Why College Peer Tutoring Works

Working with a good tutor can make a tremendous difference in your college student’s success. Having a tutor can mean that a student has a stronger grasp of the course material and may receive a better grade.

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 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 can work well for many students, 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.

Why Peer Tutoring May Be Helpful for Your College Student

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.

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, he may be less anxious, may be more comfortable and less afraid of asking a “stupid” question. He may be more forthcoming expressing his 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. 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.

Why Your Student Might Want to Become a Peer Tutor

Most of us understand why a student may want to get a tutor.

However, we may wonder why a student might want to become a tutor.  Of course, some students may become a tutor for extra income, but tutoring is time-consuming and requires hard work, preparation, and effort.  Why would your student want to become a peer tutor to help other students with their coursework?

There are actually many benefits of tutoring – for the tutor as well as for the tutee.  You may want to help your student consider why she might want to become a peer tutor at her college or university.

  • Peer tutors are usually paid. The wage may be minimum, but tutoring is one good way for a student to earn some extra spending money.
  • Tutors often have flexible hours and can set convenient appointment times with students. Tutoring times can be worked around your student’s schedule.
  • Tutors often make a difference in the lives of the students that they tutor. For a student who wants to contribute to her community and have meaningful interactions with others and make a difference, tutoring is a great avenue.
  • Teaching someone else material is the best way to solidify the material and learn it better. Although your student may feel that she understands course content, she will learn it in a completely new way when she tries to help someone else understand it.
  • Tutors often make important gains in their problem-solving abilities. In order to help others learn material, they need to understand students and learning styles, resolve complex issues and break things down into separate parts.
  • Your student may gain a greater sense of empathy as a tutor.
  • Your student may gain important self-esteem and confidence as a tutor.
  • Your student may gain important interpersonal skills by working on listening, communicating clearly and accurately, dealing with possible intercultural issues and creating a positive communication climate.
  • Your student may gain greater self-awareness as she discovers her own strengths and weaknesses and helps tutees consider theirs.
  • Your student will work at goal setting skills as she helps her tutee plan a course of action.
  • Your student will gain understanding of the balance between support and challenge as she works to create a plan to help her tutee achieve his goals.
  • Your student will have an important experience to add to her resume. The academic experience, responsibility, and individual skills will be important qualities of interest to employers.
  • Your student may make a new friend.

Becoming a peer tutor is a position of prestige on many college campuses.  Your student will have an opportunity to gain important skills at the same time that she is helping others.  She will be able to learn material better than she would in any other way and to grow personally. Encourage your college student to explore this possible way to add to her college experiences.

Whether your student takes advantage of a peer tutor to improve his success or your student chooses to become a tutor, know that this can be a rewarding partnership for both students.

Related articles:

Tutoring Can Help Your College Student Succeed: Twelve Reasons to Start Early

Does Your College Student Know How to Advocate for What She Needs?

The Delicate Balance of Support and Self-Reliance


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