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The Growth of Our Pilot Tutor Cohort

Every June, Read Write Discover trains high school tutors for a couple of hours right before the summer program begins. Understandably, a brief one-day training is hardly enough time to properly prepare a first-time tutor. Hence, the Tutor Cohort was created in an effort to provide in-depth training for RWD’s volunteers who tutor K-8th grade students over the summer. Niki, Engagement Lead, and Val, Resource Development Manager, collaborated extensively with educators and peers to develop 8 training sessions and 2 workshops for our cohort of 15 tutors.

Let’s go back to August when the cohort was merely a seed of an idea.

We faced two daunting tasks: deciding how we were going to acquire information and how we were going to keep tutors engaged over the school year. After analyzing feedback from tutors, we created an outline that addresses all the areas in which our tutors sought extra support. Finally, given that this program was the first of its kind at RWD, we had to ensure a way to track our success—were we hitting our goals? We created success metrics and feedback forms for each month, ensuring that our tutors’ voices were being heard.

From seed to sapling, our novel idea took root.

The Tutor Cohort isn’t just about knowing how to act when tutoring. We can’t possibly present a cookie-cutter approach when working with learners, because every learner has a different optimal learning style. Therefore, one of the core things we sought to instill in our tutors was adaptability.

We achieved this by presenting resources and grade-specific information to serve as starting guides that tutors can use for future reference, but it is through workshops that they learn to put their training into practice. For this reason, we hosted two workshops in which tutors worked one-on-one with learners who signed up. The Holiday Workshop, held in December, served Kindergarten through 4th graders where tutors worked with learners to create a fictional narrative. The Spring Workshop, held in April, served 5th through 8th graders, where tutors worked with learners to write letters to Congresspeople to foster civic engagement.

In these workshops, tutors were able to build rapport with a learner they hadn’t previously worked with, and effectively engage them by adapting to unique learning styles.

With a sturdy foundation established, the cohort was able to branch out in numerous ways.

Growth is an important value our cohort is built upon. Every single month was an opportunity for our tutors to grow personally and professionally. We created every training with self-improvement intentions; this looked like mental health check-ins, furthering advocacy with indigenous communities, reflective journal prompts, and actionables to utilize and review resources shared throughout the training.

Given that this was a pilot program, feedback was imperative to help build a strong foundation for years to come as our trainings evolve. The goal was for our tutors to walk away with greater clarity on focused areas of tutoring after each training. Our feedback has shown clear positive results: The average effectiveness of our trainings is 4.34/5 and 100% of our tutors have learned something new every single session.

What’s exciting is that we are continually ideating and prototyping ways to make tutoring engaging and effective. Having feedback that not only validates our processes and goals but further inspires new methods and ideas promotes an overall improvement within RWD’s structure.

With a focus on tutoring technique and style development, we are excited to observe the growth of our Pilot Tutor Cohort. Every month involved continual research, discussion, collaboration, and the active use of design thinking. We have since developed a two-hour asynchronous tutor training for 130 tutors that consolidates and expands upon our Tutor Cohort trainings. We’re thrilled with the success of our project so far and can’t wait to observe its impact this summer!

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