Promoting Tutoring Central as an Avenue to Transformation
Mark Walvoord, M.S., Student Transformative Learning Record
Brian McKinney, B.A., Tutoring Central
If you think back to transformative experiences in your life, you will likely be able to identify learning moments outside of the classroom. These could’ve been traumatic personal experiences, independent research projects with a caring mentor, a study abroad opportunity, or even while working through homework problems in a study group. The University of Central Oklahoma has amazing faculty who are setting up course assignments, in-class activities, academic events, and independent projects tied to UCO’s Central Six tenets to provide opportunities for Transformative Learning. UCO Staff are similarly working with student groups, setting up co-curricular programing, and overseeing student projects to this same end. The Student Transformative Learning Record (STLR) is capturing student growth through these assignments, activities, and groups.
However, having transformative experiences doesn’t necessarily keep students at our fine institution. Failing a course, running out of money, and having personal challenges can all be very transformative but contribute to student attrition. We suggest that Tutoring Central (http://www.uco.edu/academic-affairs/students/tutoring-central/) is an underutilized resource available to students that will even further connect them to the University, increase their grades, and increase student retention. Even better, it doesn’t cost them anything and may not take time and energy away from faculty and staff duties.
What evidence do we have for this? In a recent paper by a colleague and one of the contributors to this blog (Walvoord & Pleitz, 2016), we showed that a voluntary tutoring program at a nearby institution was able to significantly increase the first-year GPA of participants. We found this by matching first year students who had participated in tutoring with those who hadn’t, based on our best predictors of college success–high school GPA and ACT scores. Participants ended with a mean first-year college GPA of 3.29 versus non-participants GPA of 2.99. Other studies have positively correlated GPA with retention (e.g., DeBerard, Spielmans, & Julka, 2004; Murtaugh, Burns, & Schuster, 1999).
So, we’d like to suggest that faculty and staff encourage students who are struggling academically to use the Tutoring Central services. Undergraduate and graduate tutors are available face-to-face six days a week in the Quad and West Hall, and online tutoring through Tutor.com is accessible 24/7 for a variety of subjects. Tutoring Central also offers the Supplemental Instruction program, which places embedded tutors in difficult courses to offer content-specific study sessions for three hours each week. UCO’s international students can join Conversation Central, a group which meets three times weekly to assist ESL students in improving their verbal English abilities in a comfortable environment. And lastly, assisted study halls are available for athletic teams and campus groups to encourage positive study habits.
Research, including the above publication, however, continues to show that the students attending voluntary tutoring sessions are those that are already doing fairly well. Students that need this program most are least likely to attend. Perhaps you could include Tutoring Central hours and contact information in your syllabi and incentivize students to attend by requiring at least one visit for a course participation grade? Or, request that Tutoring Central staff present to your class about available services. You could even offer extra credit for attending a session with a peer-tutor or advertise that you’ll go visit a session together during your office hours.
How can we continue to meet our mission of transforming students? We suggest one way is by helping them succeed academically, so that they will be more likely to stay here to become UCO alumni. Researchers agree, peer-to-peer interaction increases student motivation, academic ability, and performance (Falchikov, 2001). What’s keeping you from sharing this opportunity with your students who need it most?
DeBerard, M. Scott, Spielmans, Glen I., & Julka, Deana L. (2004). Predictors of academic achievement and retention among college freshmen: a longitudinal study. College Student Journal, 38.1, 66–80.
Falchikov, Nancy. (2001). Learning together: Peer tutoring in higher education. New York: Routledge Falmer.
Murtaugh, Paul A., Burns, Leslie D., and Schuster, Jill. (1999). Predicting the retention of university students. Research in Higher Education, 40(3), 355–371.
Walvoord, Mark E. & Pleitz, Jacob D. (2016). Applying matched sampling to evaluate a university tutoring program for first-year students. The Learning Assistance Review, 21(1), 99–113.