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An Effective Tutoring Session
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An effective tutoring session is simply one where a lot is accomplished. But a wide range of descriptions can characterize the result of a tutoring session. Both the student and the tutor will have their own perceptions of how well the tutoring went. The student may say in the worst case "that was a waste of time - I still feel lost and don't know what to do" and in the best case "I learned more in that one hour than I've learned in all the math classes I've ever taken". Of course, most student descriptions would be somewhere in between these two extremes. The tutor in the worst case may think to themselves "this student is lost and needs to retake one or more previous courses to be prepared for this material" and in the best case "this student is completely in tune with this material and really doesn't need a tutor". Again, most tutor thoughts are somewhere in between these two extremes.

In this essay, I want to focus on getting a lot accomplished. And the key to getting a lot accomplished is being prepared. Both the tutor and the student need to be prepared before the tutoring session begins. I'll talk about tutor preparedness and student preparedness separately.

A prepared tutor is skilled in many ways. The following is a list of skills an effective tutor should have. The list is not exhaustive and is not in any particular order. Also, how these skills impact the effectiveness of the tutor overlap in many cases.

To have, at least at one time, mastered the material they are providing instruction in
This is necessary in order to understand where a student's understanding is breaking down and to be able to provide instruction to steer the student to an accurate understanding.

Create and foster an atmosphere of cooperation
The student and the tutor should work together as a team with the goal of having the student gain an understanding of the material they are studying. The team effort encourages communication and also empowers the student giving them a sense of responsibility and accomplishment.

Good listener, insightful, good communicator, goal and task oriented
The tutor must be able to listen to the student in order to understand where the student's understanding is breaking down. The tutor must be insightful and able to communicate well in order to be able to deliver instruction that is catered to the student's level of understanding. The goal is always to have the student attain understanding and to become proficient. If the tutor loses sight of the goal and/or does not stay on task, both student growth and session efficacy are at risk.

Service oriented and responsible
A responsible tutor realizes they are being paid to provide a service. The service they provide is concentrated and focused teaching. The tutor is not being paid for their own personal past performance in the subject matter they are providing instruction in.

Respectful, personable, patient, encouraging, and motivational
The tutor must be respectful and personable to the student. If not, the student is very likely to neither respect the tutor nor respond well to the tutor's instruction. The tutor must be patient and look at student mistakes as an opportunity to gain insight into the students thinking process. This gives the tutor a better idea of how to guide the student. The tutor should praise the student for a job well done - this encourages and motivates the student to keep up the good work.

In addition to the items listed the tutor should also be easy-going and able to make the tutoring enjoyable for the student (if not enjoyable, then at least less painful). The tutor should never force feed the student and move on to new material before the student is ready - that simply doesn't work. The outcome is to only accomplish having the student not like the tutor and dread the next tutoring session.

A prepared student is one who has already attempted to do the work on their own. This student knows what they already understand and is able to help steer the tutoring session into areas they are having difficulty with. This way tutoring time is spent giving the student instruction on what they need most and not going over problems or material they already understand.

When the above is true, the amount accomplished during individual tutoring sessions is maximized. In reality though, both tutors and students are human and are not perfect. We should always keep our expectations in check and hope for the best. Both tutors and students should always be striving to excel. The tutor can always strive to deliver better instruction and to learn from their students and the student can always strive to better understand the material and to be prepared for the next tutoring session.
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