12 Dec

What Makes A Good Tutor?

My name is David Bouskila, I have been with Ezy Math Tutoring for 2 years now and have taught a wide variety of students over that period. I believe my current situation gives me the ability to view the tutoring process from two main perspectives – the client side and the tutor side. My aim in this article is to inform parents what to look for beyond grades when hiring a tutor, as well as to inform tutors of this by sharing my experiences both as a student and tutor.

Successful tutoring lies firstly in the passion that a teacher has for the subject, and secondly in the way they impart their knowledge. Communication and observation is vital in this process. I am studying Mathematics now, not because I find it easier than anything else, but because I had a teacher whose enthusiasm for Mathematics was so infectious that my passion for the subject came about. It is for the same reason that I decided to become a tutor and suggest that tutors pride themselves mostly on passion and ability to communicate.

While working at Ezy Math Tutoring I learnt something that I didn’t consciously appreciate before. People learn mostly through three different mediums of communication – kinaesthetic, auditory and visual. In a one-on-one tutorial class it is a lot easier, but still difficult to detect what kind of learner your student is. I imagine that teaching a larger class would only make this recognition harder. Seeing as I have only tutored in a one-on-one situation I choose to give my opinion in this area only.

What do these three mediums exactly mean?

Kinaesthetic teaching is understood as teaching through physical means via creative body language and motion – “doing”. As an example, if you see your child waving hands and gesturing while thinking through a problem, you may find that representing academic concepts in physical ways makes the learning more accessible and memorable. Visual learners, as the name suggests, benefit from diagrams, charts, graphs, films and written directions. If you see your student or child explaining theories through graphs, or preparing study with to-do lists, then they may benefit more from visual teachers. Auditory learners tend to benefit from more common teaching techniques which include lecture style formats where the material is being read and explained in a verbal manner.

Having an understanding of these 3 mediums will allow tutors to develop those skills required to effectively teach, and more importantly to identify what type of student they are teaching to.

In saying this, it is no easy task to identify what type of learner your student or child may be. This is where a tutor’s observation and communication skills are vital. I feel that the biggest hurdle for a tutor is to identify a learning style that is different from the tutor’s own learning style. For example, I believe myself to be more of a visual and kinaesthetic learner, so for me to identify an auditory learner and to implement methods appropriate for auditory learners will prove more difficult than for kinaesthetic or visual learners.

Most tutors out there won’t get it right the first time, which is something parents need to appreciate. As tutors we need to understand that we may get it wrong at times. It is in these moments that the skills I mentioned will allow us to recognise the need to adjust our methods. For effective tutoring, I think the first couple of lessons should focus on two things: 1. How is the student reacting to the discussions? and 2. How does the student address a problem when given one? Hopefully from this we can gather a good understanding of what type of learner the student or child is.

My final thoughts in this article are to assess the way the question “What makes a good tutor?” is answered. The answer I have in mind is “Having the required knowledge and having the communication skills to adjust delivery, matching the student’s needs.” To the parents of the students – I can’t emphasise enough how much you need to look for these skills in your tutor. To the tutors – take the time and make an effort to reflect on your tutorials and from my experience you will most certainly see improvement.

by David Bouskila – 12th December, 2010

David Bouskila has been tutoring for nearly 4 years. He has been with Ezy Math Tutoring for over 2 years now and has accumulated over 200 hours of one-on-one tuition with a variety of students from a variety of grades.

One comment

  • Donna said 16 September 2013

    I like your website and thought I would share that

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