Tutoring is a common intervention for students who are falling behind, but it can be equally effective for preventing such regression or just providing an extra boost to students who are already competitive academically. Tutoring can be underestimated as an effective vehicle to improve all students' performance when the student or parents believe that tutors would only respond to issues of struggling students, or incorrectly assume that the role of the tutor is to assist with assignments provided by another educator. In reality, many tutors bring an extensive amount of training and experience to their position and are able to create detailed education goals and lesson plans. Consider some of these other valid reasons to enroll in tutoring to be proactive.
Prevention Models in Education and Medical Fields
Medical and education professionals have similar views of prevention. Both believe they can prevent many undesirable situations, and recognize early warning signs. In an attempt to get and maintain attention, they sometimes use scare tactics or place a certain amount of pressure on the patient or student. For example, doctors may recommend more exercise or a different diet, and predict dire consequences even though the patient isn't experiencing any limitations currently. This can cause skepticism about the diagnosis, and lead the patient to lie about behavior or understate symptoms out of fear they may be reprimanded for not doing the things they were advised to do. Teachers sometimes set up the same negative relationship that leads to students who hesitate to ask questions or make up excuses when unable to complete assignments.
However, when doctors and teachers are seen as partners and helpers rather than adversaries, their expertise can be used most effectively to guide those in their care away from harmful activities. Prevention can lead to improved outcomes if approached positively with no blaming. Prevention avoids the often-disastrous consequences of delayed treatment or intervention when professionals partner with patients and students to help them succeed, not to point out what they have done wrong in the past. Tutoring is one example of a prevention model in education where a student benefits from reminders to get started and stay on task, clarification of directions, and immediate feedback on the quality of their work. Even when the tutor just confirms that all is proceeding smoothly, the student gains confidence from receiving the feedback.
One of the most well-known preventative strategies is to enroll in tutoring for test prep, and there are numerous professionals dedicated specifically to helping students prepare for the SAT and ACT. Strategies for scoring well on these exams differ from the expectations of most curricula, so getting additional instruction outside of school provides a much-appreciated boost in familiarity with how the tests are structured as well as confidence with both content and testing strategies.
Executive Function and Study Skills
Many students have no concern with course content and understand concepts easily, but they struggle with executive function issues, most notably organization and time management. Working with a tutor can help these students demonstrate what they really know. Rather than reteach any specific content, tutors provide tremendous value by helping the student develop and implement a study plan for each day. Tutors can model executive function skills such as the ability to break down assignments into smaller, more achievable tasks, strategies to predict what questions will be asked on a test, and a system of organization that allows the student both to capture assignments when given and to ensure that completed assignments are handed in on or before the due date. Too many students have learned the hard way how significantly the zero earned on each missing assignment impacts their overall grade, and working with a tutor on building executive function skills can improve grades across all subjects, as well as minimize the frustration a student experiences when losing credit for something that they truly do understand.
Pre-Teaching is a strategy that can be particularly effective for students who have high anxiety, and also as a way to help boost in-class participation because the student has additional time to prepare a response rather than having to hear and process new information all at once. With this strategy, the tutor introduces new concepts or pushes ahead in the prescribed curriculum so that the student hears the information in class for the second time, once he has already developed a way to organize the information he is hearing and connect it to past learning, making the new material more memorable. It can also reduce anxiety because the student is already familiar with the topic, and doesn't fear being blindsided in class with completely foreign material.
Pre-teaching is ideal when the classroom teacher and tutor are in regular communication. In some cases, the teacher can specify exactly what question she intends to call on the student for, completely eliminating the chance of being called upon to participate randomly and greatly reducing the student's anxiety about being unprepared in front of the entire class. This type of accommodation can be arranged through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan.
Coaching an Already Strong Student
Of course, tutoring for the standard purpose of providing feedback and supporting a student with immediate feedback is very effective for a student at every achievement level. Gaining feedback from a knowledgeable tutor before turning in the assignment to a classroom teacher for actual grading provides an extra boost regardless of the student's current grades. Many students achieve deeper understanding and push themselves further with regular tutoring sessions, much like a coach can improve athletic performance for both the star of the team as well as someone who aspires to make the team and seeks help just to prep for tryouts.
Having a positive relationship with a tutor helps instill good habits and prevent any grade-impacting twists before they occur. There is little to be gained from implementing tutoring only when the student is so frustrated that the very idea is met with hostility and so far behind that catching up becomes a monumental task, even with outside support.
For more tips on how to support a student without entering into an argument, read my guest blog on Our Four Best Tips for Organizing Your Student Without Nagging.