23 Dec

Fortnightly Sessions – effective?

One of my maths students has requested that I come once ever fortnight, and I’m finding it hard to “cram” everything they have learnt in class for the past 2 weeks into an hour long tutoring session.

Generally speaking having fortnightly sessions does not work. It is simply impossible to maintain a strong learning momentum and have a tutorial once per fortnight.

Typically what will end up happening is that every time you come over you will need to cover a magnitude of work which is really too much to learn in one hour. The consequences usually involve:

•    You are forced to rush through the work and are not able to spend as much time on instilling comprehension and the student will forget a larger proportion of what is learned.

•    Because of the rush to cover content you are not able to spend time on teaching study skills such as working out habits, problem solving skills etc. Without these skills a student will not be able to achieve very high grades.

•    The fast paced nature of tutorials will change your role into that of “question answerer” and this is not the purpose of tuition. The purpose of tuition is to achieve a student’s goals which cannot be done if you are always playing “catch up” in tutorials.

•    By the time you see the student each fortnight, a bunch of questions/problems would have arisen. Usually students will wait for their tutor to answer questions where they are “stuck” before moving on with further exercises at home. While they wait for you to answer their questions their class is moving further ahead and they are falling further behind.

Usually, the only situation where a fortnightly tutorial structure can work is where the student is up to date with their class work and not struggling to keep up. In other words where the student’s goal is to maintain their grades rather than improve them and close previous knowledge gaps.

A good idea may be to discuss this with the student:
– Is this working for you?
– Are you also noticing a loss in momentum too? Etc
– What do you want to achieve and do you feel this structure is capable of providing it?

If the student agrees (which they really should), you may want to politely raise the issue with the parents, the student being on your side makes this a lot easier. Many parents haven’t been students themselves for decades and can’t relate to the importance of consistency in study – explain it to them. Many parents view the role of a tutor to be “question answerer” but question answering alone will NOT improve grades by much, we need to instil comprehension, the desire to comprehend and adequate study habits for their grade level – explain this to them and make your recommendations.

Despite our best efforts to advise and consult with clients, ultimately the tutorial structure is their choice. Should they wish to conduct tutoring on a fortnightly basis, we must do our best to provide the best quality possible under such circumstances, but that is a subject for another post.

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