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Tutor Blog: Tutoring Advice To Get Your Lessons Off to a Great Start

Book open Reading time: 5 mins

Welcome to MyTutor! If you’ve just joined our stellar ranks, you probably want to make sure that your first few tutorials go as smoothly as possible. Although you may not have lots of tutoring experience, we’ve selected you to come on board as we know that your academic ability, passion for your subjects and eagerness to help others gives you the perfect potential to be a terrific tutor.

However, we understand that it’s easy to get a little nervous when you’re standing on the edge of the deep end, ready to dive into your role as a tutor. So to help you swim (rather than sink!) with as much ease as possible right from the start, we’d like to give you our five pool-noodle pillars of wisdom, as your guide to being the most effective tutor you can be:

1 – Be prepared.

As a MyTutor tutor, you already attend or have graduated from one of the UK’s top universities and have achieved top grades all throughout your own academic career, so you probably already know the vast majority of the content your student needs to know (and more). This is especially true due to the fact that you have experience in the subjects you’re teaching beyond just taking those courses yourself.

However, in the years since you started to specialise at university, some of the more basic Key Stage 3, GCSE and even A Level concepts may have faded a little from your memory. When you first start tutoring, make sure to discuss with your student in advance what topics you’d like to cover during each session. This way, you’ll have plenty of time to brush up on any material you feel a little under-confident teaching before each tutorial. Happily, you’ll soon find that the more sessions you do, the less brushing up necessary!

2 – Use syllabuses…

Although the majority of different UK syllabuses overlap by a large amount, especially during the younger years of school, you still might find that a few topics you covered in your own qualifications aren’t included in your student’s syllabus, and vice versa. As you won’t want to waste valuable tutorial time, or overload your student with unnecessary facts, it’s best to find out your student’s exam board and read the syllabus early on.

And exam papers.

During tutorials, I like to occasionally go above and beyond my students’ syllabuses, so that they aren’t limited to discovering only the core concepts included in their qualification, can become well prepared for future studies and have a chance to kindle their own interests where curiosity strikes. However, passing those final exams isn’t necessarily about knowing the syllabus inside out and beyond, it’s about knowing what you need to know, and what you need to write down.

For example, some simple GCSE chemistry exam papers expect you to describe the process of oxidation as a molecule gaining oxygen, but at higher levels of study you’d only gain marks by defining it as a molecule losing electrons. The main goal for many students during their studies is – understandably – to achieve good final grades, so it’s important to maintain a focus on exam content and techniques, especially during revision periods.

3 – Use outside resources.

Being a good tutor is about making sure your student is helped in the best way possible, but when you’re paid for your time, it’s easy to feel as if you should be the only source of help. Never be afraid to make use of resources that you didn’t generate yourself if you think they’ll aid your student. For example, if you know of a very brief online video that introduces a topic concisely, you can send a link in the chat box to your student and ask them to watch it quickly, and then discuss what you’ve seen together. Maybe you still have in your possession a really effective question book from your own studies, so you could go through a few of those questions with your student at the end of each tutorial. Moreover, bringing in a few external components can make tutorials more varied and engaging than if they’re just hour-long one-on-one conversations.

4 – Listen.

These tips should help give you an idea of ways to plan effective tutorials, but remember that there is no such thing as a single perfect session. Every student is different and will respond differently to different tutorial activities. Where one student might best remember facts after answering questions about them, another might only fully comprehend a complex topic when they have a pictographic representation to tie more abstract ideas to. If you’re sensitive to your student’s responses during tutorials and their progress as time passes, it won’t take long to calculate the best strategy to help them most effectively in the long term.

5 – Encourage.

It’s obvious to suggest that encouraging students when they do well can help reinforce hard work that leads to success. But it’s also important, maybe even more so, to encourage students when they fall a little short of their goals. If a student feels that they’ve done something wrong when they aren’t doing well, they may be accidentally encouraged to conceal any evidence of underperformance, which makes it extremely hard to help improve performance going forward.

Instead, I like to make sure my students know that if there’s something in the syllabus they don’t understand yet, that’s actually great news because now we’ve identified an area we can improve on, and found an opportunity to push ourselves closer to those top grades. Make sure to use positive language with your student; for example, if they answer a question incorrectly, don’t respond with “you should know that”, but instead say something like “we’ll need to know this one for the exam, let’s have another quick look at it”.

If you believe that your student is honestly not trying (rather than genuinely struggling) when it comes to their academic work, it can be useful to have a quick, earnest discussion about the importance of maximising their potential now rather than regretting it later, but make sure to frame your message in a positive way, so your student will continue to believe that you’re on their side.

Hopefully these tips will help you start your tutoring career off on the right foot, but as always if you have any questions or would like further advice, you can visit our Community Forum, take a look at our Facebook page, or drop us an email at support@mytutor.co.uk.

Thinking about becoming a tutor, like Sophie? Have a look at MyTutor's opportunities here.