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Tutoring Tips

Below we have some general guidance on tutoring, which includes issues to anticipate, some notes on encouraging students to contribute as well as a self-evaluation checklist.

Encouraging students to contribute

Perhaps your student is brimming with confidence, but it is more likely that they may be reluctant to participate because they feel inadequate because of having problems in the subject or they could be unaware of the value or purpose of their lessons.

Issues to anticipate

Particularly when working with young students, it is worth being aware of the following potential issues:

  1. Difficulties with expression. Your student may lack the vocabulary necessary to explain what about their subject is bothering them which may contribute to a low self esteem. In addition to this they may doubt whether they have anything of value to contribute to a lesson. If this is the case, and a student finds it difficult to articulate a problem, you should avoid the kind of why questions that can put someone on the spot and make them feel worse.
  2. Your student may feel obliged to postpone lessons with you, and ultimately leave. Bear in mind that your student may feel a little intimidated and try to encourage their opinions and to build their confidence.
  3. Your student may view you as a judge. This is more likely with the younger age-group and definitely something to be aware of.
  4. Having never had a one-to-one lesson before, your student may be confused as to how to work together with a tutor in a lesson.

Encouraging Students to contribute: basic principles

Bear in mind that students are more likely to engage when:

  • They feel comfortable with you
  • When you show respect and give support
  • Learning is seen as a co-operative exercise
  • There is a clear understanding of what has to be learnt
  • He/she understands the importance of participation
  • The students is set realistic and achievable tasks
  • Methods are used which encourage student contributions

Introducing tutorials

When you are starting a new activity and you want to draw the student into purposeful work, you could try a brief introduction to your planned activity and then either direct the student to the activity (e.g. a text passage or problem) or ask an open-ended question to get discussion underway ("What do you think of...").

During lessons - Directing Discussion

Think about:

  • Giving supportive feedback
  • Encouraging broader or deeper focus
  • Correcting misunderstanding

Feedback to students on their skills or abilities:

  • Comment on use of particular skills
  • Encourage practice of neglected skills
  • Give constructive feedback and try to link to specifics
  • Be encouraging and friendly when commenting on work

Balancing tutor/student contributions:

  • Review your levels of intervention
  • Think about trigger material
  • Balance feedback with space
  • Invite in quiet students

Closing Tutorials

If you are setting the student homework, spend some time discussing how to go about it and answer any questions the students might have. To get an idea of feedback on how your student feels lessons are progressing ask "light touch" questions, e.g.:

  • What questions are on your mind at the end of this lesson?
  • What has been the most important thing you've learned?
  • Are there any questions on your mind following this lesson?

Not Contributing/Cries For Help

Avoid spelling out the answer, or there is no point to the exercise. Try to give broad hints or outline key steps before coming to the answer eventually.

  • Give some encouragement: students can stop handing in work when they feel they are dropping behind. Make sure the tasks are manageable.
  • Giving constructive advice on how to catch up

Tutoring: Self-Evaluation Checklist

As you work with more students you may want to start self-evaluating to remember what worked and what didn't, in addition to any feedback First Tutors: NZ receives from parents. Below is some "food for thought" to help you in the process.

How well did I .....? Very Well Satisfactory Could Be Better
Prepare for the lesson   
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   
Help sustain student interest    
Provide help when students encountered difficulties   
Ensure key points were drawn out   
Bring things to a close and set out homework   

New to Tutoring?

If you haven't tutored before, but would like to, you are welcome to register with First Tutors: NZ to attract potential students.

During registration you will be asked to state which subjects you want to teach, how much you charge and to tell mention your experience and qualifications.

Choosing your Subjects

We advise new tutors to carefully think about the subjects you can tutor well. We help tutors increase enquiries by inviting students to give feedback on their tutor. Obviously, if you are not so confident in a subject that you are tutoring, this will be reflected in your feedback. So think carefully about your skills and build your reputation on that.

Beginning Tutoring

It is essential to giving the right impression to your student in your first lesson. But it is more important to get this far. After being matched with your First student, do follow up quickly to arrange a lesson. Students are often anxious when seeking a tutor, as they often have subject difficulties and will want to start lessons as soon as possible.