Tutoring vs. helping students with an assignment

Hersheys Kiss

Students often enter The Sandbox looking for help on a particular assignment. It wasn’t until Finals Week that I noticed students coming in for general questions and study help; and even then, the number of students was sparse. This presents a particular puzzlement for our talented staff of tutors: there is a thin line between helping a student finish an assignment and allowing the student to understand the concept that is required to finish the assignment.

My personal experience tutoring Java comes to mind. All of our Java tutors have completed CS 180 or an equivalent in some reasonable fashion and have programmed with Java in the past. Therefore, their knowledge of Java is quite respectable. When a student comes in and asks why their program is not working, they are essentially asking us to debug it for them, or, occasionally, to figure out the entire logic of the assignment. Of course, it is not as cut and dry as, “Hey, can you finish my assignment for me?” Yet, this should not be considered an attempt to belittle the amount of effort that students exert on their work. In fact, I don’t believe that students who are astute enough to visit The Sandbox would be the ones who are conniving enough to trick a tutor into doing their homework for them. Therefore, it is the job of the tutors themselves to find the balance between tutoring and helping the student with an assignment.


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