Dr. Cara Garcia, GSEP professor of education, has dedicated her professional career to helping people overcome the anxiety and fear associated with learning. In addition to publishing studies on literacy and education, Garcia coordinates the Pepperdine Reading-Tutoring Program, an effective intervention program for children with reading difficulties.
The Reading-Tutoring Program started in the 1970s primarily as a word-of-mouth activity. Today the program has grown to become part of the graduate school's core curriculum for master's-level education students and has yielded partnerships with elementary schools throughout the Los Angeles area. Elementary students come to any of the graduate school's campuses to meet with faculty-supervised Pepperdine master's students who spend one hour during their actual class time working one-on-one in tutoring sessions.
According to Visiting Professor Penny Roberts, who supervises the program, the tutoring sessions are customized to fit the students' particular needs. Sometimes tutors will read a story to the tutee and ask him or her to retell and illustrate it or transform it into a play, or they may participate in one of the more advanced strategies such as the "author's chair," in which a tutee is encouraged to write a story and read it to the class. The tutee then answers questions as the "author" about where his or her ideas came from and what they mean. Tutees progress along a continuum that starts with heavily illustrated stories to a final proficiency stage where they are able to read chapter books, such as biographies and nonfiction.
While the program clearly benefits the community, its primary purpose is to train Pepperdine master's-level education students. "One of the essential values of teacher education is hands-on learning," says Garcia. In other graduate programs, hands-on learning is usually limited to student teaching at off-site settings where the university student is assigned to a larger classroom. "But because of GSEP's size and flexibility, we are able to bring in tutees for our students to work with and see theory in action," Garcia notes.
Dr. Muriel Ifekwinugue, a GSEP alumna and the health specialist for El Rincon Elementary School, one of the schools partnered with Pepperdine, says the tutoring program has earned positive feedback. "Pepperdine tutors are known for their patience, kindness, and one-on-one attention," she says.