Skip to main content

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?

If you haven't tutored before, but would like to give it a go, feel welcome to register with First Tutors: South Africa and find new students anywhere across South Africa!

When you register you will have to identify what subjects you can tutor, at what levels, and how much you want to charge per subject/level combination. You will also be given space to include your qualifications and tutoring experience.

Choosing your Subjects

Tutors should think carefully about what subjects they choose to tutor, as obviously you must have proficient knowledge and be prepared to tutor it from every angle. We always invite students to give feedback on their tutor, which tutors can then add to their profile. If you can tutor your subject well this feedback will no doubt be positive, and posting it on your profile may attract other users to contact you. However if you have chosen to tutor subjects you don't know inside out, this will be reflected in the feedback you receive. Think carefully about your skills and build your reputation on these.

Starting to Tutor

How you approach your first lesson will leave a lasting impression on your clients, and affect their decision to carry on with you or select a new tutor. When you have received the contact details for a student, be prompt in getting in touch and arranging the first lesson. Clients usually want to begin their tuition as soon as possible, so getting in touch first will be a good way to start your professional relationship.