Structure of Meetings
If you have ever gone to see one of your professors during office hours, you undoubtedly know the difference between an enjoyable, successful experience and one that left you feeling worse than you did when you got there. The outcome of a visit to office hours depends on many things, among them being the attitude of the professor, his/her willingness to devote time and attention to the student's concerns, and the willingness of the professor to explore fully the underlying issues that come to bear on the immediate questions that the student is having. In a similar way, the outcome of a tutoring session depends largely on the way that the student perceives the tutor's attitude, willingness to help, and willingness to explore underlying issues.
- Student Perception of the Tutor's Attitude
Concentrate on simple, concrete ways that you as a tutor can convey your attitude to your student. One of these is your initial greeting to the student. When the student comes in, react in a positive way that shows the student that you are ready to help. If you are working on your own work, stop what you are working on and seat yourself near the student. If it is very crowded or loud in the work area, consider moving to another area, perhaps one with a whiteboard or chalkboard. Say hello and introduce yourself. Ask what course they need help with and who their prof is. In short, show interest in the student and let them know that you are there to help them. A student should not feel that they are interrupting or bothering you by coming in for help; therefore students should have your full attention during their tutoring session. Please be welcoming and friendly to students and meet them with the same regard that you would like to be met with yourself.
Since the tutoring sessions take place between peers, it can be difficult at times to maintain professional. However, it is very important that tutors remain professional in their demeanor at all times while on duty. There should not be cause for the use of foul language or other inappropriate comments at any time. Conversations among tutors in the absence of students should also be held in a professional manner. What one person may think is a joke, another may find offensive. Also, a student may walk in at any time during a conversation and could misinterpret or be offended by what is being said. This can affect the student's perception of the general atmosphere of the tutoring session. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure in this situation.
- Willingness to Help
Try to begin the tutoring session by asking leading questions that encourage the student to explain what they need help with and why. Have him show you, in his book or notes, where he last understood the material. Help him build knowledge of the new material in relation to the material that he already feels comfortable with. If the student just wants help with homework, ask him questions to determine his level of knowledge in relation to what the problem deals with. For example, if the student is working on a problem asking him to determine the equation on the line tangent to a given curve at a given point, begin by asking the student to explain to you what it means for a line to be tangent to a curve. Can he draw you a picture of the line he is looking for? Ask him to write down the point-slope form of the equation of a line. Ask him to tell you how to find the slope of a line tangent to a curve. At each point, there is an opportunity for you to assess the student's knowledge so that you can intervene with appropriate explanations, diagrams, etc. to help the student understand the concept behind the problem. Eventually, the student will be able to make an attempt at the problem. This process will take longer than simply outlining the solution for the student, but it will be much more beneficial for the student in the long run.
- Willingness to Explore Underlying Issues
After addressing the student's immediate questions, try asking additional questions that might reveal the need for additional work. For example, you might ask the student to show you her most recent exam in the course. See if she has any questions from the material covered on the exam. If her score wasn't what she had anticipated, ask her to explain what caused this. Perhaps she did not have a strong enough grasp of the material, and/or tried to cram for the test instead of working daily. Try to help her see what they might do differently to improve their performance in the future, perhaps suggesting that she make an appointment with one of the QSC or LSC directors (Karla McCavit or Pamela Schwartz). As another example, you might ask to see the student's class notes. See if she is taking complete notes that make sense and are legible, and check to see that she is not missing class. Many students do not make full use of their class notes as a study aid. If this is the case, show her how to study her class notes so that she can begin to understand the whole picture that the prof is trying to paint. Another very popular tutoring technique is quizzing. You could begin by flipping through the textbook, class notes, or old exam. Pick out a problem for the student to solve (without notes or book) or quiz them orally by having them explain a concept to you. This often helps students to see that they may not have as deep an understanding of the material as they thought they did, which gives you an opportunity to explain as needed.
On a related note, there are students who have some very specific concerns of which you may or may not be aware. For example, a student may have limited sight or hearing or may have some learning disability. Unfortunately, there would typically not be any way for you to know about these situations unless the student confides in you. If you do become aware that there is this type of underlying issue with a student, please ask the student if he is working with Dr. Schwartz in the Learning Support Center. If not, then please refer the student to Dr. Schwartz' office (which is near the QSC) or have them call ext 0825 for an appointment. It would also be helpful to all students if you were to ask them to tell you how they would prefer to conduct the tutoring sessions. For example, would the student prefer to work at a whiteboard/blackboard or would it be better to work with paper and pencil? If it is loud and/or crowded in the room, ask if the student would prefer to move to another location nearby where there would be less noise and distraction.
1. Describe one thing that you do well in each of the three areas.
2. Describe one thing in each area that you will do differently in future meetings with students.