Friday, December 2, 2011
To Tutor or Not to Tutor, That is a Good Question!
Parents who want to help their students do well on their standardized exams face a tough decision when they seek help for their students. Should they seek the help of a private tutor, or would the student do better in a classroom setting? There is no hard and fast answer to this question. Each student is different, and their educational needs are different, not to mention troubles with scheduling classes around clubs and sports. However, for the parent who’s on the fence about the issue, here are some general guidelines to aid you in the decision.
Private tutoring might be the best option for highly motivated students who already have above average SAT or ACT scores and simply seek to improve them enough to be more competitive in admissions to certain universities. These students benefit from the flexibility of private tutoring, which allows them to work with their tutor at their own pace, breezing through material they already understand while slowing down for their weak points on the test. Further, students who fall into this category have already gained mastery of the basic concepts in each section and use their private tutoring sessions to focus on the advanced concepts. Private tutoring best suits these students by building upon the foundations already laid by their previous education and by tailoring lessons to what the individual student needs to learn specifically.
On the other end of the spectrum, motivated students who have done poorly in the past on standardized tests could benefit greatly from private tutoring. These students need the focused help and attention of a private tutor in order to uncover systemic errors in their critical thinking process. A private tutor can work through each problem with the student step-by-step in order to correct the logic the student uses in finding the answer. Private tutoring also allows for a slower pace in covering the material, so that all the student’s questions can be answered thoroughly, and information can be covered repeatedly as needed.
Finally, private tutoring is a good alternative for students whose busy schedules would prevent them from attending a regular class. After all, signing up for an SAT prep course does not automatically give a boost to your score. Therefore, if a student cannot commit to a regular weekly schedule of classes in addition to school, sports, clubs and the like, private tutoring can be a flexible option to work with the schedule the student already has.
All of this is not to say that other students cannot benefit from private tutoring. Any student can, so long as he or she has the motivation to focus during the time with his or her tutor. Conversely, this is also not to say that these types of students would not benefit from a classroom program. These sorts of programs allow students to learn from each other as well as the instructor by allowing them to see a number of approaches to a problem or different questions raised from different perspectives. It also helps students to focus in a way, as the attentiveness of one student often encourages it in others. Finally, it creates good-natured rivalries between classmates that encourages them to try to outdo the other, motivating them by using another’s success as the bar to surpass.
As an instructor, I find that students benefit most from a combination of both classroom instruction and private tutoring. It allows the students to learn the strategies in class and put them into practice on their practice exams while giving them time to cover problems they personally face in each of the sections.
Whether you decide on private tutoring, a class, or both, the important thing is to find help for your student in whatever way will best aid him or her in preparing for this exam.
Toni Whalen is an instructor with Victory Step.