After School Tutoring Programs

The last thing most kids want to do after a long day at school is sit through more instruction. When they are struggling with a subject, it can feel like absolute torture to sit through yet another lecture about something they don’t understand.That’s why I think it is important to make an afterschool program that kids will be willing to actively participate in. The extra instruction is only worth it if students are getting something out of it.Some schools have an extra period or other study sessions where groups of students sit with instructors to work on problem areas. While that can be effective with some kids, it strains school resources and doesn’t always help all of the students – if they aren’t understanding the teacher during class, what would spending even more time with the same teacher do?

We have to change up the classroom dynamic in order to engage students who are struggling. I decided to make a better tutoring program, and I’ve learned a few things so far:

The first thing I discovered is that students comprehend things better when they’re one on one rather than a group setting. Curriculum can go at an individual pace and the student can get help immediately on anything they don’t understand.

Another idea was that children learn better in familiar surroundings. So, I decided that my afterschool tutoring would take place in the students’ homes (or other non-school area, such as an aftercare program, if possible).

My best idea, though, was to use other students as the tutors to help those who are struggling. Kids are more likely to ask a peer a question about something they don’t understand rather than go to an adult. Why not give them access to another student who knows the correct answer? Working with a peer tutor helps students feel more at ease, which allows them to work better.

Another great thing about using peer to peer tutoring is the cost. Professionals get paid overtime for tutoring (or at least, they should be). Depending on their level of experience, it can be quite costly to hire one, especially for one to one instruction. The price can be out of reach for some families. But students can’t command those kinds of fees. Others can work for college credit, as a volunteer position that will look outstanding on college applications, or as part of a service requirement for an honor society. Now the cost (or lack thereof) is accessible to many more families.

An additional benefit of using peer tutors is that they can set an example for those they are tutoring. When kids see someone else working hard and earning good grades, they might be inspired to do so themselves. When they talk to someone in college about what they’re studying and how they’re paying tuition, they might decide it is something they are capable of as well.

I think that peer tutoring is something that is worthwhile for just about every grade level, and I hope to bring my ideas to more schools as time goes on.

How Effective is Online Tutoring?

I’ve been looking into online tutoring in order to get more students the help they need. I think that it can be a great help for kids who live in rural areas or in locations that don’t have enough peers who can (or are willing) to tutor their fellow students. It has been a daunting process, trying to figure out apps and programs, but it will all be worth it in the end.

There will always be geographical limitations – too many students needing help here, too many tutors without kids there – in a physical setting. But online? That’s a whole different thing! It is a simple idea, really. Have tutors available online, then have students log in and request help in a specific subject. The student is connected with the appropriate tutor, and tada—let the learning begin! The best part about this concept is that the students and tutors can be just about anywhere. I can have a college student in California on a break in between classes working with a student somewhere in Tennessee who needs to learn the quadratic formula. We can reach a lot more students by going online than we can in a traditional setting, even if the program is successful.

I think online tutoring can be very effective if I can get the logistics handled. The two real issues I have found are that in some lower income areas, where tutors are often an integral part of over-tasked schools, students don’t always have widespread internet access. Sometimes the only place students can access online tutoring is at their public library, which means the hours we can provide them with help are limited. However, some help is better than no help, and I plan to work with schools and libraries in these kinds of areas as the business model for my tutoring program evolves and improves.

The other problem is that without a tutor being directly next to you, there is the potential for distraction. I’ve been talking to a few programmers to see if there are ways to mitigate this issue. From making a simple, clean user interface, to possibly having a sort of ‘guided access’ lock where things like the internet can’t be opened while tutoring is in session, I’ve been tossing around just about every idea I can think of. One obvious way to combat this problem would be through the use of webcams, but webcams do require more bandwidth than a simple chat/file exchange type program. Also, we are dealing with minors and there is also the question of what is going to make students and parents feel the most comfortable using our services.

As long as there is a need for students to reach quality tutors, I will keep trying to figure out ways to make that happen!

Why Peer Tutoring?

When my grad professor asked me “Why peer tutoring?” My first thought was, “Why NOT peer tutoring?” But I know that’s not the best of answers. So, I decided to write a post explaining myself and then I’ll know what to say to him tomorrow when I walk into his office!

First, I think that teachers are overworked and underpaid. They teach to large class sizes and can’t focus on the kids who are really struggling. When they do tutoring work, it is either free (or at an expense to them) or costly for the families receiving the services. And that’s assuming you can even find a teacher willing to tutor – let’s face it, most people just want to go home at the end of the day and see their families before they start on all the work that they had to take home! Lots of teachers work for summer programs as a way to make extra money, which is great for the teachers but again, expensive for the families. Some of the children who could use the most help are simply out of luck in these cases.

But peers tutor for a variety of reasons. I did look at some other peer tutoring programs where the tutors are paid. Compared to the cost of professional instructions, the prices are much more reasonable. Other programs offer college students course credits or clinic hours in an education program. Both of these things can be pretty motivating to higher education students! Some high school students also tutor to get a bullet for their college applications or for community service. All of these are good reasons, and they all can keep costs down. Lower costs means more students can afford the help they need!

Another great reason to use peers is a role model system. Some kids who are struggling in school need to see someone who works hard and is succeeding. They may need to see effective study tips in action, or maybe learn more in-depth note taking. Not to say that teachers can’t provide these things, but kids are more willing to take advice or suggestions from someone other than an adult. They especially don’t want to hear it from their parents or teachers!

Using peers is also helpful with Common Core. Many parents feel completely out of their depth with it, especially the math. Parents don’t know what those crazy boxes are or the way kids are doing long division now. Kids ask for help and their parents have no idea where to start, so they’re looking online at youtube videos and hating this “new math.” But peers have actually been taught these things, and they understand. Not only that, but they can offer tips and tricks on how they picked it up and help others catch on, too.

Technology can be a problem, too. Kids who graduated even fifteen years ago didn’t use the slide rule that my grandparents did. Nowadays, I can use my phone to do all kinds of math that my parents needed a scientific calculator for. But peer tutors already know these things – because they’re actively using it themselves!

Peer tutors can approach those who need help as a friend and as an educational resource, which I think can be really valuable to those who are struggling.

Whew, I wish I’d said all that earlier in my instructor’s office! He’s going to get an earful from me tomorrow, let me tell you!!