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How Much Tutoring Is Right?

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How Much Tutoring Is Right?

2019-11-06T10:12:02+00:00 Posted in All Categories, Organizing Lessons, Parent Advice by

Students will require varied amounts of tuition based on several considerations: :

  • Current academic standing: The worse their current performance the more effort it will take to improve.
  • Goals: The more accomplished they want to be the more effort it will take.
  • Grade level: The more senior the student the harder the word and the more effort it will take to improve.
  • Work ethic: The lower the student’s work ethic and motivation, the more effort it will take to improve.
  • Standards at their school: The faster their school class moves, the harder their school assignments, the more effort it will take to improve.
  • Time frame of goal: The faster the want to achieve their goal the more effort it will take.

As each student progresses the considerations above will also change, and the amount of tutoring needed will also change.


What success takes:

The truth is that if a student wants to do well, just getting through the work is not enough. They must:

  • take whatever time is necessary to deeply understand each concept, including those super hard worded problems – well enough to explain it to someone else.
  • regularly spend time revising and bolstering weak areas
  • learn and habituate effective study habits and organisational skills
  • periodically do timed practice tests to ensure they have good exam technique including time management and anxiety management
  • practice, practice, practice… and, did we say practice?


The universal “getting stuck” experience:

This is probably the most universal experience for maths students: When the tutor explains an idea the student understands- they “get it”, they even successfully answer some questions on their own. The tutor leaves but the student still “gets stuck” when they try it on their own. They can’t continue with the next exercise that was set for homework and wait until the next tutorial to resolve their problem. When they’re at school the next day they don’t feel 100% confident in class because they know they couldn’t figure out various problems from the last set of homework. They struggle through class feeling unconfident. This experience is quite detrimental to a student’s rate of improvement, it really kills the momentum and sense of progress.

Maybe this is happening because it takes the whole tutoring session just to answer all of the student’s outstanding questions. Maybe it’s because there was not enough time to really slow down and ensure there is deep comprehension for every concept that lesson, perhaps the student was desperate to get through as much content as possible rather than understanding as much content as possible. Maybe there was not enough time to practice during the tutorial.


Either way, “getting through” content doesn’t work because it doesn’t create true comprehension. And, when the student inevitably gets stuck trying the work on their own it really disturbs motivation and momentum.


Ok, so tell me, how much tutoring does my child need? These are the most common options:

1 HOUR FORTNIGHTLY

This option is suitable for students who are doing more or less as well as they want to be doing but are feeling a bit of difficulty with the work every now and again. It’s a way for the tutor to help the student with occasional troubles and help the student maintain their position, strategise for an occasional exam, and in general get help with whatever non-critical challenges happen to pop up.


1 HOUR ONCE PER WEEK

An hour of tuition a week will typically help the student with what has been taught in the past week and give time to revise upcoming work. However, if the student is already struggling to keep up, an hour of tuition, while being helpful, might not be enough. If your child is wishing to improve by a large amount, or in a short period of time, 1 hour is usually not enough time. Remember, the tutor needs to: answer all outstanding questions, take time to create true comprehension, do/check revision, review exams and practice exams. It’s just too much to regularly get done in one hour, especially for high school students.


This option is most suitable to primary students who aren’t doing terribly and high school students who only need a small boost.


1.5 HOURS ONCE PER WEEK

This is similar to the 1 hour per week option in that it is only once per week and is fairly convenient and easy to manage. However, that extra half an hour allows the tutor to take their time when they need to. It means that when the tutor feels that the student has barely grasped a concept/question they can slow right down to really create that “aha, I get it” experience for the student and take the time for them to practice on an additional question. This is really the difference that makes a difference.


Additionally, there is more time to cover that “ok but not great” content, to do revision, review exam papers, make plans, work on study habits and organisational skills etc.


This option is generally not suitable for primary school students who cannot sit still for 1.5 hours. It is most suitable for high school students who need to make a medium sized improvement, however, if the student is in grade 11 or 12 and needs a huge improvement it may not be enough.


1 HOUR TWICE PER WEEK

Two hours of tuition a week is seen as the best option for providing high results in the shortest time. It provides a more consistent and free structure for the student where they will be able to get the most out of each tuition lesson, focusing on whatever they need to without feeling rushed. Normally clients do a one hour lesson on two separate days of the week. With this level of increased access to the tutor, the student can quickly start to feel like they are finally on top of everything or even ahead of their class mates which really kicks the cycle of success into gear.


This structure avoids the “getting stuck” experience and allows for a more consistent momentum with less interruption to the student’s progress, motivation and confidence. They are never left feeling stuck for longer than 1-2 days. At the same time, the tutor will have ample time to take things slow and ensure the student really gets the content, creating those elusive “aha” moments. It also allows for time to be spent on revision, practice exams, study habits and organisational skills.


This option is necessary for any students who are severely behind and need to make significant improvements, it’s the only way to really avoid regularly getting stuck. It is also the most suitable option for any grade 11-12 students who want to do extremely well and are not yet there. Grade 11 and 12 are a time when the workload gets bigger and bigger while the content is  becoming increasingly more difficult. It’s tough! On top of that, grade 11 and 12 are about exam technique and study habits as much as they are about understanding the content and that takes time too.


In General…

In general the more tutoring a student receives he faster they will improve, this is fairly self explanatory. In a nutshell, you should have an amount of tutoring that at the very least allows the tutor to do more than just answer your child’s outstanding questions.


In an ideal situation the student will get some high volume regular tutoring for a several months. In this time they would catch up to the class and learn to be an independent learner (so they can succeed on their own, otherwise what’s the point?) Then they can stop the tutoring entirely or scale back significantly. Short to medium term serious and regular tutoring is much more effective than passive long term tutoring.


Many parents get tutoring for 1 hour once per week. They take days off for holidays or weekend trips away. If the student is sick or has an after school activity, they cancel the tutoring for that day and don’t reschedule. This is of course a parent’s right, however, this way it takes much longer to improve because the student is constantly in a state of catching up. It also encourages dependence on the tutor because the student is always a little behind and waiting for the tutor to help them rather than getting to a point where they are (i) always up to date and (ii) confident that they can help themselves.


A disclaimer…

Please bear in mind that this is our general advice and the most relevant considerations from our point of view. Each situation is unique and the best way to figure out how much tutoring your child needs is to speak with your child and with your tutor after the first 1-2 lessons.


Another important consideration is to ask what your child is willing to handle? If they are strongly against the idea of tutoring and are likely to resist making effort, you would be better off starting them on 1 hour per week and getting them “on-side” first rather than insisting on 2 hours per week (even if they need it). We need to avoid creating a situation where they resist the tutoring and resent making effort in general.