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Using Peer Leaders & Peer Tutors To Improve College Students’ Academic Success. Johanna Dvorak, PhD. Educational Program Director University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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Using Peer Leaders & Peer Tutors

To Improve College Students’

Academic Success

Johanna Dvorak, PhD.

Educational Program Director

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


Higher education has increasingly turned to student leaders to help their peers adjust to college and to succeed academically.

Johanna Dvorak, Director of Educational Support Services at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has used peer leaders for over 25 years to ensure academic success.

who is attending
Who is attending?
  • Post-secondary Learning Center Managers: Colleges and Universities, Community Colleges, and Technical Colleges
  • Post-secondary Learning Center Professionals with an interest in management
  • New professionals in the field of college learning assistance who aspire to become program managers
overview peer led programs
Overview: Peer-led Programs

This webinar will focus on four aspects of organizing a peer-tutoring program to improve student learning and retention, and is applicable to other peer leader programs.

Participants will be able to improve tutoring program practices in the following areas:

overview peer led programs1
Overview: Peer-led Programs
  • Choosing the most effective peer tutoring program service components for your campus
  • Interviewing strategies to find the

best peer tutors

  • Evaluating and improving the

quality of peer tutor performance

  • Understanding various models of

tutor training and modes of delivery

define your program within your institution
Define your Program within your Institution
  • What is your Mission Statement?
  • What are your college’s mandates?
  • What is your/their vision?
  • Set goals and objectives
  • What are your resources to accomplish your mission/goals?
example uwm pass mission
Example: UWM PASS Mission
  • The goal of PASS is to help students achieve academic success
  • We work with programs, departments,

schools and colleges across campus to

build partnerships and collaborations

  • We target students who are taking 100- and 200-level courses (and some 300-level)
  • We serve all students taking these courses but especially freshmen and sophomores
strategic planning framework
Strategic Planning Framework*
  • Structural Frame:

Formal Division of Responsibilities

  • Human Resources Frame:

Needs of Staff and Students

  • Political Frame:

Political Interests and Coalitions

  • Symbolic Frame:

Organizational Culture

*Bolman and Deal, Reframing Organizations, 4th Ed. (2008)

structuring your center formal responsibilities
Structuring your Center: Formal Responsibilities
  • Organizing/Planning
  • Budgeting
  • Promoting
  • Staffing
  • Evaluating
structure staffing with peer tutors leaders
Structure: Staffing with Peer Tutors/Leaders

Terms and responsibilities for peer leaders vary depending on title and role (peer tutors, peer educators, Supplemental Instruction leaders, mentors or academic coaches).

For any of these roles, peer leaders can be a valuable and cost-efficient way to improve student academicsuccess.

staffing with peer tutors leaders
Staffing with Peer Tutors/Leaders


  • Cost Effective
  • Providing Leadership Opportunities
  • Students relate well to their peers
  • Peers are “in tune” with students’ questions
  • Develops culture of success


  • High Turnover
  • Recruitment: Can be harder to find peers
  • Quality can vary
  • Continual training needed
  • Staff motivation can wane with constant rehiring

Some Interview questions

  • Tell me about yourself and briefly describe your school/work experience.
  • How did you find out about the tutoring position?
  • Why do you feel qualified to be a tutor/SI leader for this course?
  • Please describe any previous tutoring experiences, either formal or informal, that you have had.
  • Give an example of a study tip/study strategy that you would encourage a student to employ in your subject area.
  • What do you feel is one of your strongest abilities as a student/worker? What is something you continue to work on?
  • Describe your experience with online classes or other instruction; tell me about your ability with computer technology.
  • Please choose a short topic and demonstrate a tutoring session, with me as your student.
  • What questions do you have for me?
your turn
Your Turn
  • What are your interviewing strategies to hire peer tutors or peer leaders?
  • What interview questions have you found to be effective?
  • What is your staffing process? When and how do you staff?
choosing the most effective peer tutoring service components
Choosing the Most Effective Peer Tutoring Service Components
  • Peer Tutoring Program
  • Online Tutoring Services
  • Supplemental Instruction
  • Mentoring
  • Other Learning Assistance Models
      • Peer Led Team Learning
      • Structured Learning Assistance
      • Teaching Teams
      • Study Groups
panther academic support services pass services
Panther Academic Support Services (PASS) Services
  • Weekly tutoring available individually or in groups
  • Supplemental Instruction sessions: group reviews offered four times a week for large lecture courses
  • Walk-in assistance available at the help desks
  • Online tutoring: weekly, exam review sessions, blended review sessions
organizing a tutoring program
Organizing aTutoring Program
  • Types of Tutoring
    • Scheduled
      • Weekly or by appointment
    • Individual or Group Tutoring
    • Online Tutoring
    • Walk-in Tutoring
    • In-Class Tutoring
    • Residence Hall Tutoring
overview of uwm s online and blended tutoring service
Overview of UWM’s Online and Blended Tutoring Service

