Working with a good tutor can make a tremendous difference in your college student’s success. Most colleges offer tutoring or academic support in some form. One commonly used form of student support is the use of a peer tutor. Peer tutors are students who have a strength in a subject area and work with students who are having some difficulty or need support. Occasionally, parents worry that their college student is working with another student and not with a professional tutor. They are concerned that the tutoring help will not be sufficient.
Although professional tutoring is very valuable, and may work best for some students in some subject areas, peer tutoring also has great advantages. As in any one-on-one tutoring situation, your student will receive individual attention and support for his academic needs. Some peer tutors may work with a student on several subjects, or the tutor may have expertise in one particular area.
There are unique advantages of peer tutors, and parents need to be aware that peer tutoring is used by many colleges because it is effective, not because it is “cheap labor”. Peer tutors are usually trained, some are trained extensively. They are not teachers with professional qualifications, they do not give grades or control curriculum, however they do have expertise in their subject area and some expertise in how to help other students succeed in that subject.
Below are some advantages to working with a student or peer tutor.
- Peer tutors have often had the same or similar struggles as their tutee. They understand the frustrations that your student may be feeling, and they understand the potential roadblocks to success. They can help the student address those difficulties.
- Peer tutors “speak the same language” and can connect with the student.
- Peer tutors serve as role models for their student tutees.
- Because your student is working with another student, she may be less anxious, may be more comfortable and less afraid of asking a “stupid” question. She may be more forthcoming with expressing her difficulties, which will help the tutor address those areas.
- Students often feel more of a sense of partnership in working with a peer tutor because there is less distance between the tutor and the tutee.
- Peer tutors often have great energy and enthusiasm for what they do because it is a new function for them. They are drawn to tutoring because they want to help others, and they want to do the job well.
- Peer tutors help the student to work toward self-responsibility and self-direction. They do not want to create a situation of dependency. The goal is to help the tutee learn not only the subject matter, but how to learn and approach new material.
- Peer tutors often provide social support as well as academic support. Tutors and their tutees often become friends.
The peer tutor/tutee relationship is a unique one. For many students, working with a peer tutor in a particular subject area can be the difference between success and failure. As with any tutoring relationship, it is imperative that your student enter the tutoring relationship openly and willingly. The relationship established is collaborative and must be entered through mutual consent and not through coercion or pressure. If your student does not want to be tutored, no tutoring relationship will work.
As college parents, you can encourage your student to take advantage of academic support provided by the school, and you can be comfortable knowing that if your student is assigned a peer tutor, she may be getting quality help. Hopefully, your student will take advantage of all of the opportunities provided.