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This attitude strikes me as misguided.  Programming is difficult, and the
presumption that a good second-year student no longer makes mistakes seems
based on a distorted idea of the learning process.  Good learners certainly
become more proficient at self-monitoring and self-correction, but they
still need discussion and alternative viewpoints.  I find that the older and
more experienced I get, the more, and better, questions I ask--I can
identify problems and articulate questions better, and I am less ashamed to
admit that I need help or can learn from others' views.  I see the same with
my students at all levels.

The concept that working in isolation is preparing for the workforce is also
misguided.  We are increasingly moving toward work environments that require
team collaboration and comparison of viewpoints.  The idea that good workers
are "lone wolves" who don't need to share ideas or listen to others is fast
becoming obsolete.  I work in a business school and a big concern of
businesses is that students all too often come out of school not knowing how
to collaborate  with others, which includes raising good questions and
comparing alternative solutions.  I've also heard many work stories about
employees who didn't raise a question when they needed to, until the problem
grew and created more difficulties for the company.  This is not a strength.

Of course, if the students are leaning on the tutors to do their work for
them, or are asking for an easy solution without having struggled with the
problem first, well-trained tutors can help them to tune into their own
thinking processes, and that is a valuable skill to learn.  Another
alternative is group tutoring that helps students develop the collaborative
teamwork skills that businesses increasingly require; if the classes are not
providing such activities, the tutoring is even more valuable.  Your program
chair and others like him may not understand what tutoring is really
about--not an oracle giving out answers but a facilitation of higher-order
thinking processes.

Incidentally, this past year I worked as a learning process tutor for
medical students--very bright students working on advanced material at a
high level.  No one has raised the idea that they are too "old" to engage in
such expressions of "dependency"--they are encouraged to deal with problems
sooner and not to isolate themselves.  Many hospital decisions are made in
the context of a team whose job it is to raise the important questions.  You
can imagine the disasters that would occur if people made decisions without
consultation with colleagues, thinking they had to be "strong" and answer
all of their own questions privately.

It is possible that some people at your and other schools judge the students
for not meeting some idealized standard of college-student expertise and
prefer to punish them by letting them wash out of the system, rather than
helping them learn what they need to succeed.  The second year of a two-year
program seems awfully early to me to write off students for not knowing
enough to be members of the workforce, especially when they've come to the
program expressly so we can help them become better workers.

Annette Gourgey
----- Original Message -----
From: Rika Snip <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, October 27, 2000 5:01 PM
Subject: Peer tutoring policies


> We are currently having discussions with a program chair who is of the
> opinion that providing peer tutors for second year courses in a two year
> program is enabling students who should not be succeeding: "If they
> can't survive second year by themselves, they are not ready for the
> workforce". (The course is C++ programming).
>
> Your thoughts on this issue (agree? acquiesce? disagree?) would be
> appreciated.  We do get veiled concerns about enabling now and again,
> but this is the first time it has been so directly raised.  Of course,
> we do not want to create dependent behavior, but where is the line?