What Makes a Good Tutor? A Parents' Guide

Learning is a complicated task, so what makes a tutor "good"? On your part, effective goal-setting and communication will go a long way to make any tutoring session a success.

While it is often easy enough to get the basics — names, dates, definitions, and formulas — this sort of recall doesn’t always reflect meaningful understanding. Instead, true learning should be measured by a student’s ability to actually generalize and apply knowledge. In light of this, it is important to work with a tutor to identify meaningful short and long-term goals that will enable a child to participate in classroom activities with confidence and success.

For children in elementary school, this requires strong reading skills and a deep understanding of numbers. An effective tutor should be able to communicate a well-defined, targeted learning goal for each session. Reading and writing short vowel “A” words, for example, or introducing a strategy for memorizing a set of addition facts. Similarly, the tutor should be able to identify and explain how these skills will support the child as she grows into a fluent reader with strong comprehension skills, or a confident mathematician who is able to think flexibly about numbers.

Middle and high school students are more of a challenge. Whereas younger children have extra time for supplementary instruction, older kids have heavy workloads to manage and grades to worry about. In consideration of this, a good tutor should be able to provide assignment-by-assignment support within the context of strategy instruction; thus, grades will reflect short-term progress, while the long-term goal should be increasing the student’s ability to effectively and efficiently complete assignments on her own.

So how can you, as a parent, make sure that a tutor is doing her job? First, an effective tutor should work with you and your child’s teachers to identify appropriate short- and long-term learning goals, and clearly explain her strategy for achieving those targets. Second, a good tutor should be able to specifically describe how she spends time with your child, and what the two of them accomplished: material covered, strengths, weaknesses, and plans for follow-up if necessary. If the tutor is also able to communicate this information and share resources with the school, that is even better.

Most important, though, a great tutor should help your child grow into a confident learner; a student who understands her strengths and how to use them, in combination with a suite of strategies to master academic tasks and then demonstrate genuine knowledge.

Check out Noodle's tutoring search to find the right one for your child in your area.

Further Reading:

Finding a Tutor That Fits Your Child's Needs

How You Should Interview a Prospective Tutor

Managing Expectations: A Tutor’s Insight for Parents

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