"We aim to uplift our fellow peers in a safe and comfortable atmosphere in order to give them the friendly support and encouragement they need to grow and succeed as learners!" - Zanfina Muja, peer tutoring program sponsor at Maine South High School in Park Ridge, Illinois. Read on to learn more about today's peer tutoring program feature.
The peer tutoring program at Maine South High School aims to offer tutoring services in all subject areas across all grade levels. In the past, tutoring was offered on a departmental basis. Tutors were selected by each department, and each department had its own process for engaging in the tutoring process. In response to the pandemic, the need arose for a universal tutoring program that would allow students access to tutoring services even in a virtual setting. Thus, an online tutoring program was created in response to this need. The following tools and technology made virtual peer tutoring possible: Google Classroom, Google Sites, Flipgrid, Google Sheets, Zoom, Calendly, Google Hangouts, Gmail and Google Slides. Currently, there are tutors available for English, Science, Social Science, Math, CTE, World Languages, and other areas such as research, executive functioning, and technology.
Tutors complete online applications which are reviewed by department chairs. Once applications have been reviewed, tutors are invited to receive formal training so that they can be prepared to engage in tutoring sessions. Once they complete the training sessions, tutors begin to offer tutoring services.
Tutors engage in two training sessions. During the first session, they prepare for the technology end of tutoring by setting up their Calendly accounts, linking their accounts to Zoom, and creating a video that serves as part of their online profile on the website. During the second session, tutors are provided with a set of guidelines for in-person and virtual tutoring sessions. These guidelines include tips for handling various situations they may encounter both virtually and in-person, and they include a list of do's and don'ts that help them provide the best possible tutoring services to students in a virtual and in-person setting.
In a virtual setting, a tutee schedules an appointment with a tutor by accessing the school's tutoring website. This generates an email that includes a Zoom link and a calendar invitation that goes to both tutor and tutee. The session is automatically scheduled for 30 minutes. When setting up the appointment, the tutee also has the option to add information about what they will focus on during the session so that the tutor can better prepare. Prior to the meeting, tutors are encouraged to access the information provided by the tutee so that they can prepare for the session. During the Zoom session, the tutor and tutee meet, and the tutor guides the tutee in understanding the material. The tutor asks guiding or clarifying questions, models by using an alternate example, and offers suggestions and feedback. Each session differs depending on the content/material and subject of the session itself. At the end of the session, the tutor completes an exit ticket in which they provide a summary of the session (time spent, the material they worked on, and whether a teacher sent the student for tutoring). Each virtual session is held in a one-on-one setting for the safety of both the tutor and tutee.
In an in-person setting, tutors sit in a designated subject area in the Academic Resource Center. These sessions are primarily walk-in sessions, and tutoring services are offered one-on-one or in small groups depending on the preferences/needs of the tutees in the center. If a tutee has scheduled a one-on-one in-person session with a given tutor, then that tutor prioritizes that session over the walk-in sessions. At the end of the session, the tutor completes an exit ticket, and the tutee fills out a sheet of paper in which they provide information about the tutoring session.
The tutor checks for understanding by asking the tutee for confirmation and feedback about whether the session was helpful / beneficial. Additionally, in some situations, they assess by asking the tutee to complete a similar problem with less guidance from the tutor.
Program effectiveness is determined by the number of students that return to receive tutoring from the tutors and the number of sessions offered in general. Also, feedback received from teachers and teaching assistants who monitor the tutors in the Academic Resource Center is used in measuring program effectiveness.
In describing the challenges faced with running a peer tutoring program, Muja states, "We run a block schedule, so assigning in-person sessions can be a bit problematic. However, we have figured out a solution to this problem by asking the tutors to sign up for sessions in advance. In a virtual setting, we faced the problem of students not wanting additional screen time. Thus, some tutors had trouble receiving appointments. To address this, we often refreshed our page so that the order in which the tutors appeared always changed."
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