Although students often seek out tutors in order to improve their grades, the purpose of tutoring is not to raise students’ grades, but to help them learn. If tutoring results in a student getting a higher grade without learning, the student/tutor relationship has failed.
General Principle: The tutor’s role is never to do students’ assignments for them, but to help students learn the concepts and methods needed to do their assignments themselves.
With this principle in mind, we have developed some guidelines for tutors in different disciplines.
Guidelines for Writing Consultants
Most writing tutors are generalists and we refer to them as “consultants” or “assistants” rather than “tutors” who instruct in the subject matter of the class. Writing consultants should be non-directive, asking questions:
- about the assignment
- about the topic
- about the background reading
- about the organization
- about the argument/analysis
- about the teacher’s comments-verbal or written on the paper
- about the problems with the paper
(Students can often identify the problems with the paper when tutors discuss it.)
Writing consultants make students aware of the structural and rhetorical requirements of prose, but do not fulfill these requirements for them.
- Model thesis statements, but do not give one for their papers.
- Explain topic sentences and then have students write one.
- Give students a paragraph outline for logic and then let them fill it in with their topic. (What is the paragraph about? Define it, give some examples, give context and analysis of the examples, and argue your case/thesis about these examples.)
- With sentence level errors, point to the problem and see if the student can fix it. If not, state the punctuation, grammar, or capitalization rule, explain it, and let the student apply it. Catalogue the errors so that students are aware of the types of errors they are making.
- When students fail to cite sources properly, give them a handout on documentation rules and let them try to fix them.
Take-Home Essay Exams
- Check with the student to see if the teacher recommended writing help.
- Do not instruct on subject matter.
- Go over the writing, using the non-directive Socratic method: “I don’t understand what you are saying here. Can you explain it?”
Guidelines for Tutors in Problem-Solving Courses
(such as Mathematics)
Homework or Assignments
While answering questions from homework assignments is just a small part of a tutor’s role, it is the main activity where issues of academic integrity can arise. The guidelines below are intended to help the tutor (and the student) stay well within ethical boundaries when dealing with homework assignments.
A tutor may work any problem for a student that is not being turned in for a grade. Tutors can also assist with problems that are being turned in, but only within the limits outlined below.
- If a problem is being turned in for a grade, a student should never turn in the tutor’s solution as if it were his (or her) own. Hence, the tutor should not supply a complete (or even partial) solution to that particular problem.
- Tutors may, however, create or select similar problems and work through them for the purpose of illustrating the concepts and methods that the student will need in completing the assigned problems.
- It is also permissible for a tutor to look at a student’s work on assigned problems for the purpose of identifying the student’s errors. The tutor can then address any misconceptions that might have caused these errors and explain the correct principles, using appropriate examples to illustrate each point.
Take-Home Quizzes (or Take-Home Exams)
On a take-home quiz, the help that a tutor can provide is limited to the kind of help that they would provide in preparing a student for an in-class quiz. In particular, without clear direction from the instructor to the contrary, the following rules should apply:
- The tutor should not look at the quiz problems for the purpose of creating or selecting similar problems.
- The tutor should not inspect a student’s solutions to the quiz problems for errors.
- It is permissible for the tutor to review concepts that are covered on the quiz and to work problems illustrating those concepts, in the same way that they would review those topics before an in-class quiz.
Guidelines for Tutors in Other Courses
Homework or Assignments
- For foreign languages, the tutors should encourage the students to do the translations themselves rather than depend on the tutor. They should also encourage the students to speak the language and not simply translate it into English.
- Tutors should show students where to find the answers rather then always telling them the answers. For example, encourage students to use foreign language dictionaries.
- For other subjects such as economics, accounting, computer science, history, and political science, especially classes that involve on-line quizzes and homework, the tutors should offer support but encourage students to answer the questions and solve the problems themselves.
- Ask the student if they were given explicit guidelines about how much outside help they may receive.
- Try to point the student toward useful resources such as homework problems, chapters in the book, or previous tests and quizzes. The goal s to guide students to become independent in their study skills.
- Have the student check Blackboard (formerly WebCT) about help on take-home exams.
- Check copies of syllabus to see what instructor says about help on take-home exams.
- When in doubt, send the student to the course TA or instructor.
— Hocks and Perkowski, Learning Center, 2004