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Scenarios Real-life examples that reflect the perspectives offered in the modules All presenters ATP Fall Workshop 2007 Compiled by Jim Valkenburg I CAN Do it! A returning student who had spent twelve years out of school was having difficulty remembering what she had learned for her tests. One of her instructors sent her down to see me. After a brief interview, I discovered she was a tactile learner who was trying to learn by reading the text and listening to the lecture. I CAN Do It! We spent an hour or two going over how she could link learning styles by making her own flash cards. Her next test was a “C.” The one after that a “B.” The last one (she came in today to show me her latest grade) was a “B+!” She believes in herself and her ability to succeed. Sometimes It’s Okay to Break the Rules? One of my most memorable instances of tutoring an adult learner with writing involved my becoming the student’s scribe. While it’s common practice for the tutor to make a point of avoiding writing for the student, this is one case where I thought it was the best way to help the student move forward. This student was referred to me from our disability services coordinator and was so distraught about a paper assignment that all she could do at first was talk about how she couldn’t write and how she didn’t have anything to say. Sometimes It’s Okay to Break the Rules? It became clear that she was not in a frame of mind to get anything down on paper herself, so I just began asking her questions about the assignment and topic she had picked. As she spoke, I jotted down key words from what she said. Eventually, I showed her what I had written down, explaining that these were her words, her thoughts. From there, we started to talk about grouping the related words and ideas to form paragraphs. This was enough to calm the student and get her on her way to completing the assignment successfully. Don’t Make Assumptions A good student who had been one of our peer tutors, needed help with math. She tried to work with a peer tutor who was very talented in the subject, but who, unfortunately, talked down to adult learners. That’s a no-no in any tutoring situation, but especially so with adult tutees. Because the student knew me as her supervisor, she had no qualms about telling me about her bad tutorial experience. I contacted him to talk about what happened. He had assumed that she was having difficulty because she had been skipping classes and was short with her when she said she still didn’t understand. Don’t Make Assumptions He failed to communicate enough with her to get a context for her difficulty: the student had, in fact, missed some class but not because she was skipping. She had been absent to care for her ill mother-in-law when there was no one else to help care for her. Although tutoring isn’t a substitute for attending class, there are times when students have valid reasons for their absence, and tutors need to be nonjudgmental and ask questions to find out what the circumstances are. Help at the Last Minute Just this semester an older student (she explained this was her first time being a student in 41 years) came in desperate for help with a writing assignment due in less than an hour. Normally, we discourage last minute pleas for help like this, but she was in tears and explained that she had been trying all weekend to do the assignment but couldn’t find where she was supposed to do it. The course materials and instructions were posted on the course’s WebCT site, and they said to use MS Word or Excel to complete the assignment. She had been looking in WebCT itself for where to do the assignment. Help at the Last Minute Clearly, this was an instance of the student not having basic computer skills and not an inability to do the work. Once I explained where to find Word and Excel, she was able to make progress on the assignment, which was writing a memo that involved presenting come computations. I made sure to note my observations about the student’s lack of computer literacy in the report of our session that was sent to her instructor. Getting to the Positive After being laid off, Matt is trying to find a new career so he can get back into the workforce. He is extremely motivated to “get things done,” but he appears somewhat threatened by his situation and often underestimates his ability. Matt arrived at the tutoring center after he has just “ bombed a test.” With dramatic hand gestures and expressive movements Matt conveys how poorly he performed. He states that he went “over and over the material and never did get it memorized” for the test. After getting Matt calmed down, what steps might the tutor take? Getting to the Positive The tutor should put the results of this test into perspective and focus on what had gone well and what he did remember. This might give the session a more positive tone, and it is a great opportunity for the tutor to promote active learning and to stress techniques that might help Matt to actively study including the “split- page” technique for studying. The Behaviorist View Imagine an adult learner who returns to campus for that first course, tentatively and unsure of whether she/her “has what it takes” to return to college. How do you handle the situation and respond to the student when you recognize that you have a student who is approaching education from a behaviorist view and the faculty teaches from strictly a humanist point of view and purpose? The Behaviorist View Discuss with the student that s/he and the professor have different views of learning is a good place to start (and assure the student that this is quite