Fellowship supports vital tutoring resource

Issue: Volume 95, Number 11

Posted: 20 June 2016
Reference #: 1H9d2T

Launched in 1998, the Beeby Fellowship is awarded every two years and supports the development of educational resources drawn from research. Jesse Pirini was named 2014-15 Beeby Fellow and has been developing a tutoring resource for schools and community groups.

The Beeby Fellowship is a joint initiative between the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO and the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER). The Fellowship was first awarded in 1998 and is named after Dr Clarence Beeby, who in 1934 became the first director of NZCER, and was assistant director-general of UNESCO from 1948-49.

The Fellowship is open to New Zealand-based educators working in early childhood, primary, secondary, tertiary, or adult and community sectors.

The Fellow receives a grant of $30,000, with the recipient expected to spend several months developing resources drawn from their research. It’s aimed at people already actively involved in an innovative educational programme and is intended to enable them to document, analyse, and write a resource about their work. The end result should enhance classroom practice and students’ learning. NZCER provides advice and publishes the resource, provided it meets NZCER standards.

The topic of the research should align with at least one of the strategic priorities of the NZ National Commission for UNESCO, which are updated regularly.

Supporting students to support others

Jesse Pirini (Ngati Tūwharetoa, Whakatohea) was named 2014-15 Beeby Fellow to continue his work in supporting schools, community groups and iwi to offer tutoring for students.

The award has allowed Jesse to write a book that provides a practical training programme for peer tutors in secondary, tertiary and community education. He believes tutoring can make a real difference for students and he is motivated to make tutoring programmes more accessible, particularly in low socioeconomic areas.

This work is informed by his prior research. In 2015 Jesse completed a PhD on the role of tutoring in secondary and tertiary education. He is now undertaking post-doctoral research in multimodality and social interaction at AUT, but his interest in tutoring was sparked at Victoria University, where he worked with a Māori student support service.

In this capacity he was exposed to good coaching strategies, but found that students were looking for support with the actual skills of studying, rather than content knowledge.

“It was often ‘what is it that I’m supposed to be doing with the knowledge’, rather than, say, ‘what was Caesar’s last battle?,” he says.

“All students can benefit from that stuff in general, so the one-on-one coaching from an experienced student can be really helpful."

“It’s not about replacing teaching, but rather helping students reflect on their learning, and reflect on how they’ve done in class and assessments. That idea of having a growth mindset, reflecting on what’s been learned, that process works very well in a one-on-one setting. And it works best when you have a good relationship with the tutor.”

Jesse has been involved with his small business Pencilcase Tutoring for five years. Pencilcase provides an online platform for tertiary students to list their services as tutors, as well as training to help them refine their teaching skills.

Secondary students and their parents can then find a tutor in their area and pay them directly for each session.

“Pencilcase for me is about sharing really good tutoring, and helping students support each other,” says Jesse.

“Being awarded the Beeby Fellowship has meant that I’ve been able to spend energy and time creating a resource from what I’ve learned setting up the service, and share this knowledge much more widely than I would have been able to before.”

A good tutor

Good tutoring comprises two key elements, says Jesse.

One is about building a strong relationship with the student, which is based on a firm shared purpose between student and tutor, so it gives the student agency – establishing ‘why am I here for you?’, and ‘what’s the point of this arrangement?’.

The other is running well structured tutoring sessions that allow the student to find a balance between exploring their own learning (taking on agency within a session) and being provided with enough framework to explore in a place that’s safe and directed towards doing well in their course.

“The thing I’ve found is that most people, if they want to tutor, will be pretty good at it. But this is about giving them extra tools and training to help with the relationship building and session structuring elements, and to really think about what will most help a particular student.”

The training that Jesse has developed has two modes of delivery: a face-to-face workshop, which helps the tutors hone their skills in a supportive environment, and an online course, which brings together his extensive experience and research in effective tutoring.

The resource he has created with the support of the Beeby Fellowship is a book focused on improving peer tutoring in schools, which will be available later this year. Containing practical guidelines and case studies, Jesse hopes the resource will encourage schools to set up tutoring programmes, and help existing programmes refine the tutoring services they offer.

A number of case studies he carried out with various school tutoring groups highlighted a lack of training for the tutors.

“Usually, these programmes match students up with their younger peers, such as year 12 and 13 students with year 9 and 10 students. It’s a great place to start, but it is quite informal."

“What I’m hoping is that by providing them with this book, it will help make the tutoring more directed. Hopefully the teacher or students in charge of tutoring programmes will find it useful and pick out bits from it they find suitable for their school."

“We’ve also started offering peer tutor training for schools to go along with the book,” he adds.

The resource also highlights community tutoring programmes, including one for Afghan refugees navigating the New Zealand school system, and an iwi group that is working in forestry management. Jesse hopes the resource will help communities develop and sustain their own tutoring programmes.

“I have a vision of supporting schools, community groups and iwi to develop world-class tutoring programmes in their region.”

Taking inspiration

Jesse believes the Beeby Fellowship has helped him solidify his ideas and use his knowledge and skills to make a difference.

“With the support of the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO and NZCER, the award has really helped me focus my work and apply my skills to make a useful contribution,” he says.

“By going through the application process, you might think ‘who cares about what I’m doing? What contribution can I make?'"

“It’s a significant award, it’s enough time and money to produce something substantial. You might be able to take time off and really achieve something you have in mind.”

Previous Beeby Fellows: 7

2012: Caroline Yoon, University of Auckland
2010: Faye Parkhill, Canterbury University
2009: Samuel Mann, Otago Polytechnic
2007: Deborah Fraser, University of Waikato
2005: Jannie van Hees, University of Auckland Faculty of Education
2003: Jedd Bartlett, Kuranui College, Greytown
2002: Anne Sturgess, Hamilton Boys’ High School
2000: Neil Potter, Tweedsmuir Junior High School, Invercargill
1999: Cheryl Doig, Richmond School, Christchurch
1998: Maureen Wilson, Auckland Girls’ Grammar

BY Melissa Wastney
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 10:33 pm, 20 June 2016

Get new listings like these in your email
Set up email alerts