Thanks for another interesting question.  I have grappled with the question
of how not to be a "codependent" tutor both as a tutor and in my year
as learning center director at Upsala College (NJ).  One of the biggest
problems tutors seem to have is the temptation to give students the
answers.  The result is that every time the student encounters a
difficulty, he or she asks the tutor to solve it, both relieving the
student's discomfort and removing the opportunity for the student to
learn by his or her own struggle.  The student becomes dependent on
the tutor and never develops his or her own resources for thinking and

The only solution I have found is for tutors to develop a questioning
style that points students in the right direction but forces them to
think for themselves about the meanings of the ideas or the next steps
in the task.  Tutors can see and practice a variety of ways of questioning
students, from a directed, Socratic method to a more open-ended method
that gets students to focus on their thinking process.  When I trained
tutors at Upsala, I gave them examples of statements vs. questions that
get students to provide their own answers and also did some role-playing
of a sample tutoring session in their subject.  Some tutors seem to take
to this approach naturally but others have a lot of difficulty adapting
their style, so ongoing followup with tutors is necessary.  Overall, it is
more work to tutor by questioning than by telling, and it is a skill that
requires practice over time, as well as learning how to listen carefully
to students' thinking.

A good source I've found for tutoring for independent learning is
"Intelligent Tutoring" by Hope Hartman (H&H Publishing).  It contains
an analysis of different types of questions, references on questioning,
and other tips on encouraging self-directed learning.  Another of
my favorites is the article, "What's all the fuss about metacognition"
by Alan Schoenfeld (in the book he edited, "Cognitive Science and
Mathematics Education", L. Erlbaum):  he describes use of open-ended
questions for guiding students through group math problem solving that
focuses on process rather than only on the answer.

Annette Gourgey
333 West 86th St., #1009
New York, NY 10024-3112
(212) 595-8852
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