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Student Tutors Ready to Serve Their Peers in
MCCC Learning Center

4/21/14


West Windsor, N.J. – Four MCCC students are joining the staff in the Learning Center on the West Windsor campus this semester after intensive training that has prepared them to help other students become better writers – and, in the process, to become better writers themselves.

All four students say they enjoy writing and look forward to helping others. Tutor Vlad Kalik, a Liberal Arts major, observes that the experience is likely to enhance his own journey as well. “I definitely think I will grow personally and academically through my participation as a peer tutor. The students will encourage me to think and maybe glimpse my own issues in reading and writing. I expect my confidence to grow as I gain communication skills and learn to build rapport with others.”

In addition to Kalik, the other peer tutors are Shanielle Constantine, who is studying Nursing, and Liberal Arts students Brendon Pearsall and Adam Perez.

Peer tutors are ready to help out fellow students, from left, Shanielle Constantine, Adam Perez and Brendon Pearsall. Not pictured: Vlad Kalik.

English faculty member Barbara Hamilton, who conceived and implemented the MCCC Peer Tutor program, notes the mutual benefits of peer-to-peer tutoring. “Tutors have the opportunity to serve as mentors and leaders. They are reinforcing their own skills as they teach.  A student in need of help is often better able to relate to and trust a fellow student, one who has had success in the same course not so long ago.”

Utilizing  guidelines from the College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA), Hamilton designed a hybrid online and onsite training program. The students have completed 11 hours of training in topics such as building rapport, active listening, working with challenging students, understanding learning styles, problem-solving strategies, and composition-specific strategies and resources. The final component of the training includes five hours of job shadowing in the Learning Center with experienced tutors, which the students completed in early April.
 
According to Hamilton, criteria for acceptance into the peer tutoring program include success in the English Composition sequence (ENG 101 and 102), two letters of recommendation, and a strong writing sample.

As outlined during their training, Constantine says she will rely on questioning students to draw them out. “I want to hear their ideas and give them a push in the right direction through the questions I ask."
 
Perez believes that students generally have an idea of how to handle an assignment, but sometimes lack organization. “Our job is to help them synthesize and put their thoughts down on paper.  We want to spur them to write.” Perez plans to transfer in 2015 to complete his four-year degree in International Business.

Pearsall, who says he may want to teach at the college level one day, observes that the role of peer tutors is to guide.  “We want the students to do the work, not us.  It’s important that we as tutors learn how to navigate that line.” He add that he can’t think of a better way to improve his own writing than to teach it to others.

Kalik believes that peer tutors are in a great position to help other students.  “I think that as a fellow student, I have a better chance to provide support and be a mentor.  I understand how they might feel and what they are going through.  I used to struggle a lot academically and still do sometimes, but with enough support and guidance, the student can succeed at anything,” he maintains.

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