Thursday, May 26, 2016

Tutorials

Over the last several years, the emphasis on tutorials has grown.  Schools are pro-actively providing tutorials for kids so they can get extra help, participate in extra lessons, or simply use more time with the teacher.  Giving kids extra time, extra help, and extra learning opportunities is a good thing, right?

For example, many teachers open their doors for kids on Tuesday and Thursday afternoon for an extra 45 minutes.  Some kids show up because they want to.  Some kids are told they are required to be there.  Some schools provide a campus-wide plan for study halls before school and after school.  These extra times must be good for kids.  Some schools even open their doors on Saturdays!

It seems that most high school teachers offer tutorial sessions before school, after school, and during lunch.  These sessions typically seem to be focused on doing the assignment together, thus "earning" the kid a better grade.  In other words, if you show up for tutorials, I'll guide you through the assignment so you can get a better grade on it.  Who knows if there was better mastery?  The grade was better.  Isn't that all that matters?

There is a ton of time focused on planning, prepping, and executing tutorials.  There is also a ton of time and money spent on software and hardware that provides online tutorials.  Sometimes it seems that the primary focus of conversations about improving student learning is on tutorials.

Do tutorials work?  Is the time spent prepping and planning for them worth it?  Is the money and resources worth it?  We can't give ZERO attention to struggling kids.  But, are we counting on tutorials too heavily for their success?

What if we gave our initial lesson design that much energy?  What if we spent our time and energy on better classroom instruction?  How well would students master their learning in an environment focused on engaging, differentiated instruction that was designed based upon valid data?  Sounds better than tutorials to me!