My student goes to a good school. Why would we need tutoring?
By Janet Christensen
If the school is good, shouldn’t that be enough?
The truth is, even the best teacher can’t possibly offer the kind of personalized, supportive, and focused attention an expert tutor can provide in a one-on-one session. And here are some reasons why.
1. It’s not just a matter of asking a question; it’s about asking the right question.
Students are often hesitant to ask questions in a classroom setting, or at least to continue asking questions for as long as it takes to “get it”. Although good teachers encourage questions and are happy to answer them, many students feel as though a single question is enough, and once they’ve asked a general question, such as requesting an additional explanation of a concept, they hesitate to continue, often feeling as though they’re taking up too much class time, or that their peers will judge them negatively if they continue to probe deeper and formulate more specific questions.
An expert tutor can improve a student’s ability to ask the right kind of questions, and encourage them to do so, so that their interactions with both the tutor and the classroom teacher can become more effective and efficient.
2. Sometimes it takes a different perspective.
Although good teachers have excellent knowledge of their topic and have carefully considered the approach they use in order to teach it, their approach may not be the one that creates the deepest understanding in your student. Different people learn in different ways.
An expert tutor can look at a student’s notes and engage in conversations with the student in order to determine the teacher’s approach. Once the classroom teacher’s approach is understood, the tutor can offer the content in a novel manner, or in several new ways, offering the student options until the concept is made clear. This way, both the student and the tutor can identify the modes of learning that are most efficient for the student.
3. Teaching is the best way to learn.
During class time, students are typically expected only to absorb information. This level of learning is sometimes referred to as “passive,” as it only requires one direction of cognition – the ability to comprehend input. A deeper level of learning, however, requires the student to not only comprehend input, but to apply or explain the information – to make the information useable.
An expert tutor can engage in exercises with students that require them to apply the information or explain their understanding directly to the tutor. This can take time and often requires a struggle on the part of the learner, but can facilitate a mastery of concepts that is unlikely to occur in a group (classroom) setting.
4. Immediate feedback is essential.
Many teachers are required to offer feedback or to grade the work of well over a hundred students, and this, understandably, can take time. However, once a student submits an assignment or completes a test, they’re likely to consider the learning process in that subject area to be complete. No matter how thorough the feedback a teacher might provide, it often goes completely ignored or unnoticed. The end result is that the opportunity for deep learning has been missed.
An expert tutor can provide immediate, personalized feedback to the student, explaining the specifics of what the student has misunderstood, or the specific strengths the student exhibits in their work. If offered without judgment, in a supportive and caring way, immediate and specific feedback can greatly enhance a student’s sense of confidence and focus in learning.
5. Time on task is proven to have a strong correlation to achievement.
Let’s face it -- several hours of classroom instruction per week just may not be enough to achieve mastery of a subject. Classroom teachers are governed by a calendar, not by their students’ level of achievement, and families can’t demand that the instruction be paced according to their student’s achievement. But a lack of success in school can be emotionally destructive, and many students suffer from a sense of incompetence and a lack of confidence, based on their classroom experiences.
An expert tutor can spend the time required for the student to gain true mastery of a subject, and do so in a supportive, non-judgmental way. One-on-one tutoring is not only a more efficient method of teaching and learning, working with an expert tutor reduces the stress associated with a lack of understanding and eliminates the student’s sense of incompetence, thereby improving the student’s general attitude toward the subject, and toward school in general.
Achievement leads to confidence, and confidence leads to happiness.
Janet brings a love of cultures, language, and words to her teaching and tutoring. Formerly a high school English teacher, she has taught ESL and English Composition at several Bay Area universities, including UC Berkeley, University of San Francisco, ECIW at Mills College, and CSU East Bay, as well as in Japan and Kazakhstan. Janet has been tutoring high school, college, and postgraduate students for over 20 years, specializing in developing critical thinking, writing skills, college and graduate school application essay writing, and language skills for non-native speakers.