May 10, 2012Vol. 42, Issue 6

The Student Learning Center

A Place to Grow: The SLC Benefits Students on Both Sides of the Desk

By Sheri Gitelson, intern

As the current Italian tutor in the Student Learning Center (SLC), I was working last week with a student who, because of a mild learning disability, has been struggling all semester.

Christine Connerly with student tutorAfter weeks of me suggesting different study tips and tools to remember verb conjugations, grammatical structures, and vocabulary, she finally had a Eureka! moment and was able to write five sentences in Italian without my help. Seeing the smile on her face and her eyes light up with pride, I realized how rewarding teaching can be.

Working as a tutor certainly has shaped my (and many former and current tutors’) future career path. I will be attending graduate school in English in the fall in the hopes of one day becoming a professor. In fact, the SLC coordinator, Christine Connerly, worked as a tutor as an undergraduate herself and said being a tutor was the “best job” she ever had and influenced her decision to become the coordinator for the SLC.

Aha! moments like the one that happened the other day are one reason why tutoring is such a great job. The most rewarding sessions are those in which tutor and tutee are engaged in learning the material together. The SLC’s mission focuses on the students who come into the center seeking assistance from peers who have a deeper understanding of the subject they need help with. The inter-relationship between tutor and tutee is the foundation for the tutee successfully becoming an independent learner and the tutor becoming a confident professional.

two students helping eachotherThe numerous responses to a survey Connerly recently sent to former tutors provides important information about how working as a tutor creates successful professionals. Henry Brady, a former tutor and current senate fellow with the California State Senate, said “Working as a tutor in the SLC not only prepared me for the work I do now as a senate fellow, but it also helped me get the job I have because of the increased confidence I gained as a tutor.” That kind of confidence is one of the topics covered in the training sessions for tutors before the semester begins.

The keystone of the pre-semester training is a three-level International Tutor Certification program, which provides a set of professional standards for the skills and training of tutors. In January, the College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA) granted the Student Learning Center a five-year recertification of its tutor-training program, first certified in 2002. During the Tutor Certification Program, tutors receive tips and advice on handling difficult situations, are exposed to tutoring technology tools, and much more. According to the CRLA handbook, the certification program helps tutors develop “certainty, expertise, and increased confidence” through role-playing games where tutors act as either tutees or tutors in mock tutoring sessions.

3 studenets bring cookies

Tutoring as a part-time student job certainly attracts students who have already experienced success in the classroom, but tutors gain a lot more than just more academic skills. Students who come into the SLC are from diverse backgrounds, and each student has a unique story, so working as a tutor results in expanded views and new perspectives. The majority of the students I have worked with have been native Spanish speakers learning a third language. I have learned how to be more creative in my sessions with these students, by linking Italian with Spanish first and then English and also creating matching games where the students match an Italian word with the correct Spanish and English word.

Rosey Lodi, currently a French instructor for the Green Beret Special Forces, wrote that she learned how to see outside of the box while working at the SLC. She noted that, like me, working with diverse students is one way she gained creative skills.

The SLC provides a place for students, both tutors and tutees, to grow intellectually, creatively, and socially.  The solid foundation that intellect, creativity, and social awareness and tolerance provide is one reason many former tutors commented in the survey about their success since graduating from Chico State.

Not only do the tutors gain from the experience of working as a tutor, but also tutees reap many benefits from their tutoring sessions. For the next academic year, the SLC will receive the second highest allocation of funds from the Student Learning Fee, which is a “recognition that the SLC’s services are in demand and well utilized,” said Connerly. This grant is a testament to the great work that happens in the SLC. Success after tutors leave Chico State illustrates the benefits that reach far beyond experiences in the SLC. ■

—Sheri Gitelson, intern, Public Affairs and Publications

SI and tutoring-grade impact

Chart Above: Based on our end of semester survey of students who visit the SLC, 70% of respondents reported that tutoring and supplemental instruction would have considerable or a great deal of positive effect on their grade in the course they were seeking help for. 21% said tutoring/SI would have a moderate impact on their grade. There is also data showing that students who attend Supplemental Instruction earn almost a full grade point above those who do not attend.

Tutor skills impact chart

Chart Above: Based on surveys of our tutors and SI Leaders, 92% of respondents say that their tutoring experience had a considerable or moderate impact on their learning skills as a student.