Training Topic Guidance

Tutor training should include coverage of the following topics: 

  • Tutoring Basics
  • Relationship Building
  • Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Education
  • Data and Assessment 
  • Instruction and Session Structure
  • Supporting the Whole Child/Social Emotional Learning
  • Content-Specific

The priority and depth of coverage of each topic will depend on many factors, including the level of instructional experience and content knowledge of the tutor, whether they will tutor in-person or virtually, and the tutor’s ability and experience with relationship-building. For example, tutors new to education will need far more significant and explicit training on building relationships with students and instructional pedagogy than a tutor who is a certified teacher. At a bare minimum, training for tutors must cover specific program or tutor expectations, building relationships with students through a culturally responsive lens, and specific pedagogical training for delivering the tutoring structure. However, this bare minimum recommendation assumes tutors enter the program with the content knowledge required for the subject and grade level they are tutoring and that they are not responsible for assessment and student data analysis (that other staff members instead handle these responsibilities).

Additional resources for content-specific training. Please see the Professional Learning Toolkit for Early Literacy Tutors for early literacy training and coaching materials and guidance and the PK - 8 Math Tutoring Resource Library for math materials.

The table below provides a description and rationale for each of the above topics as well as how each topic connects to the elements of high-impact tutoring

Training Topics

Tutoring Basics

What this is: Tutoring basics includes training that builds tutors' knowledge of what it means to be a tutor in general, research around high-impact tutoring, specific training on the tutor model of the organization, and program-specific expectations for tutors. Additionally, program and tutor expectations include content related to safety and compliance training, overviews of what tutors can expect regarding management oversight, and training on technology that tutors are expected to utilize in their tutoring support. 

Why this is important: At the beginning of any pre-service programming, tutors must be aware of the expectations of successful tutors to set a clear tone, and tutors must be supported in fully understanding their commitments. Additionally, building tutors’ understanding of the research base that informs your specific model delivery can build investment in implementing practices as designed. Setting clear expectations with tutors ensures that all tutors have the same understanding of their responsibilities, ensuring equity of experience. If clear training around expectations is missed, holding tutors accountable for implementing the aspects of tutoring that drive the greatest student outcomes will be challenging. As programs set up tutors for success, tutors will likely be more engaged, productive, and effective. To learn more about setting expectations, see the Setting Expectations with Tutors tool and model your training sessions using it as a lens.

How this connects to Tutoring Elements: Training on program and tutor expectations connect to the Tutor element of high-impact tutoring, as it is grounded in ensuring that tutors are well supported to meet expectations. Additionally, this connects to Cohesion because training on expectations can foster alignment across all program areas, and Safety, which requires explicit training on policies and systems that ensure student safety. 

Relationship Building

What this is: Trust and relationships are the foundation for learning. Training on building relationships with students explains how neuroscience helps us understand the importance of children's empathic bonds with adults who teach them and supports tutors with the skills to build connected, empathic relationships with students. Building tutors’ knowledge, skills, and mindsets to support effective relationships with other educators, such as teachers or school leaders, and the skills necessary to collaborate with students’ caregivers is also critical.

Why this is important: Students are more engaged and motivated when adults build effective relationships with them. Students’ level of engagement and motivation may promote learning and enhance the quality of tutoring sessions. All training and coaching sessions should center around the five pillars of relationship building — respect, trust, confidence, motivation, and self-awareness — as the foundation to build strong relationships with students. To see more examples and evaluations of tutor-student relationships, please visit Strong, Academically-Focused, Tutor-Student Relationship. The degree to which developing tutors’ skills in relationship-building with caregivers and teachers depends on your program model design and the expectations of tutors to collaborate with specific individuals.

How this connects to Tutoring Elements: Building relationships with students relates to the Instruction element. Healthy relationships with students are the foundation of student learning. Students feel a sense of belonging and connection between the tutors and themselves. Attendance, productivity, engagement, and learning may increase when students feel valued and included.  Relationship building with caregivers and teachers also connects to the Learning Integration element because it fosters collaboration across the student's home, classroom, and tutoring education experiences.

Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Education 

What this is: Training related to culturally responsive and sustaining education includes topics such as examining your own biases, understanding the context and history of where you work, reflecting on your own schooling experience, learning about the unique context of students you serve, developing strong relationships and partnerships with families, and an overview of culturally responsive and sustaining education. 

Why this is important: Training on the orientations and mindsets of culturally responsive-sustaining educators is important so that tutors can support children in navigating educational institutions with the understanding that these institutions participate in the reproduction of an unequal society — one where opportunities and resources are distributed unevenly along the lines of race, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual identity, language, and other socially significant identity markers. Training should include time to unpack, discuss, and reflect on biases tutors potentially hold about students, their families, and the community and to explore identity, build self-awareness, and generate awareness around the history of systemic racism. Tutor training should also equip tutors with skills to build relationships with students and families, to view family and community culture and knowledge as central to the teaching and learning process, and to hold high academic expectations. Intentionally including training on this topic can help ensure that tutor actions, while working with students, work against white supremacy and other forms of oppression.

How this connects to Tutoring Elements: Culturally responsive and sustaining education connect to the Equity and Instruction elements. Effective programs ground equity in the center of their programming, including equipping tutors with the skills to do so during instruction.

Data and Assessment 

What this is: Data and assessment (particularly formative assessment) training equips tutors with the skills to implement assessments and collect, analyze, and make informed decisions using instructional and student needs data. 

Why this is important: Data and assessments are important because they provide insights into students' mastery of the standards. With such data, tutors can better understand students’ strengths and needs and use these insights to adjust, modify, or continue with specific instructional approaches. 

How this connects to Tutoring Elements: Data and assessment training connects to the Data Use element. Effective programs use Instructional data regularly to understand students' strengths and needs and to focus sessions on student needs.

Instruction and Session Structure

What this is: Instruction and session structure training includes how to identify and use high-quality instructional materials, tutor session development and delivery, program-specific pedagogy, lesson internalization/preparation, effective facilitation, and small group instruction. 

Why this is important: It is important to support, train, and coach tutors in the skills to be effective facilitators of instruction. In particular, tutors who are not teachers or paraprofessionals will need more support in building general pedagogical skills. By equipping tutors with methods and strategies, they can provide appropriate and suitable sessions for students that are personalized to student needs.

How this connects to Tutoring Elements: Instruction and session structure training connects to the Instruction element. Effective programs use strong instructional strategies and a consistent session structure.

Supporting the Whole Child/SEL 

What this is: Training related to supporting the whole child and social-emotional learning focuses on general child development, social-emotional learning, and growth mindset. Training on these topics build tutors’ understanding of the critical social-emotional and executive functioning skills that develop across childhood and how they can be enhanced throughout development. 

Why this is important: Effective programs support students’ holistic well-being, which means stimulating and developing the physical, social-emotional, and cognitive aspects of students’ development. Understanding social-emotional learning can ensure that tutors are equipped with the executive functioning skills necessary to be effective in supporting students. When tutors support each student, including students with learning and thinking differences, students build trust, strengthening the tutor-student relationship. Acknowledging that there are support systems, students are motivated, growing, and progressing to reach their goalsh

How this connects to Tutoring Elements: Supporting the whole child and social-emotional learning connects to the Instruction element. Effective programs recognize that student progress is accelerated when student's social-emotional needs are met.

Content- Specific

What this is: Content-specific training supports tutors in understanding the science behind how students learn the specific content area and supports them in building the skills to teach students the content area effectively.

Why this is important: Effective programs build tutors’ understanding of the most effective practices for the content area and why they are effective. Building this rationale will support tutor investment in effectively implementing practices and routines learned in training. Training in this area includes supporting tutors with best practices in explaining concepts, and how to identify students’ misconceptions and proactively plan to address those. Pre-service training should introduce any specialized content knowledge or skills unique to your program (e.g., some literacy programs must teach tutors the science around how young children learn to read).

How this connects to Tutoring Elements: Content-specific training connects to the Instruction element. High-impact tutoring programs ensure tutors have an appropriate level of expertise in their content area to meet the varying needs of students.