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Tutoring strategies: a case study comparing learning center tutors and academic department tutors

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Geoffrey K. Bailey (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Deborah Taub

Abstract: Peer tutoring at the postsecondary level has been studied extensively, particularly over the last twenty years. Peer tutoring programs are common across institutional type and size in the United States (Boylan et al., 1995; Maxwell, 2001) given students' preferences for tutors who share age and status similarity (Cohen, 1996; Marsh, 2001; Maxwell, 1991) as well as the cost-effectiveness for the institution (Beasley, 1997; Boylan et al., 1995; Dvorak, 2004; Lidren & Meier, 1991; MacDonald, 1993; Marsh, 2001; Maxwell, 2001; Riggio, Fantuzzo, Connelly, & Dimeff, 1991). Additionally, peer tutoring has been shown to improve student achievement (House & Wohlt, 1989; McKellar, 1986) and compensate for low grades in traditional lecture environments (Dvorak, 2004). While much has been written about the nature of tutoring conducted by learning center tutors, the instructional strategies applied by academic department peer tutors, the nature of tutoring in this setting, and environmental differences represented significant gaps in the research literature. Consequently, it is critical that comparisons across program variables be conducted to learn more about tutoring behaviors and student learning (Roscoe & Chi, 2007). Moreover, research has shown that students' academic success improves significantly when they receive tutoring from trained staff (Boylan et al., 1997; Schleyer et al., 2005), including: higher exam scores (Fantuzzo et al., 1989), higher course grades (Chadwick & McGuire, 2004), and higher grade point averages (Boylan, Bliss, & Bonham, 1997). However, understanding how tutors select their strategies based on the training received was unclear. This study examined the instructional strategies used by learning center and academic department tutors, how training impacted the selection and use of particular strategies, as well as the resulting scaffolding that occurred for the tutees. Also, this study focused on the impact that environmental differences and the structure of tutoring services had on tutoring sessions conducted by both groups of tutors. Specifically, differences were examined between walk-in tutoring services conducted by the academic department tutors and appointment-based tutoring conducted by the learning center tutors. The researcher used a case study design to compare two academic department tutors and two learning center tutors at a mid-sized, southeastern U. S. university. The data from this case study design included three formal interviews, six to seven non-participant observations, and six to seven debriefing interviews of each tutor. Additional results, implications of these findings, and recommendations for future research are discussed. Overall, this study demonstrated several key findings: (a) while both academic department tutors employed many of the same questioning and instructional techniques that the learning center tutors used, they did so less frequently, did not use as many higher level thinking questions, and relied more on explanations as part of their instructional approach; (b) there were significantly fewer demonstrations of active learning and academic skills instruction among the department tutors; (c) the learning center tutors engaged in relational communication more frequently than the academic department tutors; (d) the academic department tutors experienced greater pressure in finding sufficient time to address each tutee's concerns based on the structure of walk-in tutoring services; and (e) regular attendance enabled the learning center tutors to better understand their tutees' learning styles and academic needs, which facilitated the selection of specific strategies based on tutor training and the tutors' own academic success.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2010
Peer Tutoring, Scaffolding, Tutor Training, Tutoring
Tutors and tutoring $x Case studies.
Tutors and tutoring $x Evaluation.