10 Skills To Look For In An Effective Tutor

Math and Physics Tutor in San Diego

These days, anyone can be a tutor: there is no license or formal training, and anyone—with or without a degree can find work as tutor. But a truly effective tutor is a rarity—a special individual who is not only an expert in the material, but can also connect with a student, patiently convey information, and be a role model and mentor. Moreover, an effective tutor should teach long-term study habits and skills.

If you have a tutor, or a looking for a tutor, here are the 10 SKILLS that an effective tutor should demonstrate in their sessions with your child:

  1. Your tutor should be able to teach to different learning styles. All people learn differently. Tutors should may take some experimentation to find out your student’s learning preferences: Does your student prefer auditory or visual learning? Do they process text better when they read silently, or when they vocalize their thoughts and reactions? Adjusting to your student’s style can make your tutoring sessions more effective and enjoyable.

  2. Establish study habits early on. An exceptional tutor is not only an expert at relating information, but also at cultivating good discipline, attitudes, and habits in their student. Don’t just teach them what they need to learn - teach them how to learn. Tutors strive to guide their students to become more independent and self-motivated learners, and provide them the necessary tools to do so.

  3. Build upon previous lessons/ideas. Whether it be math, English, or science, no idea exists in a vacuum. Covering a concept once (no matter how thoroughly) in session doesn’t mean it’s done - plan review exercises, revisit concepts when they appear in future sessions, and continue building upon knowledge.

  4. Keep each other accountable. During each lesson, make sure to always set expectations for both your student and for yourself. Ask your student to complete their homework, and also assure them that you will cover all their questions until they are fully comfortable with the material. Communicate frankly and use language of mutual accountability.

  5. The concepts might not always be easy or fun, but learning can and should be! New material is often challenging, which may be daunting to an inexperienced learner. However, an engaging tutor knows how to take a challenging concept and break it down into easier steps, all the while making the experience of dissecting a problem seem fun and even empowering.

  6. Be specific about successes - and about failures. When praising a student, ‘good job!’ is not as useful as ‘great work catching all the misplaced modifiers in this passage,” for example. It’s nice to feel encouraged, but students improve when they know exactly what they’re doing right. This is especially important when addressing weaknesses, because instead of putting down the student themselves, we simply direct their efforts towards improving something concrete.

  7. Turn mistakes into goals. Mistakes are some of the best opportunities for learning. If we frame past mistakes as future goals, the student can target the areas they need the most, and find motivation to tackle their challenges head on.

  8. Repetition - but only the good kind. If repetition is misused in tutoring, it can be counterproductive. However, repetition is not always a bad thing! It is incredibly important for a student to repeatedly practice the same skill in order to accomplish a task faster and with more ease. Learning to apply repetition at optimal moments is crucial for your student to refine their performance.

  9. Celebrate progress. Don’t forget to acknowledge and commend your student for steps in the right direction. Learning is a process, which takes a great deal of time and effort. We may not see ideal results immediately, but we can always recognize and encourage progress.

  10. Connect with your student! Tutoring is an amazing opportunity to create a lasting positive relationship with a student. Show that you are invested in the student and that you truly care about their success, and this can impact them for the rest of their lives!

-Kara Lu, Effective ACT/SAT English & Writing Tutor at Pivot