I think that Kim makes a thoughtful and eloquent case for avoiding volunteer tutors.  I would also add that there is the liability issue if something inappropriate happens between the volunteer tutor and tutee, the issue of accountability if the volunteer tutor steps over the line into providing inappropriate types of support including doing part of the assignment for the student, and reliability as volunteers don't feel as bound to show up for their shifts and thus can leave students waiting.  All three situations result in a poor reputation for your center and will likely decrease the willingness of faculty to refer students to your center and students to seek help from you.

Volunteering is a great approach if you can guarantee that things will go well, but as no one can do so, I'd limit your exposure by sticking with paid tutors with a greater level of accountability and training.

There's a tremendous amount of available literature on the benefits of tutoring and some formulas to help correlate tutoring with persistence and academic success.  Check the LRNASST archives for them.  I'd spend some time reading up on them and making a case to your administration for a greater investment in your program to improve outcomes.


Debbie Malewicki, MA
Director, Center for Learning Resources
Director, Peer Tutoring Program
Safe Zone Ally
116 Marvin K. Peterson Library
University of New Haven -- "A Leader in Experiential Education"
300 Boston Post Road
West Haven, CT  06516
Phone:  (203) 932-7415
Fax:  (203) 931-6013
E-mail:  [log in to unmask]

"Tutoring to Help You Blossom Into a Better Student”

Thought of the day:  “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”  By Vincent van Gogh

-----Original Message-----
From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Donna Kim Ballard
Sent: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 10:19 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Volunteer Tutoring Programs on College Campuses

Yolanda and others,

Depending on what your purpose is and who your volunteers are, you'll find a volunteer tutoring services attractive to administrators (no cost) and possibly not as effective for student learners. Thus, while you may have thought long and hard about the pros and cons of going with volunteers in tight times, you might want to think of the unintended consequences as well.

A number of adult and teen literacy programs (which can include math and science literacy) depend on volunteers and can be highly successful. Often these programs are also grant based. Many of the volunteers are often professionals encouraged to give back to their community or retired people who have a history of volunteering, and often they can be trained to help with a specific content area or with limited literacy concerns. Plus, many students in such programs enjoy the relationships they make with tutors. Looking to the models and strategies such programs use can be useful.

When students are the volunteers, however, issues arise, including qualifications, capability of relating to other students, and dependability. Some tutoring program administrators tend to connect with groups--an honors fraternity, English/Math/Science education majors, etc. Some community colleges even connect with local universities to get a pool of free labor and provide experience to up-and-coming teachers. But then the assumption is anyone (almost) in the targeted group is qualified and capable, which just isn't true. However, if you have the volunteers invest their time in a good training program (one that's homegrown or a certification program), you'll find who is committed and who is just not really qualified. In addition, research shows how complex writing tutoring is, for example, when the point is to move beyond the text at hand to the student's ability to transfer insights to other writing situation. Often writing "tutoring" that is free is actually grammar tutor!
 ing and an editing service for English Language Learners or those whose dialects are not standard. Such programs may actually be teaching students to get someone else to "fix" their papers rather than helping them connect with writing as a social action that they already do in many aspects of their lives. In other words, tutoring students in writing development can be very complex. I can't imagine asking for nursing or accounting classes to be taught for free, but maybe that's coming too.

That said, you can also find some great student volunteers--students with compassion, passion for helping others, abilities to discern individuals' needs, and the ability to make a difference. Why should they be led to believe their time and abilities are not worth an institution's investment? Why, in other words, should they be exploited because administrators do not see the value in tutoring?

My real concern with volunteer programs, in addition to the struggle of trying to find appropriate, qualified, effective volunteers, is that administrators then decide all/most tutoring can be done on a volunteer basis and tend to not see how tutoring needs to be funded because it can be so essential to retention and persistence as well as to student learning and overall success. If you can, you might consider NOT going the volunteer route, which solves a labor problem but doesn't help decision makers see the value of teaching and learning via tutoring and does not help create a culture of tutoring on campus in a time when such a culture is so needed. And, interestingly, when many institutions willing pay outsourced companies for such assistance.

Kim Ballard
Writing Center Director

----- Original Message -----
From: "Yolanda Clarke" <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Monday, April 28, 2014 10:26:13 PM
Subject: Volunteer Tutoring Programs on College Campuses


In times of fiscal austerity, we are trying a number of things to increase the amount of tutoring that we are able to offer on campus. We have a large paid tutoring staff, but we are thinking of including the implementation of a volunteer tutoring program - soliciting the help of academically talented, service-minded undergraduates to help other undergraduates.

Does anyone have this type of program running?  If so, can you send me your email and phone number so that I can discuss this with you directly?

Yolanda Clarke, Manager
Academic Enrichment Services
(Tutoring Services)
Ithaca College
953 Danby Road
Ithaca, NY 14850
[log in to unmask]

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