What to expect from a tutor

Drop in, get help.

Any SMU undergraduate, especially in a first- or second-year course, can benefit from working with an LEC tutor.  (We are not able to work with graduate students or students from other schools.) We work with strong students as well as students who are taking on material they find really challenging.

Working with a tutor can be a very effective means to supplement your understanding of a course.  By working with a tutor, you can discuss ideas and clarify concepts, review notes and readings, check and confirm your understanding before a test or quiz, get assistance on homework questions, or make sure you're keeping up with the class.  The tutor's goal is to help you become a better student, whether your goal is to raise a B+ to an A or to pass a difficult general education requirement. 

Working with a tutor does not take the place of your responsibilities as a student: going to class, meeting with your professor, taking notes, reading the books/handouts, or studying the course materials.

All LEC tutors work for SMU, not for you individually. In all things, they will adhere to the SMU Honor Code and to course-specific guidelines from SMU faculty.

Almost all LEC tutoring works on a drop-in basis, and you should do some preparation before you drop in.  Bring the course basics: your textbook, your class notes, and the specific assignment you're working on.  Have specific questions.

Learn more:

Who works with tutors:

Everybody! That is, if you're an SMU undergraduate, especially in a first- or second-year course. (We are not able to work with graduate students or with students from other schools.) We work with strong students who want support that will allow them to make more ambitious choices—and more A's!—as well as students who are taking on material in an area they find really challenging.

Why students work with tutors:

  • to discuss ideas and clarify concepts
  • to review notes and readings
  • to check and confirm their understanding before a test or quiz
  • to get assistance on homework questions—how to do them, but also how to understand what they're doing to make sure they're keeping up with the class

What to bring to your tutoring session:

  • textbooks
  • notes
  • past quizzes and tests
  • questions
  • class syllabus
  • homework
  • puzzling workbook problems
  • a willingness to learn

How to have a more successful tutoring session:

Work with the material yourself before your tutoring session. Clarify for yourself what you do understand. See how clearly you can express what it is you don't understand!

Get to know your instructors. Know their names! Ask questions in class. Ask for clarification when needed. Visit office hours and attend scheduled review sessions. Consult your syllabus frequently. A-LEC tutoring should not substitute for, or get in the way of, your frequent contact with your professors!

Go to class.
Go to class.
Go to class.
Find partners or form a study group.

Don't expect tutors to do your work for you—tutors are here to help you learn to do your own work. You must still proofread your own papers and debug your own programs. (If we do it for you, it's an honor violation!)

Don't wait until the day before a test to get help! Instead, make it a personal goal to learn to prepare ahead of time. Talk with an A-LEC staff member about setting up a time management plan and study schedule.

During the fall and spring semesters, A-LEC tutoring takes place Sundays 5 – 10 PM, Monday through Thursday 2 – 10 PM, and Fridays 2 – 5 pm. But not all courses are covered at all times. Check the current tutor schedule for details on what's covered when.

Tutoring is handled on a drop-in basis. You don't need an appointment—come without warning. If we advertise that tutoring for a certain course is available from 7 to 10 PM on Tuesday nights, that doesn't mean you're supposed to be there on time at 7. Come anytime between 7 and 9:20. (Don't wait till 9:55) If everyone came right at 7, we'd be overloaded!

Most tutoring is one-to-one, or in a group of two or three students working with a tutor on the same questions. Occasionally, we will do larger group sessions, e.g. preparing for a test.

When you come in, tell the person at the front desk what you are here for ("ECO 1311"). If possible, we'll connect you with an appropriate tutor right away. If the tutor you need is working with another student, we'll ask you to wait, and then let you know when the time is right.

Feel free to request a particular tutor ("I'd like to work with Alcibiades Anaxagoras Anonymous")—but, if that tutor is busy, you may have to wait a little longer.

We are glad we can say "come without an appointment"! Your willingness to wait a bit, if necessary, is what lets us say that. So part of the plan is to bring your book or work so that, if you need to wait, you can get your work done.

So, is this all there is to know about A-LEC tutoring? No. But it's enough to get you started. We couldn't resist adding a few more thoughts about how to get the most out of tutoring. But feel free, also, to just come and dive in!
Expect that your time working with a tutor will be an active experience.  The tutor will work with you, not for you.  You cannot drop off a paper or assignment and expect a tutor to do your work.

You can expect your tutor to know the basic concepts you are studying, but the tutor may not have been assigned the same books or had the same professor as you.  You can expect, for instance, that your Math tutor will be able to explain the quadratic equation, but you can't expect that your writing tutor will have read the same essay that your particular instructor assigned.  You cannot expect that your tutor will know the answer to every question.

The tutors can help you work through problems with your homework, but the tutor will not do your homework for you.  So, the tutor will do a sample problem for you, explaining the steps that you should use in your own work, but the tutor will not do your actual homework problem. The tutor will guide you through the homework problem, prompting you what step comes next or when you've made a mistake, but the tutor will not do the problem for you.  The tutor will not debug your program for you, but will help you to find your errors.

The tutor will be able to explain a concept from your professor's lecture if you have taken notes in class and marked that section of your notes.  However, because the tutor has not been to your class, he or she cannot speculate as to what material the professor presented in the lecture. Even if the tutor has taken the same class with the same professor, he or she will not share past tests or notes with you.

The tutor will be able to explain a point in your course reading if you have done the entire reading and can point out a particular passage that is causing you difficulty.  The tutor will not do the reading for you.  And, even if the tutor has read the book you've been assigned, he or she will not summarize it for you.

The tutor will help you to clarify your ideas. If you have been assigned to write a paper, for instance, that compares Locke’s and Hobbes’ views of punishment, but you don’t see the differences, the tutor will ask questions and help you talk through your ideas.  You must have done your reading before you meet with a tutor; the tutor cannot give you the answer.

The tutor will help you learn to edit your paper, but he/she will not do this for you.  The tutor will point out the grammar or punctuation error, for instance, and explain why there is an error and suggest some options for how to correct the error.  The tutor will not necessarily go through your entire paper with you.  Copyediting your paper is a violation of the Honor Code.

The tutor will help you to understand the course material so that you can feel more comfortable joining the class discussions.  By talking through the concepts and clarifying your ideas with the tutor, you can be more certain that you understand the material.

The tutor can make suggestions as to how you might effectively use your class notes or previous assignments to prepare for a test or quiz. 

The tutor will not help you with an out-of-class quiz or test.  Professors expect that you will do these assignments independently.  The tutor will not violate the Honor Code to help you with this type of assignment.

The tutor will not contact your professor for any reason.  If you have a question about the course material or the assignment, you are responsible for contacting your instructor.  Similarly, the tutor will not contact your TA, academic adviser, or parent.

The tutor may not be available to help you one-to-one if you have delayed coming in for help until the night before a test.  In this situation, you can expect that you will be working with a group of students led by a tutor.

The tutor can work with your study group.  If you've already joined a study group, the group can come together to ask the tutor to explain concepts.  The tutor cannot set up a study group for you.

The tutors will not be available to work with you outside of their normally scheduled LEC hours, they will not set up private tutorials, and they will not be available by phone or email.  You should not expect always to be able to work with the same tutor.