Iowa State offers a unique twist on the tutoring system


Photo:Yue Wu/Iowa State Daily

Emily Kienzle sophomore in English, right, tutors Meredith Keeler freshman in Spanish, in math at studio 4 in Parks Library.

Jordyn Dubois

Iowa State offers a variety of opportunities in group tutoring. These opportunities are a way to learn leadership skills and meet new people while studying for courses in an affordable way.

The tutoring system has multiple areas where students can get involved. Undergraduate students can apply to become a tutor and students can put in requests to receive tutoring, becoming a tutee.

Students wanting to become a tutor must meet some requirements before applying. These include being a student enrolled as an undergraduate at Iowa State and they must have completed the course they wish to tutor through Iowa State, in which they received a B or higher. Finally, they must have a cumulative GPA of a 2.5 or higher.

“I would definitely recommend [tutoring], if you are looking to improve your leadership skills, communication skills and presentation skills, if you like helping people overall,” said Gloria Oyervides, a senior in apparel, merchandising and design and a tutor through Iowa State. “You have to get to know each individual and help them learn the information based on how they learn.”

If an applicant meets all these requirements they then fill out an online application and wait for a response. Students who are accepted as a tutor are required to attend a two-hour orientation. Here tutors learn how to work in a leadership position and are required to pass an exam on the tutoring service handbook.

“We believe in the power of students who have taken the class here, turning around with some training in active learning, peer facilitation then tutoring,” said Rebecca Nation, the program coordinator for the tutoring service. “It’s very successful that way because they have taken the class and have some training on how to facilitate and then work with their peers in that small group setting.”

Tutors are expected to serve as a facilitator, not another professor. They are expected to set goals at the beginning of the semesters and provide the support and understanding tutees need to meet these goals and advance in their courses.

Tutors are not to give answers to assignments, but instead are expected to help the tutees figure out the best way they learn. They must also help the tutees learn the course material while remaining professional and friendly.

Tutees also have some expectations, such as being expected to show up on time to all sessions. The tutees are also expected to attend all the course lectures and to contact their tutor when they are unable to attend a meeting. Finally, they are expected to show up to all sessions with questions and being ready to participate in the conversation. Tutees also must give the tutor feedback and keep them updated with their academic progress.

Tutors are paid $11 an hour. Graduate students are not eligible to be tutors in the program because they must be paid with a stipend. Using undergraduate students only also goes along with Iowa States belief in peer-to-peer learning.

Students are able to put in a tutoring request for any course they are enrolled in at Iowa State. However, it is a time commitment so students normally don’t request tutoring for more than two or three courses. There have been times when students have requested up to four courses. Majority of students only request one course at a time.

Tutoring sessions are more or less required as attendance is taken and a tutee must let the tutor know if they are unable to make the session. 

Schedules for sessions are pretty flexible. After a tutor is paired with the tutees in their groups, they look at available times that work for the group and choose when and where the session will take place. If a tutee is unable to make a session because of a conflict it is their responsibility to contact their tutor and set up another session.

Austin Shadle, a senior in mechanical engineering and a student who used the tutoring service for six courses said he had tutoring anytime from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

Tutees who miss three tutoring sessions will be removed from the group and not allowed to enter another session for that course in that given semester. In order for students to avoid this, they must keep their profile with availability up to date as well as notifying the tutor if a conflict comes up.

For students looking for upper-level courses, finding a tutor is not a guarantee. Based on the skill sets of the tutors and student’s schedules some are unable to find what they want out of the tutoring service.

“I’ve had a hard time finding someone knowledgeable in the area I needed help in,” said Kaylyn Belzer, a senior in agricultural studies who used the Iowa State tutoring system in the past.

Experiences through the Iowa State tutoring program vary from student to student. Belzer said she didn’t get the help she needed out of her sessions and her tutor canceled a lot. She also said finding a time for the sessions was hard because she had class during the day and her accounting class at night.

To track the progress of tutees and get feedback on how the tutors are doing, a survey is sent out at the end of each semester. Although these are a voluntary response, between 1200-1500 responses are received per semester. Over 90 percent of students expect great improvement and 60 percent expect a higher grade because of the tutoring service.

According to the Iowa State tutoring services website, 9 out of 10 students say they are more satisfied with their school experience with tutoring and would recommend tutoring to another student.

“I would recommend at least trying it because you can always drop out,” Shadle said.

The tutoring service at Iowa State is unique in the way it offers small group, peer-facilitated tutoring. Most schools offer help room, supplemental instruction or private tutoring only.

For some, a private tutor can cost upwards of $50 an hour, where tutees at Iowa State pay $5 per group session.

A one-time fee of $5 is due for each semester tutoring is requested, as well as the $5 per session fee. To end tutoring a tutee must withdraw from tutoring. 

Additional tutoring options are also available throughout the summer. Summer tutoring takes place three times a week for 50-minute sessions. Graduate students can also take advantage of the tutoring service for undergraduate courses only. There is no tutoring available for graduate level courses.