Teacher-Tutor Communication: Continual Updates

Why should teachers and tutors share continual updates?

Teachers and tutors both work better when they work together. To keep the goals and agreements from the kickoff meeting alive throughout the year, consistent communication afterwards is needed. Continual updates help tutors adjust their instruction as new challenges emerge over time, and tutors can provide teachers with updates on students’ progress to help with positive reinforcement in school. Lastly, by keeping communication open and incorporating feedback from one another, teachers and tutors strengthen their professional relationships, which ultimately benefits students. 

What kinds of updates should teachers and tutors share?

Details will vary depending on your program’s model design dimensions, but three overarching kinds of updates are outlined below, each with its benefits and drawbacks. Some programs may choose to allow teachers and tutors to determine the method of communication that works best for them; others may clearly delineate specific requirements for teacher communications. (If there are specific requirements, these should be spelled out in the Memorandum of Understanding and communicated in the initial meetings with both administrators and teachers.) Whichever type of update works best for your program, this tool will help you structure a thoughtful and thorough communication plan.

Tier 1: Passive Asynchronous Digital Communication

The least time-intensive option for teachers and tutors is to passively and asynchronously share materials and information digitally. While no direct communication occurs, even just the simple action of granting tutors access to a shared folder containing what students are working on in class can make tutoring sessions radically more aligned with the classroom curriculum.

This Tier 1 option may work best for tutoring programs whose setting is outside of school or that recruit students from many different schools.

Tier 2: Active Asynchronous Digital Communication

Tier 2 communication builds on Tier 1 and introduces new opportunities for teachers and tutors to directly, but asynchronously, communicate with one another. Teachers and tutors can ask specific questions and share specific updates to mutually reinforce students’ academic goals.

This option may work best for tutoring programs where teacher involvement is higher, but a consistent face-to-face meeting between teachers and tutors is challenging or even impossible to schedule.

Tier 3: Active Synchronous Collaborative Communication

Tier 3 communication includes everything from Tiers 1 and 2 and also introduces new opportunities for teachers and tutors to synchronously communicate with one another (virtually or in person). Synchronous communication can increase efficiency, as both parties can ask and answer questions in rapid succession. It also allows for more in-depth sharing of lesson plans to further align tutoring sessions with in-class instruction. Lastly, synchronous communication allows both tutors and teachers to share and quickly incorporate feedback about what is and isn’t working for students.

With this level of communication, tutoring can act more as an extension of the classroom rather than a separate entity or add-on. This option may work best for tutoring programs whose setting is in-school, which have a dedicated tutoring block in student schedules, and/or which have a manager to help facilitate these synchronous meetings. This method is strongly recommended for high-dosage programs (3-5 days a week), where a weekly meeting is advised.

Tier 1: Passive Asynchronous Digital Communication

Teachers Share

Classroom Materials (Shared Digital Drive)

In addition to the start-of-year curriculum materials, teachers can give tutors view-only access on a shared digital drive to their lesson plans and student materials as they are created. Lesson plans help tutors make sure the methods they are teaching, not just the content, are aligned with in-class instruction. The shared drive could be Google Drive, Google Classroom, Dropbox, etc. 

The Shared Drive may include: 

  • Lesson Plans
  • Lesson Materials (e.g. notes, slide decks, etc.)
  • Student Materials (e.g. worksheets, homework, etc.)
  • Assessments (both blank copies and answer keys/rubrics)
  • Updated Curricular Materials (i.e. updates to any of the materials shared earlier, especially any calendars)

Student Data (Shared Digital Drive/Tutor Accounts)

Teachers are one of the best sources of students’ academic progress data. Tutors can spend far less time assessing students if they have access to students’ assessments from their classes. Students may also be more motivated to improve their in-class performance which directly affects their grades. By having teachers share the data in advance rather than having students bring a scored test to a session, tutors can synthesize data and prepare relevant material and ahead of time. Student data could be shared via a digital drive that includes student data spreadsheets and/or by setting up a tutor account on whatever platforms teachers use to automatically score assessments. Note: Teachers should NOT share their own login credentials with tutors. Each user should have a unique account. For more information on how to keep student data secure and confidential, see the Student Data Privacy Guidelines.

The Shared Drive/Tutor Account could include access to: 

  • Students’ Formative Assessments (e.g. quizzes, procedural drills, exit tickets, etc.)
  • Students’ Summative Assessments (i.e. unit exams, projects, interim assessments, midterms, and finals)
  • Student Class Grades (including grade breakdowns)
  • Student Attendance/Punctuality (to target remediation of missed topics)
  • Additional Online and/or Intervention Programs (e.g. Khan Academy, IXL, Lexia Powerup, or any other online programs teachers assign students to increase fluency and remediate prior topics; tutors can use practice questions from these programs or coach students who need to do or redo assignments)

Online Platforms (Tutor Accounts)

No matter the platform’s purpose (grading, engagement, etc.), when tutors have their own accounts on all digital platforms teachers use, they can reinforce classroom expectations with students and use data from online tools to inform sessions.

