Tips for tutors: 12 teaching strategies for more effective tutoring

Finding the best way to connect with a student is a skill.  The purpose of this blog post is to provide tutors with information on the various teaching strategies available, and provide some practical advice.

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  • Make learning relevant: For many students, subjects such as calculus, physics or even literature have little connection to their lives. The trick is to bring it alive. So why not perform a practical chemistry experiment, share your passion for an interesting historical figure like Caligula or Augustus, or read them a poem by Blake – the kind of poems that speak straight to the heart, but using a language we all understand.
  • Fostering independence: You should be teaching them to become independent learners. The buzzword in both schools and universities these days is critical thinking: encouraging students to analyse subjects in a deeper, more analytical manner. You may do this by asking questions that don’t just have a ‘yes or no’ answer or by applying the Socratic method to point out illogical conclusions made by your student. Set them assignments that go beyond testing their knowledge / comprehension of a matter; encourage them to voice their opinions on the intelligence of historical figures or on the talent of a famous writer. Critical thinking does more than give rise to more responsible, creative and profound thinkers; it also raises students’ self-confidence since, perhaps for the first time in their lives, they can feel like their opinions are valued by their tutor. This fosters a mentoring approach that makes students feel supported and cared for.
  • Assessment through games: After teaching a particular topic, test your student’s comprehension through additional problems and games. Luckily, there are a wealth of online games for everything from children’s mathematics to science for adults.
  • Using the Pause Procedure: To ensure your students do not tune out and lose interest in what you are teaching, use frequent pauses to ensure the student has understood what you have just been explaining. For instance, ask them to summarise the idea you have just explained and if you are teaching a group tutorial, ask students to summarise what they have just learned to each other. Alternatively, during pauses, ask students to answer a short test or complete a problem using the skills you have just explained.
  • Utilisation of the Think-Pair-Share Technique: If you are tutoring a small group, this technique can work very well. It begins by providing information to your students by asking them to read a short text, listen to a short lecture or video. The tutor should then ask one question, instruct students to reflect on it, write an answer down and share their response with another student. Finally, tutors should ask each pair to provide a single answer they have come to after discussion/debate.
  • Use of Fast-Paced Drills: If you are tutoring your student in a subject that involves a significant degree of memory work (such as Biology), drill your students frequently on particular points to ensure they retain important facts and information.
  • Use of Multi-Media Tools: Think about adding interesting videos to your lessons, songs or works of literature that cover the theme you are teaching. If you are teaching mathematics, show your student interesting videos on, for instance Mayan mathematics which shows how easy it can be to grasp a basic knowledge of mathematics when a hands-on approach is taken to learning.
  • Requesting feedback: Make sure that you request feedback from your student (and their parents, if relevant) regularly. Do you fully understand their preferred learning style, or are you spending enough time on a subject? The ultimate aim is to make the most of your student’s limited time and resources.
  • Introducing humour into the tutoring session: Studies have shown that the use of humour can have highly positive effects on students, greatly increasing their level of engagement and interest. Encourage student to bring comics, funny quotes or jokes to class and dedicate a few minutes to having a good laugh.
  • Analysing sources of information: Part of critical thinking is analysing the sources of information you are consulting in order to come to one conclusion or another. Tutors can research the backgrounds of people who have contributed in a significant way to the subject being studied (historiographers, philosophers, scientists, authors, etc.) to increase the student’s chances of making an emotional or intellectual connection with these people.
  • Encouraging students to create: One of the easiest way to engage students in a subject is to encourage them to create website or blog covering the themes covered in tutorial sessions. Being responsible for a blog involves constantly updating one’s knowledge publishing new findings and even being prepared to receive comments from readers. It is also a great way to connect with other students or intellectuals in one’s chosen field.
  • Changing class settings: You need to keep boredom at bay. Once a month, why not hold your lesson in a different place: at a museum, park, library or an historical site?

I hope that these tips have been of use to you, and that you have taken away some ideas which you can use in your lessons. Why not let us know how you get on, and share what works best for you via the comments.

We have been blogging advice for tutors for a while now – our ‘Tips for Tutors’ series. Just in case you missed any, you can find them at:

How to ensure that the first lesson goes really well

Structuring your lessons

8 ways to become a better tutor

Developing critical thinking in your students

The importance of teaching values

How to market yourself

Your tax as a self employed tutor

How to set up your website

The best way to tutor University students

Helping a reluctant student

Using learning maps

The importance of teaching values

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