Carnegie Mellon University

III. One-on-One Tutoring

1. Evaluation of Needs

Each student has different needs and ways to learn.  As you get to know students, you will be able to develop new ways to help them learn more efficiently. Below are some strategies to help you facilitate this process.

Ask what they DO know, not what they DON’T know, in order to evaluate where to begin the tutoring session. Have them talk about what they’re working on in school, and topics they’re most interested in.

Learn to understand the communication style of the student because they do vary.

Some students tend to have an internal locus of control, or believe they are in control of their learning.

While other students have  an  external  locus  of  control  and  believe that  external  forces  control  the  outcome  of  their  learning.  Being able to understand what type of learning the  student  is  allows  you to effective teach them.

Ask the students where they are having trouble.

Some students fear a subject because of past failure.  Some students are taking the class because it is a requirement; therefore they have no interest in the subject.  The students could also be lacking confidence in their ability to master the material, or they might be overwhelmed  by  the  time  requirements  imposed  on them  for  this  particular  class.  The  reason  for  the  tutoring  request is  important  because  it  will  give  you  a  starting point from which to  plan  your  future tutoring sessions.

Establish and share the needs and expectations you have of the student and have the student  share needs and expectations of you from the beginning of tutoring. Set rules and guidelines at the beginning of the first session, and be consistent.

Develop a personalized program.

Set minor  and  major  goals  and  establish  the  way  in  which  these goals will be met. Let students help to determine what these goals will be.

Track the progress of all work.

Grading and recording results will allow you to determine when your student has a total command of the material and is ready to move on.

2. Opportunities for Success

Students want to achieve and have successes. Facilitating this process will help to keep them motivated in order to continue to the next problem.

Always begin activity at a point where the student can succeed, and provide support when moving to more difficult tasks.

Providing support isn’t simply giving the student answers, but guiding them towards the answer.

Repeat tasks as often as needed.

Make sure the student fully understands one concept before moving on to another.

3. Right and Wrong Responses

Knowing how to respond to questions is important. This can make the difference between students feeling down on themselves or motivated to work harder to attain the right answer.

Acknowledge but do not over-exaggerate success during a tutoring session.

Encourage students constantly and praise positive behavior and attitude. Respond to wrong answers supportively. “No, that’s not right, but good try.”

Do not correct a student’s grammar.

Instead, provide them with an example by using correct grammar. Do not correct the student on everything.

Note mistakes for later, but stay focused on session goals. Create a non-judgmental environment for students where they learn that they can make mistakes.

You want students to be comfortable making mistakes around you so that you can provide correct examples.

4. Communication with Parents & Teachers

Sometimes you will need to talk to your student’s parents or teachers in order to provide the best tutoring situation for your student. We think about reaching out to parents and teachers when times are tough, if the student often forgets assignments, has behavioral issues, or simply isn’t certain what to work on during tutoring sessions—but the truth is, touching base with parents and teachers about your student’s successes can be just as helpful. Working together with parents and teachers can help you to create tutoring goals to meet the student’s needs.

Always speak with your leader, faculty member, or supervisor before reaching out to parents or teachers. They may be able to provide some helpful tips, and may have insight into how to address certain issues.

Once you have the go-ahead, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

Speaking to teachers ensures you share the same educational objectives, and can work as a team to be sure the student is receiving the best help possible. Ask a lot of questions about the teacher’s expectations and insight, and work towards meeting the goals of the teacher. Email is a great way to reach out to teachers, since they can respond quickly during times that work for them. (They may also want to send supplemental materials, like worksheets or reading materials.)

When speaking with parents, be sure to highlight the positives. Ensure parents of your dedication to their child’s success, but do not shy away from discussing any issues your student is facing. Talk about what problems you’ve noticed, and ask parents for feedback. Sometimes they may be able to share helpful information about your student that will allow you to better teach them.

We tend to associate parent-tutor communications as necessary only when there are problems, but it is a good idea to reach out to give positive updates, too. That way, parents will see that during tutoring, their child is working hard, has a good attitude, excels at reading, or other positive traits. It also helps parents to know that you see all the great qualities about their child, while working to correct a specific problem.