The Role of the Tutor/Coach

Session 3: The Role of the Tutor/Coach

As a part of "The Role of the Tutor/ Coach" training, Tutors and Coach will learn about

  1. Ethics and Goals
  2. Challenges and Rewards
  3. Do's and Don'ts
  4. First Session Checklist (Be familiar with forms and assessments)
  5. The 12 Steps of the Tutoring  Cycle

This segment of training includes

  • reading "The Role of the Tutor/ Coach" segment of the web-based TIP Tutor Training Manual
  • quizzes

an evaluation

Tutor's Comments - by Stella Lee

"As a tutor, coach or office staff at TIP you are a role model for students using our services. Your words and actions demonstrate ethical and professional behavior that can leave a strong impression on students. It is essential for you to show a positive and professional attitude toward your work.

You should set an example of punctuality and responsibility. You must be on time for tutoring sessions, so the student understands the importance of being on time as well. Since the student is expected to show up at every tutoring session, you, as well, should not miss any sessions. If you must miss a session, you should inform the student and your supervisor ahead of time. It is unprofessional for you or your student not to show up for a session.

In addition, you need to demonstrate professionalism in the way you communicate with your students. You should ask appropriate questions and receive criticism in a positive way. For example, if the student thinks you are in the wrong, you could ask, 'how can I improve?' instead of 'why do you criticize me like that?' Setting an example of professional, polite communication is one of the key roles of the Tutor."

Tutor's Code of Ethics

Tutors are expected to follow TIP Service Policies and to maintain high standards of professional behavior. Our expectations align with the expectations of CRLA Members. Be familiar with CRLA's Ethics Statement.

CRLA supports ATP's Code of Ethics (, as cited below:

1. Best Interest: Tutors will be committed to acting in the best interest of tutees as specified by the employing organization or institute.

2. Responsibility: Tutors will take responsibility for their own behavior and work to resolve conflicts that may arise between themselves and a client.

3. Integrity: Tutors will practice and promote accuracy, honesty, and truthfulness.

4. Fairness: Tutors will exercise reasonable judgment and take precautions to ensure that their potential biases, the boundaries of their competence, and the limitations of their expertise do not lead to or condone unjust practices.

5. Commitment: Tutors will fulfill commitments made to learners.

6. Respect for Others Rights and Dignity: Tutors will respect the dignity and worth of all people, and the rights of individuals to privacy, confidentiality, and self-determination. 

7. Excellence: Tutors will strive to maintain excellence by continuing to improve their tutoring skills and engage in applicable professional development activities.

8. Respect for Individual Differences: Tutors will respect cultural, individual, and role differences, including those based on age, sex, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language and socioeconomic status. 

9. Professionalism: Tutors will not engage in inappropriate relations with tutees.

10. Confidentiality: Tutors will maintain the highest privacy standards in terms of protecting personal information relative to those whom they tutor.

 In addition to the ethics laid out by the CRLA, Tutors must

  • Inform their students of the purposes, goals, and limits of the tutor and student relationship.
  • Keep all information pertaining to student identity and tutoring sessions confidential.
  • Be committed to their assigned students until the end of the semester.

Fundamental Goals of Tutors

Tutors work one-on-one with students through the semester. The goals of tutoring are to:

  • help students understand their course content;
  • improve their study, reading and writing skills;
  • encourage students to become self-sufficient;
  • identify learning strengths and weaknesses;
  • find appropriate materials; and
  • create tutoring plans and materials.

The Challenges of Tutoring and Coaching

Because Gallaudet students' backgrounds and communication styles vary, tutors and writing advisors are challenged to be flexible and quick to meet students' academic needs. Tutors and Coach may work with students with:

  • learning disabilities;
  • varying levels of emotional maturity;
  • diverse expectations of our services;
  • different educational levels in math and English.

Addressing Coursework

Students will often bring in-class work and ask the tutor to help. Tutors are allowed to guide the student through some of their coursework but must be sure not to do the entire assignment with the student. It is forbidden to do any class work FOR the student. If the student brings in homework that the teacher has already graded, it is fine to review and explain the entire assignment.

