By Daniel A. Weinstein, PhD, Director of Faculty Development & Assessment, Capital University, originally printed in the National Tutoring Association Tree Newsletter, Fall 2012
Tutoring is perhaps the most engaging and enriching form of instruction there is! More and more students today benefit from the tutoring experience than ever before. Most teachers are well versed in good pedagogy, but sometimes to the exclusion of good andragogy. The key is making a positive connection with the student on a one-to-one or small group basis. This is instruction and enlightenment that is sort of at variance with our usual way of going about teaching, yet it is an easy switch for most teachers to make once they are shown how to approach it.
Tutor training, as well, is a delicate and intricate process. The guidelines are fairly simple – present to teachers much of what they already know at a pedagogical level, yet better suited for individual instruction. Always remember that they are already teaching professionals and that sensitivity with them will go a long way. In this piece, I lay out for the reader the five hallmark things that every tutor trainer should know. By no means is the list exhaustive or exclusive. It is meant to highlight some of the main points that tutor trainers should keep in mind and certainly abide by as they gravitate toward the world of individualized and small group instruction.
- Ethics: It is actually easy to cross the ethics line without even giving it much thought. Tutors have been known to “teach to the test,” do home-work for the students and test students in the manner they see most ᴀt. Part of tutor training clearly addressed this issue and presents ideas and options for tutors given the ethics involved in tutoring.
- Communication: The importance of good communication cannot be emphasized enough. A lot of trouble in most of life can be traced back to poor communication. Certainly given the instructional nature of tutoring, tutor training addresses skills, best practices and teachable moments that focus on appropriate communication in a one-on-one and small group instructional environment.
- Critical Thinking: Tutor training features the important component of teaching students how to think and question – especially when it comes to critical thinking. A good tutor knows how to instruct students to ask questions, rely on facts and interpret information, to name just a few. In addition, good thinking instruction teaches students to avoid thinking ruts and procrastination.
- Assessment Methods: Assessment is often viewed as testing, but it’s really more than that. Tutors should know that assessment is measurement that’s based on a standard or target. Tutors must be able to assess if students are achieving intended outcomes and if they are ready to move up to the next level of learning. End-of-session summaries, think-alouds and observations are additional ways that tutors can do assessment of intended student learning outcomes. With doing proper assessment, there’s no real way of knowing that students got what you intended out of tutoring.
- Tips for Successful Studying: While this one may seem “tongue in cheek,” it is crucial for any student who wishes to be successful. The establishment of mutual expectations and preparation for the learning process are top tips for successful studying. Students should also be aware of appropriate study areas and learning styles. It is truly amazing to see the difference that these tips can have on student success.
All in all, tutor training is an opportunity for teachers to engage in professional self-reflection. Tutor certification helps to ensure that teachers understand and abide by the basic rules of tutoring. These are skills that are not just innate within all teachers. Most of these skills have to be learned – sometimes over and over again. And every tutor trainer should know that.
This article was featured in Fall 2012 issue of The Tree, and reprinted with permission of the National Tutoring Association, © 2012.