LEARNING/TUTORING CENTERS

Back to Table of Contents for the On Course I Workshop

1. Strategy: The Late Paper (Case Study)

Application: Tutor Training

Educator: Sharon Padilla-Alvarado, Coordinator, Tutoring Center, Cosumnes River College, CA

Implementation: I use “The Late Paper” to help tutors understand that an important aspect of their job is helping their tutees take responsibility for their academic success rather than make excuses when something does not go well. After students debate who they think is most responsible for Kim’s failing grade, elicit and record Kim’s possible excuses for failing Psychology 101 (e.g., Prof. Freud was unfair, Arnold wouldn’t give her the car keys, Cindy wouldn’t take her home from the party). Then redirect the conversation to the tutoring realm by asking, “Have you ever worked with a tutee who always seemed to have excuses for his or her poor academic performance?” Record a list of “excuses” the tutors have heard (or used themselves). Going through the list of excuses, ask the tutors how they could help their tutees take greater responsibility for becoming academically successful. For example, ask, “If a student says he isn’t doing well in math because he can’t understand the teacher’s accent, how could you get that student to replace his excuse with a positive action?” Compose a list of strategies that the tutors identify, and later provide them with a copy of the list. In future sessions, ask tutors for examples of tutees’ Victim excuses and how they (the tutors) responded to empower the student to be a Creator (instead of enabling the student to be a Victim).

2. Strategy: Forks in the Road and Wise Choice Process

Application: Tutor Orientation

Educator: Betty East, Tutoring Director, The Victoria College, TX

Implementation: In a Tutor Orientation, pass out a copy of the Fork in the Road model from the On Course I Workshop book. Ask students to identify a personal Fork in the Road (decision) that they are facing. Teach the Wise Choice Process, providing cards with the six steps printed on it. Have tutor-trainees pair up, and designate themselves as the “Listener” and the “Talker.” Using the Wise Choice Process, the Listener coaches the Talker to make a wise choice at his/her Fork in the Road. Have tutor-trainees reverse roles and repeat the process. Bring them back together in the big group, and ask debriefing questions such as, “How did the Wise Choice Process work for you?” and “What problems have tutees told you about recently?” and “How could you use the Wise Choice Process with your tutees?” and “When would it be more helpful to use the Wise Choice Process rather than to give advice?” In closing, encourage tutors to keep their Wise Choice Process card with them and look for situations in which it would be more helpful to use this empowering decision-making process with tutees rather than give advice.

3. Strategy: Inner Conversations

Application: Mathematics class before handing back scores on first test & Tutoring Math

Educator: Nancy Fees, Faculty, Mathematics, Northwest College, WY

Implementation: Do this activity with a group of students before they receive the results on the first math test of the semester. On slips of paper, write test scores–60’s, 80’s and 100’s and put them in a bowl on folded-up pieces of paper. Ask each student to choose one piece of paper with a score on it and then to keep that score hidden. Each student in turn verbalizes an inner dialogue with him/herself about the test score they received without revealing the actual number. Other students guess the (imaginary) score that the student got on the test. Afterwards, students talk about what they could do, as Creators, to score well on the next test. When I introduced the strategy, it played so well! Abigail got a slip with a 60, and she started raging, “I should have studied harder! I’m going for a retake! I’ll make flash cards next time. I won’t watch any TV the night before. This is an unacceptable grade for me. I have to get through this school with straight A’s so I can go on with my next plans!” And poor old Mikey was immediately guessed for getting a slip with a score of 100 when he wistfully said, “I’ve never gotten a grade like this in math in my entire life!” Sad, but poignant. It was such a great exercise. It didn’t even take very long. While the best students shared their strategies for improving grades, the worst students for once got to rave on about a good or great grade. With a large enough group, chance should guarantee that at least one good student will choose a lousy grade, while one really poor student might get a great grade just once. After this activity, all students have strategies for improvement provided by the best students in the group.

4. Strategy: V x E = M

Application: Writing Center Tutor Training

Educator: Connie Strickland, Asst. Dir, Academic Support, Wesley College, DE

Implementation: The goal of this activity to increase the motivation of all students to seek help at the tutoring center by emphasizing the value they will get by doing so.

