Tutoring Strategy Redesign

Tutoring at Fresno State is essential to support students at the institution. The value of drop-in tutoring is that it is open-source learning that moves at the student’s pace. When redesigning the tutoring strategies the biggest challenge was the dynamic nature of the tutoring environment and the differences in students’ agendas. Tutors were charged with making sure students had autonomy over the session by setting their own agenda while at the same time critiquing the agenda to bring the student the most valuable learning possible.

The previous approach to tutoring was based on skills curated by the College Reading and Learning Associaton (CRLA) and additional skills deemed important for our program. CRLA recommends the following domains for a tutor training program: https://www.crla.net/index.php/certifications/ittpc-international-tutor-training-program

The challenge was that tutors had trouble deploying these skills into the session particularly because of the drop-in open source nature of services at Fresno State. The tutoring cycle which is scaffolding for tutoring sessions was and continues to be a major component, but the tutoring step in the cycle is about deploying the skills mentioned above. We designed a strategy for the tutoring step that allows tutors to easily deploy the skills CRLA outlines. There are four actionable learning situations students are in when they arrive and they become learning opportunities tutors can take advantage of.

Tutoring strategy diagram

Students seek help in the learning situations above. They may not have had enough exposure to the material, they may have no conceptual understanding only procedural, they may not be able to retrieve the content from memory, and they may have deficiencies in the study habits they possess. This helped tutors better define what learning recommendations they should give students.


The strategies are based on a meta-analysis reviewing over 400 studies on learning techniques. According to Dunlosky, Rawson, Marsh, Nathan, and Willingham (2013) recall or practice testing and elaborative interrogation are two techniques that prove effective in test performance. The model above integrates mental retrieval and critical thinking which includes a sub-set of skills like elaborative interrogation and self-explanation. Freeman, Eddy, McDonough, Smith, Okoroafor, Jordt, and Wenderoth (2014) explain how active learning helps improve quiz scores for those in science and math. Active Learning was therefore integrated as a component of the tutoring strategy model as well. The last component is Study Methods which speaks to the development of study habits with students. Next, the team considered that these strategies could not stay solely in the core learning situations and approaches. There is a density to learning in each strategy that incorporates both learning theory and Bloom’s Taxonomy. There is a difference when between a student thinking critically by answering questions than thinking critically by interleaving concepts and helping other students understand through elaborative interrogation.


Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2013). Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques: Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest14(1), 4-58.

Freeman, S., Eddy, S. L., McDonough, M., Smith, M. K., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., & Wenderoth, M. P. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences111(23), 8410-8415.