TRIO Tutor Training Class 1: What is Tutoring?

Tutoring is an age-old practice. The dictionary definition describes a tutor as a person who gives individual, or in some cases small group, instruction. The purpose of tutoring is to help students help themselves, or to assist or guide them to the point at which they become an independent learner, and thus no longer need a tutor.

Content knowledge is an essential ingredient for a tutor; however, to be truly effective, a tutor must combine content knowledge with empathy , honesty and humor. Empathy requires a tutor to "read" the emotional states, attitudes and perceptions of their students. Empathy is the ability to see others from their personal frame of reference, and to communicate this understanding to the person involved. In order for tutors to establish a supportive relationship with their students, tutors must be open and honest. Students are often reluctant to talk with a stranger about their academic problems. If a tutor is perceived as genuine and having a strong desire to listen, students will be more willing to open up and discuss their problems. Humor can also play an important part in a tutoring session. Humor can reduce tension. Shared laughter is a powerful way to reinforce learning. Humor can set students at ease and increase rapport. Humor can also be used to compliment, to guide or to provide negative feedback in a positive manner.

In addition, a successful tutor demonstrates a caring attitude. Caring consists of being organized for the tutoring session, being punctual, establishing a learning relationship with the student, developing unique teaching strategies, and becoming familiar with the learning process. Ultimately, tutoring is sharing yourself with another student in a way that makes a difference in both your lives.

Benefits to Tutoring

  • Heightens sense of competency/adequacy in conforming to new role.
  • Encourages higher levels of thinking.
  • Permits more advanced students to study below-level material without embarrassment.
  • Increases motivation to learn in order to maintain new role.
  • Increases ability to manage own learning and study strategies.
  • Increases subject specific knowledge.
  • Increases related general knowledge.
  • Increases understanding of subject area.
  • Improves attitude toward subject area.
  • Provides more empathy with students.

Benefits to the Students who Receive Tutoring

  • Offers more individualized, systematic, structured learning experience.
  • Provides greater congruence between teacher and learner, closer role model.
  • Improves academic performance and personal growth.
  • Improves attitude toward subject area.
  • Generates stronger effects than other individualized teaching strategies.
  • Motivates self-paced and self-directed learning.
  • Provides intensive practice for students who need it.
  • Improves self esteem.

Benefits to the College

  • Increases opportunity to reinforce instruction.
  • Increases positive student interaction.
  • Enhances measurable positive changes in attitude towards teaching/learning for the participants.
  • Improves educational climate.
  • Facilitates ethnic and racial integration.

Characteristics of Good Tutors

Intelligence alone does not indicate success as a tutor; but what kind of person, what kind of student you are does. It takes a certain kind of person to be a good tutor. Some of the characteristics noticeable in good tutors are:

  • A positive outlook: The belief that things can be changed through action.
  • A desire to help others: The willingness to become involved with people at first hand and in depth.
  • Empathy: The ability to feel what another person is feeling.
  • An even disposition: Patience, gentleness, understanding and fairness.
  • An open mind: A willingness to accept other people and their point of view.
  • Initiative: The ability to see what needs to be done and to do something about it.
  • Enthusiasm: A liking for your subject, and a wish to share it with others.
  • Reliability as a worker: Punctual, dependable, steady.

Summary of What Students Need

  • positive expectations
  • mutual respect
  • flexibility
  • humor
  • enthusiasm
  • acceptance that everyone makes mistakes
  • applications/reasons for learning
  • connections between new material and prior knowledge
  • "The Big Picture"
  • organization
  • the language of the discipline
  • thinking or wait time before answering
  • separation of relevant from irrelevant information
  • techniques for: time management, test taking, relaxing, studying, note-taking, organizing, representing and remembering concepts and their relationships.