We spend hours a day in school copying down information from lectures or textbooks and filling out worksheets and essays in the same fashion. Then, we go home, only to continue this process for, potentially, several more hours. Granted, not all classes are like this, but a vast amount of our learning is passive. For all the time we spend on our education, we often don’t get personally involved in it; rather, we simply do what we’re told, be it by teachers, parents, or a different person of authority. Here’s the thing about passive learning: it affects everyone, regardless of what kind of student you are. All of us can benefit from taking charge of our education.
If you want to become more active in the learning process, consider getting involved in the tutoring program at PHS.
Perhaps you aren’t familiar with this program. You wouldn’t be alone. A Paw Print survey reports that 33 out of 71 respondents didn’t know we had tutoring at PHS. But with the expansion of the tutoring programs to PHS student tutors, this will likely change. Mr. Pollestad, the principal, says: “Typically, our tutors have been WSU students looking to give back to the community. We do, however, have many… students that would be great tutors for our PHS students.” One can expect a respectable growth in the tutoring program with the rise of PHS student tutors; when surveyed, 19 out of 67 respondents said they were interested in becoming a tutor.
Research shows that peer tutoring has significant benefits for academic performance. A 2001 study done showed that those who had peer tutors made significant gains in their reading ability[i]. Another done in 1990 reported that low-progress readers are particularly receptive to peer tutoring[ii]. Looking beyond high school, there are many examples of peer tutoring programs at the collegiate level which have shown to be linked with academic success[iii]. Peer tutoring is effective because, for the most part, the interaction between peers is more comfortable for students than that with teachers. In addition, peer tutoring involves collaboration between students, which promotes active, as opposed to passive learning[iv].
But the benefits of peer tutoring do not just concern the tutees, or those being tutored. “Peer tutoring usually resulted in significant cognitive gains for both the tutor and the tutee,” says the National Tutor Association[v]. Indeed, when one knows something well enough to teach it, that indicates mastery. Additionally, tutoring requires one to review content one has already learned, which in turn reinforces the material. This may be why a study done by the Peer Research Laboratory in 2002 showed that its high school tutors had an increase in reading ability (three years’ worth) in a five-month period by tutoring fourth graders[vi].
Furthermore, peer tutoring can have a profound impact on a student’s perception of school, as demonstrated by the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program. Beginning in 1984, this program has reached out to thousands of middle and high school students who were at risk for dropping out of school and paid them to tutor elementary school students. The results have been astounding: tutors were less likely to drop out of school, had better grades in English, better self-esteem, and better attitudes towards school than non-tutors[vii]. One tutor said, “The only thing that kept my feet firmly planted on the ground was the knowledge that I was here for someone else, and they were depending on me…These children were my light[viii].” By developing a sense of responsibility and self-confidence in imparting one’s knowledge to others, peer tutoring can make the academic experience of the tutor more meaningful.
All in all, one can foresee that the tutoring program at PHS will cultivate an academic community. That doesn’t just mean students are getting good grades, but that students are working together and building confidence in their own knowledge. Perhaps most importantly, it gives students an avenue to take charge of their education.
To become a tutor, one must fill out an application. Moreover, the tutor application is not just a method for determining who would be an effective tutor, but also for an applicant to consider what it takes to be an effective tutor. For example, the application asks for information about the classes one takes and other aspects of academic performance. This is important criteria for tutors, but it’s not the only criteria. Tutors need to be able to communicate their knowledge effectively to their tutees, without frustrating them or making them feel inferior. In addition, there ought to be a method of setting up tutors and tutees without necessarily assigning one tutor per tutee, so that every tutee gets tutored and every tutor gets the opportunity to tutor.
I talked to Ms. Strongoni, the school librarian who runs the tutoring program, about how to develop the program so that it meets these needs. One idea is if teachers could instruct tutors on some techniques, perhaps on a designated “Tutor training day”, this would contribute to the success of the program. Ms. Strongoni affirmed this, saying that “[some] teachers have said to me ‘well, I don’t want the kids to be tutored by somebody else because they’re teaching them a different way’…so if the teachers train the tutors, they will be much happier about that.” She also expressed interest in small group review sessions for specific tests, like AP exams or finals; these would allow more people to experience the tutoring program. On how to set up tutors and tutees, she described that she makes cards for her tutors, pictured below, and distributes them to teachers and displays them in the library. In this way, she can avoid having tutors sit idle in the library, which according to Ms. Strongoni, has happened too often. The new card system “makes the student responsible”, which resonates with the view of peer tutoring as an avenue to take charge in one’s education.
The tutoring program is on the brink of something more powerful that can effect real change at PHS. But for this to happen, it will need more student involvement. Having more tutors wouldn’t only increase the actual number of students that can get tutored, it will decrease the burden on each individual tutor. In addition, it will make various projects, like small group review sessions, easier to carry out.
Tutoring in any subject is welcome, but Ms. Strongoni confirms that the top subjects students ask for tutoring in are Geometry and Algebra. If you are interested in tutoring, fill out the tutoring application below; if you are interested in being tutored, fill out the tutee survey below that. And with that, take the first step towards taking charge in your education.
[i] Gregory, Gayle. “Chapter 3: ‘Activating Learning through Peer Tutoring.’” Teacher as Activator of Learning, by Gayle Gregory, Corwin, a SAGE Publishing Company, 2016.
[ii] Gregory, Gayle. “Chapter 3: ‘Activating Learning through Peer Tutoring.’” Teacher as Activator of Learning, by Gayle Gregory, Corwin, a SAGE Publishing Company, 2016.
[iii] Briggs, Sara. “How Peer Teaching Improves Student Learning and 10 Ways to Encourage It.” InformED, Open Colleges, 24 Mar. 2017, www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/peer-teaching/.
[iv] Briggs, Sara. “How Peer Teaching Improves Student Learning and 10 Ways to Encourage It.” InformED, Open Colleges, 24 Mar. 2017, www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/peer-teaching/.
[v] “Peer Tutoring Facts.” National Tutoring Association, 1 Jan. 2015, www.ntatutor.com/peer-tutoring-facts.html.
[vi] Gregory, Gayle. “Chapter 3: ‘Activating Learning through Peer Tutoring.’” Teacher as Activator of Learning, by Gayle Gregory, Corwin, a SAGE Publishing Company, 2016.
[vii] Cardenas, J. A., Harris, R., del Refugio Robledo, M., and Supik, J. D. Valued Youth Program Dropout Prevention Strategies for At-Risk Students. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Education Research Association, Chicago, Ill., April 2003.
[viii] “Program Overview.” Intercultural Development Research Association, 2015, www.idra.org/coca-cola-valued-youth-program/program-overview/.