How to motivate your student


September 04, 2019

Tutoring can be a tough industry to tackle, which is why we have compiled some of the things we have learnt from our very best tutors over the years, including some top tips from “Supertutor” Mark Maclaine. This blog focuses on how setting goals and planning can help motivate your student. 

Setting goals

Setting goals can be a highly effective way to help organise what topics are the most important. It can also help to give a shared sense of direction and as a tutor, it helps you monitor progress. Discussing and writing out these goals together is an excellent way to help you both define learning objectives and engage with what the student is hoping to achieve in your sessions. 

Some examples of goals to set could be:

  • Better understanding of the questions

  • More confidence in the subject

  • Improved note-taking

  • Clearer showing of their workings

  • Ways to reduce exam anxiety

  • Better revision methods


"Supertutor" Mark Maclaine often finds it helpful to use the acronym,  S.M.A.R.T., coined by George Doran in 1981, when setting goals. S.M.A.R.T. outlines a process of setting specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and time-based goals. 

Specific. Well-defined and clear to everyone involved.

Measurable. Outcomes should be measurable, through testing, for example, or by comparing work before and after. At every point you should be able to monitor how far away the student is from reaching the goal.

Agreed upon. Some students even like to sign their goals sheet.

Realistic. They should be achievable, given the time you have together and your student’s abilities and prior knowledge.

Time-based. Set out a clear timeline for the completion and testing of goals.

Making a plan 

Depending on your role as the tutor, making a plan can be an excellent use of time when structuring your lessons. If you are there to support a student working towards a specific exam, making a plan is an excellent way to ensure that you stay on track. If your role as the tutor is for learning support, making a plan is still important, however, this might rely on identifying the student's weakest areas first and then tailoring a plan to target areas that require the most support.

If it is going to be a long term student, you can think about creating a calendar together to help monitor progress. However, if your time together is limited, too much planning or creating a calendar might be overkill and your time might be spent better focused elsewhere.

This blog is the fourth in our "How to" series offering expert advice and top tips on how to become a great tutor. For more blogs, visit here.