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January 7, 2020

At Adelphi, Tutoring Is a Secret to Success

Peer tutor and biology major Sean Lerner works with a graduate student in general psychology.

Staff members at Adelphi’s Learning Center and Writing Center know that students usually ask for tutoring help only when they’re struggling in a course. It’s an attitude the staff is actively trying to change.

“Students can feel that if they come through the door, they’re a failure,” said Matthew Lavery, director of the Learning and Writing Centers. “But that’s not the case. We want students to know that coming in for tutoring is a sign of strength, not weakness, and that tutoring is not just about ‘getting help’—it’s a way to learn more effectively.”

So Lavery and his staff use social media to encourage students to visit the centers. An Instagram post that read “Are you ready for Stats?” offered information on how to register online for statistics tutoring. It inspired 100 students to sign up.

Students who sign up to take statistics also get an email with links to instructional videos and self-assessments on Adelphi’s intranet. Both emphasize how tutoring can enrich students’ learning experience in this challenging course.

Bringing Entire Classes to the Centers

Lavery and his team also encourage faculty members to challenge the “tutoring as remediation” mindset by holding classes in the centers.

“It’s a reverse embed,” Lavery said. “[Students] see what happens at the center. It makes the students comfortable with tutoring. They see it’s about collaboration and self-reflection, not criticism or punishment.”

When classes are held in the centers, professors teach at their usual class time, with tutors joining in to offer instructional support. The strategy appears to work, as the number of students creating accounts on the online scheduling systems rises 12 percent after a class is held in the centers, Lavery said.

Laura Messano, a lecturer at Adelphi, brings her business communications class into the centers to work on their writing. Tutors work one-on-one with her students, helping them craft reports, résumés, cover letters and memos. “It has strengthened the writing skills of my students,” she says.

In all, the centers helped 2,254 students last year, nearly three times as many as 2010, when Lavery took over.

Tutoring to Fit Every Student

Yingying Zhuang, a graduate student in general psychology who expects to receive her master’s degree in January 2020, said the Writing Center has been indispensable in helping her finish with a 3.8 GPA.

“As an international student, I needed the Writing Center to help me get started on papers, organize my ideas and revise grammar,” said Zhuang, who was born in China and speaks English as a second language. “I have gotten help in every class, every semester, to make sure my projects look good enough to submit.”

The centers offer tutoring sessions in groups and one-on-one sessions. Students can come into the office or work with a tutor through the Digital Dropbox, submitting written work and receiving feedback within a few business days. It’s a service that makes tutoring available to students on all campuses and in all online programs.

Group tutoring, where four to 16 students work with one tutor, has been perhaps the most successful service, because students learn from each other as well as the tutor.

Help With Writing, Chemistry and Math

Lavery said the office gets the most requests for help in general writing support. Tutoring for courses requiring new kinds of thinking is also frequently requested. Help with Chemistry 109, a heavily scientific course in the nursing curriculum, is an example. So are math classes that emphasize quantitative reasoning.

The skills the students learn last well beyond their college years.

“We hear from former students who have graduated who say the work they did with tutors on time management and breaking a task down into stages are essential in the workplace and life in general,” Lavery said. “The secrets of success aren’t secret. All you have to do is reach out and grab them.”


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Adelphi University, New York, is a highly awarded, nationally ranked, powerfully connected doctoral research university dedicated to transforming students’ lives through small classes with world-class faculty, hands-on learning and innovative ways to support academic and career success. Adelphi offers exceptional liberal arts and sciences programs and professional training, with particular strength in our Core Four—Arts and Humanities, STEM and Social Sciences, the Business and Education Professions, and Health and Wellness.

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