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When and why tutoring does not work

Tutoring can help strengthen subject comprehension, boost confidence, and build essential learning skills. Tutoring gives students individualized attention that they don’t get in a crowded classroom. One on one tutoring helps students who struggle to keep up, and it challenges those students that find the classroom curriculum a breeze.

Here are what studies are saying about the effectiveness of tutoring:

1 – Students who were tutored gained an additional 40% of a standard deviation in reading achievement over control group students who received no tutoring. A researched study in 1980 conducted by famed educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom indicated that students who underwent one-on-one tutoring performed better than students who did not receive tutoring. Tutoring had successfully increased academic performance. This study applies to students with behavioral issues as well.

2 – Tutoring adds social and emotional benefits for the student.

3 – Tutoring is not always effective. For tutoring to be effective, there are a few components and ingredients that cannot be absent:

  1. A tutor must get to know and build rapport with the one he tutors. There must be a relaxed atmosphere so that both the tutor and student can enjoy the session.
  2. Patience. Tutors frequently need to be ready to go over the material more than once.
  3. Both the tutor and the student need to be punctual. Informing tutors of the subjects and goals ahead of sessions is a big time saver. Learning materials need to be shared before and during the session.
  4. Tutors need to give lots of praise.
  5. Tutors need to admit if they do not know the answer.
  6. Tutors need to be excellent listeners.
  7. A professional tutor is on the lookout for root causes of why the student is struggling to master information.
  8. Tutors need to understand the material and connect to it.
  9. An effective tutor is an engaging tutor.
  10. Tutors need to want to be tutors. They need to be happy and smiley and warm and paid fairly enough that they can support themselves. They need to be internally motivated to help students by bringing out in the students the skills they need to succeed. An effective tutor is on the lookout for what motivates the student internally and knows that success and clarity in learning are what bring about confidence and motivation.
  11. Consistency. Tutoring is ineffective when a student turns to a tutor to have lessons when needed. Students who get regular lessons do their best. The tutoring mindset that it is a skill of “coaching for learning performance,” just like a sport that requires practice, is the key to tutoring success.
  12. Half-hour sessions are key. After 30-40 minutes, the sessions lose their effectiveness.
  13. One-on-one tutoring is the only real tutoring. Only in one-on-one tutoring sessions, is there a dynamic of “flipped classroom” (as mentioned below), calm atmosphere, with a mission and goal designed for the specific student.
  14. Tutors that are not professional fall into the trap of telling the student the answers rather than getting the student to think for themselves. Effective tutors help students to see the “root causes” of their lack of academic performances.
  15. It is critical that the tutor or learning coach focuses on the process of learning and how to learn, not merely teaching knowledge. Content is essential, and so are grades, and students need to keep up to the curriculum; but if the tutor focuses on these, the student will go through the following cycle. A- Receiving tutoring. B- Getting a higher grade on an exam C-Needing more tutoring to get those higher grades D- Getting higher grades consistently E- Not getting tutoring F – Grades drop G – Getting tutoring again H- and so on. It causes the student to become reliant and dependent on tutoring in the long run, and does not help them be independent when tutoring stops or when they go on to dormitory high schools/colleges, and learn abroad.

Tutoring can be done over Skype/Zoom and can be even more effective. The effectiveness of skype tutoring depends on several factors.

  • The internet connection on both ends needs to be high speed. A choppy connection can ruin a tutoring session, even with the best learning specialists. The best HD webcam (iPads do the job), a Mac or Intel i7, headphones with a mic., proper lighting, and high-speed internet of minimum 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload, are minimum requirements.
  • Online tutors need to be super engaging to overcome the artificial factor.
  • Online tutors and students need to be very time-efficient as the time-saver is a crucial element in the effectiveness and benefit of online tutoring.
  • The biggest asset and strength of online tutoring is screen-sharing. Online tutors need to have access to and knowledge of how to quickly share educational videos, songs, charts, pictures, seforim, texts, whiteboards, apps, online tools, and Microsoft office software.
  • Online tutors need to be masters at a method called “flipped classroom,” where the tutor challenges the student to “teach” the content instead of being taught. For this to take place, the online tutor needs to master the art of 80/20: The tutor speaking only 20 percent of the time, while the student is doing 80 percent of the talking. Although this is important in live tutoring as well, this is a critical condition in online tutoring.
  • For online tutoring to be effective, the student needs to be seated in a chair just like in school — not a comfortable chair or an office chair that swivels. The student needs to be sitting with the back off the chair and in a focused position.
  • Online tutors need to know which subjects they can teach well, under these circumstances. Not all topics are material that one can tutor online. Here are a few
    that work:
    Mastering language and gemara skills. Preparation for tests. Learning content together with “flipped classroom method.” Helping students learn new learning skills such as improving reading speed and comprehension, focusing and concentration, memory tools, and creativity are all things that online tutoring is a perfect solution.

About the author, Yosef

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