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Five best practices for tutoring K-12 students

Online tutor works with students on the computer Online tutors have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of K-12 students. Whether you're working with students who are struggling to keep up with their classwork or those who are looking for extra support to excel, effective tutoring can help them achieve their goals.

Here are five best practices to keep in mind when tutoring K-12 students:

5 best practices for tutoring K-12 students

  1. Set goals. When beginning a tutoring session, it’s helpful to set goals or expectations with the student. These goals will influence the focus of your session and should be realistic and achievable in the time you have together. Try to guide the student in creating goals that are about learning and not task completion. This could involve working on a particular subject or concept or developing a specific skill. For example, if you are working with an elementary math student a goal could be “I want to be able to multiply double digit numbers without using a calculator,” instead of “I want to complete these 10 multiplication problems by the end of the session.” By setting clear goals, you can help students to focus and stay motivated.

  2. Be a collaborator, not a lecturer. An ideal tutoring session is a conversation between both the tutor and the student, with the student doing the majority of the active work. It is a shared learning environment where students feel comfortable asking questions and making mistakes. As a tutor, you act as their collaborative and supportive guide in their learning journeys. Rather than lecturing at the student, use questioning techniques to get the student involved in the learning process. Giving the student autonomy in their learning will help them become self-regulated and independent learners.

  3. Use metacognition. Metacognition, as defined by Cambridge University, “describes the processes involved when learners plan, monitor, evaluate and make changes to their own learning behaviors.” Engage the student in metacognition by asking them to reflect on their own learning. Rather than simply lecturing or talking through problems, try to get students actively involved in the learning process. This might involve having them work through problems on their own while explaining the steps or asking them to explain concepts to you. This will clarify for you what the student already knows while simultaneously providing space for the student to practice recall and problem solving. Questions to use in promoting metacognition: What do you already know about the topic? What do you feel is the most challenging part about the problem? How has your thinking changed about the problem/topic after working on it? What steps will you use to address a similar problem in the future?

  4. Be patient. Each student you encounter in your tutoring sessions may require different strategies or amounts of time to understand the material. As you guide your student through a session it is important to be patient and adaptable. Give students the time they need to process new concepts or methods, and don’t rush them by jumping ahead. This might involve providing extra support and encouragement when they are struggling, or simply being there to listen when they need to talk through a problem.

  5. Be positive. Many students come to tutoring for support in a subject they may not feel confident in, but with the best intentions for seeking help. As a tutor, approach each session with a positive attitude, and ready to help an eager learner. Be their cheerleader – offering words of encouragement can go a long way in helping students to feel motivated and confident. Providing positive feedback to a student is more than saying “good job!” Use your encouragement to identify what they are doing well, specifically, so they know what to replicate in the future. You may want to compliment how they applied the correct formula for a problem, used strong vocabulary when writing, or demonstrated resilience when approaching a complicated question. Your positive attitude and encouragement will help the student develop a growth mindset.

By using the best practices outlined above, you can help your students to achieve their full potential and succeed in their academic pursuits.

Are you interested in helping students in their learning journeys? We encourage you to apply to become a tutor on TutorMe today!

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