The Peer Tutoring Resource Center conducted a Q & A with Melissa Morgan, English teacher and director of the peer tutoring program at West Springfield High School in Virginia. It's Morgan's second year in the role of director and we hope you'll gain some inspiration as you read about how the program operates.
The peer tutoring program is a general elective class run through the English department that students register for and receive a grade in. According to the program's mission statement: "The Peer Tutoring Center strives to help any WSHS student obtain academic skills and confidence through collaborative one-on-one learning opportunities and specialized workshops. We aim to provide a welcoming environment where students can reach their fullest potential in any subject area with friendly support from their peers."
Formerly a writing center for seven years, the program in its current form has been running for four years, and recently pivoted last fall to an online format due to the pandemic-related school closures.
The program makes use of tech tools for its operations.
Google Suite for Education is used for assignment submission and sharing as well as sign-up forms.
A group page which students can join is created through Schoology, the learning management system of choice.
Finally, Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is employed for conferencing and teaching.
For the most part, tutees are self-selected because although teachers may suggest peer tutoring, they cannot mandate a student to visit the center. On the other hand, the program partners with a Strategies for success class ( a work remediation class) that meets at the same time as peer tutoring class. Tutors are sent over to the Strategies for Success class to work with the students that the teacher recommends for tutoring.
Tutoring is available in all subjects, including AP, dual enrollment and electives. Although the demand for some elective subjects are not as high as others like Driver's Ed, and Economics & Personal Finance, there are tutors available for all electives. Conversation practice is also available for EL students.
The program accepts tutors from 10th -12th grade levels. Tutors apply to the program by filling out an application which includes a short answer portion and providing two teacher recommendations. Applications are then reviewed anonymously by a committee of teachers from the different content areas. Once offered acceptance into the program, the student can register for the peer tutoring class with their counselor.
Generally, during the course of the year, tutor training is embedded into the class. The first 4-6 weeks of the school year is focused on training. The tutoring program opens up to all students around the interim time of the first quarter. However, last year was different with a soft roll out to a few classes before opening up to the whole school, due to the program having to adjust and move online amid school closures.
When the program was in-person, tutor training was held every other Friday. Now that it has moved online, the program conducts shorter, more frequent sessions of tutor training and the last half of class is reserved for asynchronous tutoring.
In-person / synchronous sessions are 30 minutes in length. Sometimes the tutor knows the tutee or has been requested in advance; other times the tutor and tutee have been matched and don't know each other.
Regardless, all sessions begin with an introduction. The tutor uses an intro form for collecting information about their tutee and the assignment; in doing so, they are able to set mini-goals for the session. This procedure also allows tutor-tutee pairs to build rapport with each other, while helping to gather data on who attends the center.
The tutoring session itself is about 20 minutes long, with the last 5 minutes used to wrap things up. The tutee carries out an anonymous evaluation of the session and tutor by filling out a form, while the tutor completes their tutoring log and sends a confirmation email to the student's teacher, stating that they met with the student. The student is then invited to come back to the center for another session, if needed.
Questioning is the primary means used by the tutor in assessing their tutee's learning. The tutors often use the "I do, We do, You do" model of instruction which allows for a lot of questioning opportunities.
The program is evaluated primarily through tutee evaluations. This year, more teacher feedback surveys are being incorporated as well. Morgan adds, "For the most part, our teachers are very supportive of our program."
In Morgan's words, transitioning from being 100% in-person to being 100% online "has caused us to roll out slower this year than in years past, and since we've had to change our processes in some ways we want to make sure we're still accessible to the student body. Not that these are bad changes. We'll definitely keep some of them. We've just had to do a lot at once, and when we're back in person, we won't necessarily all be in person together and we don't know if we'll be able to tutor in person since students' travel and interaction will be under restriction due to Covid. For now, we're just rolling with it; taking it on day by day."
The Peer Tutoring Resource Center wishes to thank Ms. Morgan for taking the time to explain the workings of the peer tutoring class at West Springfield High School and donating materials from the program. Stay tuned for a subsequent blog post where these resources will be presented.
**UPDATE** See resource donations blog post.
Want to nominate a peer tutoring program to be featured on the Peer Tutoring Resource Center? Submit a proposal here. Do you have sample resources to donate from your peer tutoring program? Upload them for review.