Testing, evaluation and collaboration: The keys to exceptional tutoring.
At Smarthinking, we work to facilitate a culture of professional reflection and consistent quality among our team of tutors. All of our tutors must successfully complete a real-time, online training program that focuses on both technological skill and online instructional practices.
Tutors also must collaborate with Smarthinking colleagues and participate in on-going development exercises held throughout the academic year. The Smarthinking Certification program involves a combination of self-paced online modules, interactive sessions with veteran tutors, and meta-cognitive exercises. In their online practice sessions, tutors undergo an orientation to their respective technology platforms and then work with academic coordinators and veteran tutors, who assume a variety of student roles. Simulated tutorial exercises represent diverse situations and student needs that typically are encountered throughout the semester (for example, scenarios involving ESOL and non-traditional students, as well as students with varying learning styles). Upon completion of the training program, tutors must demonstrate competence in specific content areas, competence in online communication and instruction, and an understanding of the values that drive our practice.
The Education Department also engages tutors in ongoing evaluation and professional development exercises. Academic coordinators undertake formal bi-weekly evaluations of tutor performance followed by debriefing sessions, as well as less formal, daily monitoring of tutorial activities. These reviews focus on the specific challenges and complexities of working with a diverse student population in an online learning environment. Moreover, tutors communicate with one another regularly via listserv and instant messaging functions; lead tutors and academic coordinators moderate these discussions. This communication provides opportunities for tutors to engage in on-going conversations about their practice and to build a sense of community with their colleagues.