6 Utilize the Tutoring Cycle

As you are tutoring, you will need to use an 11 step process cycle for all tutoring situations where you can model problem solving and learning strategies. When you use your session plan this is where to find out what works and start to adjust and change your plan as needed.

1. Welcome tutor to tutee; 2. Tutee agenda request; 3. Probe to identify scope/plan 4. Cycle (Take Focus, Align to Tutee, Tutor Input/Modelling, Tutee Response, Feedback); 5. Resources; 6. Review; 7. Closure
Image Credit: Peter Walsh, Lyn Benn & Alice Macpherson, 2019

1.    Welcome – Tutor to Tutee

Your first interactions are critical to the success of the session. Be friendly and professional, maintaining eye contact and smiling as you introduce yourself and check about what name they would like to use. This is a time to check in on how they are doing and help them relax a bit. Rearrange the tables and chairs in your tutoring location as required for comfort – sit side-by-side (to the right of a right-handed person or to the left of a left-handed person). Remember to only touch their materials and text with permission. Explain what you can and cannot do:
“I can read your paper and give reader feedback, but I cannot correct it for you.”
“I can walk you through the main concepts of the material, but I cannot provide notes for you.”

2.    Tutee Agenda Request

Ask the tutee what they want to focus on, and allow them to be in charge of the session direction. This includes their descriptions of the content area, problems encountered, or desired result they hope to achieve. This will assure the tutee that you are planning to address their needs and keep them connected to the content (“hooked”)

3.    Probe to Identify Session Scope and Plan

You want to build positive anticipation by identifying their current level of knowledge that fits to their request. Some of your questions may include:
“What would you like to work on today?”
“What is the place in your subject that you are comfortable with and where does it seem confusing?”
“You said you needed help with math; what specifically would you like to work on now?”

Request to see the assignment (or syllabus) from the instructor and their current text materials so that you can identify what is required. If this does not clarify the task, ask to see the tutee’s discussion and lecture notes to get a better idea of the requirements of the course. You may need to explain what is realistically possible in the time that you have allotted for the session.

4.    Focus on an Achievable Objective

Laying out the task as small steps to reach an achievable learning objective/outcome may ease your tutee’s anxiety about the work. You are working to help the tutee become an independent learner and identify the way you break things down to help them build their own incremental framework for learning. You might start with their main concerns about the material and build from there. If the material is very technical, your task steps can follow the organization of the problem at hand. For case studies, you may start with the underlying principles. In all cases, identify what the tutee can already do, then break out the next steps.

5.    Align (and Realign) to Meet Tutee Needs

Ensure that both you and the tutee are clear on the plan to move forward to use your time efficiently. Follow the tutee priorities as much as possible. As the tutor you may see a need to accomplish some earlier steps to allow for full understanding of the materials and then reach the desired outcome. Explain this need so the tutee can see why it is important to their learning goal. Have the tutee write out this agenda in point form to keep things clear. If the tutee does not, then the tutor should and give it to the tutee.

6.    Tutor Input and Modelling

Effective tutoring involves an exchange of information. The tutor will explain concepts to the tutee and then will, in turn, listen carefully as the tutee explains their understanding. You may show the tutee how to do the problem; do not do it for them. The source of information is the course materials rather than your understanding of them. Both the tutee and you will ask questions and refer to texts, articles, and other resources for correct answers. This will take the largest part of the tutoring session time.

7.    Tutee Response

You want to help them discover insights into learning and learning processes. This will require that you, as the tutor, help the tutee learn how to approach the type of task with which they are having problems, including talking about the different steps involved to analyze or solve the problem. This can lead to the tutee being more receptive to learning because the timing is right for their next learning step. You will also promote independence by showing the tutee how to use textbooks and other appropriate resources.

When the tutee explains the material in their own words as they understand it, this process transfers newly learned information from their short term to long term memory. This needs to be a full summary from the tutee and not just a statement that they understand the material. This process often produces an “Aha moment” when the tutee gets the concept and has the satisfaction of really knowing the process to arrive at the end product. This is also a time to identify their readiness to move to a new concept area. Be flexible as you proceed and ensure that you keep a focus on the session learning objective.

8.    Tutor Feedback

This is the place to reinforce tutee learning from the task, give support for their ability to analyze the material, and to use processes that are required by the assignment. As they achieve small successes, support them by acknowledging this and then refocussing on the next step. Link any supportive feedback to specific tutee accomplishments and the reaching of a specific criterion. Convey the positive value of the accomplishment and attribute their success to their efforts. Explain that future success will follow practice effort and encourage the tutee to do so. If there is a need to realign tutee understanding to the materials, the tutor will give specific and constructive feedback to guide the tutee to a correct interpretation.

Note: Steps 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 are recursive and may happen several times during a tutoring session until the overall objective is met or the time for the session has ended.

9.    Resources

As the session is winding down, ensure that any resources available through the Learning Centre and beyond have been made available. This may include but is not limited to:

  • Learning Aids,
  • Text materials,
  • Graphic materials including diagram produced during the session,
  • Online references.

10.   Review

Have the tutee summarize how the learning process has unfolded to move their understanding into long term memory. This allows them to internalize the methods by which they can approach other, similar situations. This is also a time to summarize the steps that they have progressed through to solve the problem or decipher the materials.

Be cautious about trying to evaluate their products or telling them that it is either good or not adequate. That will be something that their instructor will do when they mark it and you do not want to give them false expectations of the strength of weakness of what they have produced.

11.  Closure

Always reinforce connection between current content and future content. This is the point to ask about what the work that the tutee will do to prepare for their next steps. The tutor now provides a task / activity to reinforce proficiency.

This is also the time to determine if another session is necessary. Same time every week? Just before exams? Need a different tutor? Set the date, time, and place for the next appointment to make it easy for the tutee.

Thank your tutee for their attention and wish them well.

Document the session

This is the last step after the tutee has left. In various disciplines this may be called journalling, field notes, diary, logbooks, etc. What is important is that you document what happened so that when you meet with the tutee next, you can refer to your notes and pick up from where you left off. Use a notebook to document your session plan, including the date, times, subject, goals, actions, etc. Do not write in personal information such as phone or student numbers that might breech confidentiality.

Notes and Questions:


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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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