Synergy is the national peer-reviewed online journal of the Association for the Tutoring Profession published annually in the fall and spring. The primary mission of the journal is to provide an avenue for scholarship and discussion, which furthers the knowledge of learning processes, tutoring practice, and the administration of tutoring services.
Editorial: Assessing On-Campus Tutorial Services
Margaret M. Roidi, M.A.

Although primarily associated with course learning outcomes, assessment continues to be a buzz word in academia, guiding administrative program processes and affecting decision-making. On-campus tutorial support services are oftentimes faced with the pragmatic and time consuming aspect of leading systematic and holistic assessment procedures that can identify and evaluate the connection between services and learner success.

The challenge for tutorial administrative personnel lies in the ways through which successful assessment initiatives can be adapted seamlessly to help support a unit’s mission while determining the effect on students’ final course grades and perceived success.

How can tutoring professionals incorporate effective assessment procedures and manage the day-to-day operation while dedicating time and effort to conduct meaningful assessment? A few issues that may come to mind when discussing assessment can pertain to the perceived effect such a project might have on the program, the budget, and the parties involved. The current data-driven climate of academic institutions can seem intimidating for tutorial personnel whose expertise is in creating a nurturing environment in which learners feel comfortable enough to seek assistance; however, the positive impact assessment may have is oftentimes overlooked.

Assessment projects can strengthen a unit’s goals and establish a solid link between tutorial assistance and student success. Also, obtaining and analyzing students’ perceptions of the quality of the tutorial services received is crucial in terms of determining services, staffing, and even hours of operations. As technology continues to enter and influence educational processes from content development to delivery, tutorial settings can evaluate the means through which such tools can be incorporated to assist and promote independent learning.

A few assessment topics to consider are:
  • Overall student satisfaction of tutorial services and facilities.
  • The effect of discipline-specific tutoring on tutees’ final course grades when compared to those of learners who did not participate in on-campus tutorial activities.
  • The performance of students receiving tutorial support inside the classroom versus at the on-campus tutorial setting.
  • Campus awareness of the tutorial support services offered on-campus.
Assessment can certainly take significant time and effort. Allocating resources and assigning personnel to participate can be difficult, but the long term benefits of creating annual goals based on data can solidify requests for tutor pay increases, the need for program certification, the development or incorporation of tutor training programs, and national conference participation.

Margaret M. Roidi is the manager of the Cerullo Learning Assistance Center at Bergen Community College. Email: magmrnj@yahoo.com
Building an E-Community of Consulting Problem Solvers: Utilizing Online Conversation in the Writing Center
Jeffry C. Davis, Ph. D, Shannon Mooney, Emma Sargent

This article, divided into three sections, each authored by a different tutoring professional, emphasizes the importance and difficulty of building a consistent, dialogic community among the tutor-consultants of college-level writing centers. The first section, written by Dr. Jeffry Davis, the director of Wheaton College’s writing center, introduces the purpose of community among tutor-consultants and presents a technological solution to the problems of lack of funding and time. The solution, an email thread called Consultant Conversations, along with its practical benefits, is outlined in depth in the second section by the writing center’s student manager, Shannon Mooney. Lastly, a tutor-consultant of the writing center, Emma Sargent, explains the impact of Consultant Conversations on her personal and work experience, as well as describing the e-community that it has developed. Finally, the Appendix provides a sample of the Consultant Conversation dialogical thread.

The Intent to Learn: The Impact of Focused Attention
Cora Dzubak, Ph. D., Penn State University

Distractions are a near constant intrusion in our lives and they have become more and more difficult for students to ignore. Cell phones are always within reach, there is continuous access to social media, and at the same time the overall speed of our society continues to increase. Adding to environmental distractions are the changes in education that include a stronger focus on standardized testing, “teaching to the test”, and more frequent of learning strategies for which memorization will suffice. It is one challenge to attempt to minimize classroom distractions, another to apply effective teaching strategies, but perhaps the most significant issue related to effective teaching and learning is student “intent to learn”. Without a desire and intent to learn, the likelihood of better prepared and successful college students is discouragingly dismal. This article examines how the cognitive consequences of distraction, and a lack of student driven initiative involving the conscious intention to learn, negatively impact student learning and the acquisition of knowledge.

Promoting Student and Tutor Success: Adapting Writing Center Observation Theory to Best Practices for General Subject Tutoring Observations
Maureen R. McCoy, University of Louisville

Tutoring session observations allow tutor trainers and center coordinators to assess how tutors foster independence in student learning, uphold center philosophies, and incorporate effective tutoring techniques. In order to contribute more to the field of general subject tutoring, this paper will explore some of the practices and expectations that have become a part of observations in tutoring centers. Best practices for conducting general tutoring observations are adaptable from writing center theory and practices in order to help tutoring coordinators utilize this practice in the most effective ways.