So long ago, Bloom’s (1984) MIT research demonstrated the efficacy of tutoring + mastery instructional design. At the time, the only way to connect students with tutors was in face-to-face sessions—possible at some small schools—but too expensive for large public schools. By the 90s tutoring was mostly outsourced to parents, wealthy parents, and the rest of us just did our best. Technologically “smart” tools can fill some of this void, but are educators willing to use them? Teachers know better than most that we cannot offload “personalized instruction” to machines because it’s the human-to-human relationship that is at the heart of teaching/learning and most educators view claims to the contrary as dubious.
One way to integrate tutoring (and these vital human-to-human relationships) is to launch more peer-to-peer mentoring/tutoring opportunities on college campuses. A recent article by Ryan Craig explains how the full stack model connects employers with human capital on college campuses. But why don’t colleges follow this model to develop mentoring/tutoring jobs that fit inside the existing college infrastructure? Craig’s investment company supports start-ups that couple entry-level staffing needs with broader talent acquisition systems for employers, but post-secondary institutions can also adopt this “full stack” model by investing in programs designed to address high-need “gap” skills through campus-based employment opportunities using existing financial-aid based “Work Study” programs as a basis for creating skills training, paid jobs and certifications. These platforms can also help showcase student talent developed inside the institution to outside employers. Perhaps even the federal government could chip in for the development of these training modules.
Large public institutions provide especially fertile terrain for this full-stack apprenticeship system as these institutions routinely vet 100s of entry-level job applicants every year. Because of this constant supply and demand, many higher education institutions in California have recently invested in staffing software platforms, like Handshake, that provide enough technological enhancements to ensure a steady supply of talent for developing a workforce inside the university.
In semi-automating job training for internal postings and adding a certification incentive, the university can streamline its own human capital resources and build a student population more equipped to tackle the realities of a 21st century workforce. To do this, universities should partner with regional employers, create certification tracks that provide training and allow students to showcase their work history, certifications and accomplishments with the goal of raising future employers’ confidence in recent graduates and students’ confidence in post-graduate full time employment prospects.
Increasing diversity, decreasing equity barriers and providing much needed support through classroom based mentoring, tutoring and lab assistant positions, technical support call centers, and teaching assistant positions could be up and running and scaled without much structural change. In addition to a regular paycheck, hirees benefit by building connections on campus through networking with hiring cohorts as well as by directly supporting peers in a variety of educational settings. One metric to watch in assessing this pilot would be to see if this collection of skills training, financial incentive and relationship building improves success rates for first and second year students as they matriculate through GE courses—a sinkhole from which many never emerge and others wallow in for years. Another must watch metric would be: time to full workforce employment post graduation. This full stack view could prove to be a win-win for students and universities struggling to improve four-year graduation rates. If students can easily see the financial incentive that full-time careers provide after graduation—and employers can observe a proven track record of student success in a set of high-demand “gap” skills—everyone wins.
Creating staffing and talent pools in-house (on campus) in programs specifically designed to provide students with paying jobs while learning essential high need “gap” skills, such as communication and technology may be the missing ingredient in existing “student success” campaigns. By adding a certificate of completion aligned with a employer identified “gap” skills, such as basic web/software programming, corporate technical skills (Excel, SaasS), and essential “soft skills,” such as communication and conflict resolution, universities are going the extra mile to set their graduates up for immediate success in today’s competitive workforce.
MORE HERE: Click to see overview of Linked Ins Skills Gap
How do we address “skills gap” from inside the classroom?
These skills can also be embedded in teaching curriculum.
Flipping the curriculum (by assigning instructional modules outside of the classroom) and asking students to apply their learning inside the classroom may bring us closer to the high outcomes associated with Bloom’s one-to-one tutoring model—while addressing employers complaints about high-need skills gaps in technology and communication.
One simple solution is to have students solve problems in teams during class time. Not only does team problem solving leverage Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development during collaboration, but adding reporting and whole class Q and A feedback loop ensures broad peer-to-peer learning. Peers working toward a clear objective during class closely simulates a classic tutoring model without the associated expenses of hiring/training qualified tutors. However, this model of personalized learning puts faculty in the position of facilitator, rather than leader, and this side-lined position doesn’t come naturally in the world of higher education.
A natural fit for this instructional design can be found within the existing infrastructure of the lab. Since this place has already been carved out of the bedrock that is higher education curriculum in most STEM courses, the question then becomes how can we transform the classic lab to better emulate the tutoring + mastery model as explained in Bloom’s research?
“Flipping” the instructional model gets us pretty darn close as the “lecture” becomes a self-paced tool outside the class, freeing up the instructor to support hands-on learning inside the lab. In the lab, the instructor provides the on-demand, one-on-one “tutoring” support as problems crop up in the problem solving. Add a few challenging student-centered projects to the mix and you’ve got a pretty inexpensive, built-in tutoring+plus mastery model.