If you’re in charge of a collegiate tutoring program, you know how difficult it can be to plan for and coordinate tutor training, even for a fairly small group.
If you haven’t supervised a tutoring program, rest assured that it’s not easy to get a group of tutors together, all in the same room, for several hours at a time — even without a pandemic. But the challenges aside, ensuring that all of our peer tutors are trained is critical to the success of our tutoring programs.
While it might be easier to not have any training requirements, what you make up for in ease you would lose in quality and preparedness.
But what are the benefits of training your tutors? Moreover, what are the benefits of requiring and paying for tutor training? In this post we’ll discuss some of the key benefits for why you should require your peer tutors to complete tutor training before working with students — and why you should pay them to do so.
Benefits of Requiring Tutor Training
The role of a peer tutor on college campuses is both important and serious. It requires more drive, motivation, and interest than other on-campus employment like swiping ID cards at the gym or dining hall. In addition, it requires training to understand the role of the tutor, how to assess student needs, how to personalize instruction, and other critical thinking skills to support peer learning. Without requiring tutors to complete training that covers these topics and more, we cannot guarantee that students are working with prepared, informed tutors. Requiring all peer tutors to complete critical training ensures consistency among your staff, so that no matter the tutor with whom students work they are working with someone trained in the best practices of peer education.
Requiring tutors to complete training shows them how important the training itself is. When something is defined as “optional” we tend to view it as neither necessary nor important, as potentially helpful but not critical. In other situations this may seem like semantics, but when discussing tutor training that is very much not the case. Having trained tutors is integral and critical to the success of tutoring programs because it adds a layer of quality control that you would not otherwise have if some of your tutors were trained and others were not. Furthermore, when tutors know that training is a job requirement, they’ll see the importance of the training itself and how it impacts their role as a tutor.
Being able to market your tutors as trained when advertising your program to students, faculty, and even prospective families can help with buy-in. You can build confidence and immediate trust when students know that tutors are trained and can provide quality paraprofessional support. The same is true for faculty who know that tutors are trained. Faculty are often more likely to encourage students to seek out tutoring when they have confidence in the assistance being offered.
Even for faculty who may not personally know or have recommended a peer tutor, if they know that tutors are effectively trained, they are more likely to feel confident in the support being provided and will strongly encourage students to attend. If faculty don’t have confidence in your tutors, they may discourage students from attending — this can be a death sentence to even the best tutoring programs.
Additionally, making tutor training a requirement lets applicants know well in advance that this is a serious role. Requiring tutor training will help you attract highly-motivated and high-achieving students to apply to be tutors, since they’ll know up front what’s expected of them.
Benefits of Paying Your Tutors for Training
The benefits of paying your tutors for training are arguably even clearer than those of requiring training. First and foremost, if being a peer tutor is a paid position on your campus and if you require tutors to attend training, your Human Resources department will likely tell you that you must pay them for training. Typically, if attending any meetings or training sessions is mandatory as part of the tutor’s job, then you must pay them for that time.
Beyond the HR requirement, though, paying tutors for training shows your tutors that you value their time. Making something mandatory but not paying them for completing that requirement could be seen as disrespectful. Tutoring isn’t the easiest on-campus job a student could have, and by paying them for their time we show our tutors that their participation is valued by us and the institution. We all want to feel like what we do has value — and paying tutors for training is an excellent way to show them that.
In addition, paying tutors for training time also highlights the importance of that training. If training was optional or seen as not “worth” paying them for that time, then tutors may not take the training as seriously as they should. We want them to be engaged, participatory, and focused during training to ensure that they use what they learn. A great way to encourage that is to pay them for the time they spend in training — time that is a precious commodity for many tutors.
What About Volunteer Tutor Programs?
If you supervise a volunteer peer tutoring program — or a program that has some volunteer tutors among paid staff — and you simply don’t have the budget to pay them for training, you can still enforce or encourage training as part of that volunteer position. This will help you to ensure that your tutors are still prepared and informed, but since it’s a volunteer position there is no expectation to pay them. Regardless, you can still make training a requirement of the position itself; this is well within your bounds.
In the case of volunteer tutors, we recommend an added emphasis on the fact that training is an excellent professional development opportunity for them. They’ll likely be required to participate in professional development over the course of their careers, and tutor training can be presented as their first taste of that. Being a tutor and having been trained will provide them with myriad opportunities for leadership development, as well as many other qualities that employers look for in applicants. Tutoring (and thus tutor training) helps tutors develop leadership skills and many NACE competencies that will benefit them in college and in their future professional lives.
You can make your tutor training as flexible, strict, or comprehensive as you like. Using asynchronous tutor training, such as Knack’s Tutor Training Modules, you can make training flexible and aligned with tutors’ schedules. We also recommend reviewing CRLA’s tutor training topic ideas if you’re looking to create your own asynchronous training or you’re planning to hold live, in-person or virtual training sessions. We’ll be delving into their premier tutor certification (the International Tutor Training Program Certification) in an upcoming post soon.
Until then, if you’re looking for more information about how to optimize your tutoring program for the modern student or about our tutor training modules, please check out partner.joinknack.com.
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