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The Double Value of Tutoring

The Double Value of Tutoring

by Greg Cunningham

How I learned that one on one makes more than two

As an English major in college, I was often sought after by my friends.  Any time they had an essay due, there would be a knock on my dorm room door.  A friend would be waiting, essay in hand, asking if I would mind reading it over.   

I enjoyed these one-on-one interactions and discovered I really enjoyed reading and commenting on their essays.  Sometimes the corrections were grammatical; other times, the conversation would be more philosophical about the topic itself.  I always felt proud when I heard they received a high grade on the essay after I had made suggestions.

When I started at Quincy College as an adjunct professor many years ago, it may have been fate that I became friends with the director of the newly formed Nicastro Learning Center.  It didn’t take long for her to ask if I was willing to work a few hours each week in the tutoring center to help students with their writing. 

My immediate thoughts were: 1) This sounds extremely worthwhile; and 2) How am I going to find the time to commit to a few hours of tutoring each week? Luckily, I was able to manipulate my schedule and make the commitment.   

It was incredibly rewarding to help students with their writing. I also met a staff of tutors who would do backflips if necessary to assist a student seeking academic help.  The one-on-one tutoring model was a hit with all involved.

Study after study has shown this type of interaction with students works best. Allowing students to direct their instruction, ask questions and seek clarification has been shown to be one of the best practices for student learning. It is always the top recommendation to help students catch up to grade level standards post-pandemic.

But with staff shortages and the needs of students greater than ever before, teachers and administrators may have the same reaction I did when first approached to work in the tutoring center: 1) This will be very worthwhile to help our students reach grade level standards, and we know it works;  but 2) How do we find the staff and the time to give students what we know they need?

Technology may be the best and only answer.  We know that schools rarely have the resources to schedule one-on-one instruction for students. As post-pandemic recovery continues and schools lose federal pandemic money, it is currently near impossible.

Various ideas have been floated nationally, from getting retired veterans to come to schools and tutor to begging teachers for more time and more effort while they are already giving 110%. Volunteers may help plug some gaps; but using technology may be the best and most effective option to help students recover learning loss and gain grade level knowledge. 

JFY is working with schools to implement this technological strategy.  Assessments determine how close students are to their current grade level standards. Self-guided lessons focus on their current grade, but also scaffold in previous standards they may have missed. The teacher in the classroom does not need to be an expert in the subject matter, but rather acts as an academic coach, encouraging students to work with the software and guiding them to helpful resources within the program such as examples, video explanations and hands-on problem solving.

The goal is to get students to grade level by the end of the academic year.  When achieved, students will be prepared for the next grade and will have acquired necessary skills for life beyond high school.  Quite possibly, in just a few years, friends will be knocking on their dorm room doors seeking help.

Greg Cunningham is a JFYNet Learning Specialist and an adjunct professor at Quincy College.

Other posts authored by Greg can be found here.

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