Seeking best practices for volunteer tutor PD

Hello Colleagues,

In September, I will present a session at Proliteracy's National Conference on easy, cheap and effective PD for volunteer tutors. As the Program Manager of Washtenaw Literacy, I'm proud of the work our agency has done in this area but would love to hear about your experiences and best practices. Thank you for sharing!

Alison Austin


We've started using the online training series offered through Literacy New York called Intakes to Outcomes as part of our training process.  They do a great job of outlining the basic instructional ideas and giving videos of tutors actually using the techniques being taught with real learners.  After completing the session, tutors can look back for reference at videos and printables.  It's not perfect, but with an orientation to introduce and contextualize the online training in the context of our program and then reduced in-person training after, it's been a good fit for us.  You can check them out at

Thanks Josh.  This does look helpful and will be an interesting option/addition for us.  It's good to hear that you and others have found it effective with volunteers.

Hi Alison, 

How do you facilitate new tutor training? And what do you think about using resources like Facebook to create dynamic group discussions and the ability to share resources? Training is a very broad concept.  Are you looking for initial training, ongoing training, or targeting a very specific instructional concept? When I worked at a local adult education program, we had a volunteer tutoring program and all tutors were required to participate in a 12 hour face to face training. We found that this didn't work -  volunteers all couldn't make the same times, or they were not interested in the full day of training. We modified this to include a hybrid type of training.  For example, we did a variety of 'activiites' targeting a very specific theme. These quick morning coffee discussions or after hours scheduled a few times a month helped volunteers build a rapport and sense of connection with other volunteers and the program while getting the leadership support they needed. 

I'd love to hear more ideas and learn a bit about  the information you will share at the conference. 

Kathy Tracey


Hi Kathy,

Yes, we require an initial training of 15 face to face hours for our Personal Tutors (we also have a tutoring option that is "quick start" because it is supervised in small groups).  We have a repertoire of ongoing Professional Development for tutors, but I'm always looking for more ways to reach more people more effectively. 

Tutor Shares are drop-in and usually at a coffee shop.  They are "hosted" by another volunteer (who doesn't plan anything, they are just there to welcome people).  Conversation is driven by whoever shows up.  No agenda.  Just sharing.  Very practical and problem solving between tutors.  Offered 1-2/month.

Tutor Forums are more structured.  There is a topic which is based on the tutor's response to an online video or an article.  Discussion is facilitated by an experienced tutor who is well-versed in our educational philosophy and research-based andragogy.  Often, the most theoretical or abstract.  Offered 1-2/month.

Tutor Workshops are the most formal and are facilitated by staff or a local expert.  It is very conference workshop like.  PowerPoint.  Discussion.  Focus on application of information in your next tutors session.  Offered 1/month.



For what it's worth, resources I've gathered for working with library/community ESOL volunteers:  The workshops are face to face; the site is designed to provide reference materials and to pull together resources we discuss and those we might not have time to cover.  

Janet Isserlis


Tutor Ready is a free online resource that could be used as PD or as a support for tutors already tutoring. Here's a description from the website at

  • A question and answer format that focuses on specific reading skills in each of the components of reading
  • Practical, research-based explanations, suggestions and strategies for assessing and tutoring adult learners
  • Examples of how to use recommended tutoring strategies
  • Video and audio demonstrations of tutoring techniques
  • Tutoring logs to keep track of reading lessons and progress

Hi Di,

We have used/recommended Tutor Ready.  We find many of our tutors are intimidated (sometimes before they ever try) by the technology, steps to signing up, navigating the system, etc.  We're holding a "computers for tutors" open house at our computer lab in the Fall.  We're hoping to get people signed up for Tutor Ready, LINCS and other services (including our fb and pinterest pages!).  I'll let you know if we have success.  (Those darned Boomers!  FULL DISCLOSURE - I'm a Boomer and sometimes get intimidated myself.)