Posted on September 11th, 2003 by Sacha Chua
- Encourage students to come to tutorial sessions with a list of prepared questions. Tutorials are not mini-lectures, but rather opportunities for students to clarify things they don’t fully understand.
- Help students prepare for the tutorial session by asking them to each divide a sheet of paper into three columns – “I know”, “I want to know”, and “I learned”. Ask your students to fill the first two columns at the start of the tutoring session. At the end of the session, students can summarize what they learned in the third column.
- Attitude is as important as knowledge. As a tutor, your job is also to help students build confidence. Reassure your students that they can understand the material. Try to determine what’s holding students back. How do students feel about the subject? Do students perceive it as irrelevant? Are students intimidated by the complexity of the material or by other classmates? Consider students’ current attitude when tutoring, and help students develop a more positive attitude toward the subject.
- You’re not there just to teach the language. You can also help students develop problem-solving skills and the ability to learn independently. Don’t just demonstrate what you know, but talk about how you learned and share your strategies for learning.
- Particularly for programming: If students are having a hard time with writing programs, ask them to express their solutions in English first, and then help them translate it step-by-step.
- Try to link new topics to previous knowledge. Show how new concepts are related to old ones. Introduce new topics in a step-by-step manner, building on previous material. This helps students review
past lessons. It also helps students build confidence because you proceed from something students are familiar with.
- Listen more than you speak. As much as possible, try to guide students to the right answer without dictating it.
- You may need to demonstrate the solution of a problem if students are stuck. However, do not let students passively listen. After demonstrating the solution, for example, you can hide your solution
and ask students to do it from scratch. You can ask students to rephrase it in their own words. You can ask students to highlight important points and then solve a slightly different problem.
- Ask questions and give exercises. You need to test your students’ understanding. Students may have a hard time estimating their understanding of a topic. They might understand something while you’re explaining it, but when they’re on their own, they get confused. Ask lots of questions and give exercises so that students practice what they learned.
- Make sure you have follow-up work or exercises so that students can continue practicing at home. If you’re familiar with the textbook or have a bank of exercise ideas to draw on, you can quickly prepare a personalized study plan with suggested exercises and readings.
- Group sessions can be very effective, especially if you get the students to answer each other. I particularly like doing this, as it has a number of benefits. Students build confidence, make friends,
and learn that they’re not the only ones having problems. They can help each other review , too!
- Keep your eyes open for good examples, analogies, and exercises. Write your ideas down in a notebook or blog someplace. (Shameless plug: I put a lot on my blog, and I love swapping ideas with others.)
- - Smile.
- - Enjoy tutoring. You also gain a lot from tutoring. Tutoring develops patience and communication skills. It also forces you to gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter. From time to time,
you’ll also learn something new from your students. Plus, you get that incredibly warm and fuzzy feeling when your students understand something (or are at least get somewhat closer to feeling they can).
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