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Hi Michele,

I don't think you are being too strict at all.  I think you are on the right track.  While my tutoring center seems configured quite differently than yours, I also do not like students just sitting around and observing.  To that and other ends, I have put up motivational posters in the various rooms of the tutoring center that I designed to "send the message."  One of these posters reads, "If you are actively participating in your tutoring session, you are learning."

Hope this helps,

John Cleveland

John P. Cleveland, M.T.S., M.A.
Director, Tutoring Center
Center for Academic Excellence
& Adjunct Instructor of Philosophy
Department of Philosophy & Religious Studies
Pace University 
41 Park Row, Room 204
New York, NY  10038 
212-346-1407
212-346-1520 (fax)
[log in to unmask]
www.pace.edu/tutoring

-----Original Message-----
From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Michele Doney
Sent: Thursday, March 26, 2009 12:16 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Tutoring as a Spectator Sport

Hi all,

In my center, we do hour-long tutoring appointments for up to two students per session.  We used to do groups of up to three, but both the students (based on survey data) and the tutors (based on my conversations with them) felt that the groups were too large to get very much done in an hour.  Both the tutors and the students have been more satisfied with the smaller groups.  With this in mind, I have been pretty strict about not allowing sessions to be overloaded except in case of emergency, like when a tutor is out sick.

Especially around exam time, we have a problem with students who want to "watch" other students' tutoring sessions.  Very often, it'll be a student whose hour has ended, who just sort of lingers at the table and doesn't leave when the next session starts.  When I question them about why they are sitting in on a session they're not scheduled to be part of, they say they just want to watch and they won't ask any questions or distract the tutor from serving the students who actually belong in the session.  My personal feeling is that this is unacceptable, and I generally do not allow it.  Another student's tutoring session is not a spectator sport.  Some students may not mind having kibitzers at their table, but others probably do mind and may not feel comfortable speaking up about it.  Not only that, but in my experience, the spectators really sit quietly the entire time.  It's only a matter of time before "I'll just watch" turns into "I just have this one quick question," and then the tutor becomes distracted from the students who are actually scheduled to be in the session.  Since I cannot police this effectively, my rule has been that I do not want to see more than two students per table per session.

To help them enforce this rule, I have tried to empower my tutors with specific phrases they can use, like "I need to devote all of my attention to these students now, so now that your session is over I'm going to ask you to find seat somewhere else in the room," or "I know you want to watch, but we have a strict policy of no more than two students per session because that's what students have told us they wanted."  I've even told them it's okay to blame it on me and say, "If my boss sees you sitting here, we'll all get in trouble."  But most of my tutors are undergraduates, and not all of them feel comfortable enforcing the rule, so I've had to intervene a number of times and ask students to move.

So my question is this:  Am I being too strict?  Do you allow extra students to just sit in and watch other students' tutoring sessions?  What is your rationale for doing so or not doing so?

Thanks!
Michele

Michele Costabile Doney
Coordinator, Math and Science Tutoring
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
646-557-4595    [log in to unmask]

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