Tutoring Research Paper Starter


(Research Starters)

Tutoring is an educational method in which a tutor uses individualization and differentiated instruction to provide remediation to students—tutees—for mastery learning. In a tutorial system, learning takes place principally through one-on-one instruction. The tutorship of a student results in benefits both for the student and for the tutor. Different types of structured tutoring programs have been established; two of the many exemplary programs are briefly described in this essay. The many advantages of tutoring contribute to increased student achievement and positive affective outcomes. The disadvantages of tutoring occur sporadically and are typically manageable. Research on tutoring has examined its impacts and has determined that most procedures produce good results.

Keywords Cross-Age Tutors; Differentiated Instruction; Individualization; Mastery Learning; Mediated Learning; Peer Tutoring; Remedial Instruction; Remediation; Socratic Dialogue; Tutee; Tutor; Tutorial Cycle; Tutorial System

Teaching Methods: Tutoring


The history of tutoring extends back to Socrates and his pedagogy of academic discourse in which he made use of his Socratic dialogue method of inquiry to elicit evidence of learning via a series of questions posed to a student. An interesting phenomenon historically observed with the practice of tutoring is the so-called "tutorial cycle," wherein those who were once tutored often later become tutors themselves. The psychological theories of Bruner, Vygotsky, and Feuerstein support tutorial interactions and interrelationships.

Tutoring is an important and essential support system that schools can provide to help students succeed in regular classes. Tutoring programs serve the remedial, developmental, and compensatory needs of students who are educationally disadvantaged or who are having academic difficulties. Students with low skills in a given area can be provided with individualized attention and extended practice to build up these skills. The primary goal of tutoring is to maximize the educational performance of a student (Gabriel, 2005; Garstka, 1979; Webb et al., 1992).

Tutoring is a valuable method of individualized instruction used for remediating students and for mastery learning, based on providing differentiated instruction through individualization or using small groups. A tutorial system is one in which a teacher—a tutor—is generally assigned to assist, instruct, and/or examine a single student—a tutee—who is a charge of the tutor. Tutorials provide opportunities for learning to take place principally in one-on-one settings. Tutoring is an educational arrangement in which both students and tutors benefit (Gabriel, 2005; Karlin, 1980; Martz, 1992; Schubert, 1986; Webb, Metha, & Jordan, 1992). Table 1 reviews specific nomenclature or terms associated with the educational practice of tutoring.

Table 1 .FT.-Specific Nomenclature Associated with the Educational Practice of Tutoring

PHOTO (BLACK & WHITE):Since a tutor works with a student on an individual basis in most cases, the tutor has an individual responsibility for helping him or her succeed. A tutor can discuss subject matter, lend assistance with problems, explore the implications of particular points, and go over missed items. When a tutor is trained to offer guidance and to use appropriate instructional materials, the tutored child profits (Gage & Berliner, 1988; Karlin, 1980; Schubert, 1986; Webb et al., 1992).

Many different tutor-tutee combinations have been tried. A tutorial may be as simple as a single teacher offering constructive one-on-one help to students who need it. A tutor may also be an adult volunteer, a professional employee of a school district, or a fellow student. Not all remediation of students can occur in a classroom setting. As students' needs vary, there is oftentimes a demand for individual tutoring that occurs with private tutors outside the classroom (Gabriel, 2005; Gage & Berliner, 1988; Martz, 1992; Webb et al., 1992).

