Get stories and expert advice on all things related to college and parenting.
College Preparedness: Recovering from the PandemicSuzanne Shaffer
Students often need a little help with their schoolwork, and there’s nothing quite like working one-on-one or in a small group with someone who can help you reach your goals.
According to Dr. Ross B. MacDonald, Director of the California Tutor Project and author of The Master Tutor, tutoring is “an act which facilitates or provides a structure for another’s learning.”
Tutoring has a long history in education. Most of us are familiar with the idea of students working with a tutor to get a better grasp of their subject, and often to get better grades.
Most colleges offer either professional and/or peer tutoring services for students, usually included as part of their tuition. Occasionally, this tutoring may be mandated, but most often it is up to your student to take advantage of the service.
No matter what form tutoring takes, there are two basic principles your student should keep in mind:
Peer tutoring is not a new concept. Students regularly turn to their peers for help with schoolwork — often informally. They may seek out a friend, ask someone in their class, or be assigned by a teacher or professor to work with another student.
Professional tutoring is also a common approach. Professional tutors are “adults,” often teachers themselves, who work with students to help them learn their material and sharpen their skills.
The goal of all tutoring is essentially the same: to help your student master their subject — and eventually not need to work with a tutor.
Colleges use peer tutoring because it works. A student with strength in a subject, usually someone who has done well in certain classes, is paired with a student who needs help in that subject. Most peer tutoring programs provide training for their tutors.
You may worry that your student would fare better working with a professional tutor than with another student. Although this may sometimes be the case, there are compelling reasons why peer tutoring may be just the thing for your student.
Peer tutoring isn’t intended to replace professional tutoring, but it offers students some distinct advantages.
As a parent, you can be confident that, if your student is working with a peer tutor, they're likely getting quality support from a student who is trained and dedicated to the task.
Joseph Joubert, a French essayist, may have said it best: “To teach is to learn twice.”
Perhaps one of the most obvious reasons why your student might consider becoming a peer tutor is because they will learn their subject material better than ever. Having to explain something to someone else demands clarity.
One of the best things about peer tutoring is that both the tutee and the tutor benefit from the relationship. There are some reasons you might want to encourage your student to consider becoming a peer tutor.
Being a peer tutor is often a coveted position. By becoming a peer tutor, your student will have the opportunity not only to help others, but to grow personally as well.
Relationships matter to today’s college students. Corey Seemiller, who wrote the book Generation Z Goes to College, found that relationships are one of the highest values held by this generation of students.
In their book Relationship Rich Education, Peter Felton and Leo M. Lambert reinforce this idea:
“Relationships are the beating heart of the undergraduate experience. . . Many people can recall specific faculty and staff members, peers, advisors, mentors, and coaches who profoundly influenced their time in college, but also who they became after graduation. . . Indeed, scores of students we interviewed told us of moments when they were one relationship, or one conversation away from dropping out of college. Relationships matter.”
Peer tutoring helps students grasp their material and probably get better grades. But the bonus of the peer tutoring relationship is in the connections.
Not every peer tutoring relationship is going to be life-changing — it may not even be grade-changing. But when it works, as studies show us it does, the relationships and connections that it builds can lead to your student’s success on many levels. It can break barriers for the disengaged student, improve a student’s attitude toward learning, and increase a student’s sense of belonging to a community of learners.
Isn’t this what we wish for our students?