Tutoring 101 - how to become a good tutor

January 29, 2016

With an estimated £6bn spent on private tuition each year, it’s no wonder so many people are eager to get involved. It is now estimated that one in four students have some form of extra tuition and this is expected to grow further still. I currently work as Tutorfair’s Brand Ambassador representing all of our tutors in Birmingham and have received many questions about tuition in general. In the article below I will share my views on some of the more frequently asked questions by start-up tutors.

How should I act with new customers?
Customer service! As a private tutor you are self-employed and therefore the way in which you present yourself is of paramount importance. Ensure you learn the names of your clients and always address them in a respectful manor, this immediately builds good rapport. Do your homework, find what level the student is working at, their specification (if applicable) and what specifically they are looking for before the initial consultation. Speak to the students/parents about their expectations of you and propose a learning plan specific to their child. And finally be friendly! A lot of children do not want tuition so it is important to build a good rapport with them and their parents.

What is the best way to get more students?
Get onto as many tutoring websites as you can (sign up https://www.tutorfair.com/become-tutor) and remember, smile in your profile picture! It is important for tutors to seem friendly. It is also important to use as much detail as possible when updating your profile. Think as if you were a parent, majority of parents are very protective over their children and your profile is their first impression. Try to offer a wide range of subjects and to as many levels as possible, (only ones you’re comfortable with). On your profile include (if you can), examples of your excellent tutoring skills (maybe you’ve mentored or acted as a TA in school). The most important point of all, include in your profile what makes you stand out!

How shall I assess the child’s ability?
Please do not fall into the trap of issuing an assessment in the first lesson! (Remember this is my personal opinion). Only do so if they ask for one! Students immediately are put off by the idea of an exam. Firstly ask the students or parents what their working and predicted grades are as well as what sets they are in. Ask the child what they are currently studying and what they find most difficult. Establish a starting point with them and use mini tests and drills to get a better picture of the students overall ability.

How should I act in lessons?
Students pay for this service so the learning has to be both enjoyable and effective. Humour is always a good way of engaging students! Also it is important to listen to them, regardless of age it is important that all students feel valued. Create a balance so that the child stays on task but also is enjoying their experience. Be flexible, all students have specific needs, the more you cater for them, the better the overall learning experience. Try to make lessons interactive, I personally use whiteboards and videos for younger students to keep them engaged. Concentration is usually a massive issue, I have found that by splitting lessons into different parts, keeps students engaged and has them saying, “wow that went quick!”

How do I know what I’m doing is working?
Ask the students for feedback. All students will be extremely honest (but polite at the same time so do not worry too much), they will be happy to tell you what they think works best. Ask parents about their progression in school since they have been studying with you. Majority of time the students will let you know, without you asking. Set very small mini tests, lasting for about 10 minutes or create starter activities that consist of the topics you have covered and set exam questions for students to complete independently.

What should I do if the student is very gifted?
Challenge the students at every hurdle! Revisit processes and show students why they work. Encourage independent learning and find as many challenging topics as possible. A gifted student for any tutor is truly a gift! Your main role is to polish off any rough edges and nurture the child’s talent! If your child is gifted mathematically please see my other resources, I have many A* questions for GCSE papers for your students to try. Personally I like to teach the students new and more complicated skills and push their ability to newer heights.

How do I deal with a student who is extremely underperforming?
Through experience I have found that majority of underperforming students have massive gaps in their knowledge. As tutors we must source out and fill in those gaps. I would highly recommend that you begin from the very basics and rebuild the foundations of their subject knowledge, once the gaps have been filled it will become evident in their new approach when tackling questions. One of my students went from achieving a grade E in core 1 to getting an A* in mathematics overall. His main problem wasn’t the processes themselves but with manipulating mathematics effectively. A skill developed during KS3.

How much should I charge?
Do a little market research and see what others around you are offering. Don’t undersell yourself but remember it is also important to be competitive. Also compare what you have to offer in comparison to others and remember that you can change your price at any time. You may wish to charge more as your availability decreases due to being in demand.

How do I know the student understands the topic?
I have a particular system that has always seemed to work. Firstly go through a couple of examples. Then go through a few more examples with the student, each time asking the student to contribute to the question each time until they are practically doing the examples themselves. At this point it is very important to as if they have any questions, if not then set some questions. The benefit of following this system is the result, at this point the student will get the general idea of the topic and will either solve the question correctly or ask a question on a very minor point. Sometimes (however very rarely) students will find difficulty in starting the question but usually from there, they are fine. Also instead of leaving the students to their own devices, we work together thus creating a less pressurising environment for them. Then issue exam style questions to test how well they have understood and mark as if you were an examiner. Explain to the students why you’ve awarded marks and why they have missed some. Tell them and more importantly show what they are expected to do. Repeat this until you are satisfied that the students understand the topic or you feel it is important to continue with the syllabus.

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