Lesson 1 - What is a tutor?

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< Tutoring for tutors

Lee Shulman, of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching identifies five processes associated with both the coach and mentor roles

  1. technique, learned through endless drill
  2. strategy, that allows the person who is coached to become capable of a conception of the work that will turn out to be pivotal in their eventual victory
  3. motivation, which produces a "Rocky-like" level of commitment that will help them exceed their own and others' expectations
  4. vision, where players come together in a new vision of the process and their capabilities for success
  5. identity, whereby the protagonist not only wins, but is transformed, with an internalized new sense of self.

This is a great framework for tutoring, too.

Becoming a tutor and setting expectations

Summary Overview of the tutoring process and application to working with volunteers on OLPC projects.

Fast fact

  • .. something


  • understand the process of tutoring

Success indicators

  • contributed to the Tutorial on tutoring through discussion, example or tutorial development

Tutoring roles and responsibilities

A tutor is "one that gives additional, special, or remedial instruction." The tutoring we are talking about requires professionals who are not educators, help others by giving instruction. Because they are professionals in their own fields, they want to be good tutors too. We are here to help.

Some of these guidelines have been adapted from academic tutoring information. There is a lot of tutoring in higher education. They train lots of tutors and offer good advice that can be applied to any tutoring situation.


Let's start with what tutors aren't.

  • You are not a miracle worker.
  • You will not know ALL the answers to EVERY question ALL the time.
  • You are not an instructor.

Think of yourself, the tutor, as a "guide on the side" - the tutee should be doing most of the work. You are here to help, not to do their work for them. Adult learners need to learn by doing. ..more about Adult learning and Learning styles

It is very rewarding to see a tutee learn something new or become proficient as a result of your guidance and assistance.


There are some general expectations for tutees.

  • Tutoring is a two-way street, one in which tutees should play a very active role.
  • Tutees are expected to be an active participant and contributor in their sessions.
  • Tutees should bring all relevant materials to tutoring sessions.
  • Tutees should come prepared by:
    • taking notes
    • reading related documentation, web resources, ...
    • trying to solve problems and/or work independently between tutoring sessions

General tutoring guidelines

You are here to help. Not to do the tutee's thinking or work.

  • Who is the tutor?
  • Who is the tutee?
  • What is the tutor providing? Why?

  • What are you tutoring tutees to be able to do?
  • What do tutees already know?
  • Why are you the tutor? Why are they your tutees?
  • Are you paid to do this?

  • Do you meet with your tutees in person? How often? How long?
  • Or just online? Email? Chat? Discussion forum?

Getting started

  • What does the tutee need to learn?
  • What does the tutee already know about the subject?
  • How much time can the tutor and tutee spend on the tutoring "session"?
  • How will you communicate? How often?
  • How will you decide when to stop? Is there a specific deliverable or end point?


Once these guidelines have been established, you should give tutees the opportunity to discuss their expectations from tutoring. Do they want help with special skills? Are they performing poorly in some area? The answers to these questions will give you a good indication of what role to play in their learning.

Tutoring techniques

you are there to provide opportunity - the opportunity for the tutee to find and use the available resources he/she has at his/her disposal...Tutoring Techniques

There are a number of techniques that can be used to help the tutee learn. These include but are not limited to:

  • Explaining and Lecturing - for covering new material. Use sparingly.
  • Gauging Comprehension - don't assume knowledge
  • Questions and Listening - posing questions and active listening
  • Drawings and Diagrams - a word is 10-3 pictures
  • Tutee Summaries - did the tutee get it?
  • Use Reinforcements - notice tutee's successes
  • Silence - just wait, tutee thinking
  • Let Your Tutee Do the Work - working your way out of a job

Online tutoring

Tutoring online is not the same as face-to-face tutoring. It is important to use the technology to best advantage without trying to exactly replicate techniques and processes.

Reinterpreting the techniques list for the online environment:

  • Explaining and Lecturing - provide links with similar but different explanations
  • Gauging Comprehension - record of interaction, use of subject vocabulary
  • Questions and Listening - physical record of questions for review
  • Drawings and Diagrams - whiteboard functions available in many online classrooms
  • Tutee Summaries - tutee writing a summary is more difficult than just saying it
  • Use Reinforcements - specific written acknowledgment
  • Silence - built-in to any asynchronous communication by definition
  • Let Your Tutee Do the Work - assignments, links, collaboration, deliverables.

Case studies

.. participants are encouraged to actually be tutoring while they participate in the workshop cohort. There stories go here.


Part of the learning process is frustrating. Part of the learning process is getting things incorrect. Part of the learning process is slow. ... Guide the direction of your tutees thinking. Don't do the thinking for them. The more independent they become, the better tutor you are. .. Tutoring Techniques



  • In the Case studies section, describe your tutoring experience. Please include your signature.
  • Add your suggestions to the Tutoring techniques section
  • Review the questions in the Tutor, Tutee, and General guidelines and write a short summary of your own tutoring situation. Note any outstanding questions that you do not have answered.
  • Read the wikipedia article Peer Tutor. Is your tutoring assignment similar to the situation described in the article? What are the differences? What are the similarities?


  • Draft an outline for a tutoring session. What are you planning to address? What questions do you have for the tutee to focus the discussion? What "assignments" can you give to the tutee so they can apply what you are working on in the tutoring session?


  • What is the most important thing to remember as a tutor?
  • What tutoring techniques help engage the tutee?
  • What tutoring techniques are suggested for dealing with awkward questions?

Learn more...

Tutoring resources - part of an excellent online tutor training for academic tutoring.