Finding a tutor to support you in your learning goals is invaluable. But, if you’ve never worked with a tutor before, or have only had mediocre experiences with tutoring, it can seem daunting.
Fortunately, there’s an easy way for you to determine whether a prospective tutor will be a good match because all successful tutoring relationships have similar qualities. Here are some of the best ways a great instructor will set themselves apart:
1. They build a great working relationship with you.
A good tutor will want to understand your learning style. Figuring out what your goals are, what makes you tick and how you solve problems will not only help them tailor their teaching approach, it will create a bond of trust that lends to an ideal environment for motivation and learning.
A teacher in a classroom is responsible for meeting the needs of many students at once, but a 1-to-1 tutor can organize their teaching method entirely around you. The more they know about you—your strengths, weaknesses and how you thrive—the better they can design their lessons and exercises to engage you as a learner.
2. They communicate their plans early and often.
Every good tutor has a game plan. Ideally, they will develop this plan early, with as much input from you as possible. Then, they’ll be flexible, observant and open to suggestions for adjusting the plan as needed. Communication between you and your tutor will be key from the very beginning.
After an initial appraisal (which might be a diagnostic test or assessment), it’s important to have a discussion about your specific learning goals and what you hope to achieve through private instruction.
Good tutors also check in regularly about whether their approach is working, and how your lessons are paying off in the classroom, workplace or even at home. They should also keep track of what you’re covering between sessions, so the pace and content of their lessons can complement your overall learning.
3. They can make difficult concepts seem simple.
This might sound like a no-brainer, but an advanced degree doesn’t always translate to teaching ability. For example, it may seem like a physics tutor needs to have a Ph.D., but if that tutor can’t explain key concepts clearly and easily, their subject matter expertise isn’t worth much to you.
A great tutor should be an expert in what they’re teaching, but it’s important that they can also break it down and explain it in ways that help you learn and understand. In other words, the right credentials can be a great tool in screening for the right tutor, but teaching experience and methodology may play an even more significant role.
Other ways good tutors can go above and beyond homework help might include:
- Taking an abstract concept and connecting it to the real world
- Providing problems that focus on practical applications and not just memorization
- Where possible, linking examples and concepts to your personal interests
- Providing a variety of approaches or examples in case the first one doesn’t click
4. Their goal is to help you not need them.
No matter how much you might enjoy working with your tutor, their ultimate goal should be to leave you so prepared in your subject that they are no longer needed. This means that beyond helping you with content, they should also be helping to develop your skills, discipline and confidence.
5. Their expectations are reasonable and achievable.
While setting reasonable goals is an important step in developing a strong relationship with your instructor, so is regularly holding yourself accountable. A good tutor will check in with you on your progress at school or work and might even build in assignments to measure your progress.
If you don’t feel an approach is working, the right tutor will be open to suggestions about trying new or different methods that can help you excel. Communicate your concerns early on if you don’t think you’re on track towards reasonable results.
Hiring a tutor is all about you.
Remember that every student is different, so it’s helpful to read ratings and reviews in order to make as informed a decision as you can when choosing to work with someone. As long as you’re straightforward in what you expect and ask the right questions ahead of time, you’ll be well on your way to finding the right tutor for your learning needs.