Friday, May 16, 2014

Finding a Tutor - How a Tutor Can Help Your Child Improve Their Grades

A typical day in a classroom encompasses the needs of a particular cohort of students. However each member of the cohort brings different home life experience, different learning experiences their own strengths/weaknesses and likes/dislikes to the classroom environment. While teachers are compelled to program their learning in a way that meets the needs of all students in their care, it is unrealistic to believe this can be accomplished for all students. This is where tutoring begins to bridge the gap between home and school.

A good tutor assesses the student's most pressing needs and focuses their teaching plan in that area. Programs that attempt to cover a broad amount of material, defeat the benefits of one on one tutoring. However, an intuitive tutor, who has determined the ability level of the student, will be able to target specific areas of learning until the student shows progress. For example a student might be able to use interesting vocabulary and demonstrate mastery with spelling, but may have no idea how to use grammar correctly. A tutor can assist a student to improve their own writing by instructing them how to proof read and edit for punctuation in a written composition. Thus, the intensity of focus between tutor and student allows for a high level of progress and improvement of grades.

A child who is struggling with phonemic awareness will experience substantial improvement with one on one tutoring. Here, the tutor is able to target the sounds and blends a student has not acquired in previous learning. The opportunity for such specific and explicit teaching is self directed by the student's needs. It allows the tutor to encourage the student in their learning as they very quickly begin to read using the sounds and blends that had not been retained previously.

This type of work is an intensive focus on the needs of one student rather than a larger group. It allows the student to take risks they would otherwise be embarrassed to in a larger group. Very quickly a shift in confidence is evident as the student begins to conquer previously difficult concepts.

Similarly with Mathematics, a student may find difficulty with particular strands or concepts. A tutor can hone in on these problems and provide intensive one on one support for an extended lesson. The opportunity to model these concepts directly to the student's needs and ability level, is a powerful way to encourage confidence and independence as students learn each new topic more thoroughly at their own pace. Difficulties can be discerned by the tutor, who in turn assesses when the student is ready to take the next step. The problem with the formal school setting is that students often need to move on before they have understood the previous lessons on the topic. This is where gaps occur and where tutors can support the aims of the student's formal teacher.

A "switched on" tutor would also focus on building a trust relationship with the student. This allows the student to share the challenges and difficulties they are experiencing at school with their tutor. This type of dialogue allows the tutor to best understand the unique learning styles and preferences of the student and to therefore plan accordingly. It also allows for a relationship of trust to develop which assists the students level of engagement in their learning.

My experience as a one on one tutor in the United Kingdom proved the power of one on one tutoring to me. Students who didn't know basic sounds, were unable to read simple consonant/vowel/consonant words and had difficulty writing legibly, demonstrated significant improvement in a four week, one hour a day program.

In conclusion, while the formal school provides a stimulating environment for students to learn, there is a very important place for one on one tutoring. A child's learning is like a jigsaw puzzle. If there are pieces missing, the end product will be incomplete and gaps in their learning will be evident. The benefits of one on one tutoring are many. A good tutor will diagnose the gaps in learning, fill them in with one on one explicit teaching and assist the student to work confidently and independently.
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