OK!!). Then, find some common ground and similarities shared between their two approaches. Support the student as s/he finds a way to USE that information by applying it autonomously to his/her unique situation. This will help transfer the “humanist” teaching perspective into a more “behaviorist” learning perspective. Awareness of the difference in views might actually be useful to the student as s/he continues with the course as well as in future courses. One Way or Another An adult student who has a graduate degree and has formally retired from her first “career” as an accountant, approaches you and wants to return to college for another degree and a “second career.” She has no idea what she wants to pursue but “wants to work with people, not numbers”. How do you approach advising and guiding her as she makes this new career choice? One Way or Another You might suggest that she go to the Career Center and take a career interest inventory. These can yield useful results regardless of one’s age! Perhaps she would be interested in taking Discover to see what her current interests, abilities and values now are. Interest inventories and career guidance can help this student gather and organize information before choosing a new career and an appropriate major. Math From Afar You are a math tutor. A middle-aged student comes to you for help. Talking, you discover that he was a civil engineer in his country, yet he is failing College Algebra. His frustration level is very high and he is thinking about dropping out. What do you do? Math From Afar One way to help this student is to communicate that math is a language in and of itself. It has its own rules of syntax and semantics. AND math translates across all cultural boundaries. Start with “mathese” and translate into English. It will be an arduous project, but well worth the time. Lothario and the Tutors You supervise the English tutoring program. You overhear two peer tutors arguing about a boy. It turns out that the young man in question is a student from overseas who is dating both of them, and getting both of them to help with his schoolwork. What do you do? Lothario and the Tutors The first step is to find another tutor for the student. The more difficult aspect of this scenario is dealing with the tutors who have fraternized with one of their charges and have essentially violated the ethical principles of tutoring. I would suggest retraining the tutors and emphasizing school and tutorial center policies. They Just Don’t Understand English is not your first language, but you are a great biology tutor. Your supervisor has gotten complaints from several students that they cannot understand you. You know that you have an accent, but you do not feel that is a major problem. What should you do? What should the supervisor do? They Just Don’t Understand The tutor should continue tutoring— perhaps slowing down the rate of speech or asking more questions during the session that might help the student to understand. Finding alternative words that “fit” more to one’s vocabulary and speech patterns may also help. The supervisor might want to listen in on a few sessions and make recommendations to the tutor; but understanding the diversity of language is one of the keys to success. English Only? Your college has a large ESL program, but many of the speakers have a shared native language and tend to communicate amongst themselves in their native language rather than socialize with students from other ethnic backgrounds. How would you encourage more interchange between groups? English Only? The ESL Lab might be considered and “English Only” zone. The idea of an ESL program is to teach non-native speakers how to accurately and properly use English. Speaking in one’s native tongue while trying to study in the ESL lab is not necessarily a good way to learn the new language. As far as communing with people from other cultures, various communication exercises might be developed that will encourage interaction between the various groups. But They’re So Young! An adult student went to the lab to get help with her algebra. Nobody looked up to say “Hello, welcome, we’ll be with you in a minute.” She sat down and waited. Finally, a tutor sat with her and helped her work through a problem, told her to work the others and that he would be back. She was unsure of the other problems as well, but seeing that the tutor was helping someone else she slowly got up and went to the computer lab next door pretending that she was going to use the computer. She left the lab through the other door. But They’re So Young! This student later reported to me that she felt intimidated just going to the lab because all the tutors looked so young and then felt really unwelcome when no one responded to her. She made her escape to the lab next door because she really felt stupid about asking the tutor to come and help her again. Technology An adult learner was in tears in my office. As I listened it turned out to be a problem with the technology. We use computer testing and calculators in class and this older student had no idea how to use any of it. Technology I relieved her anxiety by taking her to the computer lab and showing her how to hold the mouse, how to click, and how to answer math questions on the computer. Then I showed her how to work the calculator, step by step. She was very happy with the mathematics after the one-on-one session with me. It wasn’t about mathematics at all but about the technology. Thank You Please go to the Discussion Board and respond to the prompt you will find for this module. Thank you for participating in this module.
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