Don’t wait to educate

Story by Hanna Rosman, Photo by Christopher Beckman/Student Life Marketing + Design

Residence hall tutoring program helping to support academic success.

In the multi purpose room in Mayflower Hall on a Sunday night, students are sitting one-on-one with each other. Rather than conversations about music or a new movie that came out, there are tutoring sessions taking place covering fundamentals of math, chemistry, and rhetoric.

The Office of Residence Life, a unit of University Housing & Dining, has provided a convenient tutoring service since the Spring semester of 2010. This free tutoring service is between the hours of 8p.m. – 10p.m. Sunday through Thursday all semester long in Hillcrest Hall, Currier Hall, and Mayflower Hall.

The mission of the Office of Residence Life (ORL) is to commit to the overall development of students, ranging from academics to social growth. The ORL’s close proximity to students is seen as a strength for the office. Located in Stanley Hall, the ORL staff have a unique view into student life, and their programming can have a high level of impact and convenience for student residents. A tutoring program seemed like a good fit for the Office.

“There’s research out there that says going to tutoring or supplemental instruction will increase students letter grades by an entire letter grade sometimes,” Linda Varvel, Residence Life Program Coordinator, said. “I think students who actually take advantage of tutoring see it’s beneficial.”

According to the National Education Association, the benefits of peer tutoring goes beyond a higher education achievement. Tutoring can improve relationships among peers, improve personal and social development, and increase motivation. This program not only benefits first year students or those living in the residence halls, but for all students who walk in seeking help.

“If someone shows up at the residence halls asking for help, we’re not going to turn them away,” Varvel said. “We will tutor them – that’s our focus. We’ll help any student who shows up.”

The tutors who work with their peers go through a process to determine their qualification to tutor. They must receive a specific grade in a class, typically an A, as well as have a recommendation signed by the professor who taught the course. Although this may be in a specific subject, tutors have the opportunity to widen their academic repertoire to offer to students over time.

“A tutor might start with us and tutor two subjects, but after a semester they got As in a couple more classes, they can add onto their tutoring load to add additional subjects,” Varvel said. “They’re learning just like the rest of the students on campus are.”

As of last semester, student attendance numbers at the program across the residence halls on campus were about even. The Hillcrest center saw 111 visits, the Currier center 116, and the Mayflower center saw 149 visits, which makes a grand total of 376 visits. Assessments will continue at the end of the year to measure the number of students who attend, how many times individual students use the services, and how to make the program more effective, which includes assessing the subject matter provided for tutoring.

If students are seeking help in subjects other than chemistry, math, or rhetoric, the educational programming in the Office of Residence Life has partnered with Tutor Iowa to fill the gap of tutors offered. This online service connects students to tutors, and is a joint effort between the University of Iowa; Study, Workshops, and Tutoring (SWAT); and Tutor Iowa. On this website, students have the opportunity to find a tutor or even become a tutor. Students can find help with niche subjects such as American Foreign Policy or Philosophy not offered by the Office of Residence Life. Whichever tutoring service a student chooses, the improvement in student success is evident.

“I think it’s very effective,” Varvel said. “Our tutors see repeat customers or frequent flyers as we might call them, and so we know that those students are seeing a benefit – seeing a result.”