Online Platforms may include: 

  • Grading Platforms (e.g. GradeCam)
  • Engagement Platforms (e.g. Padlet)
  • Homework/Intervention Platforms (e.g. Khan Academy)
  • Learning Management Systems/Organizational Tools (e.g. Google Classroom)
  • Communication Platforms (e.g. Remind)

Tutors Share

Tutoring Session Notes

Tutors may share tutoring notes with teachers so teachers can: see how tutoring is going for each student; positively reinforce tutoring for students (e.g. “Did you see your new test score? Your work in tutoring is paying off!”); and consider assigning students different work if some concepts or skills were covered already in tutoring. Tutoring notes will also be instrumental for personalizing teacher-student conferences. Tutors could share these notes as emails after each session, on a shared drive, or in a shared spreadsheet. 

Tutoring Session Notes could include: 

  • Academic Content
    • What was the objective for this session? (i.e. What did the tutor plan to accomplish with this student?)
      • What was the tutor’s rationale for that objective? 
      • To what degree did the student accomplish that objective? 
    • What topics, skills, knowledge, or methods did the student work on? 
    • What classroom/curricular materials did students work on or review? (e.g. “We used questions from old Unit 3 worksheets to review chemical reactions.”) 
    • What assignments did students complete/correct/review? (e.g. Unit 5 test corrections, Friday’s homework, Khan Academy Solving Equations Unit 1.)
  • Assessment Data
    • If students took any additional assessments (such as baseline or growth assessments), tutors can share the test, scoring criteria, and results with teachers.
  • Attendance/Punctuality
    • Include specific dates and times so teachers can confirm students were in tutoring when they were scheduled to attend. 
  • Behavioral Notes
    • How did the student engage in the session? (e.g. Did they ask questions? Help another student? Use their resources? Show a lot of grit?)
    • How was the student’s focus/motivation? How much prompting or redirecting did they need?
    • Did the student (and tutor) follow through on any action plans from prior goal setting conferences? Why/Why not?
    • Did the student share anything else with the tutor worth noting? (e.g. Student interests, worries, frustrations, excitement, etc.)

Tier 2: Active Asynchronous Digital Communication

Teachers Share

Classroom Materials (Shared Digital Drive)

Teachers may want to grant tutors comment permissions in a shared drive so tutors can ask teachers questions. Teachers themselves can also use comments to highlight certain methods in lesson plans for tutors, or to make suggestions to tutors about what topics they can cover or which materials they can use with specific students in their upcoming tutoring sessions.

Teachers may comment on: 

  • Lesson Plans/Materials
    • Highlight methods tutors should teach (and/or should not teach) during tutoring.
    • Highlight misconceptions specific students had during whole-class instruction.
    • Highlight engagement tools or strategies that did (or did not) work for specific students.
  • Student Materials
    • Highlight specific problems or worksheets where students could benefit from further support.
    • Suggest assignments they want tutors to redo with specific students.
    • Suggest assignments they want tutors to help students get started.
  • Assessments
    • Include additional explanations of scoring criteria (e.g. anchor texts for rubrics, student exemplar responses, and other comments that would help establish what “mastery” looks like for an assessment).
  • Updated Curricular Materials
    • Highlight student deadline shifts or calendar changes to help keep tutors in the loop.

Tutors could ask questions like:

  • Lesson Plans/Materials
    • What are acceptable alternative methods for teaching a topic when the given method doesn’t appear to work for the student?
    • What are some strategies to address this specific misconception?
  • Student Materials
    • What question types should I prioritize with students? (i.e. Which will appear on the next assessment?)
    • What assignments should I prioritize with students? (Especially if a student could benefit from reviewing multiple assignments!)
    • What’s a strategy to help students get started on this task?
    • What prerequisite skills/knowledge do students need to know to start this task? 
  • Assessments
    • What additional information did the student need to include to get full credit on a specific question? 
    • Do you have an example of the distinction between what constitutes a 3 and a 4 on this rubric?
  • Updated Curricular Materials
    • What do you have planned for the review day on this unit?

Tutors Share

Tutoring Session Notes

Tutors can share session notes in an interactive spreadsheet, Google Doc, or another digitally interactive platform that allows tutors and teachers to leave specific questions or suggestions for each other and hold threaded conversations about particular notes or data. 

Tutors could ask questions like: 

  • Academic Content
    • Do you have any input on the tutoring plan (objective, topic, materials) for this student? 
    • Which of these topics is most important to cover in tutoring tomorrow? 
  • Assessment Data
    • Our tutoring baseline suggests this student needs most help with Number Sense. For which units of your curriculum will that be most relevant? 
  • Attendance/Punctuality
    • Do you know why this student has had trouble coming to tutoring on time this week? 
    • Can you shout out this student for coming to tutoring all five days this week? 
  • Behavioral Notes
    • This student seemed to find annotating more engaging than creating an outline. Do you have additional annotating strategies? 
    • This student mentioned they were worried about their group project. Could we get the group in for a group tutoring session?
    • This student completed less work than usual today; do you know what might be on their mind right now?
    • This student set a goal of redoing their homeworks until they’re all 100% accurate. They want to know: is it possible for you not to put the right answers on their homework, but just mark it right or wrong instead?

