Separating Learning Assistance and Tutoring

November
2011
Ray Sanchez, Standards and Practices Committee past member, Fresno City College

The draft recommendations of the SB 1143 Student Success Task Force (September 30, 2011) cover a wide range of issues, several of them touching on ways to improve the delivery of basic skills instruction. However, the task force recommendations do not address one important aspect of this issue that could have a profound influence on student success: the revision of minimum qualifications for learning assistance coordinators and instructors.

The minimum qualifications (MQs) for learning assistance coordinators and instructors are not listed in the Disciplines List because they directly embodied in Title 5 §53415. Moreover, in addition to the MQs, an exception is found in §53415 that states the MQs for these positions are only required if apportionment is claimed. Given the completely distinct and separate instructional function and pedagogical process between “Learning Assistance” and “Tutoring,” and given that the duties and functions of tutorial center coordination are broad and principally instructional in nature, the following solutions are suggested:

  • Move the MQs from Title 5 §53415 to the Disciplines List and thereby under the purview of faculty.
  • Separate the two qualification areas “Learning Assistance” and “Tutoring” (tutorial center coordination) so that each would have its own MQs.
  • Eliminate the MQ exception. By eliminating this provision colleges could not hire non-certificated employees as Tutorial Coordinators or Learning Assistance instructors.

 

DEFINING OUR TERMS1
“Learning Assistance” is assistance that is offered in learning labs or similar venues and is always linked to a primary/parent course. The learning assistance is then

  1. required component of the primary/parent course for all students in that course; or,
  2. optional and provided through an open entry/open exit course (can be linked to multiple courses)

“Tutoring, when provided by the college, shall be considered a method of instruction that involves a student tutor who has been successful in a particular subject or discipline, or who has demonstrated a particular skill, and who has received specific training in tutoring methods and who assists one or more students in need of special supplemental instruction in the subject or skill.” Title 5 §58168

 

WHY SEPARATE LEARNING ASSISTANCE AND TUTORING?
The endeavor of learning assistance really has nothing to do with tutorial services. Separating the minimum qualifications and apportionment requirements from each other will help clear the muddy waters. And, as is explained below, changes can then be made to one or both that best benefit students and fit with the letter and spirit of the regulations and guidelines for each.

APPOINTMENT
There are multiple requirements to claim apportionment (Title 5 §58170), particularly for tutoring, which include a list of eight required conditions. For example, “All students receiving individual tutoring have enrolled in a noncredit course carrying Taxonomy of Programs number 4309.09, which is entitled Supervised Tutoring,” “The designated learning center is supervised by a person who meets the minimum qualifications prescribed by section 53415,” and “All tutors successfully complete instruction in tutoring methods.” However, for those paying close attention, the Student Success Task Force made the recommendation to remove the requirement to tie supplemental instruction (since the task force specifically cites Title 5 Section 58080 and 58172 this means “Learning Assistance”) to specific courses in hopes of increasing instructional flexibility for basic skills students. Will implementing this recommendation further confuse colleges? Will the only difference between tutoring and supplemental instruction be their credit/noncredit status and funding rates? Without ties to specific courses, what are the MQs for supplemental instruction? Why would we keep noncredit tutoring if credit supplemental instruction might accomplish the same thing at higher funding rates?

REMOVING THE MQ CAVEAT
Title 5 §53415, in addition to outlining the explicit minimum qualifications, includes a distinctive and, indeed, vexing final sentence: Minimum qualifications do not apply to tutoring or learning assistance for which no apportionment is claimed. Obviously, this statement means that minimum qualifications are only necessary if a campus wants to claim apportionment. A further implication, however, is that the same duties, including tutor training and the intended result of tutoring, namely an increase in student success, are not valued to the same degree if apportionment is not claimed. In other words, do we see the activities and duties of a Tutorial Coordinator as a faculty position simply because apportionment can be claimed? Or, rather, within the confines of minimum qualifications, while allowing for individual campuses to hire individuals with additional specific content area backgrounds, should the broad duties of tutorial coordination best be handled by a faculty member? The Academic Senate says “Yes!” (Resolution 10.12 S11)


1 Minimum Qualifications for Faculty and Administrators in California Community Colleges (Disciplines List) uses: Learning Assistance Instructors; Title 5 §53415 uses: Learning Assistance or Learning Skills Coordinators or Instructors, and Tutoring Coordinators; and the June 2006 Regulations and Guidelines, a Chancellor’s Office interpretation of the pertinent Title 5 regulations, uses: Supplemental Learning Assistance and Tutoring.

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