Tutoring programs expand at Northeast

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By Brandon Pettey
Opinion Editor

Information has a tendency to disappear from many students’ brains in between class time and doing homework. At that point, a little outside help is needed, and that’s where tutoring comes in.

Northeast has expanded its tutoring services to offer a variety of free options for students who are looking for help outside of the classroom.

Two of the tutoring choices that have been offered at NTCC for some time are writing and math. Writing help is available in the Learning Resource Center (LRC) and math tutoring is located in MS 103.

The math tutoring program is supervised by Marguerite G. Morris, NTCC math professor and director of Developmental Education.  Morris said that the student tutors could assist in all levels of math from Pre-Algebra to Calculus I including some who are capable of helping with Calculus II.

“What I am most proud of is the quality of the tutors I have hired. Not only their math skills, but their character as well,” she said.

There are strict requirements to become a math tutor at Northeast. A student must have a cumulative GPA of 3.25 and a GPA of 3.5 in math courses. Additionally, students must submit at least one letter of reference from an NTCC math instructor. Morris said that applicants must be able to deal with diverse student backgrounds and must be dependable. She said that the tutors help the students who come to them in multiple ways.

“The greatest benefit is the students’ better grades in the math courses they are taking,” she said. “In addition, I think the students who come in for tutoring also gain more self-confidence in their math abilities, which helps increase their overall self-esteem.”

Northeast also offers students an opportunity to work with tutors to improve their writing skills. English Professor Dr. Melinda Bobbitt oversees the writing tutors, who work through the QEP WriteSmart program, which focuses on improving writing and critical thinking skills. Due to the construction, the writing tutors are currently located in the LRC throughout the day Monday through Thursday.

“The writing tutors in the LRC have been busy this semester. It is a great service and it’s provided for free to our students” LRC Director Ron Bowden said. He added that “the tutors are friendly, well informed and easy to work with. We feel it is a need and we are happy to offer a space for peer-to-peer tutoring to occur.”

There are currently four student writing tutors, two of which are bilingual. In order to qualify to be a writing tutor, students must have completed English 1302, preferably with a high grade in the course. Bobbitt said the tutors go through an extensive training process that teaches them to help students in various aspects of their writing.

“Tutors learn ways to help students focus ideas, they show errors, but do not correct them. We are not an editing service,” Bobbitt said. “Think of WriteSmart as a place to exchange ideas, discuss possibilities and have errors pointed out.”

She said the critical thinking component of the program makes it much more effective.

“Students benefit from student tutoring in many ways. Within WriteSmart, our tutors ask questions. We ask the “Elements of Thought”, there are 8, and have students thinking about them,” Bobbitt said. “Thinking is relevant to everything. The more we think, the more we do. As our students develop these necessary skills, they will become better students. Better students will become more successful.”

Erik David Gaytan Fernandez is one of the bilingual writing tutors. Gaytan Fernandez, who is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, said that his personal struggle to learn English has helped him to become a better tutor.

“When I was in need, I didn’t have any help. Being an ESL student, I struggled with the language and my homework,” he said. “The main reason I tutor is just to help others because that’s what I would have liked to have had back then.”

Gaytan Fernandez said that his background gives him a unique ability to help students whose first language isn’t English. “I actually understand the different backgrounds of someone who is bilingual,” he said. “Being bilingual helps me understand what they’re trying to say if their English isn’t so good.”

Gaytan Fernandez is also the first student working in a new dorm tutoring program instituted this fall by Northeast Housing Director Scott Wilhite. Gaytan Fernandez offers writing assistance to students who live in the dorms at various times throughout the week. Wilhite said he hopes to grow the program and is currently looking for dorm residents able to help students in math and science. He said he hopes the tutoring will help improve the overall experience of living on campus.

“The end result is for students to take advantage of residential life and that includes getting tutoring,” Wilhite said.

This semester the newly formed Student Success Services Program (SSSP) has implemented Supplemental Instruction (SI) tutoring. The SSSP was funded by a $2.6 million Title V grant. The SI program offers in tutoring services in history, intro to psychology, college algebra, calculus, anatomy and physiology and advanced physics.  Advanced physics students are required to participate in at least two hours of SI as part of their course grade. Physics Professor Dr. Mark Bouwens said the program has helped students develop relationships with others and succeed on tests.

“With the SI program, students formed study partner bonds within the first two weeks,” he said. “The results of the first test were significantly higher than any advanced physics I course I have had at NTCC. Bouwens said he is hopeful that the SI program will have a long-term impact. “I am extremely encouraged by the early results of the SI program here at NTCC,” he said. “I am confident that the program will have a long-term positive effect on my students’ academic success.”