Our primary concern in the Math Lab, as in all University Learning Center services, is the students. The work of Math Tutors is uniquely able to “de-center” traditional teaching approaches in order to focus on student learning. That is, rather than learning taking place in a classroom setting with a dominant “voice of authority,” tutors are able to work with students on their learning goals in a non-evaluative (and so, non-threatening and non-punitive) setting. This is particularly important to remember in a Lab setting, where it can be easy to remain at a distance from the students you are helping. You are able to empathize with student anxieties and apprehensions while showing them that even class assignments (aimed at a group) provide opportunities for individual learning.
We support and tutor the entire University community.
You will be tutoring students who are majoring in all disciplines across the curriculum. Because every student who comes to UNCW must take at least one math course, you will work with students at every level of interest and skill. Some students will be very enthusiastic about the subject; others will lament again and again about having to take the class. You must be able to work with many kinds of students, sometimes several at the same time! Also, because other classes at the University have math or statistics components (such as Computer Science, Economics, Psychology, etc), you may end up working with students in classes you have not taken yourself. Remaining flexible in your approach to students’ needs is particularly important in these cases.
We help students build and develop skills.
Your expertise as a tutor may be a particular kind of math, but you will need to be able to help students with their basic math skills and with any kind of math help they need. Many students are less successful in math and statistics because the skills they bring with them from high school are not adequate for college – they do not know how to solve problems, prepare for tests, or organize their time. You should be able to offer suggestions about how you mastered these skills as well as other ways students might approach these tasks. Helping students succeed is more than helping them master isolated problem solving skills. But, helping them build course specific knowledge is also central to successful tutoring. Remember, if a student asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, the best thing to say is, “I’m not sure, let’s find out” - and then follow through and help them find an answer! This models how learners work – and learn.
We engage the student in collaborative learning.
The perfect place for collaborative learning to occur is in the Math Lab in the University Learning Center. Collaborative learning situations dissolve the feeling that students are lonely individuals struggling to learn in a situation where only the teachers have the “right” answers. Instead, students rely on each other, thereby working within a cooperative framework. In other words, cooperation supplants individual competition and serves to reduce many of the anxieties that are connected with learning. This means that you do not have to be the “expert” at all times; indeed, it is preferable for the tutee to show you what they know and how they learned it. You can then reinforce good learning habits and work with the student to build greater understanding. Being a partner in learning is better than trying to be a “little teacher.”