Author: Tonianne Bellomo
There’s always a question over whether or not private tutoring is worth it. It can
cost more than classroom SAT and ACT classes, and some believe that tutoring is
redundant, just a rehashing of ideas found in the classroom. In reality, private
tutoring is an incredibly unique experience.
Classroom learning- be it for general education or for test prep- is designed to meet
the education demands of the common whole. The instructor will stay at a median
pace and will answer the questions that the majority needs. The instructor cannot
spend as much time catering to the needs of those who are advanced or those who
are falling behind; she has to focus on providing the most good for the most people.
Questions that are too specialized or too specific to a student are usually deferred
until office hours; by that point, the student may not find the effort worth it or may
not have the time to follow up on a question. In short, classroom learning is not
individualized, but is good for a general breakdown, or survey, of the material.
While sometimes more cost effective, there are a number of drawbacks to
classroom learning. For one, because the instructor has to go at a standard pace,
there are students who could fall behind or who could become incredibly bored in
class. Those students usually lose interest and miss important concepts that could
help them learn the material better or that address a small issue that they might be
having. This is detrimental to both the struggling student and the advanced student.
The struggling student will find it hard to acquire the help he or she needs while for
the advanced student, this type of learning could actually lead to a regression. With
boredom and a loss of interest comes less effort put into the work, causing the
student to not only lose key study habits but to start missing the more advanced
concepts; the knowledge could even atrophy from disuse or lack of practice.
Another drawback to classroom learning is that it can’t be specialized to the
student. All education has a number of approaches; unfortunately, classroom
teaching is based on a common way of learning, not on different ways that some
students may respond to better than others. This leads students to thinking only one
way; if that way doesn’t work or make sense, then the students have a tendency to
grow frustrated and resent learning. When it comes to test preparation, learning
multiple approaches is incredibly important; every student approaches the tests
differently. The students benefit more from someone sitting down and tweaking
strategies to their needs than from a group lesson in which general concepts are
The biggest issue with classroom learning for test preparation is the fact that the
teachers are there to teach tricks more than to teach concepts: tricks are faster and
easier to teach. Tricks don’t always work; concepts- such a grammar rules, active
reading, and math formulas- are relatively constant and will help students break
the test down. They will also aid the students in their future academic pursuits.
Private tutoring is geared to the individual student. The tutor will look at the
problems that particular student is having- whether it be for an entrance exam
or for a class- and will be able to find specific ways to target those problems and
alleviate the issues. The tutor gets to know the student and his or her limits,
allowing the student to be pushed just enough to advance. The tutor will also see
which approach works best for a student and will help the student break down ideas
so that he can truly understand what he is learning.
A lot of students are initially intimidated by the idea of private tutoring,
particularly because there isn’t the buffer of other students in the room. While that
may be true, that buffer can actually be detrimental to a student’s education. A
student might feel embarrassed asking a question in front of her peers. This might
lead to a student choosing to remain silent and confused rather than asking for
clarification. In a private tutoring session, there isn’t the pressure of peers; there is
just the tutor and the student. The student also can’t rely on other students to
answer the questions or carry the discussion. The tutor holds the individual student
accountable for their work and prod them for answers. This leads to more engaged
learning, which is the kind of learning necessary to do well in all aspects of
education, not just test taking. The more interested the students are, the better they will
do in the class. This is why tutors work so hard to get to know their students; by
knowing the students well and understanding their interests, the tutor can design
lesson plans in a way that both engages and teaches the students. For example, by
knowing a student is also interested in music, the tutor can use analogies that
pertain to music to connect the student on a more personal level and getting
her to truly understand the topics.
While both classroom learning and private tutoring have their merits, private
tutoring is a much more individualized approach that allows the student to work
with a tutor to create an approach that truly works for that student. Tutors have
more freedom to adjust concepts and styles of learning to find the right fit for a
student; a teacher in a classroom has to worry about more than just one child. So
while tutoring does reinforce ideas taught in the classroom, it really shows a new
way of approaching those ideas and sometimes augments those concepts with new
ones, creating a fuller, more organic and holistic perspective on the subject.