Proving the possible: how an Ohio partnership is bringing tutoring to scale
Like many schools across the US impacted by the pandemic, Crim Elementary School in northwest Ohio was looking for more resources to support all of its students with rigorous, grade-level learning of academic concepts. Half a mile away, the College of Education and Human Development at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) had a ready-made solution: 58 aspiring teachers who needed early field practice with students to hone their instructional skills.
While a handful of BGSU teacher-candidates were already providing after-school tutoring at Crim last fall, BGSU professors, administrators and staff met with Bowling Green City Schools administrators to discuss additional opportunities. Associate Professor Thomas Roberts, who teaches a mathematics methods course at BGSU, led the discussion with Crim’s principal, Zeb Kellough, to discuss what it would look like to bring in more tutors during school hours. Where many school leaders might have seen this large number of tutors as a challenge, Kellough saw it as an opportunity to provide his teachers with additional support: “What I [tell my teachers] is I can’t give you more time, but I can give you more people.”
This spring, BGSU and Crim decided to pilot a program where these 58 aspiring teachers would serve as tutors during school hours. The tutors were given training about the school context and how to support the diverse learning needs of students. At Crim, 90% of students live at or below the poverty line, and many are emerging bilingual students; fostering equitable instructional practices is a major priority for the school.
Initially, some of the faculty at Crim had reservations about bringing a large number of tutors into the building. The teachers were concerned that the time and energy spent supporting tutors would add burden to their workload and further constrain instructional time for their students. However, they soon realized the tremendous value of having tutors supported and trained by BGSU in the classroom. As Kellough noted, “We’re seeing a lot of tutors coming in with know-how and drive,” adding that teachers often rely on tutors to support students who are struggling with concepts in class.
The tutoring partnership between BGSU and Crim Elementary has been so successful, the University is currently working with Bowling Green City Schools to expand tutoring services to every elementary school in the district.
Bolstered by the instructionally-focused tutor training designed by DFI, BGSU tutors are finding this experience to be both informative and rewarding. Megan Rismiller, a junior majoring in Inclusive PreK-5 Education, explained that tutoring has pushed her to think more intentionally about the importance of instructional materials and lesson internalization: “I’ve been taking the time to break down problems on my own before I give them to students, where in the past I might have felt pressure to find resources online.” Junior Jessica Dasher, also majoring in Inclusive PreK-5 Education, named that her tutor training and experience have shown her how instructional skills are transferable between math and reading: “Whatever grade I’m tutoring or working with, I think about what [students] would be thinking and what prior experiences they would have.”
BGSU faculty are similarly finding that tutoring experiences have a significantly positive impact on the preparation of their aspiring teachers. Interim Director of the School of Inclusive Teacher Education Tracy Huziak-Clark says teacher-candidates are employing instructional strategies with more confidence, and demonstrating flexibility in being responsive to student needs in the moment. “They are having to make those quick decisions that I think are so essential to teaching. They’re getting a lot of practice with that, which I think is ultimately ahead of where they might be otherwise at this point in their programs.”
Tutoring has been a part of programming at BGSU for many years, with even more opportunities coming online during the pandemic. For example, the after- school tutors at Crim were part of BGSU TIME (Tutoring In Math and English/Language Arts), which provides both in-person and virtual after-school, high-impact tutoring services. Funded by a grant from the Ohio Department of Education, BGSU TIME ensures each tutor has the necessary resources and training to provide high-quality instruction, and are compensated.
The faculty and administration at BGSU decided to more fully embrace the win-win solution of tutoring by making it a central component of their program. As part of the pilot launched this semester, tutoring is now embedded as an experiential requirement for reading and math methods courses.
BGSU has long been one of Ohio’s largest producers of teachers. Its teaching program already emphasized the importance of having teacher-candidates engage in early field experiences, with approximately 1,500 early field placements each semester. With the addition of tutoring as a foundational early field experience, teacher-candidates not only have valuable opportunities for instructionally-focused practice, they are simultaneously accelerating learning for PK-12 students.
By embedding tutoring service into methods courses and leveraging their relationships with schools in the community, BGSU is creating a viable model for how to scale initiatives that mobilize aspiring teachers to serve as tutors. As Associate Professor Kate Brodeur put it, “Crim Elementary has been an incredible partner, and have opened up their doors to us. We’re working on further integrating tutoring into our coursework and field experiences, and continuing to provide meaningful wraparound support for our pre-service teachers.”
To learn more about how DFI supports tutoring initiatives committed to mobilizing aspiring teachers as tutors, visit www.deansforimpact.org/attn.
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