Joe Wyatt
Published June 13, 2018

Students who take advantage of three free tutoring services at Amarillo College are far more likely to succeed in their corresponding courses than students enrolled in the same courses who do not seek supplementary instruction.


Additionally, students’ chances of achieving classroom success increase in relation to the length of time they spend at one of the these tutoring centers –Writers’ Corner, Science Tutoring and Success Center, and Math Outreach Center.


These are the findings of Collin Witherspoon, AC’s executive director of decision analytics and institutional research, who recently conducted an in-depth Tutoring Impact Analysis.


In the analysis, student success is quantified as passing a class with a grade of C or better. All AC students may freely access each of the tutoring centers; however, in assessing each center’s impact, Witherspoon focused solely on students enrolled in mathematics, English and biology classes.


“There is no question about it,” said Witherspoon, who utilized data from the fall 2017 semester, “there is a definite correlation between course success and tutoring at Amarillo College, and the more tutoring our students receive, the better they perform.


“What the Tutoring Impact Analysis shows us is that all three of these tutoring centers have a significant impact on student success. Each is highly effective.”


Witherspoon conducted his analysis using a Pearson’s chi-squared test, a statistical test applied to sets of categorical data to evaluate how likely it is that any observed difference between those sets arose by chance.


He selected tutored students at random and matched them with non-tutored students through corresponding demographics, such as race, ethnicity and gender. With all things being otherwise equal, the primary applicable difference among these students was they received tutoring or they did not.


Witherspoon, for example, looked at 596 students enrolled in English courses who received tutoring of any duration at the Writers’ Corner. He found that these students achieved an 86.48 success rate (earned a grade of C or better), compared to a 74.12-percent success rate among 596 comparable students of English who did not use the center.


Furthermore, the success rate for students who spent three hours or more at the Writers’ Corner – over the course of the semester – shot up to 92.67 percent.


Similar results emerged from the other tutoring centers surveyed.


Among 800 students in biology classes who used AC’s Science Tutoring and Success Center, the success rate was 72.41 percent. That compared favorably to the success rate of 61.67 percent among 800 biology students who did not tap the center’s free services.


Again, the success rate was even more pronounced for students who used the science center more often; it surged to 80.2 percent for those who spent nine or more hours there during the semester.


And at AC’s award-winning Math Outreach Center, 1,525 students enrolled in math courses received tutoring. They achieved a collective success rate of 74.35 percent. The success rate among a control group of 1,525 math students who did not visit the center was 69.22 percent.


The success rate rose to 75 percent for students who spent at least 13 hours at the Math Outreach Center.

“These are by no means random surveys,” Witherspoon said. “A distinct correlation between tutoring and student success definitely exists. Students who take advantage of these tutoring centers are more likely to be successful.”


A bit about the tutoring centers Witherspoon analyzed:


The Math Outreach Center (MOC) was established in 2005 to offer individualized tutoring for students at all levels of math. It has received widespread recognition, including a prestigious Star Award in 2009 from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Located in Durrett Hall, the MOC is under the direction of Reem Witherspoon, instructor of math.


The Writers’ Corner, an extension of the English Department, is tucked into the southeast corner of historic Ordway Hall. Trained tutors are standing by to render free individual assistance to students grappling with virtually any of the numerous writing assignments inherent to the collegiate landscape. Joshuah O’Brien serves as coordinator of The Writers’ Corner.


The Science Tutoring and Success Center is in Warren Hall, Room 110. Staffed by trained tutors, the center serves students in all the sciences and is under the direction of Robert Dillon, instructor of biology. Among the center’s resources are computers, models, microscopes and slides, reference books, study rooms and mock lab practicums.