Ideas for Training Peer Tutors in Collaborative Session Techniques

August 18, 2016
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Educational environments promote learner engagement through student-centered activities. K-12 settings, in particular, rely on enhanced academic support services in helping students achieve core course objectives through guided instruction and facilitated peer learning.

The services of such academic support programs oftentimes range from one-on-one to study group sessions and online tutoring. It is imperative, however, that learners are exposed to purposeful tutorial interventions that are administered by trained tutors. Educators and tutorial administrative personnel are charged with the systematic coordination and implementation of tutor training procedures that are designed to bridge peer tutors’ knowledge and skill gaps. Collaborative learning techniques can be challenging for tutors to incorporate during sessions that may last anywhere from 50 minutes to half an hour; thus, tutorial professionals must carefully select techniques that can be utilized across disciplines.

Purposefully designed systematic tutor training procedures can ensure that tutors are equipped with the appropriate tools to assist students achieve core learning outcomes (Roidi, 2015). From the beginning to the end of a session, tutors are asked to identify students’ strengths and enhance areas in need of improvement; training can aid tutors’ abilities to utilize collaborative learning techniques during their sessions to foster independent learning. The next three sections contain a list of collaborative techniques and tutor training tips that could be incorporated in a tutorial setting.

Opening and Closing Sessions

Tutors must be skillful in opening and closing their sessions. Successful tutorial sessions are student-driven; tutors are expected to facilitate students’ learning in a nurturing and safe environment. The way a tutor begins a session sets the tone for the appointment. The use of supportive and investigating questioning can allow students to take charge of their learning experience and communicate their needs with the tutors. Similarly, it is crucial that appropriate closure is provided in a timely manner by tutors so students are given the opportunity to review the materials to which they were presented during their sessions and feel confident in completing the work on their own.

One minute papers can be utilized in individual as well as group tutorial setting to give students the opportunity to reflect on what they would like to learn or what they have learned during their sessions. Such papers can also serve as the foundation for a working journal or portfolio that each student can be asked to compile for the academic year. This activity will have a positive effect on students’ perceptions of the effort they have put in to take charge of their learning and accomplish their goals.

Tutorial professionals can reinforce opening and closing session techniques in tutor training by implementing such strategies for tutor use. In turn, tutors can create individual portfolios in which they can document the techniques utilized in each tutorial session while considering successful methodologies as well as identifying potential room for personal and professional improvement.

Exercising Wait-Time

Students rely on their tutors’ abilities to guide them through content-based inquires. Thus, it is essential that tutors exercise patience during their sessions; students must feel comfortable to express their thoughts and questions in a welcoming environment free of judgement. Oftentimes the pressure of time leads tutors to quickly confirm tutees’ responses and move on to another topic; however, it is important for tutors to wait not only for tutees to respond, but also, wait after a response is given. This extra time allows tutees to hear their thoughts out loud and take time to reconsider their responses.

Tutor training sessions can focus on this challenging topic by providing the opportunity for modeling the wait-time strategy. Students’ diverse backgrounds and abilities call for tutors to be patient and accepting of students’ unique approaches to learning; thus, practicing as well as discussing the effect of excursing wait-time during tutorial sessions is important in fostering successful learning opportunities.

Training Topics

A few topics for tutorial professionals to consider when training peer tutors in the K-12 setting are:

  • Individual and small group activities: Informal quiz
  • Engaging students through writing
  • Incorporating social media
  • Journaling during the session
  • Mathematics through storytelling and real-world application


Roidi, M. M. (2015). Tutor training procedures in higher education: Creating a community of lifelong learners. Synergy: The online Journal for the Association for the Tutoring Profession, 7. Retrieved from

Author Bio:

Margaret M. Roidi, M.A., ABD

Supplemental Instruction (SI) Certified Supervisor

Certified Learning Center Professional – Level 4

Manager of the Cerullo Learning Assistance Center at Bergen Community College

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