Yr 11 student has improved well over the past few weeks, but he is still not able to work through problem solving questions well. The biggest concern with him is that he hesitates a lot during class, he fails to cooperate and often suggests that my teaching methods and ideas are not fitting his style. I am given the impression, however, that he is simply not doing enough questions to challenge himself so that he can improve. I am still wondering, how to improve tutor-student relations, as he seem to still unable to trust me when setting him work to do at home.
There are quite a lot of issues presented here. The most important of those is probably your relationship with the student. Why doesn’t he trust you? If he does not like and trust the tutor then he will not learn from you and you will not be able to inspire him.
Before discussing that issue however, his complaint should be acknowledged. If he claims that your approach is not fitting his style, this must be addressed. Most importantly, the student must feel considered. Reflect on what you have/haven’t done to make him feel that way?
Sometimes students complain that a tutor isn’t fitting their style, when this happens you must ask yourself two questions:
- Am I really not adapting adequately?
- Does the student just expect me to teach in a way that he feels will be useful but I personally know would not help him? A common example of this is students who just want to be told how to answer questions without worrying about why it works that way.
If number 1 reflects your scenario then it is up to you to adapt to the student, not the other way around. If you feel you are unable to do so then perhaps somebody else might be. If number 2 more closely resembles your situation you must explain to the student why his approach is inadequate – he must ultimately agree with you otherwise tuition will not work. Usually this agreement takes time to develop however, but it won’t happen without confrontation and discussion.
In regard to the trust issue, it seems like perhaps you have not built enough rapport with the student and/or not sufficiently demonstrated your expertise. Rapport happens from:
- Praise – perhaps try to give him more credit for his successes, regardless how small. Help him realise the ways in which he has already improved. You can even praise him in other regards.
- Similarity – relate to his troubles and challenges. We all have at least basic similarities it is just a matter of highlighting them. At the very least at some point in your own academic career you must have shared some of the challenges he is currently facing – let him know about them and how you overcame them. Tell of other students with similar challenges that you have helped.
- Co-operation – this is probably the most important component in this scenario. You must work as a team otherwise tuition will not be effective. Plan what work will be done together with him, make sure he agrees with your approach and when he doesn’t compromise such that the outcome is mutually acceptable. You must be on the same team – this cannot be stressed enough. Since he is in year 11 you can speak rather directly: “I don’t want to set you work that you don’t want to do or don’t believe to be useful. What are you willing to do? Here’s what I think, do you agree?” Etc
Remember though, building rapport is a process. This is not all about one quick fix conversation but your general manner with the student. Ultimately, fostering a useful relationship is part of your responsibility as a tutor – without it tuition will be ineffective.