3 Reasons Why a Private Tutor Provides Exceptional Results

March 30, 2017 by Esme
Image A private tutor can provide a seamless addition to a student's classroom education.

With some huge benefits.

Benefits that not only provide a small boost or linear increase in academic performance but an exponential one.

So, if you are a student (or parent), who is currently considering a private tutor, here are three reasons why a private tutor produces exceptional results...

1: Engagement

One of the naturally limiting factors of a classroom environment is personal engagement.

Of course, the level of engagement will vary from subject-to-subject, teacher-to-teacher and class-to-class, but even in smaller class sizes, learning is typically very passive for the student (i.e. they are learning by watching or listening to someone else).

While some students will be more suited to this style of learning than others, there are very few at any level of education who don't benefit from more personal engagement.

According to one particular study, students will retain on average:

  • >5% from a lecture (or classroom session, without taking notes)

  • >10% from reading (without taking notes)

  • >20% from audio-visual learning (such as a documentary or video)

  • >30% from a demonstration

  • >50% from a group discussion

  • >75% by applying what they learn

  • >90% by teaching others

It is evident from these results that all of the lowest retention rates come from the most passive forms of learning, while all of the highest retention rates result from the most active forms of learning.

What this also demonstrates, is that not all learning is equal.

Anyone who has ever had to discuss, apply or teach any knowledge will know that it requires a higher level of thinking and comprehension. They will also know that it is, initially, harder to do.

However, much like working muscles harder, these more active methods of learning produce significantly more mental stimulus; and as a consequence, a far stronger understanding of the material.

How does a private tutor address this?

A private tutor does not replicate the way that information is taught in a classroom

Instead, he provides significantly more engagement for the student.

This benefits them in 3 ways:

  1. It avoids any illusions of competence

  2. They understand, opposed to memorise

  3. It is a more enjoyable way of learning

Let me touch these points in a little more detail.

Illusions of competence

An illusion of competence is when you think you have learnt something, but when asked to apply the knowledge it becomes apparent that you haven't. It is particularly common when listening, reading, and watching are the primary modes of learning.

In situations such as these, information is usually held in short-term (or working) memory. If the information is not applied afterwards, it will likely not enter long-term memory and be forgotten in time.

To understand how common this is, you only need to look at the nature of cramming before exams. In this instance, cramming describes the process of relearning (or re-memorising) much of the information a student went through in class.

In other words, the initial learning was largely ineffective. Or was not learnt at a deep enough level.

However, with the support of a private tutor, a student will also discuss and demonstrate what they have learnt. As a result, tutor and student will both recognise what the student has understood and (importantly) what they haven't. In addition to this, a student will typically find it far less intimidating to ask questions and fill in gaps in their knowledge as they go (compared to in a group environment).

Using this type of engagement and interactivity during learning will make a huge difference to a student's understanding and confidence.

They understand, as oppose to memorise

A good level of knowledge is the key to doing well in exams.

To discuss, apply, or teach a piece of information, you must be able to understand it first. However, the same is not true if you are watching, reading or listening (where you can get away with attempting to memorise what you have seen or heard).

One of the most common ways I have seen students come unstuck in their exams is by thinking that memorising material is enough. Of course, there are some situations where this is true. Nevertheless, for the science subjects and maths, a student will always be examined on their ability to apply knowledge. So understandably, this will cause a problem for anyone who has mechanically memorised something opposed to understanding the theory or logic behind it.

Without question, the understanding of a student increases through personal engagement and interaction.

It's a more enjoyable way of learning

Private tuition gives a student a voice in their education, opposed to being an observer.

The ability to discuss their questions, concerns and ideas also mean they get a lot more enjoyment from what they are learning, particularly if the tutor can introduce variety through different tools and resources.

Importantly, when a student starts to enjoy what they are doing, they start to become more passionate and motivated about what they are doing.

Without a doubt, a passionate and motivated student will be one who is performing well.

Probably the most beneficial aspect of private tuition is the ability to personalise learning to suit the preferences and requirements of the student.

Just like for anything else, the one-size fits all approach to education will only benefit those who fit that size.

A good example of this is my brother and me; he has dyslexia, and I do not. As a consequence, we learn in very different ways and responded very differently to a traditional classroom education.

Learning uses so many different areas of cognition (for example, perception, attention, memory, visual and spatial awareness, language and other motor skills) that we all have strengths in different areas.

The problem is that we cannot personalise education effectively enough to optimise every student's potential in a classroom environment.

My guess is that this is why we see such an upward trend in homeschooling, private tuition, and more personalised approaches to education.

At this point, I just want to clarify that I believe schools, colleges, and universities do an excellent job with the resources they have. However, there are some areas, such as personalisation, where private tuition clearly provides a distinct advantage.

For the tutor, the key is to identify what the student requires to thrive and reach their potential. More than this, it is about using the right teaching approach and appropriate tools and resources to provide them with a platform from which they can leverage their strengths.


The third and final reason why I have seen a private tutor produce exceptional results is personal accountability.

I am not talking about deadlines imposed for school assignments, but for:

  1. Hours spent studying outside of school

  2. Continuous monitoring of the student's progress throughout the year

Committing themselves to a private tutor outside of school hours ensures that a student is scheduling regular times for additional learning. Time which might have otherwise been spent doing other things. Just 1-2 hours a week can make a huge difference over the academic year.

Furthermore, regular tuition sessions enable's a tutor to measure and track a student's progress throughout the year.

Accountability through a private tutor works in a very similar way to what a personal trainer does in the fitness industry.

In this example, the personal trainer will find out what their client's goals are, take measurements when they start (and at regular intervals to monitor progress), hold them accountable for turning up every week, and push them that little bit harder than if they were doing it by themselves.

The reason that personal training has become so popular is that it gets results for the client. Measurable, predictable results. It also fills the client full of motivation and confidence (because they can see their progress).

If done well, private tuition can work in a very similar fashion.

The benefit is that you end up with a student who has gained confidence and momentum throughout the year; and who will have significantly less anxiety during revision and examinations. In other words, they will perform better and usually reach the goal they set themselves at the beginning of the year.

Looking for a tutor?

I have been working with students at all levels of education since 2008, and I am still amazed at how impactful private tuition can be. Sometimes it provides refinement, and other times it enables a complete transformation. One thing I can say for sure is that it works.

If you are considering it, I hope this provides you with a useful guide to what I consider the main benefits to be.

If you would like to contact Scott D to arrange private tutoring please contact him through his Tutorfair profile. Scott is a Maths and Science specialist as well as a learning coach with many years experience in tutoring.
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