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ERIC Number: ED547394
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 17
Abstractor: ERIC
ISBN: 0-9681034-4-8
Behaviour and Beliefs of Volunteer Literacy Tutors. Working Paper No. 3
Hambly, Catherine
Centre for Literacy
This is the third paper published by The Centre for Literacy in its Working Papers in Literacy series, which presents fresh perspectives on literacy-related issues. The topics are relevant both to other researchers, to practitioners in the field, and to policy-makers. This paper examines the behaviours and beliefs of a group of volunteer tutors to discover why they did not maintain close contact with their literacy organization. This study began with the assertion that tutors are important actors in the tutor-learner relationship, and that their beliefs and behaviour will affect the tutoring relationship. A better understanding of how and why tutors act in certain ways will help the volunteer programs improve training and support for their volunteers and could ultimately improve the quality of tutoring. After describing the tutors' behaviour in the matches with learners, the study draws a link from an apparent contradiction--that tutors desire to help their learners but are complacent about their learners' progress--to a belief system shared by these tutors. This shared belief system underlies their disinclination to receive support from the organization. The research was conducted using case-study methodology. Data were gathered during semi-structured interviews with eighteen tutors who were entering the program and being trained (4 individuals), those who had tutored for several months (10 individuals), and those who were learner-tutor coordinators (generally with a years' tutoring experience) (4 individuals). Participants in the first two groups were randomly selected, while in the last group all four learner-tutor coordinators agreed to participate. The four beliefs outlined in this paper are: (1) Tutors believe that a learner who does not succeed in a classroom learning format will be helped by one-on-one tutoring; (2) Tutors, while recognizing the wide variety of learner needs, rely on individual attention rather than specific training to function in the match; (3) Tutors value good will over good training; and (4) Tutors defend their volunteer activities based on perceived needs rather than demonstrable progress and results. The combination of these four beliefs creates tutors who feel inadequate yet who function independently because they are motivated and because they believe there is no one better volunteering for the job. These beliefs are traced back to the nature of the program: the volunteers have been told that they are essential to literacy provision, and they are not aware of other educational opportunities for their learners. Interview questions are appended.
Centre for Literacy. 2100 Marlowe Avenue Suite 236, Montreal, QC H4A 3L5, Canada. Tel: 514-798-5601; Fax: 514-798-5602; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Tests/Questionnaires
Education Level: N/A
Audience: Policymakers; Practitioners; Researchers
Language: English
Sponsor: National Literacy Secretariat (Canada); Dawson Coll., Montreal (Quebec).
Authoring Institution: Centre for Literacy
Identifiers - Location: Canada
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A