Center for Learning Resources Fosters Connections and Opportunities Between Students and Peer Tutors
The CLR has nearly doubled in size since last year, and it is also expanding its professional affiliations and training programs. It is continuing to create meaningful learning experiences for students seeking support as well as for their peer tutors who provide it.
October 16, 2023
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
Kate Katemboh ’24 M.S. listened attentively as David Negron ’24, shared his story with a room full of fellow Chargers. As a writing tutor in the University’s Center for Learning Resources (CLR), Katemboh enjoys helping her classmates learn, and on this afternoon in the University’s Peterson Library, she was the one learning from one of her peers.
The session was part of a biyearly training program for tutors, and it has enabled them to learn from their fellow Chargers, including staff and students. Katemboh was excited about the opportunity to further her own knowledge.
“I am looking for what I can learn that I can then teach,” said Katemboh, a candidate in the University’s graduate program in finance and financial analytics who hails from Kenya. “I think it has been very beneficial, and it helps us to interact with the students we work with.”
'Something magical is happening here'
This particular session was part of a program that trains tutors to meet College Reading & Learning Association (CRLA) standards. The University is a CRLA member, and the sessions early this semester have been among the CLR’s largest yet.
That is, in part, because the CLR itself is growing and expanding, both in terms of its size and its offerings. It has nearly doubled in size since last year, growing from 60 employees to more than 110. This includes myriad undergraduate and graduate student tutors of diverse majors and programs of study. It also includes, for the first time, Learning Assistants on the University’s main campus who are offering support in Italian. LAs have offered fun and engaging Italian cultural events, including an Italian bingo game night.
“I think something magical is happening here,” said Leon Weinmann, Ph.D., director of the CLR. “We fought for years to remove what was sometimes considered to be a stigma from tutoring, and we’ve succeeded. Our tutors, our Learning Assistants, are busier than they’ve ever been. We had more than 2,000 visits in September alone.”
'It’s the best'
Located in the lower level of the University’s Peterson Library, the tables in the CLR are typically occupied by students learning from and supporting each other. Student staff members hail from around the world, including India and Nigeria. The CLR has also developed strong working relationships with faculty from a variety of fields, who have given stellar recommendations for student tutors.
The new tutors are receiving 10 hours of training to ensure they have the support and resources they need to feel confident as they serve their fellow Chargers. CLR tutors, chemistry recitation instructors, and engineering peer tutors all attended the recent session that Katemboh was a part of.
Jeff Hunt, M.A., academic operations manager for the CLR, says the CRLA certification is critical. He believes it will be beneficial for tutors and for students seeking their support.
“We hope our tutors learn best practices,” he said. “Everyone is getting certified in this program. The CRLA has high standards, and we’ve always had our tutors adhere to them. The CRLA certification is the be all end all for a school like us, and it’s the best.”
'Highly motivated students who want to help others'
While many institutions use the CRLA program, the University is unique in that it offers levels 1, 2, and 3 of the training program. The CLR will be recertifying staff in the spring.
Hunt says the training has been important in preparing tutors for their roles. He is excited about how enthusiastic they have been, as they continue to propose new ideas such as extra study sessions and workshops.
“We have a really good bunch this year, and they are highly motivated students who want to help others,” he said. “We're on track to double our tutoring visits from last year pretty easily. Our hope is that the CLR is becoming a great drop-in destination, as opposed to a place where people just come for last-minute questions. We've always had that culture, but it is just getting more widely known the many resources we offer.”
'This process works'
As part of the training, tutors learned how to best serve nontraditional students such as Negron, who shared his story. After joining the U.S. Army, he served in locations such as California, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Marshall Islands. While scuba diving recreationally in the South Pacific, he was moved by the biodiversity he saw, and he was inspired to learn more about it.
When he was transitioning from a soldier to a civilian, Negron decided to continue his education. He expects to graduate with his bachelor’s degree in marine biology at the end of the fall semester. As a Charger, he spent a great deal of time in the CLR, and he’s grateful for the support he received.
“I fell in love with learning,” he said. “The resources here have helped me dramatically, and I’ve made new friends. Their energy feeds me. If it wasn’t for these resources, I’d never have made it.”
Negron returned that support as he spoke to the tutors in training, explaining what he looks for in a tutor. It isn’t just about knowing the material, he explained. It’s also about interpersonal skills as well as being friendly and welcoming.
“I was in the CLR a lot,” he said. “Many tutors took that extra time to help me because I showed dedication. This process works. I stuck with my education because of the people here and the resources. This knowledge has expanded my mind, and I’m curious now to go deeper into the subject.”
'Different perspectives and backgrounds'
Being offered next semester, the level 2 and 3 training programs will bring in more University staff to offer their knowledge, resources, and support to tutors. Students will hear from staff in Athletics, as well as Paige Bartels, LCSW, director of CAPS. Ric Baker, Ed.D., senior associate dean of students, will also speak to the students.
For Sarah Widtfeldt ’24 A.S., ’25, these training opportunities have been immensely helpful. She tutors students in dental hygiene, her major, and she believes hearing different voices and perspectives from within the University community as part of these sessions has been a great resource for tutors.
“It’s important to hear from different people to learn how to serve students,” she said. “It was great learning from David. This isn’t just about academics. We need to hear different perspectives and learn about backgrounds. We can all work together.”