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Find a Tutor: How to Challenge the Student

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Question, pause for thinking time and then prompt.

Talking at people for a long time is not an effective way of helping them to learn. The time you have allocated to tutoring must be spent tutoring if it is to have an effect. A variety of tasks and ways of responding to tasks helps prevent tutees and tutors from losing interest. Different kinds of questioning have very different effects on learners. Tutees must be allowed time to understand questions or tasks, relate them to their previous experience, and devise a relevant strategy. Prompting should be graduated, minimal for the required effect and various in type.

Tutor Practical Applications

  • Avoid lectures. Do not give tutees long, complicated explanations. Keep everything short, to the point and in simple words. Give positive instructions for what to do. Do not emphasize what NOT to do. If necessary, explain again briefly, but in different words.
  • Review. Often it is helpful to briefly review what you learned in your previous tutoring session.
  • Concentrate. Stay focused on the task in hand. Do not drift off into irrelevant conversation. Tutoring time is precious. Use it well. But have some fun while learning.
  • Variety. Mix up: easy and hard tasks; short and long; highly structured and open-ended; talking, reading and writing.
  • Question. Do not just ask for a fact or one-word answer. Ask questions that are open-ended and encourage the tutee to talk. But do not make them too complicated. Ask questions that will make the tutee think and reveal their understanding (or misunderstanding). Ask questions that Question, pause for thinking time and then prompt. make the tutee apply, analyse, predict, classify, synthesize, justify or evaluate what they are learning. Some of these questions will have more than one ‘right’ answer. Do not accept guesses.
  • Thinking time. Do not expect the tutee to respond to a question immediately. They will need some thinking time. Tutors can give them that, while schoolteachers often cannot.
  • Prompt. Do not just tell the tutee the answer. Give them a small clue about how to work out the right answer. This might be a drawing or a gesture (for example), as well as more spoken words. Give just enough support to enable the tutee to be successful with some effort — no more.

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