Students Without Coursework

Students will also show up for their tutoring session when they have no coursework to do. In these situations, Tutors are encouraged to stress the importance of on-going practice even if there is no homework. Tutors should have materials prepared to work on specific skills with their students. This requires Tutors to use preparation time in preparing "lesson plans" for their students. You should try to continually find new exercises for your student to work on in addition to class work.

Doing English Coaching

Students also may ask for advice on writing assignments. If qualified, Tutors can provide writing advice on a student's paper but must make note of that in the outcomes of the sessions and explain to the student that if the professor inquires about an assignment this information will be shared with them. Professors need to know how much help students get with writing assignments.

Some Keys to Tutoring and Coaching

Although being a Tutor or  Coach is challenging, it is rewarding to see students succeed because of information and guidance that you have provided. The key to tutoring and Coaching is to

  • lead the students to figure out the answers/solutions themselves;
  • provide materials;
  • demonstrate examples;
  • explain rules;
  • ask questions to engage them in the learning process.

Rewards of Tutoring and Coaching

Jobs in which people help people are intrinsically rewarding. In addition to earning money, many Tutors and Coaches find their jobs rewarding in the sense that they've

  • felt joy in seeing their students understand new information;
  • watched their students make progress;
  • gotten to know new people;
  • learned new strengths about themselves as Tutors;
  • had the opportunity to review course material.

Do's and Don'ts for Tutors and Coaching


  • Maintain confidentiality of all information pertaining to students.
  • Be on time for work.
  • Inform your student and your supervisor if you will be late or absent by calling (866) 858-6369  VP or-or by emailing the program assistant at and email your supervisor.
  • If a student is absent, send an email to the student saying that you are concerned about the student's absence, with a cc (copy) to your supervisor.
  • Always record your attendance in the eTime system.
  • Make sure you and your students sign-in and you record outcomes of the appointment in Starfish.
  • Always discourage plagiarism.
  • Encourage a positive student/teacher relationship.
  • Encourage students to meet with their teachers regularly.
  • If you suspect a learning disability in your student, talk to your supervisor immediately.

Do give grammar feedback = point out an error in a paper and teach the student how to avoid making the error again.


  • Do not give advice on take-home tests except with explicit permission from the Instruction for grammar feedback.
  • Do not edit students' work.
  • Don't give wrong information. If you don't know something, don't guess! Tell the student you will check and get back to them.
  • Never disagree with a grade received by a student, or say anything negative about the instructor. The instructor, not you, is the authority.
  • Do not guess what the teacher's expectations are. If your student doesn't understand an assignment, and you are unsure about the teacher's expectations, suggest the student discuss it with the instructor.
  • Never estimate grades for a student, even by implication.
  • Do not interrupt other Tutors/Advisors when they are with students.
  • Do not do any tutoring or coaching outside of TIP.
  • Do not bring students' papers out of TIP.
  • Do not use pagers and Instant Messaging (IM's), browse the internet or do personal communication, or projects while you are tutoring students.
  • Do not eat or drink near computers.

Do not edit = do not correct any and all grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors without actually teaching the student.

First Session Checklist

The first session is a critical period in establishing rapport and consistency with your student. Following the steps below will help you and your student establish a solid student-tutor relationship.

  • Explain to the student that they must meet you in the lobby for each session.
  • Explain your role as the Tutor/Coach. (You are there to help the student improve his/her study skills, test taking, time management, reading comprehension, writing, and understanding of course content).
  • Get a copy of the syllabus for the student's file.
  • Review the Policies & Rules in the TIP manual with the student.
  • Have your student complete the Cook Study Skills Checklist. Discuss results and make recommendations for your student. (Don't forget to applaud their strengths.)
  • English Tutors should ask students for a copy of an old essay or report for diagnostic and preparation purposes. They also should complete a Student Tutorial Assessment form (pdf).
  • After your meeting, log out.


Click here to print out the checklist

The 12 Steps of the Tutoring Cycle

Effective tutoring, while a particular session has a definite beginning and end, is best thought of as a cycle.  One session melds into the next through twelve distinct phases described here (MacDonald 2000). 

