Tutor Resource Manual

I. Essential Qualities for a Tutor of ANY Subject

Your professional responsibility is to facilitate students’ independent learning. Students will model your productive behaviors if you are patient and positive. Other qualities include the ability to:

• Demonstrate application of material

• Use strategies often

• Encourage responsibility for students’ own learning

• Use open-ended questions frequently

• Connect new information to existing knowledge

II. Setting the Tone of Each Session

The tutor/client relationship is a partnership. Each party contributes to tutoring sessions in his/her own way. Hence, both are responsible for setting the tone and keeping the lines of communication open during each session. Because this is a partnership, Tutors must not accept full responsibility for either a successful or a failed relationship.

In order to establish a productive working relationship with students, it is important that both parties have a clear understanding of tutor/tutee responsibilities. This sets the groundwork for realistic expectations. Once the tone is set, it is important to set expectations for each session. Allow the student to participate in setting these expectations so that s/he can begin the role of an active participant in each session.

III. Explore

During the first meeting, find out from the student what s/he needs (or thinks s/he needs). You may detect deficiencies that can be addressed in a follow up session. Whether the student just wants a brief session to gain clarity or wants to set up weekly appointments, remember your purpose is to help her/him become successful and independent.

IV. Assess

Try to engage the student in conversation about her/his academic strengths/weaknesses, likes/dislikes.

This will help you understand why the student is taking the class(es) in which you are tutoring. Be a concerned listener and avoid interrupting. If you would like more information, try asking why or how questions.

Determine a mutual set of realistic expectations. Help the student see that s/he is in control of the tutoring session and is an active participant in the tutoring experience.

V. The Structured Tutoring Session

Structure is critical when it comes to tutoring. Just as a sports team faces each opponent with a set game plan, tutors should face each tutee with a structured tutoring session. Below you will find ideas how to organize your tutoring sessions.

Four Ingredients for a Successful Tutoring Session

• Warm-up: Ask questions and find out what the student wants to work on. Not only should you have a goal for the session in mind, so should they. Find a particular “trouble spot” and set that one area as your goal for the session.

• Demonstration: Refer back to the textbook, review notes, have the student show you their notes—get them talking about what they know so that you can then fill in the missing pieces, not simply put the whole puzzle together for them.

• Practice: If you want to work on, for example, the bones in the body for a biology class, then have the student practice what you just worked on. This can help you assess if they do, indeed, know what you just went over. Do not take a “Yes,” as the answer to “Do you understand”? Make them show you they understand. The best way to learn a concept is to teach that concept, so have them teach you!

• Wrap-up: Make the end of the session uplifting and concluding. Do not just run out of time and run off to your next obligation. Plan what you will do next session, praise the student for all they just learned (confidence does wonders!), and attach a goodbye—these are small but important rapport-building moments. Review of this online manual is mandatory for new tutors and as a refresher for experienced tutors.

A. Guidelines

1.     Be on time for every session.  If you must cancel a session, give as much advance notice as possible with a date for the makeup.

2.     Be Honest.  Do not be afraid to admit that you do not know something.  Do not give incorrect information to "save face."

3.     If the student seems to be experiencing a problem, such as study issues or personal difficulties, that you feel is not related to the kind of course content instruction you can provide, please refer her/him to scholar support at scholar-support@247learningcenter.com

4.     If you or the student feel the arrangement is not working, either of you can cancel the session.

B. Tutoring Tips

1.     Good tutoring is based on mutual respect and trust, never put on an attitude of condescension. Curb any inclination to impress. You are there to help.  As a starter, find out what the student knows about the subject.

2.     Encourage the student to attend class.  Some students believe getting help from a tutor is a substitute for attending class. Students having difficulty must realize time spent with a tutor is additional to classroom time.  Teach the student how to learn rather than try to solve the student's problem.

3.     Work with the concepts and establish what the student knows.  The student should be able to explain to you what s/he has learned and what s/he does not understand or cannot learn.  Often students over-complicate the material.

