The tutoring centers at Pierce College have shifted from one-on-one tutoring to almost entirely group tutoring, beginning in fall quarter 2018. Desiring for more open access for students and better use of students’ time, tutoring now takes place with groups of three to four students. Previously, students could sign up in person or online to meet with a personal tutor multiple times a week. While drop-in appointments were available, it often consisted of tutors trying to help multiple students at once, resulting in a lack of focused study time.
Pierce has promoted group tutoring for nearly two years with the hope of reducing the sheer number of personal tutoring requests. One on one tutoring has remained packed with student requests and not enough tutors to share the load. 50 to 60 students were often left on a waiting list for a personal tutoring session.
Access has also been an issue. For students with busy schedules, the idea of mandatory appointments each week was unfeasible. Students would choose not to come to tutoring even if they needed it, because of the rigid schedule. Other students had no knowledge of the tutoring center. Many of the students that use the tutoring center are considered “high achieving,” meaning that they are not the students that need the most assistance. These students may have more flexible schedules, or a prior knowledge of the tutoring center from siblings or friends. Students who were actually struggling with their courses were often sat on the waitlist.
To combat the waitlist and build a better learning environment, students participating in tutoring are now given the option of group tutoring, called peer led student groups.
While some math classes still have required tutoring sessions, all tutoring is now drop-in. Math, chemistry and biology now have certain scheduled hours where students can come in if they need assistance. While a student may not be participating in a group with classmates from the same course section, each group always revolves around one central course, like Math 142. Previously, students were limited to three tutoring sessions a week. Rather than being required to attend a certain numbers of sessions, students can go as many times per week as they see fit.
Math courses will still require study labs, with tutors who attend class alongside students and help them work through the material.
Some students may be wary at the idea of using tutoring sessions alongside other students. Sabrina Stevenson, Tutoring Center Manager, encourages students to give it a try. According to data, collaborative learning is the most effective way to learn. Students can share ideas and work together on projects, fostering the idea of groupthink. Even for students who are more reserved around others, group tutoring teaches collaborative skills that will be used in the workforce or higher education. While it’s too early in the quarter to know the results of the new tutoring style, students have been giving positive feedback and seem to appreciate the open scheduling.
One on one tutoring is still offered in some cases. Students who use ADS, are ESL or are taking courses lower than college level can still access personal tutoring if needed.
While group tutoring is fixing the issue of too little tutors, physical space is still an issue. The tutoring center itself is consistently full of rotating groups, and other designated tutoring spaces around campus are constantly being used. While students are no longer on a waitlist for a study group, there is still a lack of areas in which to have study sessions.
Despite the challenges, group tutoring seems to prove beneficial for students long term. As students meet together with a tutor regularly, they make connections, building a stronger learning network. If a student needs help and cannot reach a tutor, they can contact their fellow peers and work through an assignment together.
“I’m really excited about the possibility of community and what kind of community we can build here if [group tutoring] is successful,” Stevenson says. “It’s one of the things that’s kind of been lacking. I’ve always wanted to have more of a learning community for our students.”
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