Why does In-Service Training, Oversight and Support Matter?
Training, providing oversight and supporting your tutors are the most effective ways to ensure they are building and maintaining the skills and mindsets required to tutor successfully in your program. There are two main methods of training: Pre-Service Training, which takes place before tutoring sessions begin; and In-Service Training, which is an integral part of a tutor’s ongoing support and typically includes some form of coaching, oversight and professional development to help tutors consistently meet your expectations, support their students, and continue growing as professionals within your community.
Generally, all programs have some form of in-service training that takes place on an ongoing basis at regularly scheduled times. Although the frequency and content of training will vary depending on a program’s Model Dimensions, the following best practices should guide all In-Service Training design:
- Refresh and build on what was covered during Pre-Service Training. Keep that knowledge alive for tutors!
- Establish a cadence for your in-service training. Whether you offer training once a month or once a quarter, determine these dates ahead of time and share them with your tutors as soon as possible. (Send reminders, too.)
- Develop a scope and sequence for your training. Consider gradual skill building, introducing more advanced content or facilitation strategies as tutors progress throughout the year and master skills from Pre-Service Training.
- Be flexible based on what your tutors need. Just like your tutors, you should use your observations to identify and meet individual learning needs. If you notice common struggles across tutors, consider addressing these via training.
- Incorporate sessions where tutors learn from one another. Giving tutors an opportunity to learn from one another and problem-solve together is a powerful training approach.
- Gather feedback from all stakeholders. Ask tutors what they want from training, of course, but also reach out to school administrators, teachers, students, and families, and use their insights to adjust the design of your training.
- Think outside the box. In-Service Training does not need to take place in a traditional classroom in order for it to be successful. Online modules, workshops, professional learning communities, and meetings with consultants are all additional options, some of which current tutors could take the lead in organizing with program staff support.
Tutor Oversight Approaches and and Support Structures
Just as ongoing training is essential, tutor oversight and support is fundamental to tutor success. While providing tutors with direct coaching is ideal as it allows for the most comprehensive and prompt feedback, it is not always possible. Like many components of your program, oversight approaches and support structures will vary depending on your program’s Model Dimensions.
Regardless of Model Dimensions, however, most programs designate a person or group of people responsible for tutor oversight; the approaches they take to this role determine the type of support provided. The table below outlines some different options for oversight approaches and support structures.
|Oversight Approaches & Support Structures||Relevant Model Dimensions|
|Heavy oversight and individual coaching support from an onsite supervisor.
An onsite supervisor is usually an employee of the tutoring program, sometimes referred to as a Site Director or Site Manager. People in this role tend to spend the majority of their work week at the same location as the tutors and liaise heavily with administration and other school personnel.
|Often used for in-person, in-school, high-dosage tutoring. Highly effective, but also very time-intensive. Less necessary for more experienced Tutor Types (e.g. teachers).|
|Daily oversight from school faculty with routine support from program staff.
Some programs rely on an existing onsite staff member, like a teacher, to support with daily aspects of the oversight role, but then have someone else from the program’s staff observe and provide support once per week. The onsite staff member may take on an elevated role, and thus be compensated (or have a lighter teaching schedule) in order to provide oversight and coaching to tutors. The person in this role will often facilitate the collaboration between tutors and teachers at the school as well.
|Appropriate for in-school programs that use a rigorous and consistent curriculum. The program staff check in regularly to ensure that a program is implemented to fidelity, while onsite school faculty or staff provide daily advice. Using this approach also provides an opportunity to develop leadership within schools.|
|Virtual oversight and support.
With this approach, sessions tend to be recorded for a supervisor to watch and later provide feedback. Tutors may also be encouraged to watch their own recordings and learn to identify their strengths and struggles; this self-reflective work helps them set goals for improvement. Virtual sessions also let supervisors pop in to observe live sessions easily.
|Most effective when it can be comprehensive (i.e. when the tutoring Delivery Mode is completely or mostly Virtual).|
|Light oversight with peer support via professional development communities.
Instead of receiving direct support from someone in an onsite supervisor role, tutors attend skill development sessions and share best practices through communities of practice led by experienced tutors who have demonstrated strong outcomes for students. Someone from the program staff may need to support coordination, but this person would be “on the ground” much less frequently.
|This structure is most effective when tutors are skilled and experienced instructors. But be careful relying exclusively on it with less experienced Tutor Types (e.g. volunteers/college students).|
Effective Tutor Support: Best Practices
Regardless of how support is structured, these 4 critical actions can help tutors develop and improve in their role.
1. Create a culture of open communication and feedback.
Pre-Service Training should explicitly model healthy mindsets about feedback, but most of the work of cultivating these mindsets happens via In-Service Support. Strategies for creating a culture of open communication and feedback include:
- Ask tutors for feedback and explicitly share when their feedback has been taken into account in a decision.
- Ask tutors how they prefer to receive feedback (e.g. written first with time to process vs. immediately, etc.) and prepare accordingly. By considering this, you’re setting yourself and your tutor up for a productive conversation.
- Provide feedback right from the start of the program. Especially at first, carve out time for tutors to have a meta- conversation with you about the feedback they’re receiving. Validating their questions and asking them directly how it felt to receive the feedback will naturally open lines of communication centered around improvement.
2. Support tutors in creating their own goals.
Leverage tutor-articulated goals when providing feedback and other means of support, and help tutors reflect on their progress in reaching those goals. Use these conversations to deepen personal connections and provide social-emotional support if needed.
3. Plan for regular observation and debrief cycles.
- Observe each tutor working directly with a student (or small group).
- Provide regular feedback so that tutors get multiple opportunities to learn, reflect, and improve.
- The person conducting the observation (e.g. a Site Director, a teacher in the building, etc.), the frequency of the observations (weekly, biweekly, etc.), and the method for engaging in the debrief (in-person, over video call, over email, etc.) will vary based on your chosen support structure, but the important thing is embedding a feedback cycle into your in-service support strategy.
- In in-person, during school, high-dosage programs, tutor observations tend to be on a weekly basis.
- Programs that use more than one person to support tutors (i.e. a combination of people in different roles) may incorporate a more nuanced cadence (e.g. onsite staff member observes twice per month, program staff observes once per month, and they observe simultaneously once per quarter).
4. Invest in developing a rubric or fidelity checklist specific to your model to support continued improvement.
Supervisors can use a rubric or fidelity checklist to provide consistent support and feedback to tutors. Providing feedback using these kinds of tools builds self-awareness in tutors. It also allows programs to set benchmarks for progress and by looking at all tutors’ rubric scores or checklists collectively, programs can identify cohort-wide skill gaps or program-wide trends that need addressing. At the end of this document, you’ll find an example fidelity checklist that the literacy tutoring program Reading Corps uses for one of their reading interventions. An example of a portion of a rubric can be found in our Examples of Data Collection Tools.
Example Fidelity Checklist
This document shows what an exemplary fidelity checklist looks like. Note its clarity and specificity about what tutor actions to look for. This type of checklist not only helps tutors plan their session facilitation and self-evaluate as they work, but it also helps ensure that the feedback they receive from various observers uses consistent language and sets consistent expectations.