Volunteer-based programs and Teaching Adults to Read course

Hello, all! I am curious to hear from others who have no paid instructors. All of our tutors are volunteers, and while the new course looks amazing, is easy to use, and has a plethora of great resources attached, most of our volunteers wouldn't go through it. Some think our one-day training is too much. When we offer continuing ed's around subjects they ask for, they don't attend those. (and we even do them at breweries:) ! ) We have some that are more than amazing and keep up with new strategies, learn more, and keep in touch with us. And of course, some of this is expected and just fine when working with volunteers. 

What's great about the course is that it doesn't focus on using a workbook. We do not use them, instead we focus on interests and motivations and use reading strategies so the tutors can use whatever materials the learners would like. 

So I think questions for volunteer-based programs:

Do your volunteer tutors attend continuing ed? If so, what has been successful in getting them there? 

Do you use longer, in-depth courses like Teaching Adults to Read? If so, what is the response from volunteers?

What materials do your volunteers use in sessions? 

Thank you! 


Hi, Stacy!

Literacy NY, where I work, supports about 40 sites across New York State that provide adult literacy instruction to over 2500 (in a typical year!) adult learners. Most sites have volunteers providing instruction. The programs we support are state funded, which means they have to comply with state accountability standards, including benchmarks for educational gain, in order to maintain their funding. So, the programs have to ensure that their tutors are providing evidence-based, effective instruction. Tutors also have to stay in contact with their programs, so that programs can gather the data they need for good program management. 

Offering continuing adult ed to tutors is challenging, and I can share a few things that have worked for programs. One common "best practice" is that tutors are told from the very beginning of their service with programs that they are expected to attend professional development. Some programs make attending in-services a specific requirement for volunteer tutors, and a condition of continuing to work with students at their programs-- programs have tutors sign contracts agreeing to a certain number of hours of in-services each year. And, yes, programs have 'fired' tutors who did not comply...

I don't see programs using in-depth courses like Teaching Adults to Read-- TAR (great course!), but offering shorter, online learning opportunities, or 1 to 2 hour 'in person' sessions on things like Vocabulary, etc.  Breaking up the TAR course could work, 'chunking' it into shorter sessions offered over a period of time. We have had success offering multi-part webinars focused upon a single subject, like Learning Disabilities, with "homework" between sessions.  When the tutors walk away with something they can use in their next tutoring session, they are more eager to attend more PD.

Our tutors are trained to use strategies that work with any kind of course material, from a driver's license manual to practice GED tests. A course like TAR is ideal for that kind of teaching, as it offers strategy-based teaching, building a toolbox for tutors.

I'd love to hear how others are motivating volunteer tutors to engage in ongoing PD-- and I think the brewery idea is a great one!