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Tutoring Tips

If you are new to tutoring, or perhaps have decided to teach a new, younger age group and are unsure what to expect, we hope that the information below can give you an insight of what to expect, and some guidance on how to deal with the primary issues that may emerge, which include poor communication and encouraging students to participate. We also suggest that if you plan on being a tutor in the long term, you might find it helpful to begin filling out a self-evaluation check-list.

Encouraging student participation

Effective communication is key to successful tuition, but requires both tutor and student to feel comfortable enough with each other to honestly speak what's on their mind. It is likely a student will not only feel nervous when commencing their tuition - perhaps for the first time! - but they might also be unsure about the value or purpose of their lessons.

Issues to anticipate

If you are planning to tutor younger age groups, you should be aware of the following issues you may encounter, and you may wish to plan in advance how you would deal with them:

  1. First and foremost are a child's limited ability to properly express themselves. Younger children may find it incredibly difficult to articulate what they are finding challenging. They also may not understand how they can contribute or why their contribution is important. If a student is finding it hard to explain their difficulties perhaps go for the practical approach, and avoid asking why questions that can aggravate the situation as they only serve to highlight an individual's inability to verbalise their problem.
  2. Your student may try to procrastinate - this is common at all ages - or cut the lesson short. This may be because they are nervous around you, or simply that they are unaware of the point of their tuition. Try to encourage their opinions and to build their confidence in your presence.
  3. Students may perceive you as an examiner. This is more likely with the younger age-group and definitely something to be aware of, as nerves can affect performance.
  4. Many of the students you encounter will never have had one-to-one tutoring before, and thus learning to work together with a tutor in itself is something that they may have to learn.

Student Contribution - The Basic Principles:

Students are far more likely to engage in their lessons when:

  • They feel comfortable around you
  • Learning is seen as a co-operative activity
  • Your student understands the importance their participation!
  • Respect is mutual and support is given
  • There is a clear understanding of the lesson objectives
  • The exercises set are realistic and achievable
  • Methods are used that motivate students to contribute

Introducing tutorials

It is productive to start each lesson with a brief summary of what you plan to cover during the lesson, and the purpose of any exercises/problems to as assigning to them. To draw the student into the activity, you could try asking open-ended question to get discussion under way e.g. "What do you think of..."

During lessons - Directing Discussion

Think about:

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

Reviewing your student's 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 and student contributions:

  • Review your levels of intervention
  • Think about trigger material
  • Balance feedback with space
  • Quiet students may require more encouragement

Ending Tuition Sessions

If students are being assigned homework, leave enough time to discuss the purpose and content of the homework, and answer any questions the students might have, both about the homework and the lesson/s in general. To get some feedback on how your student feels lessons are going you can ask "light touch" questions such as:

  • Do you have any questions at the end of this lesson?
  • What has been the most important thing you've learned?
  • Do you have any ongoing concerns following this lesson?

Cries For Help/Lack of Student Contribution

Never just give out an answer, or there is no point to the exercise. If a student does not occasionally feel challenged they will be unable to recognise their own progress. Give broad hints or outline key steps before eventually revealing an answer.

  • If you notice a student is unable to keep up, slow the pace of the lessons, but give constructive advice on how they can catch back up
  • Students can stop handing in work or feel de-motivated to take part when they feel they are dropping behind, so ake sure the tasks are manageable, and always provide plenty of encouragement.

The Tutor's Self-Evaluation Check-list

You may find it helpful to start using a method of self evaluation as you start to tutor more students, so you can keep track of what worked and what didn't, in addition to any feedback First Tutors: South Africa 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 started (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 maintain 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 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.