This High School Did Not Let Pandemic School Closures Prevent Them From Starting a Peer Tutoring Program

October 13, 2020
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This article features Educore, a new virtual peer tutoring program at California High School, San Ramon CA. The Peer Tutoring Resource Center wishes to thank Chuyi Zhang (public relations contact) and Siddhant Joshi (program founder and executive director) for taking time to share inspiration from their program.


Introduction

Educore launched in August 2020 as a virtual peer tutoring platform, although the program has been unofficially running since March 2020. An online format was chosen to accommodate for the pandemic shutdown, however, there are plans to eventually morph into a hybrid tutoring program by allowing for in-person sessions to hold alongside current virtual tutoring sessions, when in-person schooling resumes.

Purpose of Peer Tutoring Program

Educore is the central peer tutoring platform at California High School, created to support its students and educators. The program is currently geared towards providing students with free virtual tutoring to aid them in online learning and offering one-on-one peer tutoring on a wide variety of subjects to ensure every student can get the help they need at the time they need it. Educore was launched in the hopes of connecting students "to promote a brilliant and supportive educational community that allows its members to grow and succeed throughout their learning journeys. Tutoring is a key aspect of learning that develops confidence in our fellow Grizzlies, and as such, Educore and its members are proud to promote such a culture in a school filled with students eager to broaden their horizons!" - Joshi.

Tools and Technology

Educore runs on a platform provided by the company, Tutorfly to establish a virtual learning space where tutoring sessions occur as well as the scheduling / tracking system currently used to sign up for, monitor, and conduct the sessions. Tools on the interface include drawing and shape tools, typing boxes, pdf uploads, inbox messaging systems, and screen sharing which provide tutors and tutees with a wide range of features for their use. Another tech tool employed by Educore peer tutoring is Remind, which the program officers use in communicating with tutors. In addition, mass email codes provided by the school administration, is used to send updates to parents, teachers, and students, ensuring everyone is notified of updates to the program or any unique / special opportunities regarding the program. The program also has social media accounts, Instagram and Nextdoor, which it uses to post milestone updates and recruiting ads to promote Educore and stay connected to parents and students.

The Peer Tutors

Interested students who wish to be tutors must be upperclassmen and are required to fill out an application for consideration. National Honors Society members are automatically accepted to become tutors. There are quarterly application cycles in which prospective juniors and seniors can submit an application via a Google form. The submissions are run by the admissions advisor who assesses and forwards to the board for final decision making. The criteria for acceptance change each quarter, depending on which subjects the program needs more tutors in and the demand of every subject.

The Tutees

All Cal High students are welcome to participate in Educore and as a result of high interest from staff around the district, there are plans to expand the the program to middle and elementary schools in the area. Educore runs on a flipped scheduling system, where tutees fill out an online form requesting a session. They enter all of the required details, such as the subject they wish to cover and which time / date they would like the session to take place. Each request is populated into a spreadsheet where tutors can view them. If a tutor wishes to help a particular student, they simply enter their name next to the tutee they want to help and the automated system books the session and notifies the tutee and tutor of their upcoming session.

Peer Tutor Training

Prior to tutoring, peer tutors are required to read through provided materials containing tutoring guidelines. New peer tutors are also required to attend a mandatory orientation meeting where they are guided through the platform and provided with guides to being an effective online tutor. During this orientation, they have the opportunity to ask questions and understand the necessary steps to be cleared for tutoring and begin signing up for sessions. Furthermore, there are plans to set up future meetings for discussions about important points peer tutors should be aware of while tutoring. Meeting topics will cover dos and don'ts, how to tutor a student without doing their homework problem for them, etc.

Typical Tutoring Session

A tutoring session is initiated when a tutee signs up through the tutoring platform interface by indicating their subject and the time they would like to meet up within Educore's hours. Their name and details will appear on a spreadsheet, and a tutor will sign up next to their name on a first come, first serve basis. Once the tutor has signed up, they will then create a session using the details that the tutee included on the Tutorfly dashboard (the online interface used to conduct sessions).

The tutee will receive a notification of who their tutor will be and can then head to the educoretutoring.org website to learn more about their tutor. Although it is not required, the tutor is encouraged to enter the online virtual session space and prepare any materials beforehand to help the session go by smoother. When the time for the session arrives, both tutor and tutee enter the virtual lesson space which allows both parties to see each other and communicate. The session commences and the tutee receives the help they need with homework, clearing up a difficult concept etc.

high school virtual peer tutoring session

Educore virtual peer tutoring session

Once the session is completed and exited, the tutor must return to the spreadsheet and report the status of the session (complete, cancelled, etc.). This also enables their volunteer hours to be recorded appropriately. On the other hand, the tutee will receive an email by Tutorfly asking for feedback about the session and the tutor, which aids in tracking how the program is faring. If a tutee wants additional sessions with the same tutor, they can message the tutor using the inbox feature on the Tutorfly dashboard and request another session, which the tutor can either accept or pass on to a different tutor.

Tutors are patient to make sure a tutee can work independently after receiving guidance, thus ensuring that they've mastered the content at hand. The tutor may give some practice problems to the tutee or simply ask the tutee to explain the material back to them. It varies from tutor to tutor on how they wish to assess the tutee's understanding.

Evaluating the Peer Tutoring Program

Educore's performance is assessed based on feedback from tutees as well as the overall interest in sessions. "So far, we've been hearing great comments from students and tutors alike, and have been reached out to from other schools within the district asking to expand Educore beyond our high school." - Zhang. Sessions have increased steadily throughout the year and there are plans to open up more times for tutees to request sessions. Data gathered from bi-monthly reports received about the sessions are used to assess whether tutees are coming back for more sessions, how well they're showing up to their sessions, etc. "We also review the feedback forms tutees fill out to understand what they liked and disliked about their sessions and hopefully find solutions to those issues." - Joshi

Overcoming Challenges

Aside from a few technical difficulties surrounding the interface and simple login mistakes by tutees and tutors alike, the Educore program officers say their tutoring program has been running smoothly. They also say that, one of the biggest challenges being faced is making the process more automated. As of now, tutors have to create the session and do quite a bit of work to schedule their sessions, which leads to some errors occurring if some forget to do certain parts of the sign up process. Joshi adds, "We are working closely with Tutorfly to implement a new system by hopefully mid-October that would be much more user friendly and automated. Another issue we have found workarounds to is communication. We have created Remind group chats and Instagram / Google drive accounts for tutors to communicate with us whenever they run into issues or need something fixed up quickly. We are working on a mass emailing feature to make communication with tutees and tutors much more streamlined."

Message from Educore's Program Founder to K-12 Educators Considering Incorporating Peer Tutoring Strategies

If there are any educators who wish to improve or implement a peer tutoring program, please feel free to reach out to us at educore.chs@gmail.com for any further questions or visit our website, at educoretutoring.org. We are also looking to expand our services to middle schools and other high schools in our communities, so if educators would like us to set up a branch of Educore at their school, that'd be more than possible. We can provide a basic foundation and work with any educators and students to bring Educore to their schools. Once again, if anyone has further questions about Educore or wishes to start an Educore branch in their school, please don't hesitate to reach out to us at educore.chs@gmail.com.


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