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Tutoring Tips

Below is some general guidance on how to give tuition sessions, including potential student anxieties, notes on encouraging students to contribute and a self-evaulation checklist to ensure your sessions run smoothly.

Encouraging students to contribute

Many people can be nervous when learning in a one-on-one environment for the first time. It is critical to be patient with them, and build their confidence through encouragement and praise. Your ultimate goal is to help the student become comfortable and confident in the subject, even if they occasionally make mistakes.

Potential student anxieties

  1. Your student may struggle to express exactly what they are looking to gain from lessons, and may doubt their ability to achieve their goals. It is essential to agree on realistic targets based on what they are ultimately hoping to achieve. If a student finds it difficult to articulate what they are aiming towards, avoid the kind of 'why' questions that can make someone feel on the spot.
  2. Your student may feel obliged to defer to you. Your student may be a little intimidated: you should try to encourage them to express their opinions to build confidence. One-to-one sessions, whilst very useful because of their intensity may also be a little overwhelming to someone who is not used to being in the spotlight.
  3. Your student may see you as an assessor. This is a difficult perception to overcome, especially if you're coaching your student towards an exam. The key here is to be open, friendly, to encourage the student's confidence and to make your style of teaching non-confrontational. Be careful that a student does not feel unable to express their lack of confidence in fear of incurring your wrath!
  4. Your student may be confused as to how to work together with a tutor in a lesson, having never had a one-to-one before. Whilst some people may quickly take the lead and specify what they want from lessons, others will be unsure and will look to you to establish a power dynamic. Here, informal feedback is essential so you are aware if the student feels they are not getting what they need.

Encouraging students to contribute

Students are more likely to engage when:

  • They feel comfortable around you
  • You show them respect and support, especially when they make mistakes
  • Learning is seen as a co-operative exercise, not a confrontational one
  • You both agree upon realistic and achievable tasks
  • They are encouraged to contribute, not just to be lectured to
  • Feedback is frequent so communication breakdowns do not occur
  • They are presented with open-ended questions that are not too 'leading'

Directing discussions

Think about:

  • Regularly giving supportive, constructive feedback
  • Encouraging broader or deeper focus
  • Correcting misunderstanding in a non-confrontational way

Feedback on students' skills/abilities

  • Link feedback to specific positives/mistakes
  • Comment on use of particular skills
  • Be encouraging and friendly!

Balancing tutor/student contributions

  • Review how often you intervene
  • Balance feedback with space
  • Encourage quiet students, but don't overpower them

Closing lessons

To determine how your student feels the lessons are progressing, ask open ended questions such as these:

  • What has been the most significant thing you've learned today?
  • Do you have any questions after today's lesson?

If you have any homework for the student, spend time discussing how they should tackle it. Remember: the student may not have time to do extensive exercises, or indeed may not have the inclination to do so! Homework density must ultimately be decided on their terms.

Not contributing

Avoid spelling out the answer to an unresponsive student. Instead, try framing the question in a different way. Give some encouragement: students can become disheartened and cease trying if they think their efforts are futile. Re-evaluate the task you are setting them and make sure it's manageable.

Self-evaluation checklist

As you work with more clients you may wish to start self-evaluating to remember what worked/what didn't, in addition to any client feedback you've received on the site. Below is some food for thought to help your introspection:

How well did I .....? Very Well Satisfactory Could Be Better
Prepare for the session   
Get the session underway (establish aims, etc)   
Ask questions and prompt the tutee   
Handle the student's comments and questions   
Respond to the student as an individual   
Keep the focus on the main topic   
Help sustain student interest    
Provide help when student encountered difficulties   
Ensure key points were drawn out   
Bring things 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.

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