Why Tutoring?

Rebecca Still, Community Learning Network

1 0 11 May 2021

Today I watched large flocks of geese on their northern migration. They flew so effortlessly high in the sky. Then suddenly, they swirled around in large circles breaking the formation. I noticed small groups of two to three geese flying outside of the circles. If a goose was on its own another onegeese would join it and together they flew in large circles, never far from each other. I watched as a pair became disconnected from the larger flock. They continued to circle in tandem and close together, round and round, until another flock passed nearby them. Then together they flew to catch up with the larger flock.

As I watched and marvelled at the wonders of nature, I thought of tutoring. How two people work together to help each other on their learning journeys and realised that even geese practice tutoring.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes a tutor as a person that provides instruction and guidance to another. The Latin term means to take care or to protect. The CALP Guidelines 2020 state “The practice of tutoring is learner-centred and learner-driven, and is a two-way learning experience based on mutual respect from which the tutor and the adult learner benefit.”

The two geese flying together were taking care and protecting each other. They provided each other guidance and both of them benefitted in that they were able to rejoin the larger flock.

When we engage in tutoring we help adults to develop an identity to see themselves as learners and to “build confidence in themselves so that they can learn independently and make progress toward their learning goals.” (CALP Guidelines pg. 33)

If geese see the value of two working together, then we too ought to value the role of tutoring as a mode of delivery in our Community Adult Learning Programs.

A bit of History

Tutoring as a way of teaching adults from an educational perspective, has a long history that goes back to the 15th century when it was noted that tutors at Oxford University in England were responsible for instruction (and conduct) of their younger colleagues.  https://www.greenes.org.uk/greenes-education/our-history/the-history-of-the-tutorial/

Frontier College began in 1899 as the first literacy program in Canada with volunteer labourer-teachers who worked beside their learners during the day and then tutored them in reading in the evening. https://www.frontiercollege.ca/About-Us/History

June Hyjek wrote about her experiences as tutor with an adult literacy learner. (A Life in the Day of an Adult Literacy Tutor: A Perspective on Tutoring Adults). She recognized that she was dealing ‘with other human beings’ abilities to function and learn’. June discovered her learner was not stupid as often told but incredibly bright to have functioned so well in her life in spite of not having strong reading and writing skills. June learned that in the beginning of their time together they needed to establish trust and confidence – trust in June and confidence she could do the job for her learner and for her learner to have confidence in herself and trust in the process they were embarking on. They needed to discover if they could walk the process together.

Over their time together, (mostly online due to the pandemic) June focused on the basic needs of her learner, who learned to write a cheque, make a grocery list, read a menu, fill out forms and write a business email or report. But more than that her learner gained greater confidence in her literacy abilities, increased her overall confidence, can now express her views in conversation and has a ‘greater value in the written word and what it can offer her’.

At the same time, June learned that she needed to bring her entire life to each tutoring session – her experiences, her strengths and even her weaknesses. She learned that she has to ‘incorporate everything you are and be able to use that and relate it to your [learners] needs. Your whole life is represented in each tutoring session. I can’t think of anything I could do that would be more life-fulfilling than that’.

Through their tutoring sessions both June and her learner benefited, and no doubt, in ways beyond their expectations.

There is so much more that can be said about tutoring, but let’s not underestimate the value and benefits of providing tutoring in our CALP organizations.

Hyjek, June (2021) "A Life in the Day of an Adult Literacy Tutor: A Perspective on Tutoring Adults," Literacy Practice and Research: Vol. 46 : No. 1 , Article 1. DOI: 10.25148/lpr.009344

 Available at: https://digitalcommons.fiu.edu/lpr/vol46/iss1/1

Tutoring Resources on Portal

Blog: New Tutor Interviews https://calp.ca/blog/new-tutor-interviews.htm


CALP Basics https://calp.ca/e-learning/calp-basics.htm

Volunteer Tutor Program Operations https://calp.ca/e-learning/volunteer-tutor-program-operations.htm

Working With Volunteers: Your Greatest Partner https://calp.ca/e-learning/working-with-volunteers-your-greatest-partner.htm

Guide: Creating Learning Partners https://calp.ca/resources/tag/creating-learning-partners-units-1-5-training-course-pack.htm


Rebecca Still
CLN West-Central Region RSS


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