In brief

  • The Center for Teaching and Learning has expanded its programs to better support students with ADHD and other learning differences.
  • Individually tailored 1:1 academic coaching is available for any student who asks for help.
  • Peer tutoring is available to all undergraduates in multiple subject areas.

Eshaan Rawat never set foot on campus his entire first year at Stanford. Like most students during the pandemic, he spent the 2020-2021 academic year taking courses virtually – in his case, from his home in Loudoun County, Virginia.

While enrolled in an intro chemistry course that year, he found himself struggling and knew he needed extra help. In addition to attending virtual office hours with his instructor, Rawat heard about peer tutoring offered through Stanford’s Center for Teaching and Learning and the virtual tutoring drop-in service quickly became a resource helping him navigate the challenges he was having with the course.

“At first, it was tough to ask for help,” Rawat said. "But CTL offers a good mix if you‘re scared to schedule an appointment, because those are one-on-one and can be a little intimidating. The drop-ins are great because even if you go by yourself, there are still other students there."

Approaching its 50-year milestone at Stanford, CTL offers diverse programs and resources to undergrads, designed to teach transferable academic skills, create a safe space to take intellectual risks, and help all students, including graduate students, become self-directed learners. Students can take advantage of peer tutoring, academic coaching, and language conversation partners programs. Given its substantial support for both student communities, CTL is housed in both VPUE as well as the Vice Provost for Graduate Education office.

Tim Randazzo, senior director of CTL’s Student Learning Programs, said it’s become increasingly important for students to understand that many of their peers are also asking for help.

“A common mindset I‘ve seen among students who are really struggling is they feel like they‘re the only one – they feel like something is wrong with them,” said Randazzo. “It‘s hard to ask for help because it feels like an acknowledgment that they must not belong at Stanford.”

A common mindset I‘ve seen among students who are really struggling is they feel like they‘re the only one – they feel like something is wrong with them.”
Tim RandazzoSenior Director of CTL’s Student Learning Programs

Throughout the year, CTL offers individually tailored academic coaching to any student who asks for help. Academic coaches provide personalized one-on-one guidance to students, assisting them in developing and refining academic strategies, achieving school-life balance, and offering encouragement as they implement new ways of learning. Topics may vary throughout the quarter and generally include: overcoming procrastination, note-taking skills, combating anxiety, reviewing exams, and planning for writing a paper.

“[Students sometimes] think all of their peers are doing really well on their own and don‘t need any help,” Randazzo said. “But the truth of the matter is hundreds of students come to our programs every quarter. That‘s over a thousand students who go to tutoring or academic coaching every year.”

CTL also offers the highly popular Language Conversation Partners (LCPs) program in which students practice speaking in another language with peers trained to help them improve their speaking skills in a low-stress setting. Languages include Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, and Spanish. The program is designed to help students meet the oral proficiency objectives of language courses, so students must be enrolled in a course at the Stanford Language Center (a -LANG course) to use the LCPs.

Support for neurodiverse students, including specifically tailored programs, resources, coaching, and tutoring services has also expanded in recent years. Students participating in the ADHD and Learning Differences Support Program, for example, are personally assigned an academic coach and/or tutor who has been trained to work with students with ADHD or learning differences. And CTL is hiring more staff specialists to accommodate this growing need.

“For these students, it can be really helpful to have the consistency of knowing: this is my tutor, and they understand my learning difference,” Randazzo said.

For students struggling with specific course concepts or problem sets, Randazzo recommends CTL’s peer tutoring program, which is available to all undergraduates. The program enables students to partner with a peer and break down course materials, prepare for upcoming exams, or brainstorm and strategize general studying techniques. Peers are available for biology/bioengineering, chemistry, CME, computer science, economics, engineering, human biology, math, physics, and statistics.

Eshaan Rawat, now a senior chemical engineering major, not only pushed through his first-year chemistry course, he’s currently in his second year peer tutoring fellow undergrads.

“We‘re all undergrads, so we‘ve been in the same boat that you are, Rawat said. “Maybe one year ago, maybe two years ago. And we understand the plight of students. So when a student comes to me for the first time and they‘re like ‘this biochem midterm was so hard,’ I‘m thinking back to my biochem midterm two years ago – it was really hard for me, too.”

As Rawat approaches his own graduation, he said it’s been a rewarding experience working as a CTL peer tutor.

“I am making a difference with the people that I‘m able to work with and I feel really proud about that every time.”