1.  Greeting and Climate Setting

In this phase, greet the student and either move together to the workstation or indicate to the student where to take his or her seat.  Seating arrangement is very important in the effectiveness of instruction.  In one-on-one situations, both people should be on one side of the table and the work should be equally available to both individuals.  In a small group setting, try to achieve as much of a circular seating arrangement as possible to facilitate equal access to the discussion and work materials.

Regardless of the subject area you tutor, do not immediately arm yourself with a pen when you sit down with a student to work on an assignment.  This may give the student the impression that you are willing to jump in and "save him" at any moment.  If you are tutoring writing, this may indicate to the student that you plan to proofread his paper and little else.  Instead, indicate to the student that you would like for him or her to be in charge of making notes on his or her own paper. 

During this time, set a positive tone for the meeting.  Smile and maybe make small talk for a moment to ease the student into the mindset of work.  Particularly in walk-in settings, this phase is commonly associated with fear and anxiety for the student.  If the tutee first learns to recognize you as an ally and a friend, you both will have a much easier time.

2.  Identify the Task

If you are in an ongoing mentoring relationship with the student, you probably will already have identified the day's task at a prior meeting or in correspondence since the most recent meeting.  Creating long- and short-term calendars together with your mentee helps you both to prepare effectively for each meeting. 

During open hours, take this time to allow the student to explain his or her assignment to you.  This is a crucial step!  Ask to see an assignment sheet or syllabus to supplement the student's request, even if he asks only for a quick proofread.  You cannot effectively help the student unless you understand the student's assignment.  If you still feel confused after looking at the syllabus and talking with the student, ask to see discussion and lecture notes and try to get a better idea of the tone and demands of the class.

Because your time is at a premium, make sure the student understands that you are not a miracle worker but will try your best to provide quality assistance.  If the student's requests are too ambitious for the time you have available, trim them down to a manageable level and work from there.

3.  Break the Task into Parts

Depending on the material at hand, you and the tutee will have to do this in different ways.  Remember your goals: you are trying to help the student become empowered and gain independence. Ask the student to take control of the session as much as possible by letting them take the lead in breaking the task into parts. What do they see as concerns, and how would they like to proceed. If they are in the dark about what to do, you can provide some guidance. However, you and the student choose to organize your session, make sure you and the student are clear on the plan. If you are helping with a paper, for example, you might suggest that you will take a moment to read it, then ask the student questions about their concerns, listen and collaborate with him or her to come up with some clarifying ideas, then answer any additional questions.  If you are a tutor in a more technical field such as mathematics or science, allow your session's organization to follow the organization of the problem or concept at hand, since it likely has steps itself.

4.  Identify the Thought Process

Together with your tutee, discuss the specific kinds of work you will have to do to solve the problems you've been presented with.  This brief discussion is one tool to teach the student how to learn and solve problems for him or herself.  For example, will the student (and you) need to analyze?  Organize?  Recall items from memory?  Edit?  Prove?  Explain?  Using discipline-specific terms will help to steer you and the student in the right direction as you address the task at hand, as well as help to familiarize the student with the language, concepts, and discourse of the academic field you are working with.  Once you have identified a set of thought processes appropriate for the task, remember them, perhaps have the student write them out, and refer to them later in the meeting to keep the student focused and to re-teach that process.

5.  Set an Agenda

Once you have divided the task into sections and discussed the specific kind of mental work you and your student will do during the session, order those tasks in a logical fashion.  Again, you might ask the student to write down the agenda for the session to keep you both on task. 

6.  Address the Task

This step of the cycle should consume more time than any other step-perhaps more time than all the other steps combined because it involves tackling a problem head-on with a student and being prepared for all that accompanies this process.

Direct experience in the subject area you are tutoring often will be sufficient to prepare you for the bulk of this step, and this may be where you feel most comfortable.  Take this time to engage the student in meaningful dialogue either about the questions he or she has brought to the meeting or about issues you notice as you begin to assess the student's work. 

As you first assess the work before you, look for positive aspects that you can comment on. It is important that you begin and end the session with positive statements that help put the student at ease, draw them into the session, and help make the process of having their work critiqued a little easier to swallow. It may be difficult, but it is important for the student's confidence that you begin and end a session with a genuinely encouraging statement.  Even if you notice many mechanical errors in a paper, for example, the paper may be very well organized, have a stunning opening paragraph, an excellent angle, or it may even just be complete!  If all you can say is, "Wow!  It looks like you've spent a lot of time getting through this and have a very substantial product.  Let's take a look at a couple points," that is better than jumping into the many negatives that may jump out at you first.

