August 29, 2013

The five things that every tutor trainer should know

By Daniel A. Weinstein, PhD, Director of Faculty Development & Assessment, Capital University, originally printed in the National Tutoring Association Tree Newsletter, Fall 2012

Dan Weinstein conducts a tutor training at the 2012 National Tutoring Association conference.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Filed under: Associations,Small Private Practices,Training/Education

July 27, 2013

Being friendly: Building an effective tutor-student relationship

by Nalini Lasiewicz, Crossroads of Learning

Academic advisers at the Canadian Student Leadership Association (CSLA) note that students are more motivated to learn — and learn more — when they like the teacher.  By practicing techniques of friendliness, learning specialists can be most effective in their roles, whether as a peer tutor, a volunteer mentor or a manager of academic learning center, writing center, or tutorial service. There is, however, a difference between being friendly and trying to be a friend.  Tutors need not confuse the two.

When working with students to improve their comprehension and understanding, CSLA recommends these friendly and respectful behaviors:

  • Act as an equal — Avoid appearing superior or snobbish.
  • Be dynamic — Students appreciate someone who is active and enthusiastic.
  • Create a learning environment — Choose a location and a situation that makes learning fun, interesting and entertaining.
  • Be comfortable — Be at ease with yourself.
  • Concede some control — Allow the student to lead and pursue knowledge.
  • Show interest — Be interested in what they have to say and remember their likes, hobbies and interests.
  • Be optimistic — Convey a positive outlook. This will be contagious.

The attitude of friendliness is a step above basic etiquette.  Experienced tutors should already have a commitment to average social norms such as being on time to all your tutoring sessions, planning the sessions so that the student’s time is respected, dressing appropriately and attending to one’s own personal cleanliness. The “Tutoring Foundations” curriculum from Crossroads of Learning also stresses that tutors should refrain from using obscene, insulting or slang language.  Another rule of etiquette for tutors is to avoid embarrassing or belittling their students. When problems arise, try to speak in a diplomatic way to avoid hurt feelings.

Sometimes the line between being friendly — and being friends — can feel a bit blurry.  For example, once a level of trust in the relationship has been built, students may ask their tutor personal questions, or make inappropriate comments.  In order to avoid this,  a very brief greeting period at the beginning of the session to catch up a bit is recommended, being sure to keep it lighthearted or school related, and then getting back to work, staying on task in a friendly and professional manner!

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Portions of this article are excerpts from “Being Friendly”, reprinted with permission from the Canadian Student Leadership Association. Other portions are from “Tutoring Foundations”, a training curriculum created by Crossroads of Learning © 2013 and developed with the National Tutoring Association (NTA) and Fielding Graduate University. Crossroads of Learning professional development for tutors, trainers or academic coaches is available via on-line courses or a train-the-trainer/workbook program. All courses and materials articulate with NTA Certification requirements. For more information call Nalini Lasiewicz at 818.249.9692 ext 2 or click here to request information.

Filed under: Academic Learning Centers,Associations,Crossroads of Learning,Peer-Tutoring,Small Private Practices,Training/Education,Tutoring Practices

June 27, 2013

NTA Welcomes Speaker Proposals for 2014 Conference

The National Tutoring Association has announced it’s 21st annual national conference, to be held April 5-10, 2014 in Tampa, Florida.  Organizers welcome proposals for speakers who wish to expand the discipline in all areas in tutoring regarding: recruiting, training, and retaining tutors; current trends in practice and research; use of technology; understanding the law; tutoring special populations; online tutoring; grant writing; learning preferences; improving tutorial leadership for directors and coordinators; conflict management; building and marketing private or community programs; basic nuts and bolts of tutoring; and motivating students.

Tutoring professionals and practitioners who are interested in joining colleagues in an exchange of ideas and expertise in tutoring are welcome to submit proposals.  Click here for the  official submission form.

For a list of the special events, guests speakers, tutor training and certification workshops and general conference sessions, visit

Filed under: Admin/Management,Associations,College,Commercial,Research,Training/Education,Tutoring Practices

May 7, 2013

UI alumni couple gains success with Illini tutoring business

by Adlai Stevenson, The Daily Illini, originally published 3/27/13

Spring season hovers cryptically over many upperclassmen as their remaining undergraduate days wind down and a new stage in life approaches. But two alumni encourage students to work as hard as they can in school and beyond so that they can achieve and learn the most out of what life has to offer. They haven’t just experienced this stage themselves — advice is part of their job. And students can receive their help before crossing the gates to college or even as early as high school.

Alumni Elizabeth and Taso Sotiropoulos help many students through Illini Tutoring, a local organization they founded in Champaign that offers coaching in several topics ranging from high school level to advanced college courses. With six employed tutors and over 100 students tutored every semester, both Elizabeth and Taso said Illini Tutoring is the only local tutoring organization that provides coaching full-time and receives sponsorship from the National Tutoring Association.

The couple founded Illini Tutoring in fall 2010 after graduating from the University, although they said their business did not start as swiftly as it may seem. Taso said he and Elizabeth were engaged, and considered graduate programs following college. However, the programs did not immediately appeal to them because of their work ethic, he said. They wanted to follow their own path after their time at the University, and work from there.

To read more click here.

Filed under: Associations,Coaching,Commercial Providers

April 10, 2013

Online Academic Coaching course now available for schools, for-profit providers and individuals

by Nalini Lasiewicz,  Crossroads of Learning

Crossroads of Learning recently launched an online course in Academic Coaching.  The course is self-paced and accessed directly through the internet, taking an estimated 5-7 weeks.  The cost is $209.00, all materials included.  The curriculum is also available in workbook format, to be used in face-to-face training and professional development programs for peer and professional academic coaches, tutors or advisers.  The Academic Coaching workbooks are available to organizations who organize trainings by approved trainers, either internal staff who have completed the Train-the-Trainer program from Crossroads of Learning or certified Master Tutor Trainers from the National Tutoring Association (NTA).

Sandra Clayton-Emmerson of the Center for Academic Success at Manhattan College in Riverdale, New York was one of the first to complete the course.  She stated, “I found the training absolutely outstanding! I was introduced to new concepts that were specific to one-on-one coaching.” When asked about her experience with an online learning program, she added, “everything was seamless in terms of how it all went together. The readings with links to outside readings and websites really worked, the assignments following the readings made perfect sense and I was able to reach my mentor anytime I needed to.”

The course helps learning support and academic coaching personnel support the goal-setting, critical thinking, cultural awareness and emotional intelligence development of students, dealing with the entire learning path of being a student. Academic coaching builds on the fundamental skills of tutoring, which is why the Academic Coaching course has a prerequisite of the successful completion of the Crossroads of Learning Tutoring Foundations Basic (or Comprehensive) training level.  A skilled tutor can help a student become a better learner.  A skilled academic coach can help students identify and verbalize the answers to not just academic questions, but about setting and obtaining goals far into the future.

Click here to read more.

Filed under: Academic Learning Centers,Associations,Coaching,College,Crossroads of Learning,High School,Small Private Practices,Training/Education

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