Lesson 2 - Role of Adult Literacy Volunteer Tutors Illinois State Library

Tutor's Responsibilities

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At this point, you may have questions such as "Will I be good at this?", "Am I taking on more than I can handle?", "What if tutoring turns out to be more than I thought it would?" When you understand your responsibilities to the adult learner, to the agency with which you are volunteering, and their responsibilities to you, you will find answers to these questions. Consider the following scenario.


Louise began tutoring with an adult literacy program. She was initially partnered with James, a low literate adult who lost his factory job at the age of 60. While he was working, he had been able to financially support his three children as they each obtained a bachelor's degree. Then he supported his wife when she went to school to become a registered nurse. Now, James thought it was his turn to learn to read. Louise and James had their initial meeting with the Tutor Coordinator. Each week, Louise tried new materials and strategies. After several weeks of struggling, James began missing sessions. When the Tutor Coordinator called Louise to check in, she learned about the difficulties that Louise and James were having.

Questions for consideration as you work through this lesson:

Whose Responsibility Is It?

Read the short paragraphs below. After reading each one, think about whose responsibilities are described in the paragraph and choose the one best suited, either option A, B or C in the list that follows. At the end of the list, you will be able to click for the answers. You will not complete this list online, these questions are meant as a tool as you think about becoming a tutor.

  1. Responsibilities of Tutors to the Adult Learner,
  2. Responsibilities of Tutors to the Adult Literacy Agency or
  3. Responsibilities of the Adult Literacy Agency to the Tutors.


  1. Tutoring needs to begin with the learners. Earlier we mentioned that by taking a learner-centered approach, you demonstrate characteristics of a successful tutor. It is your responsibility to consider the learner's needs and incorporate them into the tutoring process. Furthermore, it is your responsibility to set the learning tasks and have appropriate materials ready so that the learner can achieve the goals of the lesson.
  2. Tutoring needs to build on the learner's strengths. In order to have successful experiences, and to be "good at tutoring", you need to emphasize and draw upon the learner's strengths. For example, if the adult learner enjoys cooking or working on automobiles, using reading materials such as cookbooks and automotive magazines will build on their existing strengths.
  3. Tutoring should be a partnership between the volunteer tutor, the adult learner, and the supporting agency. Learning does not occur in isolation: it is a collaborative process. By asking questions of the adult learner throughout the process, you are eliciting information and helping the learner make the move toward becoming a self-directed learner.
  4. An effective tutor will develop an array of strategies for tutoring through attending adult literacy tutor training and advanced workshops.
  5. Continue your training. Literacy programs offer multiple methods of training and support. Trainings will help you identify what is involved in tutoring an adult, and answer the questions, "Am I taking on more than I can handle?", or "What if tutoring turns out to be more than I thought it would?"
  6. Maintain communication with the literacy program. Throughout your volunteer experience, literacy programs will offer support through trainings and materials. However, you need to contact the office for specific requests so they can provide support.
  7. Provide necessary information for reporting purposes. Literacy programs have multiple funding sources and they routinely gather information as a method of program assessment, either for internal purposes or as required by their funding agencies. You provide the basic information each agency needs to report on the progress and challenges faced by the adult learner.
  8. Provide learner assessment as required by the funding agency. Adult literacy programs are responsible for providing initial and ongoing learner assessment, which will enable volunteer tutors to have the building blocks to begin a successful learning experience. Your agency will inform you whether initial or periodic assessment is your responsibility or their responsibility.
  9. Provide resources and tutoring materials. Adult literacy programs have a variety of instructional materials available and experts who can help locate or suggest appropriate reading materials.
  10. To provide continual support opportunities, through either individual meetings or specialized workshops. The literacy agencies will keep you informed of all upcoming training opportunities. In addition, they will be responsive to your needs and questions throughout your tutoring experience.


Tutor's Responsibilities - Reflective Activity

Take a minute to reflect on the list of responsibilities.

Consider the scenario of Louise and James. Based on the lists of responsibilities what could the tutor, Louise, have done differently? What could the learner, James, have done differently? What could the agency have done differently?

Compose an email to your trainer. Put the title, Tutor's Responsibilities-Reflective Activity in the subject line. Copy and paste the question into the body of the email. Then type in your answer and send it. Completing this assignment is a requirement of your training. Your trainer will respond to you through email.