BGSU Learning Commons earns tutoring certification

BOWLING GREEN, O.—The Bowling Green State University Learning Commons earned a note of distinction this spring that enhances the tutoring services provided.  The tutor training program received international certification from the College Reading and Learning Association, which is considered the Cadillac of credibility when it comes to tutor training.

According to Director Mark Nelson, the Learning Commons received certification for levels one through three. The distinction, which requires completing rigorous criteria, provides recognition and positive reinforcement for tutors’ successful work and sets an internationally accepted standard of skill and training for tutors.

Among the benefits of being certified are improved professional development opportunities for the tutors, enhanced tutoring sessions for BGSU students, and recognition that the University is in a special category for the level of tutoring it provides, Nelson explained.

Students who are employed as tutors at the Learning Commons have the opportunity to complete the certification for any or all of the levels, said Donna Dick, tutoring coordinator.

Currently there are 36 level one tutors, 19 at level two and five at level three, she said.

“While our tutors are not mandated to be certified at all three levels, they do benefit from the additional training,” Dick said. “They are paid to attend the training sessions, their hourly rate increases with each level, and they gain the international credibility associated with the skills and expertise as a tutor.”

Each level requires 10 hours of tutor training – a combination of face-to-face and online, plus 25 completed hours of tutoring, participation in the evaluation process and a completed tracking form.

During the first two weeks of the semester, the staff offers a “fast track to certification” by holding six face-to-face training sessions each week. The additional four hours of training required can be done online by the tutors on their own schedule. Among the topics covered in level one are compliance with ethics/tutor goals/responsibilities; modeling problem solving; communication skills and active listening and paraphrasing; study skills, critical thinking skills and tutoring do’s and don’ts.

Level two topics, which are presented throughout the semester and build on leadership development, include prejudice reduction, library resources, helping students with critical reading, reading comprehension, time management and other sessions specific to writing and math tutoring.

Included in the level three general topics, which focus on independent study and training, are tutoring online, tutoring first-year students, peer mentoring, individual project startup, collaborative learning and self-assessment.  Tutors who specialize in writing or math have additional sessions focused on their skill sets.

Nelson is extremely proud of the staff and the University community for succeeding in the certification process. “We had great collaboration across the campus to achieve the certification status,” he said. “Among those we worked with were Tobias Spears of Safe Zone Training, the Counseling Center, the adult learners office, and TRIO tutors.”

The increased tutor training provides a strong foundation as the program assists students throughout the year, Dick added. Each year, the number of visits and the number of students who utilize the Learning Commons continues to grow.

According to Nelson, the program had nearly 44,000 visits during the 2013-14 academic year, compared to 33,000 the year before. And according to their student satisfaction surveys, “Ninety percent found our services helpful, and half of the students used our services 10 or more times.”

“We will continue to improve our existing training as we move ahead and also look to add new training opportunities for our tutors,” Dick said.