College courses are not a walk in the park, especially during midterm season. Students scramble to prepare for exams that are crammed into a two-week period. And one way students prepare is by attending tutoring services offered on campus by various academic departments. But only if you’re lucky.
Throughout the year, students can take advantage of tutoring sessions held by teaching assistants and students. But these free tutoring sessions hosted by departments are often limited, understaffed and inadequate for what students need, which is enough time to sit down and talk through difficult topics with a qualified tutor. GW should improve its free tutoring service for students on campus by adding more hours and better trained staff members to lead the sessions year round.
Although many professors stress the importance of attending these sessions, especially if you’re struggling with the material or preparing for an exam, I’m often unable to attend tutoring hours because of my busy schedule. The sessions differ depending on the department, but most are offered about three times a week and held for two to three hours. While some departments offer these sessions in the evening, other departments often have sessions late morning or early afternoon, when most students are in class or at work. Other times, I’m disappointed after meeting with a student tutor who had to run around the whole time to meet with each student because there was only one tutor for about a dozen students looking for help.
Last month, I attended the accounting department’s tutoring hours in preparation for an exam. The accounting department offers free limited tutoring three times a week on Mondays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., Tuesdays from 10 to 11 a.m. and Wednesdays from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. But after attending, I left feeling more confused than ever. Although I could tell the student tutor knew the material, she couldn’t explain it well. And because several other students had arrived around the same time as me, I only got a few minutes to ask the tutor my questions before she moved on and I had to leave to make my next class.
Individual departments should make an effort to offer more tutoring sessions each week to accommodate the busy schedule of students and ensure they can get the help they need. In addition, the sessions should be staffed by well-trained TAs and students who not only know the respective material, but have experience in tutoring and can easily answer students’ questions. If departments are struggling to find qualified people to tutor, the departments should offer students the opportunity to become qualified by offering training sessions led by either professors or experienced tutors. Currently, the GW Tutoring Initiative in STEMworks provides some training sessions but it isn’t adequate for the significant role tutoring plays in students’ lives. GW can model their training practices after Loyola University Maryland’s Reading and Learning Association certified peer tutoring program, which Loyola students are required to complete to become tutors. Their tutoring sessions also offer one-on-one tutoring in several subjects by appointment.
Along with offering more in-person tutoring sessions, academic departments should also consider implementing online tutoring, similarly to the Writing Center’s Zoom, which offers students in online classes the opportunity to speak with a tutor online and gain feedback on their work. Currently, Zoom is only for students enrolled in online classes, rather than face-to-face classes on campus. But academic departments should still offer online tutoring for students enrolled in oncampus courses to allow flexibility for both the student and tutor. This online tutoring would allow students to fit in tutoring around their busy schedules.
Tutoring sessions should be a helpful resource students can turn to during stressful times, instead of causing more strain. Taking steps such as expanded hours, online tutoring and better tutor training to improve tutoring sessions can really help students navigate a stressful exam season.
Christina DeBartolomeo, a sophomore majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
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