Lesson 2 - Role of the Adult Literacy Volunteer Tutor Illinois State Library


A learner-centered approach to adult literacy tutoring is a method that begins by identifying the needs of the adult learner and then uses that information to plan the tutoring experience to meet those needs. This method implies that tutors understand that the adult learner should be an active participant in the teaching / learning experience. Learners must be an integral part of the planning and decision making process. For example, when a tutor asks the adult learner which instructional materials to use during their tutoring session, that tutor has given the learner decision-making power over their instruction and has used a learner-centered approach. This approach helps build a strong partnership between the volunteer tutor and the adult learner.

Learning takes time. Most adult learners have many barriers that can impact their ability to reach their educational goal. In the short term, those barriers may impact whether they attend the tutoring sessions ready to learn. Tutors may find themselves asking questions such as: "Does my time really matter?", "Am I doing my best?", "What am I doing wrong?". In order to be a successful tutor, you need to know that learning is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Your time and efforts are valued by the adult literacy program and the adult learner. You may need to have patience with both the adult learner and yourself. Remember: throughout your tutoring experience, your adult literacy program is available to offer you support.

Understanding and Respect
In order to enjoy the tutoring experience and help the learner reach their ultimate goals, you need to demonstrate understanding and respect for the adult learner's life experiences and educational goals. Developing the ability to empathize with your learner's life and educational situation is crucial.

Creativity and Adaptability
In order to meet the educational needs of the adult learner, you need to incorporate a variety of instructional materials and resources into the tutoring sessions. (Instructional strategies are included in Lessons 6 through 10). In addition, every adult learner has his or her own style of learning. As an effective adult literacy tutor, you need to be open-minded and willing to try new ideas to fit your learner's style and individual needs.

Sense of Humor
Because learning can take a great deal of time and energy, adult learners may sometimes feel tense and frustrated. You can incorporate humor into the tutoring session by sharing an appropriate joke, comic, or funny story. Be extremely careful not to mistake humor with sarcasm. Sarcasm is destructive to the tutor/learner relationship. Also, it is vital to understand that humor is culturally based. If you are concerned the humor may be inappropriate, don't use it.

Organizational Skills
Many adult learners lack basic organizational skills. By being prepared, having your materials ready, and beginning and ending the lesson on time, you are not only using your time well, you are modeling organizational skills.

Enthusiasm and Commitment
An effective tutor uses genuine praise to keep an adult learner encouraged. It helps adult learners to feel a specific sense of accomplishment after each lesson.

This training provides basic knowledge of the process of adult reading and language acquisition. To further develop your skills and knowledge attend additional workshops, start discussions with other tutors and ask your program coordinator questions.

The tutor honors the adult learner's right to privacy. The volunteer protects the confidentiality of the tutoring situation and keeps any personal information confidential. The tutor respects the confidentiality of the other tutor-learner relationships.