When the pandemic began, students’ lives were turned upside down, and their education experiences were immediately moved to virtual learning. Concern and conversations sprouted up among Illinois State University faculty and staff regarding what could be done to support students’ learning while ensuring the University was still preparing teacher candidates in the best way possible. Enter E-tutoring.
In spring 2020, all teacher candidates had to be removed from face-to-face experiences in classrooms. While student teachers were able to return to a mixture of face-to-face and remote teaching environments in fall 2020, teacher candidates in the semesters prior to their student teaching experience were no longer able to have a typical clinical experience, due to rules from schools and the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Clinical experiences are key for teacher candidates to get hands on teaching prior to being fully immersed in a classroom setting during student teaching. With the loss of these important face-to-face clinical experiences, some sort of meaningful experience was needed.
A COLLABORATIVE FOUNDATION
Teacher education programs throughout the country were experiencing the same issues, and Dr. Linda Haling ’93, M.S. ’96, Ed. D. ’05, dean of the College of Education and Human Services at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, reached out to her alma mater and former colleagues in the School of Teaching and Learning to discuss the possibility of joining their consortium for E-tutoring.
Initial conversations were fruitful, but the strong Redbird commitment to support local communities led to the creation of the Illinois State University E-tutoring system.
Faculty and staff in teacher education programs across the University came together throughout the summer of 2020 to develop a program that would serve local students and provide clinical opportunities for teacher candidates. Members of the planning committee worked extensively with general counsel to ensure that all legal needs were met. Additionally, Illinois State Board of Education staff were extremely helpful in streamlining approval processes, including adding E-tutoring as one of several additional clinical opportunities during the pandemic.
A TEAM EFFORT OF TRAINING
“Faculty from the Lab Schools, the School of Teaching and Learning, the Department of Special Education, and other teacher education programs were all a huge part of getting clinical students ready to tutor. The importance of having faculty participating in the development of these trainings was key to the success of the E-tutoring program,” said Jill Donnel, M.S. ’06, assistant director and undergraduate program coordinator for the School of Teaching and Learning.
Faculty wanted to ensure that their teacher candidates had the necessary support to serve their students in the best way possible, especially given this new mode of virtual learning. To prepare the clinical students, thorough training modules were developed. These online modules created an easy way for clinical students to complete all necessary forms and provided numerous training videos and other resources to assist the clinical students.
“It was so rewarding to work alongside interventionists from the Lab Schools to create and edit instructional videos that would help to prepare our clinical students to engage in virtual instruction with students across Illinois,” said Dr. Deborah MacPhee, professor in the School of Teaching and Learning and director of the Mary and Jean Borg Center for Reading and Literacy.
Once students received their training, the E-tutoring program was rolled out to area districts near the Normal campus. Illinois State tutors were matched with local students who expressed a need for tutoring. The results proved the program was a necessity within the community to support local students across age groups and subject areas, with more than 500 tutoring requests during the first semester of E-tutoring. The program continued to be offered in spring 2021.
A SHOW OF SUPPORT
“E-tutoring has been dually beneficial to our teacher candidates and teacher education programs for the valuable experience as well as to the community by providing tremendous support to students,” said Dr. Christy Borders, director of the Cecilia J. Lauby Teacher Education Center.
Another value of the program is the flexibility it provides for teacher education faculty to drop in on live sessions or review recorded sessions later to help provide valuable feedback to teacher candidates as they work with their students.
“We are very excited to fulfill a need of the community so quickly through this E-tutoring program. As a parent of a participating student, I saw firsthand the impact of the school changes on K-12 learners as well as the challenge it was for parents to try and provide this extra support in addition to their normal responsibilities. E-tutoring has been able to help both students and parents during this challenging time,” said Sara Porter ‘04, M.S. ’09, coordinator of clinical experiences and student affairs for the Department of Special Education.
It’s no surprise that creators of the program have seen the value of the E-tutoring program during these times, but those who have been directly involved in the day-to-day interactions have also sung its praises:
“This is our second semester using E-tutoring, and our experience has been phenomenal. Our son loves the one-on-one attention. Both our tutors have strived to review relevant content based upon his needs and have done an excellent job keeping the sessions fun. We look forward to these sessions each week.”—Darci Lindstrom, parent of a first grader
“I was really impressed with how our tutor made it a priority to get to know our son. She was able to use that connection to give him relatable examples and help him stay focused. In the midst of COVID and homeschooling, he needed to hear another voice besides his parents. I appreciated her patience and the support she gave to help him grow in his math and reading skills. We are very grateful for this program.”—Amanda Reynolds, parent of a second grader
“I tutored a middle school student in social sciences, and I was able to learn the important lesson of getting to know my student to build a trust first, which helped her to engage more with me. This was a great opportunity and it gave me ideas for ways of teaching that I will use later.” —Tutor Dayna Frio, senior history education major from St. Charles
To find out about the E-tutoring program, email us at EdbirdTutoring@IllinoisState.edu.
A special thanks to the members of the E-tutoring Planning Committee:
Cecilia J. Lauby Teacher Education Center: Dr. Christy Borders, Jill Janes
School of Teaching and Learning: Jill Donnel, Dr. Deborah MacPhee, Amy Tellor
Department of Special Education: Dr. Tara Kaczorowski, Sara Porter
Laboratory Schools: April Davenport, Teresa Fitzgerald, Christine Paxson
Department of History: Dr. Monica Noraian