Train the trainer
Tutors can play an invaluable role in education. But they must be properly trained for the task of training others. The TutorPlus program aims to do just that.
“Generally speaking, tutoring as a part of the educational process used to be viewed as a matter that was left to enthusiastic individuals, who took on the role with the best of intentions and very often filled it quite successfully, but not always in the most effective manner.” So says Dr. Thomas Lerche of the Faculty for Psychology and Education, who is a member of the first class to enroll in the TutorPlus program, set up last year as part of the initiative Lehre@LMU with support from the nationwide “Pact for Quality Teaching”. Lerche himself has been involved in online tutoring for 10 years, but he decided to take the course because he expects definite benefits from it. “When one has ploughed a lonely furrow for 10 years, the mistakes that one is making tend to drop out of sight. That is why the supervision provided by experienced trainers and coaches in the context of TutorPlus is so valuable,” he explains.
Comprehensive and structured
In the past, tutor training at LMU, where it existed at all, had emerged in response to localized initiatives, and not in accordance with a preconceived model that could serve the needs of all faculties. Each faculty had its own approach and every subject did its own thing. TutorPlus was specifically designed to provide the elements of structure and integration to the task of training tutors that had previously been lacking. Since last September, the 11 members of the first class to take the course - each of them a specialist in his or her own field - are now busily engaged in learning how one sets about producing effective tutors. The course lasts for a full year. But, as project leader Dr. Andreas Hendrich points out, this is time well spent. “The challenges presented by the course should not be underestimated. Above all, it demands of the participants a complete change in their perspective on their own role. They are now called upon, not to teach biology, say, but to teach others how to teach biology, which is a very different kettle of fish.”
For this reason, he says, those interested in taking part in the program should have previous experience in teaching at a university level, and of course they should bring along the necessary idealism and a sense of what good teaching should look like. Hendrich heads the language laboratory (“Sprachraum”) at LMU. He and his team developed the TutorPlus concept and are also responsible for coordinating the program.
The need for good tutor trainers will increase in the coming years. “To a large extent, today’s tutors are tomorrow’s lecturers,” says Professor Martin Wirsing, Vice-President for Teaching and Studies at LMU. “It is therefore high time to begin preparing them systematically for their future teaching duties and establishing standards for their own training. We are very pleased that TutorPlus – like all the other initiatives undertaken in the context of Lehre@LMU – has got off to such a flying start.” cg
To find out more about what tutor training actually entails, have a look at their website (in German).