4.     Guide the student.  You should guide a student through the solution process. Ask reflective questions, such as “How did you reach that conclusion?” “Can you walk me through your steps?” When you ask a question, rephrase it, break it into parts and repeat it back to the student for response. The purpose of this is to generate discussion, and get the student to make connections and pull information together her/himself. It may be easy for you, a knowledgeable tutor, to answer questions directly. However, if the student reasons out the answer or puts the pieces together on her/his own, the student is far more likely to remember.

5.    Address anxiety.  You may deal with a student who has anxiety about the subject. You should avoid using phrases such as "This is easy."  Such phrases intimidate the student. If the student suffers from a high degree of, for example, math anxiety, have them follow these steps:

7.     Develop a sense of empathy. Recall a class that was difficult for you and remember that not all students find the same subjects easy to understand.

C. Active Listening Skills

Good listening is built on three basic skills: attitude, attention, and adjustment. Listening leads to the understanding of facts and ideas. But listening takes attention, and sticking to the task at hand in spite of distractions. It requires concentration, which is the focusing of your thoughts on one particular problem. A person who incorporates listening with concentration is actively listening.

Good listeners:

·       Look for the ideas being presented, not for things to criticize.

·       Listen with the mind, not the emotions.

·       Filter out distractions and concentrate on what the student is saying.

·       Try to understand the student’s point of view.

·       Think about what the student is saying, summarize the main points, and think about the next points.

D. Cultural Differences

Culture refers to the sum total of acquired values, beliefs, customs, and traditions experienced by a group as familiar and normal. It includes language, religion, customs, and a history of the people.  As a tutor, you will be working with students from other cultures, domestic and international.  Providing the student with an atmosphere of trust and acceptance will encourage a connection between you and the student.

Be sensitive if you are tutoring a domestic student.

1.     Domestic students come from a variety of living environments: rural, suburban, urban, different geographic regions of the country.

2.     Domestic students have a varied educational background: public, private or parochial schools, home schooling. Be especially sensitive if you are  tutoring an international student.

3.     Encouraging the student to talk about her/his family or country before embarking on the academic material helps to break the ice.

4.     Sometimes the international student may become dependent on you for more than just tutoring.  The student might see you as a much needed new friend, or as a source of information about not only scholarly interests, but also social interests.

5.     The international student may not speak English well, but that is no indication of her/his intelligence.

VI. Learning to Mirror

Mirroring is the process of accurately reflecting back the content of a message.

Repeating back the content accurately is called flat mirroring. Flat mirroring can be more difficult than it sounds.

It is very easy, without realizing it, to mirror back a little more than what was said, or a little less. A person who gives back a little more is doing convex mirroring.

A person who gives back less, by zeroing in on one point that interests him and ignoring the rest, is doing concave mirroring.

Maximizers often “repeat” the message through convex mirroring by adding something of their own for the purpose, conscious or not, of shaping the other person’s thoughts and feelings. An example of convex mirroring is the wife who mirrors back to her husband: “So you’re feeling guilty that you came home late for dinner,” when what the husband actually said was, “I’m sorry I didn’t start for home sooner because the traffic was so bad.”

Minimizers often “repeat” a message through concave mirroring by highlighting the one thing they think is important, but leaving out what the speaker thinks is most important. An example of concave mirroring is the husband who responds to his wife’s difficulty with a car problem by saying, “So, you’re telling me you couldn’t figure out what was wrong with your car,” when his wife actually said was, “I’m delighted that I was able to get the car to the garage for repair today.”

Both convex and concave mirroring are common forms of paraphrasing. When we paraphrase, we state in our own words what we think another person is saying. However, we often assume that we know what the other person is saying when we really do not. We are just guessing. We may be good guessers, and we may be right most of the time, but unless we check whether we have it right, the danger exists that we will be misunderstood. It can also be tempting during the process of mirroring to interpret before we understand fully. If our interpretation is based on errors of understanding, then our interpretation will be wrong. In contrast, besides ensuring accuracy, flat mirroring lets a partner know that you are willing to put aside your own thoughts and feelings for the moment in order to understand the other’s point of view.

