Roles and Tasks

There are so many different ways to support language learners as a volunteer. These can be broadly divided into roles in and outside formal classrooms. The list of roles below is designed to help you to reflect on what would suit you best.


Volunteers in the Classroom

In our research, we found a variety of ways in which volunteers across Europe are supporting paid language teachers in classroom settings. Volunteers can stick to one role, or can change function depending on the particular lesson:


Volunteers as Tutors

Some teachers use volunteers to work with learners 1:1, or in a small, separate group, whilst the teacher focuses on the rest of the class. This can be useful where one or two learners have specific needs that are distinct from the wider group. Alternatively, the volunteer can provide time-limited intense tuition to every learner in the class, in turn. They can focus on specific tasks like reading, conversation or specific activities. They can also perform an assessment of students’ needs for the teacher. Not all volunteers will necessarily have these skills or are expected to, but it is through discussions with the paid teacher that this is agreed.


Volunteers as Participants (as expert speakers of the language)

Here volunteers are treated as participants and take part in class activities without prior knowledge of the lesson plan or the activities that they’re about to get involved in. This can help to establish a sense of equality and camaraderie between volunteers and students and help build their relationships. Due to volunteers’ proficiency in the target language, they are likely to understand activity instructions well and can then support other learners to participate.


Volunteers as Teaching Assistants

Some countries such as Denmark have professional, paid teaching assistants, but in many other countries across Europe this is a voluntary role. The volunteers acting as assistants may be trainee or retired teachers themselves. They assist the teacher in lesson implementation, which may include monitoring, supervising, error correcting and other support. Volunteer teaching assistants may even be involved in lesson preparation.


Volunteers as Extra Support in a Specific Field (not directly connected to the language acquisition)

Many volunteers make language learning possible by supporting in a specific field as for example childcare or administration. These volunteers might not be involved in the language acquisition directly, but without their engagement, certain groups would not have access to the language class.

Volunteers in Extra-curricular Activities

Volunteers may also run extra-curricular activities that sit alongside classroom provision. For example, teachers can signpost students to the volunteer-run activities happening outside formal classes. Good communication may allow volunteers to plan extra-curricular experiences or activities which complement what students are learning in class. Examples of such activities include: …



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"I have really enjoyed Volunteering. I discovered a way of being and learning together that was very special - wholeheartedly generous - and fruitful beyond my wildest dreams."


Volunteer, UK



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