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Tutoring Skills

  1. May 31, 2009 #1
    Hello folks,

    This may seem out of topic but I would like to know how to perfect my skills in tutoring high school kids. Just a little introduction. I am a third year Biochemistry student here in Canada and I teach my students Chemistry and Math.

    Why I am asking the question is that when I try to explain to them some concepts they keep on asking why and it keeps on getting they get confused. For instance, I was explaining the other how electrons spin around orbits and the student asked me why and I tried to explain the basic quantum chemistry but again she kept on getting confused. I was wondering if it is me who is making it complicated or some students are not attentive.

    I appreciate your ideas, comments and any additional tips that would make my students successful. I know I have the knowledge but to pass it may rather be difficult.

    P.S. I am not planning to pursue career in Education. I am just volunteering to tutor high school kids, grade 10,11 and 12.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 31, 2009 #2


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    At least you have them asking questions.

    I think one hurdle that you have to overcome with tutoring is that you will inevitably encounter students who expect you to do the thinking for them. They want you to tell them the answer as quickly and with as little effort on their past as possible. And often, as tutors or instructors, we can feel that if we don't spit it out clearly and concisely so that they understand that we are somehow failing.

    The trick, in my opinion, is to get the students to ask the right questions so that they can formulate their own ideas and models based on the information they have available. So when a stuent asks 'why' - rather than blurting out the answer (which may be over their head) - counter with a question of your own.

    In your example of the basic atomic model: you state that electrons exist in discrete orbitals. If the student questions why this is, you can counter with something like:
    "Well, this is a model and models are usually based on experimental evidence. What evidence is there that would suggest the electons behave in this manner?" Then you can point them to the relevant reading if they haven't done that yet.
  4. May 31, 2009 #3
    1.Make sure you are thoroughly familiar with the concepts yourself.
    2.Have some lesson plan with clear aims and objectives.
    3.Try to predict any difficult questions that may arise .Encourage and enjoy such questions.If appropriate get class debates going.
    4.Have worksheets ready to hand out.
    5.Organise experiments and demonstrations and use other resources that may be available.
    6.Get to know the level of your students and plan your lessons accordingly.
    7.Try to cater for the range of abilities in your classes.
    8.Try to gain an awareness of the concentration spans of the student in your classes.Have regular mini breaks,joke around and make your lessons fun.
    9.Try to improve your teaching environment with displays etc.
  5. Jun 1, 2009 #4
    As for electron spin, I wouldn't panic about encountering difficulty getting a novice student to understand such a counterintuitive and non-visual idea. If you couldn't get one of the simplest ideas across, there's a problem with method. But when it's one of the concepts that almost everyone has problems visualizing, after you have already tried a number of standard things, you may have to tell the student to allow some days for it to sink in, "go sleep on it", while you move on to use the main conclusions to solve a few problems in flowchart or cookbook fashion. After the student acquires self-confidence in solving a few problems in that unit, there may be an epiphany regarding the meaning of it all. (In my humble opinion as a person with 30 grad school credits in secondary education but very little teaching experience.)
  6. Jun 13, 2009 #5
    Thank you for your insights. Much appreciated!
  7. Jul 2, 2009 #6
    This may seem out of topic but I will still ask.

    I was wondering if it is appropriate to reward the students that I tutor, like giving them presents, just to motivate. I am doing this in a good way and not to expect any favors from my students. Why am I doing this? One of my students really did well in her chemistry class (that I tutor) and I was excited to hear the news. Because when I started tutoring her, I started from scratch and eventually she ended up with A.

    Is it something wise to do or will it tarnish my image as a tutor? Some parents could be sentimental about it and may make them think twice which I don't want to experience whatsoever. Let me know.

  8. Jul 3, 2009 #7
    Don't do anything unilaterally,check the rewards policy of your school and implement any prizes via the system that may already be in place.Also,get advice from your head of department.Personally,I am not particularly in favour of rewards systems and I think the student you refer to has been rewarded enough by her results.
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