By: Naamah Jarnot, Coordinator of Tutoring Services & Paul Dexter, Director of Academic Retention Initiatives

As you’ve likely gathered from our Free Press series so far this year, learning with a peer fosters self-testing for understanding, connecting concepts, and improving memory. This week we want to draw your attention specifically to our peer tutoring program. Through partnerships with academic departments at USM, we are able to offer support in dozens of subject areas at The Learning Commons.

With the number of classes, assignments, and other demands on our life, a semester can sometimes feel like a sprint. However, effective learning is much more like a marathon. A runner who wants to perform well would register early for the race to allow plenty of time for training. In fact, many runners prepare for marathons months in advance, allowing time for incremental and repeated practice sessions. The same can be said for preparing for an exam. Your course’s syllabus can be like your race registration. A student knows well in advance the workload and deadlines to use in their planning and preparation for the semester.

Taking the marathon imagery a step further, consider how a tutor is like a personal trainer. The trainer is there to provide guidance, motivation, feedback, and, at times, demonstrate techniques that could prove more productive. The runner continues the work in between those training sessions and then consults with the trainer on progress, as well as challenges to overcome. Peer tutoring is a similar process. In a collaborative and supportive environment, tutors offer help by providing feedback on your efforts, addressing challenging areas of content, and helping the student strategize for the academic time on task in between appointments.

We are a peer support service, meaning that all of our tutors are current USM students who have completed a nationally-accredited tutor training program. Just like the certified trainer who successfully ran the New York City Marathon and is familiar with the terrain of the race, our certified tutors have successfully completed many of the same classes with many of the same professors. Just like the trainer can demonstrate ways to shave off minutes from your final race time, the tutor can model effective learning strategies that can help you maximize your time preparing for that exam, reading those chapters, or working through that problem set.

Tutoring is NOT just for students who are struggling, but also for those who want to excel academically. Many of the world’s most elite runners employ trainers because they know working with an expert can help up their game. So, too, do many of USM’s best students — they come in to meet consistently with a peer tutor for active, guided practice since they know it will help them stay on top!

As with training for a marathon, learning is not a spectator sport; it’s neither quick nor easy, and it improves dramatically with time and practice. All current USM students can enjoy the benefits of two free appointments per week per subject area. For example, you can schedule two accounting appointments as well as two math appointments. You can use our self-service online calendar to view available appointments and schedule a time with a tutor (the Tutoring: Subject-based Assistance link can be found in the MyUSM Portal under the USM Quick Links tab). Students can choose to meet with tutors on-campus or request that appointments be delivered live online via Zoom. If you need assistance with scheduling, please call The Learning Commons at 207-780-4228 or drop in to speak with one of our Learning Commons Navigators.

Learning gains, just like physical performance gains, take time, effort, and commitment. Sometimes the most difficult step to take is the first one. In addition to subject-based tutoring, we have many other resources to support your first steps, along with your efforts toward all of your academic goals. We encourage you to visit us at to review related concepts, such as motivation, spaced practice, and overcoming procrastination.


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