Element #2 of Highly Effective Tutorial: Professionalization of Tutors (Treat Your Tutors Like Teachers)

  1. For eight years running, Tutors for All programs have achieved jaw-dropping results for Boston kids and the organizations that serve them.

How have our programs accomplished this?  While each program in our history has its own unique story, we believe that seven key elements unite them and offer a road map to follow.MGH Spring 2014 Report

  1. High Quality Oversight
  2. Professionalization of Tutors
  3. 1:1 or 1:2 Ratios
  4. Balanced Collaboration and Autonomy
  5. Regular Assessment and Progress Monitoring
  6. Tutors for All (not Some)
  7. Leveraged Subsidies for Service

Over the next few months, we’ll be spending some time discussing each of them.  Our goal: a conversation among experts and beginners on how effective programs can work.

Today’s topic: Professionalization of Tutors

Tutors for All treats tutors as teachers, and teachers are professionals. Tutors are expected to dress professionally, attend every single tutorial and communicate professionally about absences. They are held accountable for their own lesson planning and expected to continually perfect their practice. We are invested in developing tutors as thoughtful and skilled educators who feel confident in their ability to deliver content.

In order to professionalize our tutors in this way we focus on comprehensive pre-program training, prioritizing reflection, planning and feedback and creating opportunities for growth with the organization.

The Tobin Team of Lead Tutors

The Tobin Team of Lead Tutors

Prior to tutorial tutors are trained in 6 key areas:

  • Student Accountability
  • Professionalism
  • Curriculum
  • Pedagogy
  • Collaboration
  • Cultural Competency

This kind of depth of training sets the expectation that tutors are not only skilled in their subject area, but also well versed in student engagement, effective pedagogy and creative lesson planning. Tutors continue to receive professional development in all 6 areas throughout the semester during the reflection time built into Tutors For All’s programming. Professional development lessons have included positive framing, making math games meaningful and relationship building with students.

We additionally create a culture of reflection, planning and feedback by setting aside preparation and reflection time and observing tutors at work. Tutors arrive 30 minutes before tutorial in order to spend time preparing for their daily lesson. Tutors will use this time to review content, create expansion materials or troubleshoot a challenging student behavior with a co-worker. This built in time requires tutors to plan thoughtful, engaging lessons that meet their students’ needs.

Emily MGHFollowing tutorial, tutors spend 30 minutes reflecting on their lesson or developing skills in one of the 6 T4A focus areas. During this debriefing time, tutors have the opportunity to receive feedback, share highs and lows and collaboratively problem solve with their peers. Debriefing questions have included, “What have you learned about your student’s learning habits and how you are going to modify your lesson plan to accommodate their specific needs?” This practice holds tutors accountable to continued improvement of their practice.

One way we prioritize feedback is by holding individual conferences once a semester to discuss tutors’ strengths and areas for growth. In these meetings tutors have a chance to set professional development goals as well as give the Program Manager feedback about the program. Andreas Wolfe, lead tutor at Tobin, wrote the following about a tutor’s strengths: “she consistently uses inquiry based learning—she does not provide her student with the answers, instead questioning him to figure out the answers himself.” Another tutor received the following area for growth:  he can change the tone and pace of instruction to be more engaged and enthusiastic about material.” This kind of targeted observation and feedback helps us hold our tutors to high standards as professional educators.

Tutors for All is a program that offers a variety of professional growth opportunities for tutors. Former tutors have been promoted to lead tutors, coordinators, curriculum specialists and managers. In these positions tutors are able to gain leadership and facilitation experience as undergraduate students.

Our tutors are professional educators. We work hard to set high expectations, develop their skills and show them they are valued with leadership opportunities.

Hannah DeAngelis, Program Manager

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