Practical Tips & Tools

Basic Literacy & Numeracy


Just-in-Time Training: What You Need, When You Need It

May 5, 2022

It can be difficult to prepare new adult literacy and English as a second language tutors for the different learning styles and situations they might encounter when they meet their students. Not to mention, there’s no guarantee they’ll remember everything they learned in the training when they start working with students. 

In the research article “Less May Be More: Rethinking Adult Literacy Volunteer Tutor Training,” Alisa Belzer from Rutgers University, sheds light on what is actually carried from training into practice.   

The article asks the question “What is the relation between volunteer training for reading instruction and what volunteer tutors and their students actually do when they work together?” What Belzer found was: 

  • Training did little to predict what materials and activities tutors and students would end up using or how tutors would help struggling students.
  • Tutors from the same program didn’t show strong similarities in how they worked with students. This is unfortunate, given the large amount of time and resources dedicated to tutor training.
  • When asked what the most important influence was on their tutoring, no tutors mentioned tutor training.

While tutor training does a great job of introducing new tutors to the program they are volunteering at as well as a few broad topics about adult education and adult learners, it’s impossible to train tutors on the specific and personal needs of their students. When asked what they did take away from training, tutors, time and again, mentioned the idea that students should play a larger role in shaping their approach to learning. 

If training can be tailored to meet the current issues a tutor and their student are facing—at the moment they are facing them—it would benefit everyone involved. We call this “just-in-time training.”  

But most programs don’t have enough staff to provide tutors with in-person just-in-time training  in-person training. This is where ProLiteracy’s Basic Literacy and ESL Online Tutor Training and the other online courses on Education Network can help. Access to online tutor training solves the problem of training tutors with the “average” student in mind, which doesn’t necessarily translate to real-world classrooms with students who have unique barriers to learning and persistence. 

The online tutor training is modular by design and, combined with regular interaction with tutors—as described in Tutor Training: Pieces of the Puzzle—it can be used to deliver just-in-time training by allowing tutors to reference specific instructional strategies right when they need them. 

Tutors can be assigned modules or specific segments within a module. They can try strategies with students and then get coaching and feedback from a trainer, tutor coordinator, tutor mentor, experienced group tutor, or an online support group of other tutors. 

You can learn more about ProLiteracy’s Basic Literacy and ESL Tutor Training by visiting Education Network, creating a free account, and exploring. The tutor training is free to ProLiteracy members. There are sample modules available for free to nonmembers. 

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