Two students working at a table in a classroom

By Peer Tutors Kelsey F, Mikayla H, Sally K, and Curtis W, with editing by Nick Yates, ISB Communications

It’s been another great year for the International School of Beijing’s (ISB) peer tutoring program, through which students help each other with their studies. Since 2012, the Peer Tutoring Center (PTC) has given ISB students additional opportunities to personalize and take control of how they learn. The center is popular with students from Elementary to High School. There are plenty of “Aha!” moments in the PTC as tutees crack problems and tutors develop as leaders.

In 2020-2021, ISB had over 15 High School students engaged in peer tutoring, with six more students receiving training and certification and four students receiving advanced training to best support their peers and younger learners.

Tutors are qualified for their roles

As we graduate from ISB and come to the end of our time as Seniors in the PTC, we can look back on a flexible, peer-mediated program which allows students themselves to further the work taking place in classrooms. We aim to provide a free and approachable resource for learning at ISB.

All the tutors at the PTC are well trained and prepared for helping other students. To be a qualified tutor, students need to go through an online training course and finish tutoring practicum for a semester. ISB tutors will use tutoring methods such as Socratic questioning and effective listening to tutor students. These skills make the learning more engaging and effective. Tutees from all grades come to the PTC after school on a regular basis, or even stop by with quick questions for us.

Four people posing for a photo behind a table

L-R: Peer Tutors Curtis W, Sally K, Mikayla H, Kelsey F

As for the four senior tutors from the Class of 2021, we collectively have a range of experiences – Sally and Mikayla joined the PTC from their Grade 9 tutor training course; Kelsey joined in Grade 10 from her tutor training course; Curtis applied to the PTC in Grade 10 – and all have undergone online course training to become certified tutors.

We have each learned to become a tutor and gained experience in different ways. With help from our tutor training course teacher, Mr. Dilts, we developed skills working with students of all learning and social abilities, which greatly benefited us when working in the PTC.

Socratic method

When entering the PTC for the first time as tutor training students, we were taken under the wings of our senior tutors, learning how to talk to younger children and how to guide lessons through the Socratic method, where you ask a variety of questions to allow students to determine a solution themselves.

Additionally, we have had times where tutoring a student has reminded us of topics we need to refresh on. For example, Mikayla had learned ratios when she was very young and had not reviewed the topic since leaving Elementary School. When her very first student came in for ratios help, although she had to relearn the topic in that lesson, she learned how to address a situation where a tutor may not know how to respond with a definitive answer.

Two students sitting crouching over a textbook

Tutors’ stories

As for Kelsey, a fond memory of hers is she once had a tutee who came in weekly for algebra help. At first, the tutee provided his solutions in an extremely unconfident manner, but that changed after three weeks. They took baby steps and helped him break down each word problem into smaller, less daunting parts and guided him through each part.

This method proved to be effective as the tutee soon learned to tackle questions on his own. He was able to solve word problems with more speed and accuracy; the tutee also saw an improvement in his math grades, which they both felt excited about! This tutee was Kelsey’s very first, and his improvements gave her an unparalleled sense of purpose. She will forever remember that feeling.

Despite not enrolling in the tutor training course like the others, Curtis joined the PTC in Grade 10, after seeing it at the Club Fair. He was interested in the complexity of the different methods of tutoring shown by the course. There is a lot to tutoring someone that Curtis had never considered before. One example is the method of Socratic questioning, which he applied to one of his tutees and found particularly effective. They were able to understand the content much better than if he had just told them the answer directly.

Confidence to face challenges

Just as the students who come to us for help leave the PTC each day with their questions answered, the tutors are constantly learning as well. In addition, tutors can develop social skills and bond with students that come in seeking help. Whether paired with a student the same age as you or a shy child, tutors must handle different personalities and learning abilities in order to help their peers to the best of their ability.

As experienced senior tutors leaving ISB and the PTC, we are equipped with the skills to confidently tackle any peer-related challenge we may face in the years to come.

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