Before I address the above, I have to mention that I had thoroughly underestimated what makes a good tutor in the past. I have been tutored by two great tutors before, yet I was not aware of the traits they have carried at that time.
One of the few questions I have asked myself after my first tutoring experience was, “Am I cut out for this?”. But after tutoring for five years, I am sure now it is not simply about whether someone can tutor but rather, if that tutor is willing to hone their teaching skills.
Being able to score really well for the subject does not necessarily translate into being a great tutor (although it is undoubtedly an important pre-requisite). There are also teaching techniques that one would have to wax and wane accordingly to best adapt to different subjects/student and that no good tutor would apply a pre-determined formula for every student.
Have you experienced the following?
1.) A really boring lecture at University 2.) An authoritative superior 3.) Asking for a clearer explanation but the person merely repeats the same thing over and over again.
- It is not uncommon for people to experience the first situation. The person definitely has the qualification and knowledge about the subject matter at hand but is unable to engage the audience/student. Indeed, the content by itself can be rather dry but the lecturer could do better by borrowing relatable examples or even simply by putting an effort in the tone of the speech.
Engaging the students is of one of the most important factors during a lesson. It is definitely achievable in 1-to-1 or small group tuition. Of course, we must also admit that certain students are harder to get motivated but any other tutor would face the same situation as well. You will have to find means to motivate the student. As a tutor begins to teach more, he/she will be able to identify the ways and better impart the knowledge of the subject.
- This is not as common but we should be able to find a consensus that the said figure would be harder to approach and interact with. With that, students will find it mentally punishing to make mistakes (more than it should have) and that should not be the case.
Students should be comfortable with making mistakes in answering questions. There will be students who would spend more time than they should on a question they know they can’t solve/answer appropriately, rather than ask the tutor for help just because they are afraid of being reprimanded!
There would be students who need a tutor to keep them disciplined but the keyword is to be firm and not fierce. Verbally let them know that it is absolutely fine to make mistakes, this is what you are here for. And for the mistake, analyse together if it was careless (and how to circumvent), wrong concept or wrong approach.
- I have seen even school teachers who made this mistake. The student might just heel and give in (by acting like they got it now) because he/she does not want to delay the class or ‘waste time’.
The tutor must understand and accept that rather than putting the responsibility on the student to improve, he/she must take up the bigger role to create value for the lesson!
Usually, repeating once first is fine. But if the student is visibly unable to grasp it again, you’ll have to tweak the example. This would get easier over time with experience.
I would go to the extend to say that, as you bolster your tutoring experience, you’ll be able to better communicate any concepts and ideas to friends, family or anyone else with examples/story easily.
Finally, I hope to bring you one bonus point on being a better tutor. It would surprise many for sure… it is the speed of your speech. Personally, I split tuition into 3 categories. Lecture, tutorial, and practice. I would not go into further details into the 3 types in this article.
The speed of speech during your lesson matters lot! Sometimes it is not the example or the content the students do not understand but rather, it is too fast for them to render in their head.
By slowing down your speech, in fact, you might cover a chapter faster (lesser time by students to go around the blocks) and a better foundation for the students for sure. Because if you leave a lot of gaps for the student to make their own assumptions (especially for math), you will see that you’ll have to tidy it up later during the tutorial.
It does not need to be too slow but if you made a conscious effort to just slow it down a bit, you should be able to see the same results I have seen.
These are my 2 cents to share with fellow tutors out there. I hope you find this article helpful.
Contributed by Aason