21 Integrate Adult Learning Basics into Tutoring

Compare Pedagogy and Andragogy

Pedagogy can be defined as what happens when a Teacher is leading a class: Giving all of the information, directing each thing that the students do, and every step that is taken in the learning process. This is the primary way that children are taught and this type of teaching can be found in higher education as well.

Andragogy as a study of adult learning originated in Europe in 1950’s and was then pioneered as a theory and model of adult learning from the 1970’s by Malcolm Knowles. He was an American practitioner and theorist of adult education, who defined andragogy as “the art and science of helping adults learn” (Knowles, 1980). Adult Education is sometimes call Andragogy or Anthrogogy and is characterized by the degree of autonomy of the learner as they take on responsibility for their own learning. There are other characteristics that also come with the ways that adults learn best. Knowles identified six primary principles of adult learning.
Adult learners:

  1. are internally motivated and self-directed
  2. bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
  3. are goal oriented
  4. are relevancy oriented
  5. are practical
  6. want to be respected

These basic principles are ones that you will bear I mind as a tutor as you apply good practices to your tutoring.

Good Practices in Tutoring

This following adapted from the research based principles of good undergraduate education based on a review of 50 years of research on the way teachers teach and students learn’ (Chickering and Gamson, 1987, p. 1) and a conference that brought together a distinguished group of researchers and commentators on higher education. The primary goal of the Principles’ authors was to identify practices, policies, and institutional conditions that would result in a powerful and enduring undergraduate education (Sorcinelli, 1991, p. 13).

Paramount in learning is how well we structure new knowledge for learners. Objectives and tutoring strategies must be organized, clear, and the level of difficulty of content matches the tutee’s prior level of understanding. Clarity and cohesiveness are emphasized by the well-chosen example, analogy and active learning strategy. Being well-prepared allows for flexibility and dictates that tutoring is pared to fit the time allotted. Attention must be given to aspects of delivery, including voice, pace, humour, and body language.

Cognitive growth is enhanced by the restructuring that occurs when new knowledge is connected with existing knowledge. Most learning occurs naturally embedded within a context which is explicit to the learner. It is much easier to learn subsets of knowledge when you have an idea of the big picture, can see its relevance, see how it is connected to practice and how it builds on what you already know. As a tutor you can help map out this context and the relevant interconnections.

1.      Good Practice Encourages Tutee-Tutor Contact

Regular Tutee-Tutor contact is part of the tutoring process and increases tutee motivation and involvement. Tutor interest helps tutees keep on working and get through rough times. Getting to know your tutee enhances their intellectual and emotional commitment to learning.

Implementation Ideas:

  • Share past experiences, values, and attitudes.
  • Get to know your tutees by name by the end of the first session.
  • Treat each tutee as a human being with full real lives; ask how they are doing.

2.      Good Practice Encourages Cooperation

Learning is enhanced when it is more like a team effort than a solo race. Good learning, like good work, is collaborative and social, not competitive and isolated. Working with others significantly expands the potential of learning and the ownership of their learning responsibilities. Articulating and sharing ideas and responding to others’ reactions improves thinking and deepens understanding. A supportive learning environment where the tutee feels empowered to negotiate tasks, take risks and be part of a shared context are necessary to develop cooperation among learners. Helping tutees make connections with other students enhances their learning.

Implementation Ideas:

  • Create study groups within the Learning Centre.
  • Encourage tutees to work together and use small group discussions, collaborative tutoring assignments, and case study analysis.
  • Encourage tutees to discuss key concepts with other students whose backgrounds and viewpoints are different from their own.

3.      Good Practice Encourages Active Learning

Learning is not a spectator sport. No one learns much just sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing prepackaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to what they feel is important. They must make what they learn a part of themselves. Equally important is the need to make explicit the learning processes that are occurring in the learning environment and why particular strategies are being used.

Implementation Ideas:

  • Give tutees concrete, real life situations to analyze.
  • Ask tutees to summarize similarities and differences among research findings, artistic works or laboratory results.
  • Model asking questions, listening behaviors, and feedback

4.      Good Practice Gives Prompt Feedback

Knowing what you know and don’t know focuses learning. Feedback is an integral part of learning. Tutees need appropriate feedback on performance to benefit from tutoring. In getting started, they will need help in assessing existing knowledge and competence. In tutoring sessions, tutees need frequent opportunities to perform and receive suggestions for improvement. At various points everyone needs chances to reflect on what they have learned, and what they still need to know.

Implementation Ideas:

  • Acknowledge successes and refocus on the next steps.
  • Prepare problems or exercises that give tutees immediate feedback on how well they are doing.
  • Give follow up assignments to help tutees monitor their own progress.

5.      Good Practice Emphasizes Time on Task

Time plus energy equals learning. There is no substitute for time on task. Learning to use one’s time well is critical for all learners. Tutees need help in learning effective time management. Allocating realistic amounts of time means effective learning. How the tutor uses the tutoring session time helps to define time expectations for the tutee and can help them establish the basis for high performance.

Implementation Ideas:

  • Communicate to tutees the amount of time they should spend preparing for class.
  • Expect tutees to complete their assignments promptly.
  • Underscore the importance of regular work, steady application, self-pacing, scheduling.
  • Divide tutor sessions into timed segments so as to keep on task.
  • Don’t hesitate to refer students to Learning Strategist to help them with their learning skills

6.      Good Practice Communicates High Expectations and Provides Appropriate Support

Expect more and you will get it. High expectations are important for everyone – for the poorly prepared, for those unwilling to exert themselves, and for the bright and well-motivated. Expecting tutees to perform well becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when everyone holds high expectations for themselves and make extra efforts. In challenging tutees and developing in them a sense of independence and responsibility for their learning, the appropriate amount of support must also be provided, one step at a time.

Implementation Ideas:

  • Make positive expectations clear at the beginning of the session.
  • Periodically discuss how well the tutee is doing.
  • Encourage tutees to write more; ask for drafts of work, and give opportunities for revision.
  • Be energized and enthusiastic in your interaction with tutees.

7.      Good Practice Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning

There are many roads to learning. People bring different talents and styles of learning to college. Brilliant learners in the classroom may be all thumbs in the lab or design studio. Learners with much hands-on experience may not do so well in theory or creative problem solving. Learners need the opportunities to show their talents and learn in ways that work for them. Then they can be pushed to learning in new ways that do not come so easily. As a tutor you can vary your tutoring style.

In addition to diversity of talents and ways of learning, tutees represent the diversity that is found in the wider community. Such diversity includes cultural and linguistic backgrounds, religious beliefs, educational and employment experiences, urban and rural backgrounds, different school experiences, family and community structures, sexual orientation, gender and age. The effective tutor acknowledges, supports and uses this diversity to enhance the learning experience.

Implementation Ideas:

  • Use a range of tutoring activities to address a broad spectrum of tutees.
  • Identify extra material or exercises when there is a lack of background knowledge or skills.
  • Give tutees real-world problems to solve that have multiple solutions. Provide examples and questions to guide them.

There is no substitute for a tutor’s eager interest in and love for learning. Such interest recharges everyone’s mental batteries. When tutees sense that a tutor’s zest is authentic, they respond in kind.

Reflective Journal Entry

Think of a time when you had a very effective learning experience.

  • What was the best part of that experience for you?
  • What did the teacher or tutor do that helped you learn?
  • How might you build that type of experience into your tutor plan?


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Level One Peer Tutoring Fundamentals and Integration Workbook Copyright © 2020 by Kwantlen Polytechnic University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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