Tutoring might seem to be a fairly intuitive topic: put smart kids in the same room with students seeking help, and learning happens. But, we must consider that we're asking one student to help another student grasp a topic that a teacher was unable to impart in the first place.  Topical knowledge is not enough; tutors must also understand pedagogical or

andragogical concepts to ensure success.  How to do that, in a minute...

There are several tutoring models that you may consider.  The most common are:

  • Dyadic Peer Tutoring

  • Intelligent Tutoring Systems

  • Reciprocal Peer Tutoring

  • Vendor Tutoring

Of these, the traditional Dyadic Peer Tutoring is still considered the most effective

in the most recent comparative studies (VanLehn, 2011).   Like Kuh's report, VanLehn's

may soon be overcome by technology.


Carnegie Mellon University has shown some success with intelligent tutoring in formulaic subjects (math, science, second language acquisition) on their Math Tutor and Cognitive Tutor Authoring Tools (CTAT) platforms.  Anyone who has used  Grammarly.com or an Alexa app will easily foresee computer-aided tutoring for speech-related subjects is right around the proverbial corner.

The effectiveness of Reciprocal Peer Tutoring is limited to the strengths (or weakness) of the lower-achieving student(s) and is best reserved for classroom use.  In the classroom, professors can interceded for disputed understanding.

Vendor Tutoring can be economical, but risky.  Quality assurance is out of your hands.  Further, vendor tutors are not likely to know your college's curriculum.

This PDF dives deeper into the research on tutoring systems and provides guidance for creating an online tutoring system.  Online tutoring systems can reach online students, but are also useful for our Millenial digital natives

While we wait for the inevitable intelligent tutoring system, for now,  we still ask humans to tutor.  For universities, especially those with NCAA programs, certifying your tutors is an important  consideration.  The College Reading & Learning Association                          provides tutoring certification and a training outline to help you get there.   There are three levels your tutoring center can reach, each having its own set of required training.   Training standards for CRLA are substantially covered in their publication Handbook for Training Peer Tutors and Mentors

Tutor certifications are also offered by the National Tutoring Association.  Their process for certifying a program is found here 


VanLehn, K. (2011).  The relative effectiveness of human tutoring, intelligent tutoring systems, and other tutoring systems. Educational Psychologist, 46(4), 197–221

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