Why do Kids get Tutors?07/10/2022 / Private Tutoring
Private tutoring has become more popular than ever in recent years. Due to this increase in popularity, we thought we would answer the commonly asked question, ‘Why do Kids get Tutors?‘
What this article covers:
- Why do children need tutoring?
- Is Home Tutoring Better Than School?
- How Often Should a Child Be Tutored?
- Is Tutoring Once a Week Effective?
Why do children need tutoring?
Tutoring is in growing demand for supporting children in school, building confidence and developing enthusiasm for learning. It can teach study techniques and time management skills and reinforce the foundations of concepts learned in class to expand on them as a child moves through the curriculum. Consistent one-to-one support is hugely beneficial for children, leading to improved grades and greater self-esteem.
The very nature of classes in many schools requires that they take a broad approach to cater to the majority. That means that if your child is outside the ‘average’ and is slower to grasp a concept or, conversely, picks them up more rapidly than most, they may not be getting the most out of their education or fulfilling their potential. The curriculum moves at the speed of the average pupil, and children that fall outside of those parameters either don’t get stretched enough or can be left behind.
A tutor can benefit students who are either struggling with a subject or those who need to be stretched further beyond the capabilities of a teacher managing a class of around 30 pupils with different needs.
Is Home Tutoring Better Than School?
Home tutoring is beneficial for many types of students with a range of different needs. The most obvious time at which a tutor is needed is when a child is struggling in a particular subject. However, looking at the school system as a whole, there are many other situations in which a child would benefit from supplementing their learning with a one-to-one tutor.
In large groups, social peer pressure has a significant impact on a child’s engagement with a subject. Children want and need to be like their peers, and if it’s ‘cool’ to hate maths, for example, then many children are influenced by this collective antithesis and don’t engage fully. Self-esteem can also play a part in student engagement and motivation. No one wants to be labelled the stupid one in class by asking too many questions or to be teased for either trying hard or failing a test.
Tutoring can enable tailored, personalised learning. Individual students learn things at different speeds, and one who picks a concept up quickly may really struggle with a different idea, while the inverse may be true of the student sitting next to them. The curriculum is often designed with a building block approach, so if the student doesn’t have a firm grasp of a foundational concept and the lesson moves on to the next one, there’s a good chance they’ll struggle with the subsequent elements of the curriculum. Tutoring can fill in the gaps in learning on an individual basis, targeting weak areas that are specific to your child and strengthening the foundation on which they will continue to build in subsequent classes.
A good tutor will also get to know your child’s specific learning style and customise their approach accordingly. Adapting to the needs of the child in a one-to-one forum is a key benefit of tutoring sessions. In focusing on a student’s weak areas of understanding and teaching them in a way that is more easily absorbed, the tutor builds enthusiasm and helps your child to develop interest and focus.
In many cases, if a child says they don’t enjoy a subject, it’s often because they struggle in class, fail to pick up the concepts as easily as their peers, and inevitably lose confidence and motivation to try. This is compounded as they fall further and further behind until the point comes where they simply accept that they’re ‘not very good’ at the subject and stop trying completely. They are, of course, surprised then when during one-to-one sessions with a tutor, certain gaps are filled in, concepts become clear, and the subject becomes easier. As it is brought to life, they suddenly start enjoying the subject because it is no longer an uphill struggle.
There’s a great deal to be said for instilling confidence and supporting problem areas to increase motivation and engagement, which in turn causes confidence to grow and motivation to build. When a child is stretched, but the learning goals are within reach, this naturally encourages them to apply themselves and work hard. When they feel swept along and left behind, this merely demotivates them and becomes a vicious cycle of low self-esteem and lack of engagement. Every time they walk into a lesson for a subject they feel they’re ‘not good at’, their confidence gets knocked yet again and compounds that feeling and self-image, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy and further eroding their enthusiasm to learn. An experienced tutor can erase the negative reinforcement and create an environment of positive reinforcement. This will bolster their confidence when going into class, knowing they have the support of the tutor.