The Socratic Method

Tutoring and tutorial programs originated as an extension of the "drill and practice" method of instruction. The one-on-one model has a long, time-honored tradition that dates back to the Greek philosopher Socrates (ca. 470–399 BCE). Socrates' pedagogy of academic discourse, called the Socratic dialogue method, posed a series of questions to a student. The questions were designed to elicit from the student an evidentiary expression of something that was supposed to be implicitly known by all rational beings. As Socrates demonstrated by his tutelary method, he was respectful and protective of students and treated them as valuable contributors to the educational process. One student tutored by Socrates was Plato (ca. 428–348 BCE), who perfectly exemplified the fact that all "students lost in Plato's cave" might very well need an experienced tutor to serve as guide. Perhaps that is why Plato later tutored Aristotle (384–322 BCE) and Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great (356–323 BCE) and so on (Blowers, Ramsey, Merriman, & Grooms, 2003; Heilbron, 1994; Longo, 2007; Merriam-Webster Inc., 1988; Smith, 1995; Webb et al., 1992; Weigle, 1981).

Psychological Basis of Tutoring: Bruner, Vygotsky

According to Jerome Bruner's theory of cognitive growth, systematic interactions between a tutor and a learner are needed for cognitive development. A designated tutor or teacher must interpret and share the culture into which a child is born. Father, mother, teacher, or member of society, a "tutor" must teach a child for full intellectual development (Bruner, 1966; Gage & Berliner, 1988).

The influence of the culture a child is born into was also an important element of the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky's theory. Vygotsky's emphasis on the role of adults in influencing the cognitive development of children was also most likely the origin of the Israeli psychologist Reuven Feuerstein's ideas of mediated learning or learning that is assisted by an adult. Per Feuerstein's theory, the adult assists the learner in understanding and solving a problem by mediating his or her learning experience. Mediated learning done regularly can make a difference in a child's intellectual functioning. Conversely, a child who is deprived of mediation may develop cognitive rigidity, inflexibility, and lack of openness to novel situations (Feuerstein, 1980; Feuerstein, Hoffman, & Rand, 1985; Gage & Berliner, 1988; Vygotsky, 1978).

The cognitive development of children is enhanced when they work cooperatively or collaboratively with adults. According to Vygotsky's theory, cognitive development progresses from other-regulated behavior to self-regulated behavior. Tutors ideally function as promoters of self-regulation by nurturing the emergence of self-control in a child. Tutors, as experts, model many forms of control over their thinking and problem-solving activities—controls that children must internalize if they are to become successful and independent thinkers and problem solvers. A competent tutor is a nurturing mediator of learning. The difference in the level of functioning of a child when working independently based on his or her developmental level and when working with an adult or tutor under optimal circumstances of potential development is referred to as "the zone of proximal development." Good instruction proceeds ahead of development, awakens and brings to life those functions of the child that are in the process of maturing and that are in the zone of proximal development. Direct tutelage plays a significant role in the cognitive development of children. A tutor assists a child to the mastery of more complex levels of functioning and increased knowledge in an area. In short, then, a tutor provides the "intellectual scaffolding" for a child to climb (Campione & Armbruster, 1985; Gage & Berliner, 1988; Vygotsky, 1986).


Tutoring Programs

Tutoring programs benefit low achievers by teaching remedial skills. They also provide training to individual tutors, teaching aides, and paraprofessionals. The tutors in most school-sponsored tutoring programs are nonprofessional teachers and paraprofessionals. Detailed programs for tutoring training and sets of procedures for handling tutoring are typically developed by tutoring program coordinators (Gage & Berliner, 1988).

Structured, one-on-one, before- and after-school programs are established to target specific areas of need and focus on different skills and objectives each week. A general skills tutorial program for high school freshmen and sophomores, for example, assists students in managing time, organizing work, keeping track of homework assignments, making legible notes, reading maps, and studying for tests. Tutoring programs are not a cure-all for the problems students and teachers face and they must be publicized in order to attract students who can benefit most from them (Gabriel, 2005; Martz, 1992).

Peer Tutoring

Good tutoring programs make use of student contributions, as more academically advanced students are able to help novices. Peer tutoring programs are effective options in improving student achievement. Peer tutors are students who are close in age to the students being tutored. Cross-age tutors are also students but they are of significantly higher age, grade, ability and/or achievement level than the tutees they are working with. An...

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