Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Waiting and Help-Seeking in Math Tutoring Exchanges

Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Waiting and Help-Seeking in Math Tutoring Exchanges

Article excerpt

Research demonstrates that students' course behavior predicts learning and success (Li et al., 2013), but how does it manifest in a tutoring situation? Though classroom instruction takes many forms, tutoring is generally individualized. Most tutoring literature is concerned with tutoring exchanges, but casual observation in the drop-in math lab suggests that the student-tutor ratio will create an imbalance of time spent being tutored versus working independently. If students spend most of their time working without the aid of a tutor, what are they doing in that time? There are no studies to date about how students utilize the time between tutoringexchanges; this article seeks to address that gap by categorizing their behaviors in the drop-in lab.

Teachers are frequently unable to provide enough wait time or think time (Lerman, 2014) though it has been proven to be important for learning (Bransford, Brown, 8c Cocking, 1999). However, it is abundant in tutoring labs, where students work independently as well as with tutors. Describingand understanding how students utilize lab time is an important step in determining how to facilitate more effective use of it. Waiting causes anger and uncertainty (Houston, Bettencourt, 8c Wenger, 1998), but learning happens best in a state of "relaxed alertness" when students are stimulated and engaged, but not overly anxious or agitated (Caine, Caine, McClintic, 8c Klimek, 2009). In the lab, are students waiting for tutoring services, or thinking as they work independently and productively? How do they initiate the tutoring interactions in that time?

As colleges simultaneously receive more students needing developmental math and are under increased scrutiny to move them through the curricula efficiently and effectively (Center for Community College Engagement, 2016), tutoring services play an instrumental role in student learning and success. Пт is article uses participant observation in the drop-in math tutoring lab to describe how students study independently, ask for help, and interact with tutors. The analysis provides insights and implications for tutors, faculty, and administrators who manage these spaces.


Tutoring centers are staples on college campuses, particularly at community colleges. Gerlaugh, Thompson, Boylan, and Davis (2007) estimate that tutoring is available in 89.3% of community college developmental education programs, and that it has increased by 25.6 percentage points from a decade prior. Concomitantly, rates of developmental education enrollments are rising (Greene & Winters, 2005; Kobrin, 2007; Skomsvold, 2014). As the concept of college readiness is more nuanced than standardized tests can represent (Boylan, 2009; Fay, Bickerstaff, 8c Hodara, 2013; Hodara & Cox, forthcoming; Karp 8c Bork, 2012), and cut scores for college coursework vary widely and by campus (Fields 8c Parsad, 2012), estimates of the numbers of students needing developmental education vary widely depending on the method used to determine "readiness." Regardless, enrollments are growing, particularly in math (Horn, Nevili, 8c Griffith, 2006).

Tutoring and Developmental Mathematics

The prevalence of tutoring programs is supported by literature documenting their impacts. Thirty years ago, Cohen (1985) posited the major difference between developmental and college math is in instructional methods and staffing and identified the tutoring lab as one of the features that distinguishes developmental math. Tutoring is effective for developmental students' learning (Fullmer, 2012), academic success (Cooper, 2010; Gallard, Albritton, & Morgan, 2010) and longitudinal retention and graduation (Gallard et al., 2010; Rheinheimer, Grace-Odeleye, Francios, & Kusorgbor, 2010).

Though tutoring is a valuable student success and retention strategy, there are many academic support practices that fall under the general designation of "tutoring." Some variety in tutoring models is likely attributable to administrative responsibilities and variable costs of delivery. …

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