Mason High school is a suburban school in Mason, Ohio with a student population of 3,400. Its schoolwide peer tutoring program which opened at the beginning of the 2016 school year, was created by its program advisor, Jere Clark who has taught at the school for 11 years.
Motivation for Creating a Peer Tutoring Program
Clark states that the decision to create a peer tutoring program was influenced by increasing state standards and a need for a tier 1 intervention at the high school level. And she adds, “Also with the mental health epidemic with teenagers we were not able to provide a solid support for them. Peer tutoring was able to meet that need. I also wanted to create a program that took care of its own, instead of competing against each other.”
The Peer Tutoring Model
Based on tutoring requests received from teachers, guidance counselors and students, a tutee is matched with an appropriate tutor. Once a tutee is matched with a tutor, the tutee receives a pass with the days and times to meet up with his / her assigned tutor.
All tutoring sessions take place at the Learning Commons (library) in booths marked “Reserved”. Most tutoring sessions occur during the tutor’s / tutee’s study hall while some sessions take place after school.
Tutor candidates are initially recommended by teachers, after which recommended tutors go through a selection process resulting in up to 100 tutors being chosen to participate in the peer tutoring program.
All tutors attend two to three training sessions designed by Clark. In these training sessions, students learn the following:
- What it means to be a tutor
- How to be an effective tutor
- Various tutoring strategies and techniques
- Types of problems that could arise and how to overcome them
- Program logistics
- What it’s like to be a tutee. Example scenarios are presented and methods of handling such situations are discussed
- Expectations for being in the program including the signing of a tutor code of conduct
A Typical Tutoring Session
Clark affirms that Mason High’s peer tutoring program prides itself in not being a homework help group. Tutoring sessions typically last for about 45 minutes to an hour, but no more than an hour. Tutor and tutee meet at the Learning Commons and sign in before any tutoring commences. If it’s their first session, they briefly introduce themselves and then tutoring begins with the tutor asking the tutee what he / she would like to work on.
The tutor also asks the tutee to present any notes and / or assignments related to the content they will be working on during that session. After the tutee describes what he / she is struggling with, the tutor then takes the tutee through specific problems and gauges their understanding. The tutor is then able to give more example problems, present the tutee with additional material if necessary, and have the tutee explain the concepts back to the tutor.
The Role of Teachers in the Peer Tutoring Program
There is currently only one teacher (Jere Clark) running the program and there will be two teachers next school year. Clark runs the logistics of the program, matches the tutors with the tutees, tracks down tutees when needed, recruits tutors, trains tutors, answers questions or concerns, answers emails from the tutors with cancellations and keeps track of all the paperwork for the community service hours and requests.”
Although the program isn’t currently funded, Clark does get a peer tutoring bell to work on the peer tutoring program during the school day. The program gets by with donations of gently used supplies from teachers. Clark has applied for a grant to help fund more materials for the tutors and tutees to use.
Challenges in Running the Peer Tutoring Program
According to Clark, one of the challenges encountered was introducing the program to the entire staff. The amount of time spent running the program is another challenging area which Clark hopes to remedy by getting another teacher on board in the coming year. Some logistical inconveniences she cited include rearranging tutees when the tutor is absent and tracking down tutees when they are not showing up. Clark says they are able to better manage such situations by having the Learning Commons staff print out the tutoring schedule for each day, thereby making it easier to contact students when there are any changes. Clark adds, “Also when I talk to the tutee and explain to them that I have a waiting list of students that want to be tutored the tutee usually never misses another session”.
Peer Tutoring Program Benefits to the Tutor
Clark says, tutors earn community service hours, perform better on the ACT and SAT and adds that participating in peer tutoring helps build the students’ resumes.
She further explains the three tiers of tutors in the program:
Level One: Tutoring Only
Tutors dedicate 2-3 days of their week to tutor and earn community service hours
Level Two: Independent Study
These students tutor five days a week and have a service learning project they work on for a grade. These students have a leadership role in the program during the bell to which they are assigned. They are responsible for making sure that tutors and tutees show up and they also report back to Clark. Each of the independent study students are also assigned a content area in which they are to curate a database of tutorials and worksheets/extra problems for the tutors and tutees to use as a resource when needed. These resources are available to all tutors and tutees and are stored on the school webpage dedicated to the peer tutoring program.
Level Three: Internship
These are students who have completed an independent study and have now cut back to two days of tutoring while assisting Clark with program logistics. In Clark’s words, “with the internship program, they start developing life and work skills to take with them to the next level”.
At the end of a tutoring session, both students fill out a feedback form. The tutor forms contain specific questions to guide a tutor in assessing a tutoring session. For example, did the tutor find the session beneficial to the tutee? Does the tutor recommend a subsequent session with the tutee?
The tutee and tutor form responses are used in evaluating the effectiveness of the peer tutoring program.
The Peer Tutoring Resource Center wishes to thank Jere Clark for sharing helpful ideas for setting up a formal high school peer tutoring program.