Our center has conducted online tutoring in our center for 15 years in various formats.

We use a synchronous online web-conferencing system to allow for real- time online sessions using a whiteboard, documents and the Internet.

Our peer tutors are trained to use web conferencing and Smartboard technology and to conduct active learning strategies

Tutors and students were surveyed to assess the impact of the service

types of online tutoring services
Types of Online Tutoring Services
  • Weekly Tutoring Sessions
  • Tutoring for Online Courses
  • Exam and Finals Review Sessions
  • Archives available for review
  • Evening/Weekend Tutoring provided by NetTutor
  • Online Academic Support on the PASS D2L sites
the newest service blended tutoring
The Newest Service: Blended Tutoring
  • The online environment is becoming a preferred means of communication, especially for Generation Y
  • Students taking online courses at a distance cannot come in person to sessions
  • Most on-campus students prefer to see a tutor or SI leader in person
  • Students take online, on-campus and blended courses
  • Both types of students can use either mode or a blended format
factors we considered for an online and blended tutoring service
Factors We Considered for anOnline and Blended Tutoring Service

Cost: Received an Educational Tech Grant

Staffing: Tutors are already hired for F2F

Training: Grant funded a grad student

Online courses: Campus commitment to growing number of online course conversions

Student population: 2000+ online-only students

Technology: UW-System pilot project ( 2010-11): using a webconferencing system; Year 2: funded

Time: Staff time, grad student 20 hours per week, work study student support, tutor training

training program
Training Program

Tutors attend 4 one-hour training sessions conducted by our graduate student program assistant

Tutors have to complete 30 training objectives


New Tutors had to conduct one session

2-hour online exam reviews are the most popular

Sessions are archived for review

Key concepts were captured for future semesters

your turn1
Your Turn
  • Do you offer online tutoring?
  • Do you use your own tutors or a tutoring service?
  • How can you use peer tutors in an online tutoring program?
supplemental instruction si
Supplemental Instruction (SI)
  • SI, a national program, which began in 1972 at University of Missouri Kansas City, has demonstrated a significant difference in student retention nationally
  • Courses are selected in which freshman enrollment is 25% or more
  • We select difficult courses, often large lecture classes or core courses with 20%+ DFW rates
  • SI leaders attend course lectures & hold four review sessions per week plus desk hours
  • SI leaders support professors
  • SI leaders also focus on study strategies
pass supplementai instruction program
PASS SupplementaI Instruction Program
  • Began in 1995 with four courses
  • Has now expanded to 50 courses because it has been shown to enhance achievement
  • UWM’s Access to Success

initiative lists SI as one of the most

effective interventions for first year


  • Both grade in class and retention are improved
other services
Other Services

Use peer leaders for:

  • Class visits
  • Academic coaching
  • Share academic resources
  • Lead study groups

How else can you use peer leaders in your program?

training and evaluation
Training and Evaluation



Use a survey feature like Survey Monkey

Use a paper survey to distribute at various points of the semester at tutoring tables

Use email surveys after sessions

Have tutors/SI leaders evaluate the program

  • Develop a credit course
  • Pay tutors for meetings throughout the semester
  • Provide an orientation at the beginning of the semester
  • Develop a course training site
  • Develop online and print resources
thank you
Thank You!

Johanna Dvorak, PhD

Educational Program Director

PASS/Bolton 180

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

PO Box 413

Milwaukee, WI 53201