Effective tutoring involves an exchange of information; at times, the tutor should explain concepts to the student but should remain quiet at others to allow the student to explain his understanding.  Both should ask questions and utilize books and other resources.  As you spend more time gaining experience as a tutor, the rhythm of question and answer during mentoring sessions will become second nature to you, but never forget to ask yourself if you are helping to fulfill the primary goal of tutoring:  to encourage independent thought in the student.

7.  Tutee Summary of Content

Once you have finished the task or tasks that you and the student have identified (or, in many cases, finished as much as you can during your shift), take the time to allow the student to summarize for you exactly what you did and what he or she learned.  If you have finished discussing a paper, for example, the student can go through his or her notes and review the steps he will take to improve the paper on his own. Pay close attention during this step and ask open-ended questions if he or she has left out information or still seems confused about any important points.  Never interrupt, especially to correct or to give negative comments.  Challenge your student to recall the business of the meeting and to teach you what he or she has just learned. 

8.  Tutee Summary of Underlying Process

Successful completion of this step will indicate to you that your student has, in fact, internalized (at least temporarily) the basic processes involved in solving the problems or answering the questions at hand.  Allow him or her to explain not only the technical tools he or she has learned during the session but also the principles at work behind those technical aspects.  Perhaps refer back to the thought processes you predicted that you would need to solve the problem.  Ask the student if he or she has successfully utilized those processes.  If not, think about what other tools you can use to explain how to apply the processes to the specific task.

9.  Confirmation

Take time to wind down from the work of the session and summarize what you have done and ask if the student has any more questions.  Use this time to complete any bookkeeping you have to do for the Learning Center, including any online or paper forms.

10.  What's Next?

Have the tutee explain to you what his or her next steps will be after he or she leaves the meeting.  Will he or she report back to you later that evening?  If you were working on a paper, for example, should he or she e-mail you the next draft or make an appointment with the professor? 

In other disciplines, does the student understand the assignments immediately ahead?  Should you schedule another meeting ahead of time or wait to see if the student requests help?

Particularly in one-on-one assigned mentoring relationships, this step is crucial for the student to feel as though you value your time together and are planning on seeing him or her again.  This often defines a successful meeting for anxious students, and they can get their minds off whatever frustrations or disagreements they may have felt during the meeting.  Discuss the next assignment on the semester calendar or syllabus and determine which aspect of that assignment should be covered at the next meeting.

11.  Arrange and Plan Next Session

Once you have identified roughly which assignment you will discuss, next allow the student to see you write down in your personal calendar the date, time, and location of your next meeting.  This will give them the cue (and time) to do the same, and suggest that they make a note of the meeting if you realize they have not.  Set a tentative goal for the student to complete by the next meeting.  Should they have an outline of a paper?  A topic for a paper?  A certain number of questions for you to discuss in preparation for an exam?  A selection of text read and prepared for discussion? Depending on the subject and the assignment, make a realistic goal for the student to reach in the time between the current meeting and the next.

12.  Close and Goodbye

Let the student know the meeting has gone well if it has, and, if you have not reached your goals for that meeting, explain why.  Also, explain what the student can do to be more prepared next time.  For one-on-one mentees, remind the student that you will be in touch with their advisor and referring faculty member to let them know how the meeting went. 

Try to end on a positive note, even if the meeting has been difficult.  Walk the student out or smile and tell the student you will see him or her soon if the person is a one-on-one mentee.  Remind her that she is welcome to e-mail or call with other questions or to request an earlier meeting (with plenty of notice, of course) before the next planned session.  If the student has come in during open hours, invite the student to come back anytime, remind them of the center's hours of operation, and take a moment to mention other services we offer that might be helpful to the student. Finish up any paperwork, and, if a session summary is not automatically sent to the appropriate faculty members electronically upon its completion, e-mail them shortly after the meeting.


Tutoring Students with Short Attention Spans (Drew University)