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Tutoring Tips

Below we have gathered a selection of advice for tutors who may either be new to giving private tuition, or seasoned tutors who simply want to see what we can suggest. We have included some of the issues to anticipate whilst tutoring, the importance of student contribution during lessons, and the value of completing a self-evaluation checklist.

Encouraging student participation

Tutoring is an exercise in co-operation. Students must be willing to learn, but the tutor must also be willing to properly understand what it is the student finds so challenging about the subject at hand, and thus how they can best help the student. Communication is key, but effective communication requires a degree of trust, and the student may be reluctant to confide in their tutor. This is largely because they do not know you, but also because they may not understand the value of private lessons, and perhaps feel that they do not need the extra tuition.

Issues you may encounter...

Teaching young children or teenagers who 'know it all' can be highly challenging, even to the most patient individuals. When preparing for your tuition sessions it can be worth while familiarizing yourself with some of the potential issues you might encounter, so you can decide how you will deal with them:

  1. Children might lack the adequate vocabulary to verbalize where they need help. If you can see that a student is finding it hard to express themselves, avoid blunt-sounding why questions that make a child feel under pressure, and instead encourage dialog or practical exercises that will help you ascertain the child's level, and where they need your support.
  2. Your student might try to procrastinate. This may be due to them feeling intimidated by you, or hark back to the problem outlined above, that they don't know how to - or perhaps don't want to - talk about their learning difficulties. This is a hard one to counter but try to appeal to their personality and create a lesson that will appeal to the child/teenager's personal interests.
  3. The student might see you as an assessor. This can be common with younger age-groups and can make a child feel nervous, which then affects their performance, so is something to be aware oft.
  4. If a child has never been tutored before they might not know how to work together with a tutor, specifically how they can contribute to the lessons themselves, nor will they be aware of the importance of their own participation.

Basic Principles to Motivate Student Contribution

Students are more likely to engage in their lessons when:

  • Objectives of the lesson are clear
  • The student understands how their participation affects and contributes to the success of the session
  • The students feels comfortable around you
  • Support is given and respect is mutual
  • The lesson is seen as a co-operative exercise
  • Methods are used that encourage student involvement
  • The student is set realistic and achievable goals

Introducing The Lesson

To steer your student's focus is the right direction, and let them know what you expect them to have achieved by the end of the lesson, it can be helpful to begin your lesson with a brief introduction outlining what the session will involve. You can then follow your introduction with open ended questions, e.g. "What did you think of..." to initiate discussion.

Directing Discussion

Think about:

  • Encouraging wider or deeper focus - challenge your student occasionally or they may not be able to recognize their own progress
  • Correcting any misapprehensions students might have
  • Giving supportive and constructive feedback

Reviewing the skills/abilities of you student:

  • Link constructive feedback to specific examples
  • Always maintain a positive attitude when commenting on work
  • Comment on the particular skills of a student
  • Include exercises that encourage the practice of neglected skills

Balancing Student and Tutor Contribution:

  • Consider how often you intervene - remember that the purpose of education is to encourage the student to think for themselves and well as increasing their subject knowledge
  • Think about trigger material - what will work for your student as an individual?
  • Give your student time to develop between giving feedback. This gives your student the chance to put your words into practice

Ending the Session

It can be beneficial you both the student and tutor to encourage a student to review their own progress at the end of a lesson by asking "light touch" questions, e.g.:

  • What's on your mind at the end of this lesson?
  • What would you identify as the most important thing you've learned in today's lesson?
  • What questions are on your mind following this session?

If you are giving out any homework, make sure you student understands what they are expected to do and and allow enough time to answer any questions.

Reluctance to Contribute/Cries for Help

If you give away the answer too easily the point of the exercise is removed. Outline key steps or give broad hints to the necessary method before eventually revealing the answer.

  • Students can become disinterested when they feel they are unable to keep up. Make sure the tasks are manageable, and always give encouragement.
  • If you notice a student is falling behind, give constructive advice on how they can catch up, both during your tutoring session and in their own time.

Tutoring: Your Self-Evaluation Checklist

As the number of students you tutor increases, you might find it useful to begin making notes of what worked for what students, at what age group, and what didn't. In conjunction with the feedback you receive from parents you can use your checklist to assess what your strengths are and where you could make improvements to your tuition practice. Below is some "food for thought" to help you:

How well did I .....? Very Well Satisfactory Could Improve
Prepare for lessons   
Get the lesson underway (establish aims, etc)   
Ask questions and prompt the student   
Handle the student's comments and questions   
Respond to the student as an individual   
Keep the focus on the main topic   
Maintain student interest   
Provide help when the student was having difficulty   
Ensure key points were drawn out   
Bring session to a close and set out homework   

New to Tutoring?

Join First Tutors: Canada and access not only the facilities to create a free profile to promote the private tutoring you offer, but pages of free advice and information to help you make your venture into the field of tuition a success!

When you register you will be asked to select what subjects you wish to tutor in and outline how much you will charge for different subjects/levels. Take advantage of the space your tutor profile gives you to introduce yourself to prospective students, and be sure to mention what qualifications and experience you have that make you eligible to tutor.

Picking your Subjects

Only include subjects you feel entirely comfortable with. This is an area where quality matters significantly more then quantity; the number of subjects you claim you can tutor is irrelevant, as long as those you offer private tuition in are ones in which you have proficient knowledge and can discuss clearly.

Three weeks after tuition has begun we invite students/parents to supply the tutors with feedback. This is another reason to carefully consider your skills and personal strengths when filling out your profile. Student reviews can provide the tutor with an excellent means to embellish their profile by including the positive feedback they have received. However, should you be offering tuition in a subject in which you have insufficient knowledge, this will be recognized and the feedback you receive may be less than pleasant.

Beginning to Tutor

Students and parents are often nervous when seeking private tuition and will want to start their lessons soon as possible.The first session you have with a student will leave a lasting impression, so whilst you should applaud yourself on getting this far, the tricky bit is still to come. Be prompt in arranging that first lesson, prepare for it thoroughly, and bring with you any documents you have declared on your profile.