November 8, 2015

Tutoring changes the brain in kids with math learning disabilities

By Erin Digitale, Scope/Stanford Medicine, originally published on 10/1/15

One-on-one-tutoring-199x300A new Stanford study, publishing today in Nature Communications, sheds light on how to help children with math learning disabilities. One-on-one cognitive tutoring improves math performance in these children and also normalizes brain activity in several regions important for numerical problem solving, the research found.

The findings are important because math learning disabilities often fall off educators’ and parents’ radar. (Everyone has heard of dyslexia, but its numerical equivalent, dyscalculia? Not so much.) Yet math learning disabilities can hamper a child’s ability to gain basic life skills such as managing time and money, and can prevent children from growing up to pursue math- and science-related careers.

The new study is similar to another recent experiment that demonstrated alleviation of math anxiety with tutoring. Both studies are the work of the Stanford MathBrain Project, directed by Vinod Menon, PhD. Teresa Iuculano, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar working with Menon, is the new study’s lead author.

To read more, click here.

Filed under: K-8,Research

June 18, 2014

22 Powerful Productivity Tips for Tutors and Their Students

by Bob Lasiewicz, Managing Director, Crossroads of Learning

I recently read an article that shared a terrific set of tips for being more productive, all backed up by current research. Many of them can be utilized to improve the environment in which tutoring takes place or to influence the behavior and habits of students to improve their ability to learn and thrive.

Eat a banana or something like it. Researchers from UCLA found that the brain works best when there’s about 25 grams of glucose in the blood stream; that’s about as much as what’s in a banana. Suggesting a light snack before a tutoring session is something to consider.

Buy some houseplants. Scientists at the University of Exeter conducted 90 experiments that found houseplants not only improve creativity (45%) and overall wellbeing (47%), they also give your ability to concentrate and focus a boost, spurring greater productivity. Tutoring centers should definitely think about houseplants when designing their center along with computers, furniture and textbooks.

Control your temperature. A study from Cornell tested the impact of temperature on productivity, finding that when working in temperatures below 68 degrees, employees made 44% more mistakes than at an optimal room temperature of 77 degrees. Going easy on the AC could actually improve results from a tutoring session.

Slice up some lemons. Workers made 54% less errors when they smelled lemons, 33% fewer mistakes with jasmine, and 20% fewer with lavender. Sounds like a little lemon-peel could go a long way to improving accuracy when tutoring students.

Chew some gum. Researchers from Cardiff University in Wales discovered that chewing gum not only reduces levels of occupational stress, but those who chew gum are able to complete a greater load of work. The culprit? Increased cortisol, which brings on lower levels of perceived stress and improved arousal and alertness. So let’s all try to forget those teachers who never let us chew gum in class!

Don’t try to multi-task. A 2001 study by Rubinstein et. al found that participants lost tremendous amounts of time switching between multiple tasks, and even more time as those tasks got more complex. Another study by Robert Rogers and Stephen Monsell showed participants were slower when they had to switch tasks than when they repeated them. The net loss? As high as 40% of your productivity. Along with some other great advice in the list about managing e-mail and social media, tutors can share strategies to help students break some strong habits in order to get the most out of their study time.

Look at Cute Animals. Researcher Hiroshi Nittono from Japan (of course) conducted a study that showed that looking at pictures of cute puppies, pandas, kittens and cats won’t just improve your mood – it actually makes you more productive. It’s easy to forget that the mood of a tutoring can be just as important as the content.

Other entries in the article discuss the impact of working under natural light, music/ambient noise, wake-up time, adequate sleep, taking naps, procrastination, work blocks, time-tracking, perfectionism, exercise and more. To review the complete list, click here.

Filed under: Research

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

December 27, 2012

Campus Survey: Tutor Pay 2012

By Nalini Lasiewicz, BOL, Crossroads of Learning

The 2012 Tutor Pay survey conducted by Crossroads of Learning gathered information from college and university learning support centers in all fifty states. Among other results, state and federal minimum wage appear to be the primary driver for peer tutor compensation.


