The end of the session is as important as the beginning of the session. While you will likely quit thinking about the subject, the student will continue to think about it. For this reason, you should try to end on a high note, giving the student a feeling of confidence.
Even though you might feel like a session has been a waste of time for the student, or that the student hasn’t learned anything, try to pick one or two things they did well or showed improvement on. Positive comments will leave the student feeling more confident, and give them a positive attitude toward tutoring.
Positive comments may be hard to think up but think outside of the box and comment on students’ interest in a topic. Even a general “good work this session” may motivate students. If all else fails, make a referral.
If you don’t know the answer to a question, don't guess and risk giving students incorrect information. Giving incorrect answers reflects poorly on you and the institution; more importantly, doing so may cause difficulties for the student. Instead, refer the student to another person or service that can help them. It is good to have a list of contact information nearby for various university services. You should also be generally familiar with the following locations and services on campus:
Main library (Murray) and Reference Desk within the University Library
Online Library Guides provide quick and easy information about how to use library services and answer questions about where to locate in-person and online sources.
For questions about student academic dishonesty and student academic appeals.
You don’t need to have detailed knowledge about the services provided by each unit, but you do need to have basic familiarity with all of them so you can make the appropriate referral.
As a tutor, you might interact with students who show signs of distress. How you handle these situations is up to you. You do not need to intervene if you are not comfortable with it; that is not your role as a tutor. However, you may feel that you want to reach out, and that is OK, too. If you feel that that might be the case, please read the information below. It outlines the signs of a student in distress, how to make a referral, and which campus services you may want to refer the student to. If you do decide to act, do so in the spirit of noticing the student's suffering and directing them toward help. Do not take on the role of a therapist or psychologist.
The signs of distress may include a student:
repeatedly asking for assistance
being unable to make desired changes
appearing overwhelmed or excessively worried
reporting a significant decline in academic performance
reporting personal difficulties
expressing strange ideas in conversation or writing (e.g., difficult to understand, includes connections that don't seem realistic, content is disturbing or violent)
reporting significant difficulty carrying out normal activities (e.g., getting to class, completing assignments, eating, sleeping)
expressing hopelessness or thoughts of giving up (e.g., "what's the point?" or "it doesn't matter anymore")
If you see signs like these in a student, you may choose to speak to the student about how they are acting. If the student acknowledges they are having difficulties, give the student a list of support services available to them.
You should not tell the student that they need help and should access some form of assistance. Instead, present the referral in the form of a statement that is generalized to all students, such as:
"It is very common to be experiencing _________ and lots of students find that __________ [service] really helps"
"We give all students a list of support services because so many students are unaware of the support available to them and often struggle unnecessarily."
If the student’s concerns seem more serious, with mention of suicidal thoughts or harming his or herself, you should contact your supervisor, or if you don’t have a supervisor available, contact another Student Learning Services staff member, or Student Counseling Services (at 306-966-4920) and ask to consult with a clinician.
As a tutor you should not usually assign homework for the student; however, if you feel comfortable, suggest some practice questions or problems to reinforce what you went over in the session. You can ask the student if they want ideas for how they can practice. You may refer them to course-specific resources, such as the textbook, or see the pink and blue boxes on the next page for some great links to practice questions and exercises.
If the student comes for help in preparing for a test, you may want to finish the session by assessing where the student is in his or her exam prep and what still needs to be studied.
Try doing some of the exercises at the end of each chapter in the text (or any exercises for which solutions are available).
We have a collection of curated resources on this page. There are many links and other resources there which you can use both online and in the writing centre. Let us know if we can add anything that you found yourself!
UNC has excellent handouts on many different topics. You can look these up with a student online while tutoring face-to-face, or attach them to your online responses to students
Again, you should not request that students come back to follow-up on what you just helped them with, but you can suggest that if they come back you can address more of their questions and see how they are progressing. Suggesting a follow-up session is especially important if you don’t have enough time to cover all of the students’ concerns in one session. At the very least, reassure students that they can always come back if they have any more questions.
After your shift....
After a shift, take a couple minutes to reflect while the sessions are still fresh in your mind. If you had a difficult session with a student who may have been aggressive or made you feel uncomfortable, take time directly after the session to document what happened and how you attempted to rectify the situation. Your supervisor should be informed of any session where the student made you feel uncomfortable. If there were any resources that you would have liked to have accessed or known about, let your supervisor know!