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Tutoring for first time

  1. Apr 13, 2012 #1

    Next week I'm tutoring a university student for the first time (social statistics). There are only about 5 weeks left, so that's not a whole lot of time. We'll probably meet up 1h every week (but maybe more in the end if need be).

    I'm just wondering if there are any common pitfalls I should look out for? I already looked a bit on this forum and on google and found some general information, but most of the things spoke for themselves.

    Some things I wonder about:
    - Of course I want the student to be able to ask me everything without feeling ashamed. Is it even worth it to say in the beginning that she will after the classes never see me again, so that she has no reason to worry about what I think of her? And that of course I won't think her questions are stupid etc, although I can imagine her not believing that? Or is that futile and does it simply take some time for her to trust me enough to ask her "stupid" questions? (Probably the best way is to get her to ask the questions whilst not really phrased as questions--more like supposed observations--if that makes any sense)
    - Should I begin the sessions with a recap of what she saw in class (she sent some of the material over she would like to discuss the first section)? Or do I keep the whole thing more Q&A-styled (that is: she asks me things), with some problem solving in between?
    - Is it smart to let hear lead the show? For example ask her "so where do you want to start?" I would think not, cause that probably puts pressure on the student? But then what are the ways to find out the answer to that question without asking her? :)
    - How much should I try and get her to understand the things? What if she makes clear she just wants me to teach her how to solve a certain type of problem without an explanation of why it works: do I do that? Or do I insist on explaining the underlying concepts?

    All tips welcome!
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 13, 2012 #2
    Hey Vodka!

    I have been tutoring math for about four years now and with each individual the experience has been unique, so I don't think you need to adopt a rigid approach. Perhaps before or during your first session you could have a discussion with her about her expectations. Some students might need you to basically teach them the entire subject, while others might only come with questions as a last resort.

    As for her being apprehensive, I don't think you have to outright tell her that you won't be judgmental. Just be kind and receptive and before long she will feel comfortable if she doesn't already.

    Again this was with math and social statistics might require a slightly different approach, but my tutoring usually revolved around problem solving. If you have a deep understanding of the subject it should be easy to notice exactly what the student is having difficulties with. Often I would make up a simple problem which emphasized the difficult concept and afterward they would usually be able to solve their more difficult problem using what we just covered. If we are just working problems and they get stuck I would usually try to ask them questions such that they reason their way to the solution. Usually only when they are utterly lost do I start from the basic concepts and explain everything. And frankly I can think of a million other techniques or variations I have employed depending on the individual situation. Just make sure to communicate!

    No one approach works best for everyone, so tailor your approach and both of you will gain more from the experience!

    Communicate communicate communicate!
  4. Apr 13, 2012 #3


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  5. Jun 12, 2012 #4
    To get students to ask questions without "feeling stupid", I tell my students that I want the class to be completely informal, and and I hope they will keep interrupting me every time I haven't explained something clearly. "If I forgot to say where a negative sign came from, or the meaning of a vocabulary word, etc., feel free to just yell out. You're doing me a favor whenever you do that, because by interrupting me you are improving my lessons." The students report later that they have found me to be "approachable."
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