Teachers could comment on: 

  • Academic Content
    • The student may say they prefer one method, but they need to know a different method for the test. 
    • If the student uses an alternative method for an assignment, can they upload a picture of their work?
  • Assessment Data
    • Did the tutoring growth assessment include only grade-level questions, or questions from previous grades?
  • Attendance/Punctuality
    • If the student has a sports practice conflict on Tuesdays, can they attend tutoring on Monday instead?
  • Behavioral Notes
    • The student has been shutting their eyes in class this week. Can you ask how they’re doing? They also may need to be reintroduced to this week’s topics.

Tier 3: Active Synchronous Collaborative Communication 

Teachers Share

Next Week’s Lesson Plans (Weekly)

By providing an in-depth overview of their upcoming weekly lesson plans, teachers can set up tutors to host even more aligned, more specific, and more responsive tutoring sessions.

Teachers may walk tutors through the following: 

  • Next Week’s Sequence of Lesson Objectives
    • WHAT is the content being taught each day? 
    • HOW is the content being taught each day? (i.e. What methods are being taught? What is the approach/process/strategy?)
    • What vocabulary are students being held accountable for using? 
  • Level of Rigor
    • What does an exemplary response look like? What are the criteria for success for the lesson? What gets full credit? Partial credit? No credit?
    • If there’s a rubric, what is an example student response at each level? 

Professional Expertise (Weekly)

Teachers can go beyond their lesson plans and share tips on pedagogy with tutors. 

Teachers can share advice about: 

  • Addressing Common Misconceptions/Barriers to Learning
    • Prerequisite skill gaps (e.g. number sense for ratio problems)
    • Language barriers (e.g. lengthy word problems)
    • Executive functioning barriers (e.g. needing to follow a several-step process)
    • Missing context (e.g. a science lab talking about snow when you live in moderate climate)
    • Low interest (e.g. a sports statistics question when the student doesn’t enjoy sports) 
  • Alternative Processes/Methods/Strategies
    • If the primary strategy or method doesn’t work for a student, what are some alternatives tutors can try? 
  • Stretch Questions
    • If tutors are working with a student who has mastered the topic, how can they push that student further? 

Ideas for Upcoming Weeks Tutoring Session Plans (Weekly)

Teachers will often have ideas about how tutoring can be maximized looking several weeks into the future. These ideas may have implications for all students or for specific students. 

Teachers can suggest tutoring sessions be used for: 

  • Exam Review (if there’s an upcoming exam)
  • Goal Setting (if students just took an assessment)
  • Make-Up Assignments (if students are missing crucial assignments)

Tutors Share

Student Progress-to-Goal Updates

Tutors can communicate what students accomplished during the previous week’s tutoring sessions by sharing academic and behavioral data. This data can be reviewed asynchronously beforehand (see Tier 1 and 2 for asynchronous Tutoring Session Notes).

Tutors can review and help teachers understand data by: 

  • Responding to Clarifying Questions
    • Does the teacher or do other tutors have any questions about the tutoring session notes? 
  • Sharing Academic Data
    • Were there any common or individual student academic strengths/wins? 
      • How can teachers/tutors build on those strengths? Celebrate those wins? 
    • Were there any common or individual academic struggles for students? 
      • What do teachers/tutors think are the root causes of those struggles? 
        • How can the teacher address the root causes of what most students are struggling with during whole-group instruction? (e.g. Reteach that topic for the whole group.)
        • How can tutors address the root causes of the struggles that only some students are facing during instruction? What alternative methods might the teacher suggest?
  • Sharing Behavioral Data
    • Were there any common or individual student behavioral strengths/wins? 
      • How can teachers/tutors build on those strengths? Celebrate those wins?
    • Did tutors notice students struggle with any particular behavioral norms? 

Next Week’s Tutoring Sessions Plans (Weekly)

After sharing tutoring session data from the previous week and seeing the teacher’s in-class lesson plans for the upcoming week, tutors can make informed and data-driven choices about the upcoming week’s tutoring plans, and then get teacher input on those plans.

With teacher input, tutors can create the following: 

  • Student Roster
    • Which students should attend tutoring in the upcoming week? 
      • Did any students not master last week’s topics? Which students? Which topics?
      • Will any students benefit from proactive support for next week’s topics? (e.g. Vocab for ELLs.)
  • Tutor objectives
    • WHAT is the objective for each tutoring group/session? 
    • HOW does this objective address the students’ specific misconception or barrier to learning?
    • HOW will tutors teach that objective? 
      • What method/process/strategy will tutors use? 
      • What engagement strategies will tutors use?
      • What classroom material will tutors use?
    • HOW will tutors assess students to see if their reteaching (or proactive instruction) was successful?
      • What assessment data will tutors bring to the next meeting?