Tutoring - how to make the most of it
19 Sep 2018
Tutoring - how to make the most of it
By Ros Gillieatt
As university, scholarships and jobs become more competitive, many parents worry that their child will be left behind. Tutoring may be the answer, but only if your child sees the value of it and wants to do it. Before you do anything, discuss the idea with them.
Tutoring is an increasingly popular choice for many parents who want to ensure their teens get the most out of their education. Tutoring can help students improve in areas where they may be struggling. Educational research has found that tutoring can have a powerful effect on students’ learning and motivation(refer footnote). However, it’s important to use a professional tutor who can bridge the learning gap to improve knowledge and skills, and not foster student dependence on outside help.
Does your teen need a tutor?
There are many reasons why you might turn to tutoring:
- Your child is struggling and needs extra assistance to keep up in class.
Tutoring can help if a subject is challenging and your child needs specialised help, or to improve a skill such as essay writing, or if your child has taken on an advanced unit and needs some help that the teacher can’t provide.
- Your child has an exam or assessment.
Assessments, NAPLAN exams, entry to the International Baccalaureate (IB) or academic competitions that help with university applications might give you reason to use a tutor with specialised knowledge and expertise to help prepare your child and get the best result.
- Your child has been sick or overseas.
If you’ve been living overseas and feel that your child needs a bit of help in one or two areas to be at the same level as a classmate, you might consider tutoring. Similarly, if a child has been sick or away from school for an extended period, a tutor can help catch up.
It’s always best to first discuss any issues with the classroom teacher and the head of department for that subject. This will help identify problems and establish the best way to improve your teen’s learning. There may be something you can do at home to support your child’s learning.
If you and your teen have decided that tutoring is the best way to address a learning issue, it’s crucial you get the right tutor for your child’s needs.
How to choose a tutor?
It is important to find a tutor who suits your child’s personality and approach to learning. It’s also wise to use an accredited tutor or one who comes highly recommended by trusted friends or a school teacher. The gender, age or personality of the tutor you choose may play a part in your decision to get a good match with your teen.
Be clear in your mind about why your teen needs help so that you can communicate this to the tutor. This will also help you assess the progress of the tutoring so you know it’s helping your teen and you’re getting value for money.
The Australian Tutoring Association(ATA) says that the best tutor, like the best teacher, is the one who aims to make themselves redundant by imparting the necessary skills and abilities to help teens ‘learn to learn’ and thus become more independent and skilled.
It’s important not to be swayed by big promises with tutoring. Be wary of international businesses promoting online tutoring. It’s important to scrutinise any contracts and understand cancellation conditions before signing anything. If there is a problem, contact the Department of Fair Trading in your state or territory to report it.
The ATA says that it’s important to align the child’s learning needs and learning styles to get the most out of tutoring. It says that good tutors are excellent communicators, subject matter experts, honest, open and accountable. They place educational interests foremost and commercial considerations secondary.
If you’ve decided you need a tutor, there are a few ways to find one:
- ask the teacher or friends for recommendations and then assess their suitability for your teen
- research tutors or tutoring agencies in your area in local newspapers and on websites
- search accredited tutors on tutoring websites
Questions to ask a potential tutor
- What are your educational qualifications and experience in the relevant area?
- Are you an accredited tutor?
- Do you have references or endorsements?
- Do you have a Working with Children Check (WWCC)?
- Do you know the curriculum for your state or territory?
- How long has the tutoring business been operating?
- How does online tutoring work?
- How would you help my teen with their particular learning need?
- What’s your teaching style?
- What resources will you use?
- How will you communicate my child’s progress to me?
- When and where are you available?
- What is the cost and is there a cancellation or missed-lesson fee?
- Can lessons be made up if missed?
How to get the best out of tutoring
A tutor should help to improve your teens’ confidence and improve their learning in a friendly, positive way so that the teaching becomes an extension to school work. You may want one-on-one tutoring to provide an individual approach to helping your child or be part of a small group of students who can work together to share ideas.
A tutor who is a teacher will know the curriculum and outcomes and should be able to provide practical, relevant help, although these tutors are likely to be more expensive. A university student will usually be cheaper and should know the core theories, but unless they are studying education, they won’t know the curriculum and how things are taught in schools.
It’s worth creating a short list of potential tutors from your own research using the suggestions above and then interviewing them by phone or in person. This will help you to see if you like them and to run through some important questions on their suitability, approach to learning and monitoring, and communication of your teen’s progress.
Ros Gillieatt has been working as a journalist for over 15 years and in that time her work has been published in local and overseas newspapers, magazines and websites including the SMH, Choice, The South China Morning Post, Qantas inflight magazine, Gourmet Traveller, The Bulletin and The Australian