A huge and often overlooked benefit of tutoring is the teaching of study skills and time management. As they progress further through their school career and especially at A Level and university, students are expected to manage their own learning independently to a great extent, and tutoring can develop techniques and routines for prioritising tasks and managing their workload. These are essential life skills that will serve them well even in the workplace but which are rarely taught beyond an overview level in school itself.
How Often Should a Child Be Tutored?
Every child is different, and before finding a private tutor, you should be clear on their current level and what their goals are. Is it to support and compound their existing learning, or do they need a tutor because they’re struggling?
Participating in tutoring sessions fairly frequently, particularly when sessions first begin, can shorten the learning curve and speed up progress, which is motivating in itself. It’s also worth bearing in mind that it’s easier, both practically and psychologically, to reduce sessions because progress is going well than to try and increase session frequency because progress isn’t as fast as you’d hoped.
Tutor availability can be a factor from a practical perspective if you decide you need to ramp up the frequency of sessions, but if your child feels disheartened that the results aren’t coming as quickly as they had hoped, this can have a negative effect as to how diligently they apply themselves going forward. It reinforces the belief that they don’t have a natural ability for the subject, so it is worth taking this potential impact on their self-esteem into account in deciding how frequently to organise the tutoring sessions from the outset.
The single biggest motivator for improvement is the child’s own attitude and outlook, so if results are seen by them quickly with some intensive effort to start off with, this will compound and have a positive effect on their confidence and enthusiasm and motivate them when applying themselves independently.
You should, however, be wary of over-tutoring. Sessions which are too frequent or too long will have a detrimental effect on progress. Concentration will naturally wane with sessions which are several hours long, and oversaturation of one specific subject can cause boredom and fatigue, leading to burnout, demotivation and reduced enthusiasm. Tutoring, is by it’s nature intensive, but not so much that it pushes the child away from the subject through hyperfocus and overwork to the detriment of other subjects and hobbies.
There is also research to suggest that breaks and time away from studying are as important for effective learning as focused study. Professor Barbara Oakley’s research on Focus and Diffuse modes in working memory  indicates that while new neurological pathways are laid down during focus mode (i.e. during a tutoring session), they are strengthened and developed in diffuse mode when away from the subject matter and taking a break. Too much work in focus mode can cause overload, and the information is never cemented in the student’s mind during diffuse mode.
If you decide to start with more frequent tutoring sessions, be careful not to scale back too early. Tutoring should support the work done in the classroom and fill in any gaps in understanding to bring the student up to speed to develop their knowledge further in subsequent classes. This progress should then be built upon in subsequent tutoring sessions, so the two learning environments complement each other. It’s very easy for students to slip back into old habits, and momentum can be lost if you drop session frequency at the first sign of improved grades.
Tutoring should not be used as a short-term fix to bring up grades temporarily. In fact, approaching tutoring in this way is very likely to erode your child’s self-confidence around the subject further when their grades slip backwards again. Instead, try a consistent longer-term strategy to create a firm base from which your child can grow.
Is Tutoring Once a Week Effective?
Consistency is the key objective. Your child will benefit hugely from having additional weekly support, building confidence in weak areas and igniting enthusiasm for the subject which will transfer into the classroom. A regular routine of structured tutoring sessions will see far more progress than sporadic or short-term ‘cramming’ sessions only before big exams. Less frequent but still regular sessions such as every two weeks or once a month for longer stints can leave a student constantly in ‘catching up’ mode, so they never get a handle on the subject. Once a week can be a great balance in reinforcing what they know and adding new knowledge to their repertoire.
When starting out with a tutor, especially if they are being brought in due to your child falling behind or struggling, there will inevitably be more gaps in their knowledge when they first start work. As these gaps are gradually filled in week on week, progress will then almost certainly accelerate, and each new topic will be grasped more quickly as they are building on the knowledge they learned thoroughly before it. This is different to the intensive start approach but can be just as effective and is great for building good study habits and routine.
Few family budgets are limitless, but investing the time and money once or more a week consistently will be of huge benefit to your child. While the initial progress may not be as fast as an intensive approach at the beginning with a view to perhaps tapering down later, grade results are still significantly improved with weekly tutoring sessions over an extended period of time.
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