For most people this is a rare moment of self-transcendence. It is also a moment that creates safety and deeper emotional connection in your relationship.

VII. Encourage the Learning Process

Just about every student who schedules a tutoring session for the first time will have the false impression that you are there to answer questions blindly or check their work. In a helpful manner, explain your role as a tutor at the beginning of the first session. Refer to yourself as a resource that will assist her/him in learning how to ask and answer questions. In addition, your job is to help the student practice processing and organizing information, apply study strategies, and learn new ways to approach problems.

In order that students do not become intimidated by your role, reassure them that you will answer questions as needed. However, students need to appreciate their personal responsibility in the learning process. In the first session, as well as in subsequent sessions, engage the students in decision-making at all levels.

When It Is Time to End

Closure should be reached before ending the session. Ask your student to summarize what has been covered. Then, help her/him evaluate the progress made toward goals agreed upon at the session’s  beginning. This is the perfect time to point out the progress the student made during the session.

Before the student leaves have the student fill out a “Tutoring Evaluation”.

VIII. Different Methods and Approach

As you develop as a tutor, you will come to realize that one type of approach does not always work. The most effective tutors utilize aspects from an array of tutoring approaches with the goal of remaining minimalist.

Minimalist Method

This method requires students to solve their own problems under the supervision of a tutor who acts as a coach, a more experienced peer, rather than an editor. During each session, students engage in a series of tasks related to their latest course assignment. While tutors shape these tasks and advise students in the midst of them, it is the students who read, write, etc.

Socratic Method

You tutor by asking questions rather than just giving instructions. Socratic dialogues are active discussions between the tutor and a student that require the student to formulate and express his/her thoughts. This interactive exchange requires a student to become involved. Any passive or defeatist behaviors are put aside with this one-on-one attention and immediate feedback.

Pemberton’s Laws of Tutorics

Michael Pemberton, author of “Writing Center Ethics: The Three Laws of Tutorics, argues “tha tethics should guide a tutor’s approach based on three “laws”: (1) a tutor should teach others revise their own work, not do the work for them, (2) a tutor should help students identify the most significant issues in their learning, so long as the help provided does violate the First Law,and (3) a tutor should follow a student’s agenda for the tutoring session , so long as the agenda does not violate the First or Second Laws”.

The Twelve-Step Tutor Cycle

Beginning Steps

1. Greeting

2. Identification of Task

3. Breaking the Task into parts

4. Identification of Thought Process

Task Steps

5. Setting Agenda

6. Addressing the Task

7. Tutee Summary of Content

8. Tutee Summary of Underlying Process

Closing Steps

9. Confirmation

10. What next?

11. Arranging and Planning Next Session

12. Closing


Tutees should take an active role in the tutoring cycle. Make sure to encourage them to identify which tasks they need to work on and set the agenda for the session. Also, they should take an active part in setting goals and arranging times for their next tutoring sessions. (adapted from The Master Tutor,1994)

In Closing…

An ancient proverb says, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for that day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life”. That philosophy is incorporated into the tutoring program at 24/7 Learning Center and is especially appropriate when helping students with all stages of learning. While tutoring, you can try using the Socratic method– which encourages asking questions of students to help them discover corrections needed rather than have the tutor make corrections – is preferred.

The goal of tutoring is to foster student independence following the principle that tutors can help students help themselves by stimulating active learning and building students’ confidence in their own abilities. Throughout all stages of the learning process, tutors use diagnosis and the Socratic Method to find students’ levels of comprehension before moving to new concepts. Learning is a cyclical process, not linear. Through discovery and analysis, the student can readjust her/his learning style. Tutors encourage students by helping them identify first their strengths and use these to overcome weaknesses. Hopefully, students can then make necessary adjustments while developing the confidence to become independent writers.

Have fun while tutoring, and welcome to the 24/7 Teach Family!