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Tomnitz Family Learning Opportunities Center Receives National Attention

Campus News

Westminster College officials received word that the school's current tutor training program found in the highly acclaimed Tomnitz Family Learning Opportunities Center (LOC) has been nationally certified by the College Reading & Learning Association (CRLA).

"Providing Westminster College students with a value added program such as a certified training program for peer tutoring is exactly what we strive for in our mission and goals," says Karen Tompson-Wolfe, Director of the LOC. "One of the key challenges of the program is getting students to utilize it to its fullest potential, and the Westminster faculty have been very supportive and a great resource for our tutors."

The Peer Tutoring Program is housed in the Tomnitz Family Learning Opportunities Center and Tompson-Wolfe oversees the three-course sequence. Objectives of the program are to assist peer tutors in understanding how to be effective tutors by fostering independent learning in their tutees and to help the tutors understand their role as student leaders on campus.

All tutoring services are offered on a walk-in basis to all students on campus.

Tutors are selected on the basis of their performance in a class and the recommendations of the faculty members who teach the course. Once a potential tutor has been identified, he or she meets with the Tutoring Coordinator to discuss the position and its obligations. After approval is gained, the tutor applies for the first level of training. If he or she is considered effective, the tutor is invited to enroll in the second and then the third level of tutor training.

Tutors are evaluated by the students that visited the Center and utilized their services. All tutors are required to hold a minimum of one, two-hour tutoring session every week.

"Previous tutors have provided a great deal of feedback on content and actions of the program to enhance it from a student/tutor perspective," says Tompson-Wolfe.

Tutoring began at Westminster in the early 1990s with tutors selected by professors and offered a position if they were eligible for Work Study or College Employment funds. A composite list was posted around campus and given to all faculty members with professors recommending tutors to students or students self-initiating a session from the contact list. Under this plan, tutors did not receive formal training and often the most qualified students could not tutor due to their financial aid packages.

During the fall semester 2003, a task force examining student retention and academic support services reviewed this issue. The recommendation was made to restructure the Westminster program under the criteria set forth by the CRLA. In the spring of 2004, CLRA awarded a one-year certification to the revised Westminster course. In the 2005-2006 academic year, the three tutor training courses were made permanent in the curriculum. This current program is now certified by CRLA for one year.

"Next spring I will follow up with a renewal, which is a reflective examination of the program and identify potential changes that will be made over the next three years," says Tompson-Wolfe.

CRLA is a national group of student-oriented professional specialists active in the fields of reading, learning assistance, developmental education, tutoring and mentoring at the college/adult level.

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