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5 Reasons Why Your Campus Needs to Invest More in Peer Tutoring

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We’ve outlined five reasons why your campus needs to invest more in peer tutoring and how this commitment can help you meet your program’s goals.

Bookmark this post to help you reaffirm the reasons why peer tutoring is an investment that propels academic and student success and delivers a deeper value than what may be assumed at first glance.

1. It’s cheaper than adding new faculty members.

While faculty are absolutely core to the academic development of students, we know they can be a limited resource. First, although faculty are dedicated to teaching their students, their roles often include serving on committees, conducting and publishing research, traveling to conferences, and more. Moreover, an institution may not be able to hire additional faculty due to budget constraints.

By investing in peer tutoring, however, a campus enhances academic support through the strength and focus that only tutoring can offer. This concerted effort widens the array of choices students have when seeking academic support outside of the classroom. When examining the options financially, the choice is clear.

The average assistant professor salary in the 2017-2018 academic year was $70,791, according to the American Association of University Professors’ Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession. If you take even just a third of this wage and invest it into tutoring, you can conservatively facilitate more than 1,000 hours of one-on-one peer support. Focusing these hours on classes with the highest drop/fail/withdraw rates will inevitably improve persistence, retention, and academic success to a greater extent than adding one additional faculty member ever could.  

2. It’s more effective than adding faculty members.

Adding more faculty can be effective depending on what your institution is trying to achieve. If your goal is to offer more classes, for example, adding more faculty will certainly help you do that. If your goal, however, is to bolster academic support and increase engagement in these services, investing more in peer tutoring is the clear cut choice. 

Peer tutoring doesn’t just broaden the scope of academic support available for students — it provides something that faculty cannot. Tutors can hold their peers accountable and have honest conversations regarding the lies about learning in a different way than faculty would be able to because they may have recently overcome these obstacles themselves. The recency of this shared experience is a value inherent to all peer tutoring. 

Peer tutors are also able to break the curse of knowledge and bridge the gap between faculty and students, helping to ensure students are not held back by these barriers to academic success. Because of the ongoing, one-on-one nature of peer tutoring, tutors are also able to employ strategies that help their students succeed, like the Super Mario Effect, which can ease pressure and anxiety for stressed out students. Lastly, peer tutors can be more effective than faculty when it comes to serving key populations like first year students because the peer relationship creates rapport that allows for a higher level vulnerability and leads to more meaningful support. 

3. It benefits both student and tutor outcomes.

Since both tutors and the students being helped benefit from peer tutoring, it’s an efficient way to impact two students at once, which is especially helpful when campuses face a lean financial climate. When powered by technology, peer tutoring programs can become a lighter administrative load for program directors, giving them the peace of mind that their program is optimized for success, so they can finally begin tackling other areas of their department as well. 

For students receiving tutoring, we know it can reduce the psychological size of campus and become a secret weapon of success, especially when it’s relationship-driven. For tutors themselves, this role is a valuable campus employment opportunity where they can develop the NACE Career Competencies employers seek. This is especially true if the program includes tutor training with a focus on skill development, like Knack’s online tutor training built in partnership with CRLA

4. It creates social connectivity centered around academic pursuits.

There’s no doubt that peer tutoring introduces social connectivity to academic work. It’s the ingredient that makes this learning activity similar to many high-impact practices, moving beyond transactional to become transformational. 

We know that college friendships and peer support matter when it comes to academic success. Thus, investing in peer tutoring facilitates the kinds of bonds that can only exist between peers in a learning environment. In addition, because students know best how Generation Z is learning, they can use that knowledge along with their natural people skills to help their peers succeed. 

The social nature of peer tutoring also provides an opportunity for both the tutor and student to stretch their skills when it comes to emotional intelligence. Lastly, the social connectivity of peer tutoring may be what increases engagement with academic services for the students you don’t hear about and other key student populations.

5. It creates a culture in which everyone is expected to succeed.

Investing in peer tutoring helps define the culture and community of your campus. It shows an institutional commitment to academic success and demonstrates that academic performance is a primary campus value. It sets the tone that help-seeking is supported and encouraged. Peer tutoring also communicates that peers are good resources for help and students have the ability to make a difference. It asks them to be active participants not only in their own learning but also in the learning of others.

For peer tutors themselves, investing more in peer tutoring can support their success and help them know that their work is important. It demonstrates that their role is taken seriously and deserves support. When tutoring programs include training, it tells tutors that they are seen as campus leaders who can rise to the expectations of the work and make a meaningful impact. Empowered in this way, tutors can continue to lead the way to help their peers succeed, drawing in more potential tutors and engaging more students who need academic support. In the end, everyone wins.