below a certain level then tutoring will be mandatory until his/her grades go above the level.

There may be details to work out, but the main ideas have been proven to be effective.

John G.


Post a Comment

<< Home