Budget cuts cause tutoring changes at Student Success Center

Tutoring sessions will transition to small groups instead of one-on-ones.

When the 2015 fiscal year began July 1, various departments across MU’s campus received a two percent decrease in operating funds.

One of those departments was the Student Success Center, and those budget cuts were one of many factors that prompted the Learning Center to make changes to tutoring programs. Although these changes were prompted by short-term budget cuts, Learning Center Director Phil Deming said they may be beneficial for students in the long run.

In the past, the Learning Center offered one-on-one tutoring sessions for students from underrepresented groups on campus. However, constrained by budget cuts, the Learning Center transitioned to small group tutoring sessions, which have a maximum of four students.

The new program is called CLASS: Collaborative Learning to Achieve Student Success.

According to Deming, they researched new tutoring methods long before the budget cuts came into action. The budget cuts simply spurred the Learning Center to employ the changes that they had researched, he said.

“The (budget cuts) certainly had some impact in our decision,” Deming said. “As we looked at the research, we didn’t find strong evidence that the one-on-ones were preferred to the small groups. Thinking about the restrictions, we had to make the choice to either cut out some students, or find a better way to serve them.”

The Learning Center chose the latter. Instead of one-on-one tutoring, the CLASS program puts groups ranging between one and four students with one tutor.

Deming said that in the past, students would schedule tutoring appointments, only to forget and not show up to the session. This inconvenienced both the tutor and other students who were unable to schedule a tutoring time.

The new group setting gives students an added reason to come to the sessions, sophomore Zenovia Nwosu said.

“I like (the new format) because there were times where I wouldn’t need help so I wouldn’t want to come in to tutoring,” Nwosu said. “Coming (to the group session) other people can ask questions and they might ask the same questions that I had.”

Asking similar questions and sparking discussion is one of the few added benefits of the small group sessions, Deming said.

“You’re going to meet people from your class, build relationships with those students, be able to hear them ask questions that you didn’t even think about and hopefully have a more productive session,” Deming added. “And through those connections with the other students, you can extend the learning beyond the tutoring time.”

Senior Nora Mavrakis has been a tutor at the Learning Center for two years and has tutored in both the one-on-one and the new group setting. She has seen the benefits of the small group tutoring sessions firsthand.

“I’ve seen that the students collaborate with one another more, and it allows for common questions that all the tutees ask to be answered right away,” Mavrakis said. “Then, they can ask more detailed questions that prepare them for the exam material.”

Mavrakis has also seen members of her collaborative groups help each other with concepts one group member may not understand. She said that making the tutoring sessions into more of a discussion with others helps students with their classes.

“Let’s say one student asks a question that another student already knows the answer to, they might even answer that question themselves,” Mavrakis said. “That collaborative method allows students to hone their knowledge for the class, for the exam, and also for future classes.”

The Learning Center piloted the program in spring 2015, and the students who participated said they liked the experience. So far this year, Deming said that the response to the new program has been positive.

“We feel pretty good about it,” Deming said. “We feel that it is going to be successful. It is a change, so sometimes people are reluctant to give it a try. But we do think that it’s going to be a positive experience overall.”

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