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The Importance of Evaluating Tutors

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In addition to training tutors and tracking their tutoring hours, it’s critical for their development that you also evaluate them on a regular basis.

In fact, it’s one of the tenets of CRLA’s International Peer Tutor Training Program Certification, and is an important factor in the success of your program as a whole. In this post, we’ll discuss the importance of evaluating your peer tutors, different ways you can go about doing so, and other elements to their evaluation. 

Choosing How to Evaluate Tutors

There are myriad ways to evaluate your peer tutors, their efficacy, and their overall performance. You may choose to establish a formal evaluation process or you may evaluate your tutors on a more informal basis. Either option can provide you with insight into your staff and program as a whole. Whether you incorporate a formal or informal evaluation into your program, you’ll want to make sure that all tutors go through the same process for consistency and fairness. 

Two of the most common types of evaluations are tutor observation and tutor self-assessment. Observations can be either formal or informal, and can involve various observers. With new tutors, for instance, you could ask a more seasoned tutor to observe a tutoring session and complete an evaluation of the tutor from start to finish. Following that, you would also want to observe the new tutor during a session; having the additional perspective of a fellow tutor regarding that new tutor’s understanding of best practices, center policies, and rapport with the student can be valuable when helping tutors to develop their skills further. When it comes to evaluating veteran tutors, you could be the only one to observe their sessions or you could invite a new tutor to observe as well — more for the purposes of them learning from the veteran tutor as opposed to truly evaluating the tutor. 

Self-assessments are also a helpful tool for evaluating tutors. While not a direct measure of performance or learning, using an indirect measure like self-assessments gives you a clearer understanding of the tutor’s view of their own strengths and challenges. Though the tutor’s perceived strengths and weaknesses may not align with those that you view via observation, they provide additional insight into the tutor’s approach to tutoring and can help you when mentoring them, offering professional development opportunities, and more. 

For instance, an example of a formal evaluation process that relies heavily on a tutor’s self-reflection is Knack’s Skills Development Program. The goal of the Skills Development Program (SDP) is to help students connect the work they’re doing as a tutor to the skills they’ll need in their careers. Through education, experience, reflection, and assessment, this program is designed to transform the role of a peer tutor into something even more meaningful than a great campus employment opportunity.

Because we want to help tutors make the connection between the work they do as tutors and their future careers, the SDP focuses on the following five NACE Career Competencies: Critical Thinking & Problem Solving, Oral & Written Communication, Teamwork & Collaboration, Leadership, and Professionalism. Tutors even receive badges as they complete tutoring hours and conduct each SDP checkpoint. Tutors can receive the Kornerstone Badge at 15 hours, the Keystone Badge at 30 hours, and the Kapstone Badge at 60 hours. Through self-assessments, reflections, and a mock interview, tutors will consider the holistic tutoring experience and how this experience provides them with a workspace ripe for developing the skills and competencies needed to succeed in their future careers.

Regardless of whether you choose to have a formal or informal evaluation process or utilize observations, self-assessments, or other evaluation tools, you want to make sure of two things. First, that all tutors undergo the same evaluation process, as mentioned earlier. Second, that each tutor is evaluated on an individual basis and that you are not evaluating them as a group. The feedback provided should be tailored to each tutor and derive from their unique strengths, behavior, and areas for growth. 

Choosing When to Evaluate Tutors

Once you’ve determined how you want to evaluate tutors, you need to decide when you’re going to evaluate them. The frequency and timing of evaluation is important. Evaluate a new tutor too early and you haven’t given them a chance to establish their own tutoring style or rhythm within your guidelines and the tutoring cycle. Evaluate a tutor too late and you miss the opportunity to help them refine their skills and style before they’ve impacted a student negatively. 

For new tutors, it can be helpful to evaluate them — even informally — toward the end of their first semester as a tutor. This way, you can use the second semester to provide training opportunities in areas that could be improved or refined. Similarly, there are benefits to evaluating senior tutors (those who will be graduating) in the fall semester, so you still have time to help them during spring semester before they leave your program. 

The second half of spring semester can be a great time to formally evaluate your entire staff, as they’ll have had ample time to develop their skills, style, and confidence over the course of the year. Much like we try to assess student learning outcomes later in a student’s program, the same should generally be true for when we evaluate our tutors. We want to make sure we’ve given them plenty of time to grow before we assess their performance, while also leaving enough time to provide constructive feedback.

Whenever you decide to evaluate your tutors — and whether you decide to incorporate a formal process, informal process, or both — it’s important to be consistent. You want to be able to report on aggregate data in a way such that the results of your evaluations are reliable and show programmatic efficacy.

Debriefing with Your Tutors

Once you’ve completed a tutor’s evaluation, you want to make sure that you meet one-on-one to discuss the findings. Whether you choose a formal or informal assessment, a critical piece of the evaluation process is communicating with the tutor, sharing any feedback, and hearing their thoughts on what you’ve observed or what they’ve reported in a self-assessment. 

Debriefing with each tutor allows you to have honest conversations with them about their specific strengths and areas for improvement. This is critical to their development as a tutor, but also as a person. Having these conversations with them will prepare them for having similar or more difficult conversations in the future when they begin their professional careers. So much of what we do as tutor trainers and program directors is mentor and develop our peer tutors, helping them to be thoughtful, mindful, and invested leaders. We can show them that we value their hard work by having these discussions after a formal or informal evaluation. We show them they’re valued by making it clear that we’re invested in them and their development

During these conversations, it can also be so helpful to listen to your tutors and hear how they’re feeling, what they think they’re struggling with, or where they feel like they’re doing well. You can gather some of this information in a self-assessment, but having direct conversations with your tutors will allow the opportunity for follow-up questions, observation of nonverbal cues, and allow you to further your relationships with your tutors. 

Keeping it Meaningful, Focused, and Relevant

No matter how or when you evaluate your tutors, you want to make sure that your evaluations appropriately reflect and address the goals of your tutoring program. Evaluation just for the sake of evaluation is not necessarily meaningful. Consider incorporating evaluations that allow you to comprehensively assess and measure your tutors, your training, and your tutoring program as a whole — from student learning outcomes to your mission statement to operational objectives. 

We’ll talk more about how you can assess your tutoring program in April when we dive into assessment, learning outcomes, measures, reporting, and more. Be on the lookout for these upcoming posts!