In September 2012, a listserv discussion between Southern California Writing Center (IWCA) members focused on tutor compensation.  Intrigued with the relative consistency of the replies, the Crossroads staff went to work to expand that snapshot to include institutions of higher learning across the country, public and private.  We set up a survey and invited our Journal Digest readers, clients, students and colleagues to participate.  In addition, the survey link was shared with members of a diverse cross-section of tutorial center managers, academic specialists and trade associations.

When the poll closed, over 360 surveys had been received, representing all 50 states and Washington D.C..  No surveys were received from U.S. territories, including American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Northern Marianas Islands and the Virgin Islands, an issue the research team would like to explore in the future.

The Tutor Pay Survey included basic demographic information about the respondents’ institution type, location and size.  We also asked for the average number of tutors and the starting pay for both peer tutors, defined as undergraduates, and professional tutors, defined as graduate students, outside professional tutors, staff and faculty.  Additionally, respondents provided information on additional compensation formulas, including tiered structures that offered pay increases based on time worked, training received, certification, etc.  Nearly half the centers reported giving no raises to their peer tutors.

For a free two-page summary tear sheet, with additional data and charts, click here.

Figure 1. Average number of peer tutors per respondent

Our consulting analyst, Anthony Garrison, MBA Candidate at Simon Business School, was instrumental in verifying the data and providing the statistical analysis.  He concluded the average starting salary for college level peer tutors across the country is within a close range, less than a $1.00 difference between the geographical regions.  In addition, we compared peer tutor starting wages with federal and state minimum wages and found a close correlation.  To see a map of the U.S. States with these correlations, click here.

Figure 2. Starting Pay: Peer Tutors

Figure 3. Starting Pay for Peer Tutors compared to minimum wage

In 2012 we learned through discussions with clients and at conferences that the demand for tutoring services on campus has increased, many reporting that the Fall semester was their busiest ever.  At the same time, education funding in many states has been scaled back; cutbacks in staffing and student support services are a serious challenge for what research shows are highly effective factors in increasing student success.  In this poll we did not delve into funding and budgeting issues but these are areas we plan to explore in the future.

In the next phase of this project, we will move beyond the basic question of “how much?” to examining factors, such as minimum wage, which have traditionally driven tutor compensation policies.  We hope to conduct research on the impact that compensation has on tutor recruitment, training, supervision and retention.

The complete data set of this poll is available to educators, college administrators and policy makers, at no cost.  To request, contact Nalini Lasiewicz, Registrar/Crossroads of Learning: 818 249-9692 xt 2, or email:

Filed under: Academic Learning Centers,Admin/Management,College,Funding,Peer-Tutoring,Research,Tutoring Practices

September 25, 2012

Research Supports the Value of Training Tutors

By Bob Lasiewicz, M.A., Managing Director, Crossroads of Learning

When you ask a tutor whether professional training has improved their effectiveness as a tutor, chances are they will reply in the affirmative, but where is the supporting research? The most impressive statistical data on client/student impact I found comes from the National Study of Developmental Education*, a longitudinal study of 6,000 student transcripts from 160 institutions. Tutoring provided by trained vs. untrained tutors was one of the most statistically significant strategies related to increasing first-semester GPA, cumulative GPA, success in developmental courses, and overall retention.

Another valuable research project* was a field study on tutor effectiveness conducted by Dr. Rick Sheets, PhD, focusing on 10 campuses in the Phoenix area, with 70 tutors participating.  He discovered that tutor training definitively led to more appropriate responses to presented tutoring situations. Interestingly, there was no significant influence based on a tutor’s age, grade point average, educational degrees or the experience acquired during the semester of tutoring.

A third investigation* by Geoffrey K. Bailey, PhD, demonstrates how trained tutors utilize techniques of greater variety and effectiveness when tutoring. The strategies used by untrained tutors with equivalent subject knowledge are often limited and counterproductive. The level of confidence, retention and satisfaction of trained tutors is much higher as well.

Click here to read more.

Filed under: Research

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