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reed magazine logoJune 2010

Sharpening Skills at the DoJo continued

The DoJo boasts a roster of over 200 student-tutors, each required to receive a faculty recommendation and maintain a 3.0 GPA. The tutors run drop-in sessions and one-to-one tutorials. And tutees aren’t the only ones to benefit from the arrangement. Aside from earning about $9 per hour, tutors reap academic benefits as well, deepening their own understanding of the material in their subject areas, even helping prepare themselves for the junior qualifying exams. For those tutors who might be considering careers in academia (this being Reed, there are quite a few), the experience gives them a taste of what it is like to teach.

The tutees surveyed last fall rated their experience an average of 4.36 on a 1–5 scale, with one indicating “terrible” and five “excellent.”

Dojo Academic Resource Center

PHOTO BY ORIN ZYVAN

The DoJo provides peer tutoring in a “more thoughtful and productive way” than past efforts, says Professor Arthur Glasfeld, who has referred his chemistry students as both tutees and tutors.

“I can’t think of a year when I’ve had a stronger group of seniors (majoring in chemistry), and each of them is a tutor at the DoJo and each of them has gotten tutoring at the DoJo,” he says.

Glasfeld’s only concern—relatively minor, he says, but shared by some of his colleagues—is that “the better the DoJo gets, the less likely students are to turn to faculty for assistance with their coursework.”

Of course, seesions at the DoJo are not intended as a substitute for face-to-facetime with faculty, any more than they will replace midnight dorm debates about Aristotle. The DoJo is designed to complement the work students do with their professors. Sometimes students will seek out a tutor when they’re too intimidated to talk to a professor. A session hashing out ideas with the tutor is often the confidence boost a student needs to go to his or her professor’s office. In fact, tutors frequently refer students back to their professors.

The center is nimble about responding to the needs of students, making sure to provide extra staffing the nights before big papers or weekly problem sets are due. At faculty request, the staff will even organize miniworkshops designed to address specific issues their classes are struggling with—a session reviewing linear equations for an introductory chemistry course, for example. As a result, professors don’t have to spend valuable class time rehashing basic concepts.

Physics professor Mary James often suggests that her students and advisees make the DoJo part of their regular routine. They can get help with homework, she says, and at the same time pick up important time management and study skills.

“It really is one-stop shopping,” James says. “Of course, they should think of professors as their first resource, but it is valuable to have another place where they can go . . . There are nuts-and-bolts skills students need to be successful, and they can get those at the DoJo.”

The DoJo is also a useful resource for students with learning disabilities. Often, students first realize they may have a learning disability when they arrive at college and start to struggle.

“(The disability) may have never gotten in their way before because they were able to compensate,” Copenagle says. “Say you’re a slow visual processor. You may have never thought it was a big deal until you get to Reed and you have to do 400 pages of reading a night. All of a sudden, you think, ‘Why can’t I keep up?’ You may have a reading disability . . . Here we can key you into the right resources to help.”

reed magazine logoJune 2010