  1. Teach tutors the V x E = M concept of self-motivation
  2. Teach the difference between Extrinsic vs Intrinsic value, providing examples related to tutoring (e.g, Extrinsic value of getting tutoring—better grade on paper; Intrinsic value of getting tutoring—heightened self-esteem from increased writing confidence)
  3. In pairs, have tutors list additional extrinsic and intrinsic values of students coming to the tutoring center.
  4. In whole group, create a longer list naming the values of students coming to the tutoring center.
  5. Assignment: Tutors create fliers to post on campus or an ad to place in the college newspaper. The fliers or ads should emphasize the value of seeking tutoring at the Writing Center.

5. Strategy: Jigsaw

Application: Tutor Training

Educator: Jessica M. Bishop, Asst. Coordinator, Tutor Program, University of Maine, ME

Implementation: In home groups of four, tutors choose to become experts in strategies for  1) Note taking,  2) Navigating the text,  3) Exam preparation, and 4) Time management. In Step A, they choose the area in which they will become the group’s expert and, to develop that expertise, they use their tutor training manuals, knowledge of other campus resources, as well as their own best practices. In Step B, they spend time with other experts in the skill they have chosen. In that meeting of experts, they create a master list of helpful strategies for tutors to use when addressing that skill. In Step C, they return to their home group and teach others the strategies on their master list.

6. Strategy: Eight Choices of Successful Students

Application: Learning Center

Educator: Julie Wechsler, Director, Learning Center, South Mountain Community College, AZ

Implementation: Use the Learning Center environment to educate students about the Eight Choices of Successful Students. Post the Eight-Choices chart in the Learning Center and, each week, focus on one of them. Create posters with quotations from the “Timeless Wisdom” pages and post them on the doors, walls, and sign-in areas where students will see them. Where appropriate, place copies of the models (e.g., Responsibility Model), tools (e.g., 32-Day Commitment), and Forms (e.g., Tracking Form) on the tables where students sit. Have tutors emphasize the choice of the week with their tutees. Send a notice to all instructors explaining the focus of the week. Create a grass-roots change initiative!

7. Strategy: V x E = M

Application: Tutoring Session

Educator: Laura Symons, Coordinator of the Learning Center, Piedmont Virginia Community College, VA

Implementation: In the On Course I Workshop, we learned that Value x Expectation of Success = Motivation. I was working with a student recently and the interaction went something like this:

Me: On a scale of 1-10, how much do you value the work in your writing class?
Student: I’d say about a seven. It isn’t a ten because I won’t be doing this kind of writing in my job. (That led to a whole other discussion!)
Me: On a scale of 1-10, how would you score your expectation of success in your writing class?
Student: About a five.
Me: So we multiply the two numbers and we get a 35. That seems to match the percentage of the homework you’ve been completing.
Student: Why, yes it does!

This was eye-opening for both of us and gave life to the formula that I have been using as a basis for discussions with struggling students. In this case, we used the Wise Choice Process to find ways to increase his expectation of success and we had the discussion alluded to above about value. I found putting numbers to the formula very helpful.

8. Strategy: Learning Preference Inventory

Application: Tutor Training (also Faculty Professional Development)

Educator: Heidi Neu, Faculty Instructional Specialist, Long Beach City College, CA

Implementation: I used the Learning Preference Inventory (from the On Course text, Chapter 7) in tutor and faculty training to help staff who work directly with students become more aware of how their preferred way of learning/teaching may differ from that of the students they work with. Each trainee participant was asked to complete the survey and then form groups of like learner preferences. The groups discussed how well they felt the results described their preferred method of learning and explaining concepts. They also talked about their preconceptions of how students of other preferences learn. The 4 groups then discussed together the results of the individual group discussions. Much good-natured laughter ensued. Groups also shared what works best for their type. Each group was then asked to come up with a lesson on multiplying fractions that would address all 4 learner preferences. For many, this was a stretch, but the effort made them very aware of A) the fact that they might often explain things in only one way, and B) there are many ways to reach students. It also fostered a sense of interdependence among the tutors, giving them a chance to learn from one another and work together. Groups then shared their lessons. Most everyone enjoyed the experience and many expressed gratitude at having been given the opportunity to apply this new information in a concrete way (many were math tutors).

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