Tutor Guidelines

Wesleyan University Deans’ Office Peer Tutoring Program


Review of this on-line manual is mandatory for new tutors and as a refresher for experienced tutors.

If you would like to have more information on peer tutoring, please contact Laura Patey North College Room 021, extension 5581.

A. Guidelines

  1. Be on time for every session.  If you must cancel a session, give as much advance notice as possible with a date for the makeup.
  2. Be Honest.  Do not be afraid to admit that you do not know something.  Do not give incorrect information to "save face." 
  3. If the student seems to be experiencing a problem, such as study issues or personal difficulties, that you feel is not related to the kind of course content instruction you can provide, please refer her/him to the appropriate class dean.
  4. If you or the student feel the arrangement is not working, either of you can contact your class dean for reassignment.

A. Tutoring Tips

  1. Good tutoring is based on mutual respect and trust, never on an attitude of condescension. Curb any inclination to impress. You are there to help.  As a starter, find out what the student knows about the subject.
  2. Encourage the student to attend class.  Some students believe getting help from a tutor is a substitute for attending class. Students having difficulty must realize time spent with a tutor is additional to classroom time. Also, encourage the student to attend the Math workshops, TA sessions, and peer advisor workshops.
  3. Teach the student how to learn rather than try to solve the student's problem. Work with the concepts and establish what the student knows.  The student should be able to explain to you what she/he has learned and what she/he does not understand or cannot learn.  Often students over-complicate the material.
  4. Guide the student.  You should guide a student through the solution process. Ask reflective questions, such as “How did you reach that conclusion?” “Can you walk me through your steps?”

When you ask a question, rephrase it, break it into parts and repeat it back to the student for response. The purpose of this is to generate discussion, and get the student to make connections and pull information togetherr her/himself. It may be easy for you, a knowledgeable tutor, to answer questions directly. However, if the student reasons out the answer or puts the pieces together on her/his own, the student is far more likely to remember.

  1. Address anxiety.  You may deal with a student who has anxiety about the subject. You should avoid using phrases such as "This is easy."  Such phrases intimidate the student. If the student suffers from a high degree of, for example, math anxiety, it may be helpful to refer the student to the Office of Disabilities.
  2. Never do the student's homework or answer the questions for them. This does not help them or teach them. This could end up as plagiarism on the part of the student.
  3. Develop a sense of empathy. Recall a class that was difficult for you and remember that not all students find the same subjects easy to understand. 

D. Active Listening Skills

Good listening is built on three basic skills: attitude, attention, and adjustment. Listening leads to the understanding of facts and ideas. But listening takes attention, and sticking to the task at hand in spite of distractions. It requires concentration, which is the focusing of your thoughts upon one particular problem. A person who incorporates listening with concentration is actively listening.

Good listeners:

  • Look for the ideas being presented, not for things to criticize.
  • Listen with the mind, not the emotions.
  • Filter out distractions and concentrate on what the student is saying.
  • Try to understand the student’s point of view.
  • Think about what the student is saying, summarize the main points, and think about the next points.


E. Cultural Differences

Culture refers to the sum total of acquired values, beliefs, customs, and traditions experienced by a group as familiar and normal. It includes language, religion, customs, and a history of the people.  As a tutor, you will be working with students from other cultures, domestic and international.  Providing the student with an atmosphere of trust and acceptance will encourage a connection between you and the student.

Be sensitive if you are tutoring a domestic student.

  1. Domestic students come from a variety of living environments: rural, suburban, urban, different geographic regions of the country.
  2. Domestic students have a varied educational background: public, private or parochial schools, home schooling.


Be especially sensitive if you are  tutoring an international student.


  1. Encouraging the student to talk about her/his family or country before embarking on the academic material helps to break the ice.
  2. Sometimes the international student may become dependent on you for more than just tutoring.  The student might see you as a much needed new friend, or as a source of information about not only scholarly interests, but also social interests.
  3. The international student may not speak English well, but that is no indication of her/his intelligence.


In closing...

Have fun while tutoring!

Trust your instincts and contact Laura Patey if you are concerned about a student’s well-being or academic success.



February 2, 2014

(Adapted from Boise State University’s Peer Tutoring Training & the Learning Assistance Center, City College, of San Francisco)
Tutor Training Scenarios

Wesleyan University Deans’ Office Peer Tutoring Program




Scenarios to Reinforce Tutoring Tips

1)   At the last few sessions, the student is negative about his work and tells you that he is just not learning the material. 

What do you do?



2)   The student tells you that she does not understand your way of explaining the material.  She makes offhand comments throughout the session.

What do you do?



3)   The student tells you that she has an exam in a few days but it is obvious to you that she has not begun to study and you are feeling pressured to help her do well on the exam.

What do you do?



4)   The student is obviously angry and frustrated about something because she burst into tears.  She is too upset to focus on the tutoring session.

What do you do?



5)   The student wants help on his assignments but you notice that he does not have good studying habits.  He does not have class notes and does not know what assignments are due.

What do you do?



6)   What about the manual did you find most helpful?