Study group in Hixson-Lied

Photo provided by Special Collections Department / Iowa State University Library

Group Tutoring

The Academic Success Center provides group tutoring to emphasize the value of peer-facilitated learning. Because of its emphasis on student engagement and learning strategies, group tutoring is often more effective than individual tutoring. Group tutoring requires tutors to be skilled in facilitation and management in order to account for the needs and expectations of multiple members. Because group tutoring functions like a team, it also requires a more conscious leadership role on the part of the tutor.

Group tutoring allows students to share strategies for learning while promoting cooperation and understanding. It provides opportunities for students to share experiences, learn from one another, build self-confidence, and develop study skills. Asking questions, engaging in group discussion, and practicing problems are among the strategies used to encourage participation and learning.

Students' own work, memory, and understanding is validated and reinforced when they are able to help others. Each student plays an active role in the learning of the group.  Students should come with a positive attitude and a wiliness to contribute in order to make the most of the experience. Although the group setting is limiting in the amount of personal attention each student can receive, individual attention can be provided in a group environment.

Comparing Individual and Group Tutoring

Individual Tutoring Group Tutoring
Time allows the individual student to ask specific questions Time per student is limited
Student is instructed at his/her level Multiple abilities, backgrounds, and pace of students determine the level and pace of instruction
Session goals are established to meet the individual student's needs Session goals must be designed for the general needs of the group
Perspectives and approaches are limited Students are exposed to multiple perspectives and approaches

Basic Group Tutoring Guidelines

  • Arrange seating and notes in a way that encourages interaction and visibility. You need to stand or sit where all students in the group can see and hear you. Be conscious of your eye contact throughout the session.
  • Respect all questions or responses by students, no matter how basic.
  • Stress the importance of confidentiality with your group.
  • Provide direction, not dictatorship. Keep in mind you are a resource for students and their learning. Your role is to facilitate their learning process. Guide the conversation, but remember to limit how much you talk or lecture.
  • Encourage participation. However, don't allow individuals to dominate participation or discussion. Try to involve everyone in the learning activity. Consciously, but slowly, draw shy students into the flow of conversation. Encourage interaction by having students answer each others questions.
  • Provide varied types of positive reinforcement to all students in the group.
  • Do not interrupt student answers. Group tutors should provide a comfortable environment for learning.
  • Keep the session on topic and moving at the appropriate pace for the group's abilities. Try to avoid irrelevant arguing or repetition.
  • Ask open-ended, probing questions. Be patient waiting for responses to your questions. Waiting for students to respond allows high level thinking to occur. Rephrase questions if they do not yield comments. Do not always clarify questions with an explanation.

At the end of the session, provide some sort of closure. You could summarize the ideas presented in the session. You could ask students what they learned during the session, what they still need clarification on, or what they would like to discuss in the next session.

Adapted from: Ball State University Learning Center, Tutor Training Module 16: Working With Groups