Misconceptions Behind Underuse of Learning Lab

The tutoring labs, known at IAIA as the Learning Lab and the Peer Tutoring Lab, are a free resource on campus, yet the Lab remains underutilized.  Tutors and peer tutors are on hand the entire day and often, even later, to provide assistance in these areas. However, according to statistics provided by the Learning Lab, only about 25 percent of the IAIA student body has attended or regularly attends the Learning Lab.

What’s stopping the other 75 percent?

No One-Trick Pony

Some classes or assignments may not require a tutoring session, especially if the student grasps the content and has the skill set to complete the assignments on their own.

“I don’t really attend the Learning Lab because I’m in studio classes,” said studio arts major, Jonathan Judkins.

However, the Learning Lab is no one-trick pony.

“In addition to the basic one-on-one tutoring sessions”, said Learning Lab director Jeminie Shell, “the Learning Lab also supports scholarship essay writing, GRE [Graduate Record Exam] writing, and help with time management.”

The Lab provides help in every academic field: all math and science, business, writing of all kinds, and technology to help a student grasp Word, Excel, Cloud or any other programs with which they have difficulty.

“I go every week, usually two or three times,” said Justina Bruns,indigenous liberal studies major and resident assistant. “It helps me stay focused and organized. I want to be prepared for graduate school.”

She said she feels the midterm and finals workshops hosted by the Learning Lab have also helped her prepare for grad school in addition to the tutoring sessions.

Common Misperceptions

While some of the underutilization may be due to a lack of need, some of it has been expressed as insecurity when it comes to reaching out.

“I don’t like people to think I need help,” said Vikinz Joanis, freshman business student. “I want to feel like I know what I’m doing.”

It is not uncommon to come across a student that will express fear that their paper is “too bad” and that they will be humiliated in the tutoring lab. But writing specialist and former educator, Matt Fontis, works to put these insecurities to rest.

Fontis expressed that what students perceive as “bad” usually means the paper is simply disorganized and requires direction from a writing tutor.

“Let’s assume a student comes in with a paper that’s going in a few different directions, which is common. I would think if you looked at your paper and thought, ”˜Wow, something’s wrong with this,’ that’s even more of a reason to come in,” said Fontis.

He added, “A tutor can look at your paper and say, ”˜Okay, this is what’s good about your paper, this is where you’re getting off-track, and here’s how you can redirect your paper so it makes more sense.”

Dissipating Fears

Furthermore, he wanted to let students know that it is mostly A and B students who attend the Lab, so any worries students might have about not being bright enough are unfounded.

“Those are natural fears,” said Fontis, “I’m not putting them down. But I think if [students] just give it one try, a lot of those fears will dissipate.”

However, at least one student feels that there is a lack of discretion when it comes to attending the Learning Lab. “The teachers get told that you go to the Learning Lab,” said one freshman, who wished to remain anonymous. “In class they will mention that you went to the Learning Lab and I don’t think you should necessarily say that in class.”

On a similar note, Shell said that the Lab is phasing out the reservation whiteboard, and appointments are now being done online using reservation software. She explained that students’ need for privacy was the motivation behind the switch.

Worth a Try

One very important aspect that the Learning Lab uses to gauge its success and the effect it has had on students is the assessment that’s been conducted for the past three years on graduating seniors.

Assessment findings show that students that voluntarily sought assistance from the Learning Lab were 20 to 40 percent more likely to pass the class than students in the same class that did not attend the Learning Lab.

Tutoring is worth a try, for as Fontis points out  , “There’s nothing worse than staring at a blank piece of paper.”



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