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Volunteer tutor programs : time for a closer analysis : a description, summary and evaluation of aspects of various volunteer tutor programs operating in Tasmanian schools, with particular reference to roles of co-ordinators and tutors, and the influence of gender factors.


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Harvey-Latham, Sue 1995 , 'Volunteer tutor programs : time for a closer analysis : a description, summary and evaluation of aspects of various volunteer tutor programs operating in Tasmanian schools, with particular reference to roles of co-ordinators and tutors, and the influence of gender factors.', Unspecified thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Introduction - definition of tutor programs, reasons for
starting tutor programs, aims of this report and sources of
information used.
An important focus of my teaching for the last three years has been
volunteer tutor programs. These are programs in which community
volunteers assist in schools by tutoring students who are not usually
their own children. Generally these volunteers are given some sort of
'training' (although this varies), and they work within the school on a
regular timetable.
My first involvement with volunteer tutor programs was as a
teacher/co-ordinator, initiating a tutor program at a country high
school, Huonville High School, in 1992. Since mid 1993, I have worked
for the Hartz Support School. This school was established in 1991 to
assist all students with special needs who are enrolled in normal schools
in the Hartz District -one of the seven school districts in Tasmania. This
is in fact all students with special needs - there are no special schools
in this district. The philosophy of inclusion is fundamental to the work
of Hartz Support School (HSS) staff. An important part of our work in
these first years, has been to help teachers set up and monitor tutor
In 1992, I thought the idea of using volunteers to tutor students was a
new area. Yet, although I wasn't aware of it at the time, other teachers
around Tasmania, and Australia, were also using volunteer tutor
programs. It was a time of government cutbacks in educational
expenditure, and yet it seemed to many teachers that some of our
students had needs which were perhaps greater than ever. There were
still students with learning problems, and a growing group of students
whose ability to learn effectively was adversely influenced by social,
economic, emotional or family problems. These students often needed
more intensive work and attention, either individually or in small
groups, and many teachers felt frustrated because the resources for this
kind of teaching were not readily available.
Many students had low literacy skills, and this meant that their work in
all subject areas was at risk Most volunteer tutor programs, therefore, asked tutors to help students with reading and writing, but some schools,
especially those in isolated areas, asked for volunteers to help in
subjects as diverse as French, Art, Cooking and Tae Kwon Do! Many of
these schools had only a small number of teachers, so needed to rely on
community expertise to provide the varied curriculum possible in
larger schools.
Neither this report, nor the research preceding it, is the work of an
objective outsider. As teachers initiating tutor programs we all made
mistakes; we quickly found out what worked and what did not. You
learn quickly when you are working with volunteers who do not have
to keep turning up, and who are free to tell you exactly what they think
and what they want, without fear of losing their jobs! For all of us it was
action research in a real situation, and the end results had to be right.
Many teachers used models taken from other parts of Australia as the
starting point for their tutor programs. Finding out about these models
was usually the first part of our research. Some schools continued to
use a particular program (eg. LAP) with only minor modifications.
Other schools developed tutor programs which combined ideas from the
different models with new structures developed in response to the
school's needs. This aim of this dissertation will be to provide a detailed description and
commentary of aspects of volunteer tutor programs in all parts of
Tasmania, although at times it may seem that the emphasis is on tutor
programs in the Hartz District. As I have mentioned, there has been
considerable sharing of ideas and resources from around the State. This
means that although the tutor programs in Hartz have been heavily
influenced by the HSS, the HSS staff in turn have collected materials
and methods from all parts of Tasmania, from the rest of Australia and
indeed the rest of the world.
Through networks such as the Commonwealth Literacy and Learning
Key Teacher Program, many teachers involved in tutor programs have
been able to pool their knowledge and share their ideas. As ideas
spread, and schools started experimenting, many of these co-ordinators
and support teachers felt they were starting to obtain some useful information. There was, however, no co-ordinating person to start
gathering this material and writing it down.
In 1993, some schools, including the Hartz Support School, started
surveying some of their co-ordinators and tutors. Some re-testing of
students on the program was also carried out by HSS staff in 1993.
Again, we did not have time to do more than glance at most of this
information, although it was reassuring to note that most
results/comments were positive.
In 1994, Hugo McCann provided a useful overview of tutor programs in
many Tasmanian schools as part of his Evaluation Report of the
Commonwealth Literacy and Learning Program. This was the first
acknowledgement of the proliferation of tutor programs throughout the
State. Through surveys of teachers involved, McCann also made the
first attempt to judge the effectiveness of the programs.
By late 1994, it was obvious that many schools throughout Tasmania had
established tutor programs. Some co-ordinators made an effort to
inform DEA personnel about what was going on. Meetings of coordinators
were held and some of the DEA 's top managers were invited.
Generally they seemed impressed with what they were hearing,
although they expressed the desire for further information.
I hope this dissertation will meet the need for further information. I
will attempt to accurately recount the views of many teachers, coordinators
and tutors involved in these programs. I shall also provide a
full description of the roles of people involved in tutor programs, and to
make some evaluation of their effectiveness. It is hoped that this
commentary will assist other schools wishing to set up or maintain their
own tutor programs, and will also provide the DEA with suggestions on
establishing state wide support structures for tutor programs.
I have used a variety of sources. Appendix 1 gives information
requested from schools by Graham Harrington, Deputy Secretary of the
DEA. Schools were asked to indicate whether tutor programs operated in
their schools, and to estimate the numbers of students involved. Some
schools were obviously uncertain about what constituted a tutor program, and many did not answer the survey. (The returns for one
entire district were not available.) Nevertheless, this DEA survey did
demonstrate that a large number of schools used some type of volunteer
tutor program.
This dissertation is concerned with describing tutor programs which
focus on teaching literacy skills. It should be recognised, however, that
many schools have extended volunteer tutoring to include a range of
subjects and a wealth of community knowledge. While many of the
sections on literacy in this report may not be relevant to these schools,
there should be much information about tutor programs in general
which everyone connected with tutor programs could find of interest.

Item Type: Thesis - Unspecified
Authors/Creators:Harvey-Latham, Sue
Keywords: Tutors and tutoring, Volunteer workers in education
Copyright Holders: The Author
Additional Information:

Includes bibliographical references (leaves 119-125). Thesis (M.Ed.St.)--University of Tasmania, 1996

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