How does tutoring work? Everything you need to know

Considering getting a tutor for your child?

Perhaps they’re struggling to keep up in class, haven’t been doing so great in recent school tests, or are ready to be pushed that little bit further?

Whatever your reasons for seeking support, you might be interested in learning a bit more about how tutoring works before you take the next step. And, you might even be surprised at just what’s involved.

So, how does tutoring work?

Tutoring works differently from traditional teaching. While teaching usually takes place in a classroom with 20 or more students, tutoring is carried out one-on-one or in a very small group (with one-on-one time given to each child).

Because of this, tutors can offer students a more personalised level of educational support tailored to individual learning needs. They can try a variety of tutoring techniques to work out the most effective strategies to help them.

Tutors in Australia, don’t need to have professional teaching qualifications. In fact, anyone with the right skills can be a tutor. However, having appropriate qualifications and association memberships usually makes for a better tutor.

1. The initial assessment

Unlike in the school system, where restraints limit innovative ideas and teaching methods, tutors have more freedom to be creative. The ultimate goal of tutoring is to help students help themselves, so they become confident, independent learners.

Tutoring can take place face-to-face in your home, the tutor’s home, or a learning centre. It can also happen virtually online (synchronously or asynchronously). Sessions can run anywhere from between 30 to 120 minutes.

How many tutoring sessions a student needs and how often largely depends on a student’s learning needs and goals. However, this will likely change depending on how the student is progressing. Most students start with one session per week.

2. Structured tutoring sessions

Good tutoring sessions will have a predetermined structure broken up by various activities to help keep them engaging. However, within this structure, there should be adequate time for discussion, questions and guidance.

There’s also typically time set aside for reviewing the previous week’s topic, as well as any homework set. It’s important that students are actively engaged in the process and complete their homework to make progress towards their goal/s.

Essentially, the tutor’s job is to teach the student the underlying concepts, whether maths, English or another subject and create the perfect space for students to explore their own learning.

3. Reaching the goal

Tutoring sessions typically end once a student reaches their learning goal. For example, the student can now read, or they passed their latest maths test. However, they can be picked up again if the child needs further help down the line or is in a position where they would benefit from being pushed to learn more.

Different types of tutoring approaches

Just like every student is different and has different learning needs and styles, every tutor is also different in their approach to tutoring and the methods they use.

While tutoring is much more individualized than teaching, some of the best approaches to teaching apply to tutoring. But, a tutoring session gives the tutor the freedom to go beyond what teachers are able to do in a classroom.

·       Goal setting – As well as having overall tutoring goals, each tutoring lesson has clear learning intentions with defined learning goals, so the student knows what success looks like for them.

·       Questioning – This involves the tutor asking questions and getting the student to answer them. Sufficient time is given for a response. If they don’t understand the question, the tutor rephrases it.

·       Inquiry method – A form of active learning which begins with asking questions or posing problems or scenarios. The student must understand the problem and make and carry out a plan, with the tutor guiding them.

·       Explicit teaching – This involves the tutor clearly showing the student what to do and how to do it. They can then check how well the student understands what is being said and revisit it if needed.

·       Practice and drill – Practice makes perfect, so they say, and the practice and drill method adopts this theory. Through repetition of concepts, examples and practical problems, the student improves or masters them.

·       Multi-media tools – Multi-media tools are technologies or content channels that include text, audio, image, video or animation. Using these can help keep the session more engaging.

·       Worked examples – This approach involves the tutor giving the student a problem statement and then a detailed explanation of the solution – either written or verbal.

What tutoring methods work best?

All of these tutoring approaches or methods have proven to be effective. But to achieve the best outcome for the student, it comes down to choosing the right combination for an individual to help them learn.

In using the different methods of tutoring, the most effective approach is one that considers the individual student and their learning styles and abilities.

It’s also important that the tutor starts at the right level. This means beginning with something that the student feels comfortable with then only moving onto something more challenging once their confidence grows.

Positive reinforcement, such as ‘Good job on x’, ‘You’re doing much better on y’ or ‘I like the way you did that’, is also used along the learning journey. This gives students a sense of accomplishment and an incentive to continue.

Last but not least, the best approach comes down to the quality of the tutor. The best tutors are qualified teachers who are open, patient, caring, flexible and great communicators who can make learning a fun, positive experience.

Explore related articles or book your free learning assessment today to see if tutoring is right for your child.


Published in Tutoring