At Berkeley High School (BHS), many advanced classes require students to tutor for lower-level classes in order to receive a grade of A. While it can be argued that “required volunteer hours” is an oxymoron, there are many benefits to having advanced students tutor their peers. BHS must do more to encourage students to explore tutoring, and make tutoring accessible for all students.
When entering high school, many students are put off by the idea of tutoring other students: they either aren’t interested in spending more time on academics or just don’t want to try to teach other students. However, tutoring can actually be very fun. Teaching is a rewarding activity in itself, and there’s no better feeling than when a student you’re teaching finally understands a concept. Many students don’t consider these benefits, and therefore never get to experience what it’s like to tutor.
Another great thing about mandatory tutoring is that teaching others is an incredibly useful tool for learning things for oneself. This is known as the protégé effect, a well-established concept in psychology. Essentially, teaching a subject to someone else allows you to internalize the information as you retell it. This is especially helpful in subjects where the concepts are fairly universal and don’t depend on memorizing specific information. The protégé effect also has the bonus of increasing people’s motivation to learn a subject. When someone else depends on your knowledge, you’re more likely to take time to learn it beforehand.
Finally, as one might expect, tutoring is also highly beneficial for its recipients. Because of tutoring requirements in Advanced Math, there’s almost always a student in the tutoring room who can help a Math 1 student understand their homework or study for a test. Having students available as tutors also makes receiving tutoring more appealing to many students. While some students don’t feel comfortable going to their teachers for help with academics, they may feel perfectly fine asking their peers for guidance. Furthermore, students can be better than teachers at explaining things in simple terms, as the tutors have recently learned the subject, and thus understand which techniques make topics more approachable and easy to learn.
So then, how can BHS best make tutoring more accessible? By pairing up regular and Advanced Math students, each student would have a specific person to go to for help. One-on-one tutoring also would allow tutors to get to know their tutoree’s learning style, leading to more effective learning.
Additionally, assigning tutors a specific date to visit the tutoring room would allow teachers to schedule tutors, so someone will always be available, and more tutors could come when there are upcoming tests or finals. This approach was used during the 2020-21 school year and was very effective at making sure tutors were always available for those who needed one.