Training Development Principles

Effective tutor training follows a set of development principles on the overall design of the training, as well as specific development principles related to pre-service training, in-service training, and continuous improvement as detailed below. The scope and sequence of each tutor program’s training will depend on many factors. Please see Training & Support in the Toolkit for Tutoring Programs for more detailed guidance.

Design Guidance

Tutor training design should consider the following:

  • Model dimensions of the tutoring program: The model dimensions of your tutoring program will influence the design of tutor training. For example, the type of tutor your program utilizes (teacher, paraeducator, volunteer, etc.) will impact the amount and type of training you will need to provide. Tutors new to education will need more significant and explicit training on building relationships with students and instructional pedagogy than a tutor who is a certified teacher. 
  • The selection criteria for tutors: The selection criteria for tutors will influence how you might need to design training. For example, if tutors are selected explicitly for their content knowledge, training will likely need to focus less on content knowledge; however, tutors for which content knowledge is not a selection criterion will likely require significant training in this area. 
  • Pre-service and in-service support: Pre-service training alone is insufficient. Tutors need pre-service support that builds knowledge, and in-service training that hones tutoring skills. High-quality in-service support includes observations, coaching, and peer support to improve specific tutoring skills. 
  • Modes of Professional Learning: The Professional Learning Framework recommends that tutor training include three modes of professional learning:

In addition to the three modes of learning, equity is a foundational element of high-impact tutoring and should be built in throughout tutor training efforts. NSSA’s resources are aligned with culturally responsive-sustaining education (CR-SE). To this end, NSSA recommends embedding four key principles into tutor professional learning to support CR-SE including creating a welcoming and affirming environment, maintaining high expectations and rigorous instruction, using inclusive curriculum and embedding ongoing CR-SE professional development across all three modes of professional learning.

Pre-Service Training Guidance (see a more in-depth overview here)

While the specific content and length of pre-service training will vary based on the model dimensions of the program, there are three fundamental design principles to consider when designing pre-service training, and a series of topics that should be incorporated into sessions regardless of model dimensions. Three design principles that program designers should plan for are: 

  1. Mapping out the knowledge, skills, and mindsets: Pre-identifying the knowledge, skills, and mindsets necessary for the tutor to implement the tutoring program effectively can ensure that you design training that will be most aligned to ensuring a high-quality, effective implementation. 
  2. Designing with a combination of asynchronous and synchronous components: Pre-service training is most successful when it combines asynchronous and synchronous components. Consider including information-heavy content as pre-work or online coursework that can be completed at the tutor’s own pace, and dedicate synchronous sessions to interactive discussions, skill-building workshops, and practice sessions.
  3. Grounding training in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI): While tutor training topics should explicitly cover content related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, program designers should also incorporate a lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion into the program design. Typical training sessions related to DEI include: 
    • Setting a foundation for exploring identity (with an emphasis on race, class, and gender-based identities)
    • Exploring stories of self via educational autobiographies and/or other self-reflection tools
    • Building self-awareness through uncovering implicit racial, class, and gender-based biases and connecting those biases to larger systems of oppression and domination (i.e., white supremacy, racial capitalism, hetero-patriarchy, and settler-colonialism)
    • Exploring the four I’s of racism: ideological racism, internalized racism, institutional racism, and interpersonal racism
    • Explore how the four I’s manifest in teacher- and school-based practices
    • Exploring different forms of privilege and marginalization, the cycle of socialization that reproduces the relationship between privilege and marginalization, and its connection to systems of oppression and domination (i.e., white supremacy, racial capitalism, hetero-patriarchy, and settler-colonialism) as root causes for their development
    • Generating awareness around the history of systemic racism by examining the social, political, and economic basis for it in the areas of education, labor, employment, criminal legal system, housing, and healthcare, paying special attention to local context
    • Building understanding of the local context

In-Service Guidance (see a more in-depth overview here)

In-service training and support are vital to ensuring that tutors continuously improve their effectiveness. High-quality in-service support includes coaching, oversight, and professional development. The best practices of in-service training are:

  • Re-visiting topics and skills covered in pre-service training to continuously improve and build upon tutors’ base skill sets 
  • Establishing a specific cadence for in-service training, such as once a month 
  • Developing a scope and sequence for training that can be tweaked based on the data collected from observations and tutor feedback 
  • Leveraging peer learning, where tutors can learn and problem-solve with their peers 

The four critical actions to effectively support tutors are:

  • Creating a culture of open communication and feedback: Strategies for creating a culture of open communication include establishing a modality to set up a productive conversation, asking tutors for feedback, and providing feedback from the start of the program.
  • Supporting tutors to reflect on their progress towards their goals: This is a time to help tutors reflect on their progress in reaching their goals, and to provide any social-emotional support if needed. 
  • Planning for regular observation and debrief cycles: The observer records notes and regularly meets with tutors to provide feedback and support. 
  • Investing in the development of a rubric or fidelity checklist specific to your model: Supervisors may use a rubric or fidelity checklist to provide feedback. This document is an example fidelity checklist. 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.

Continuous Improvement Guidance

Additionally, high-impact tutoring programs consistently improve their tutor training by: 

  • Reviewing data regularly to identify training needs: High-impact tutoring programs collect various data, including student academic performance data, student experience data, and observations of tutor skills. These data identify additional training that may be needed. For example, if the data indicate that lack of mastery of a prerequisite skill is the barrier for students mastering the current standard, training tutors to identify missing prerequisite skills and build a relevant lesson should be considered. 
  • Seeking feedback from stakeholders explicitly to improve tutor training: High-impact tutoring programs collect data on their tutor's experience with training to regularly identify opportunities for improvement to the training experience. This can include feedback on training methods, as well as training content. Additionally, high-quality programs collect data from administrators, teachers, students, and families to inform the development of in-service training for tutors.