Letter to the Editor: Provost defends peer tutoring plans

I’m writing to thank The News for covering the transition of peer tutoring to a discipline-based system (“Students react to decision to close peer tutoring center,” June 20) and to provide for our students more information about the transition.

The changes in peer tutoring are intended to provide a seamless delivery of instruction, where faculty and all others involved – peer tutors, grad students and/or staff – work as a team with academic leadership provided by those who are trained in the specific discipline. We expect the peer tutors to be connected with the faculty who are teaching the course, and we expect the faculty and peer tutors to provide mutual updating on what’s being done in the class, what’s being understood by students and what is being found most challenging.

The Snell Library Peer Tutoring system has been very helpful to students. We have a great deal of respect for the Northeastern students and staff who have worked in the system, and appreciate discussion with them early in the transition planning. We will include these previous tutors in the academically-based tutoring and anticipate their continuance in providing excellent tutoring service.

The tutors have been contacted individually and we will make additional efforts to reach those students who didn’t respond to the first communication.

Unfortunately, limited understanding of the plan led to the inaccurate perception that peer tutoring would be totally eliminated or that the new system would allow only very limited tutoring.

There was also some confusion about the courses to be covered, with a News statement that Summer II tutoring will be offered to “a small selection of upperclassmen courses.” In fact, the Summer II tutoring emphasis is placed on the same type of courses that traditionally yield the most interest in peer tutoring: the required, introductory courses in various areas. The number of these courses is small in relation to a fall or spring semester since many students who elect to attend the summer sessions are middlers and juniors, whose co-op/class schedules include summer sessions, and seniors who will be graduating in the fall.

We will monitor the capacity and effectiveness of peer tutoring and work with the faculty in the various disciplines to provide the resources needed for optimal service. We’re looking forward to strong learning outcomes in the discipline-based tutoring system, with our excellent peer tutors connecting with the faculty teaching the course. In conclusion, it is important to note that this tutoring plan has been discussed thoroughly by the deans of the colleges and has their full support. Further, the plan was shared by the Provost at a May retreat with all deans, associate deans, departmental chairs and the Senate Agenda Committee.

– Susan Powers-Lee is an executive vice provost.

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