How to Tutor: Qualities of A Good Tutor

how to tutor

We have all had at least one teacher that altered the course of our academic trajectory. Tutors have a unique opportunity to engage with students in a one-on-one capacity. These types of tailored classroom environments can have a profound impact on students. Even with such memorable learning experiences, you sill ask: what are the qualities of a good tutor? It can be challenging to articulate the specific skills and qualities that cultivate the most welcoming and effective learning environments. Hopefully this “how to tutor” guide can help you reflect on, refine, and practice your teaching methods and strategies. These are my three golden rules for how to tutor.

Create space for your students

When it comes to learning how to tutor, it is important to practice making space for your students. Making space for others is a valuable practice that you can apply to most areas of your life. When it comes to creating trust in a relationship with your students, you must approach “quiet” moments with intentionality. As a tutor, you have already completed and mastered the lessons on the agenda. Your student’s lesson is not your moment to exemplify your mastery. Dominating the conversation can rob your student of the opportunity to discover the answers for themselves.

I have seen many tutors anxiously attempt to circumvent silence. When a tutor is uncomfortable with silence, the student will absorb the tutor’s anxiety and may misinterpret the tutor’s discomfort with the tutor rushing them. When interviewers interview their subjects, they leave space for their interviewees to reveal the answer. The same practice can apply to tutoring. Give your students the time and space to come to their own conclusions and expand the parameters of their mind.

Emphasize Process Over Perfection

When tutors emphasize process over perfection, they set their students up for success. For instance, if you are working with a student on their homework, there may be the temptation to focus on ensuring that one of the answers is correct. Although it is important that you help your student come to the correct answers, this motivation should not come at the expense of allowing the student to understand the process. When we learn by hearing the answer from someone else, we are less likely to remember the answer, because we did not entrench the answer in our own neural pathways. Even if we are able to remember the answer, it is very unlikely that we will be able to remember the process, because we did not trace the route to the answer ourselves. A teacher once told me that academics are less about the information and more about honing the way that you think. This statement can be a helpful way of framing your approach to tutoring.

Let Questions Guide Your Lesson

The way that we have been conditioned to think about the traditional classroom experience often emphasizes students asking questions and teachers or tutors providing the answers. I encourage tutors to invert this dynamic, especially when it comes to one-on-one teaching. When it comes to learning how to tutor, questions can be a tutor’s most useful tool. All students learn differently and asking questions, rather than dictating, can be critical in discerning a student’s particular mode of thinking or imagining.

Once you are able to understand how the minds of your students works, you will be better prepared to answer their questions in a way that will resonate with their individual approaches to learning. Does this question remind you of any others that you have faced? How did you come to this answer? How would you re-write or change this question? Why do you think the teacher or author is posing this question? All of these types of enquiries can yield fruitful answers and allow your student to feel taken seriously.

Overall, learning how to tutor can be a daunting process. However, if you exude humility, patience, and curiosity you can help your students grow and develop and, hopefully, inspire a new generations of educators.

About the Author

A. T.

A. T.

A.T. is an experienced tutor at Gooroo, a tutoring membership that matches students to tutors perfect for them based on their unique learning needs. Gooroo offers math, English, ESL, Spanish tutoring, and more.