Every year students around the world and at every grade level fail to reach their full academic potential. Either they experience personal learning obstacles or are unintentional victims of flaws and shortcomings embedded in their respective educational systems. Whatever the barriers to their academic achievement, research shows there is one universally effective solution — tutoring!
Over the years, numerous studies have demonstrated how tutoring offers countless advantages to all students, no matter what grade they’re in or how well they’re doing. Here are 7 science-backed benefits of tutoring:
1. Tutoring offers customized solutions
Typical school classrooms are packed with dozens of students. Teachers have less than an hour to review the day’s curriculum, give a lecture or assign activities, and offer a little rushed help to any students who are visibly in need of assistance. Suffice it to say, this approach is not nearly as effective as having a private tutor who can sit patiently with the student one-on-one (or, in some cases, in a small group of peers).
As noted by the Learning Policy Institute, when Match Corps Tutoring RCT provided tutoring to over 2,500 Chicago high schoolers, math scores “significantly improved” and course failures were cut in half.
A tutor can get to know the student and learn more about their unique strengths and areas where they might struggle. They can also find out which learning style the student tends towards — Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, or Kinesthetic. Then the tutor can tailor their teaching approach to build on that student’s strengths while simultaneously targeting the problem areas.
2. Tutoring is student-centered, not system-centered
By its very nature, the teaching pedagogy for a classroom of students is different and more generalized than the approach used for a single student or a very small group of students. In a standard classroom, everything gets “averaged” out. From the speed at which content is taught to the level of complexity of assignments and discussions, the teacher’s routine goal is to move the bulk of students along to the next course, the next grade, the next school.
Instead of being centered on the student, the school’s goal is inherently centered on the school system. In contrast, tutoring takes place outside of that system. It is student-centered; the student’s needs dictate the speed and complexity of the tutoring session, not some external procedural deadline. Yes, tutoring may be tied to the school’s calendar, if for example, a student is seeking tutoring to prepare for an upcoming test. But in general, tutoring is untethered and unconstrained by the demands of an academic institution. The learning takes place independently, between tutor and student.
Schools are, of course, well aware that tutoring helps. In fact, San Bernardino Valley College conducted its own research to back this up! The resulting data proved that students who used tutoring services at their Success Center had at least 7% higher success than other enrolled students.
3. Tutoring can be more specific and specialized
Students or their parents hire tutors for many reasons. In some cases, they’re just trying to get over one particular hurdle that’s holding the student back from making progress. While classroom teachers can also offer assistance in this regard, it will be relatively limited compared to the focus and attention a tutor can provide. In fact, depending on the level of expertise of the tutor, they may be more advanced than the teacher and able to offer a new perspective.
Even if the tutor isn’t necessarily more of an expert in the topic, there are social factors that come into play as well. When two people can connect better on a social level, the lines of communication between them are stronger, and thus information can be exchanged more freely. This opens up the student’s mind, allowing for the exploration of new ideas and concepts.
Learning Disability Quarterly noted a Hawaiian study where reading fluency, measured by the speed words that were read, doubled for students who received intervention tutoring lessons. Sometimes all it takes for a student to overcome an educational barrier is to match them with a tutor who can help them see the subject matter in a different light. This can lead to a breakthrough where the student suddenly comprehends the problem (or solution) they struggled with before.
4. Some tutors may be better at teaching
Many K-12 teachers and even some college instructors are not subject matter experts. K-12 teachers require a license to teach in their respective states and must pass a subject matter exam to qualify to teach specific classes. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re true masters of the curriculum they’re paid to teach. The unfortunate truth is that many are only one chapter ahead in the textbooks than the students themselves.
Contrarily, some, especially professors at the university level, are renowned in their field…but are terrible teachers! They know their topics inside and out but aren’t great at teaching the information in a way their particular students can comprehend (in fact, unlike K-12 educators, many professors have no pedagogical training whatsoever. They’re hired for their content knowledge, and teaching is only one part of their hectic faculty job, which includes research, writing papers for publication, and other service commitments).
Not all tutors are created equally, but as stated in Elsevier Learning and Instruction (Vol 66, Apr 2020), “a highly-qualified tutor has more content and pedagogical content knowledge and is therefore capable of giving high-quality instruction.”
5. Being able to select the right instructor matters
You can pick your tutors, but not your teachers. When students sign up for classes in school, they don’t usually have a choice about which teacher they get. While this is unavoidable due to the nature of our educational systems, it’s also one of the main barriers to successful educational outcomes.
It is simply not possible for all students to achieve maximal learning results from assigned teachers. No two students are alike, much less an entire classroom of them. They may all receive the same lecture from the same person standing in front of the classroom, but they will each have different learning experiences. One student may misunderstand a key point or be distracted by a serious problem they’re internalizing. One may be disadvantaged by a language barrier or a mental or physical disability that interferes with their focus. One student may feel biased against for many reasons and thus might lose interest and tune out. The assigned teacher, meanwhile, is simply trying to get through the subject matter then on to the next class, day after day.
With tutors, you can take your time to “shop around” and find an educator who has both the knowledge and the capacity to convey it suitably. This is an incredibly significant benefit, given that every student has their own unique learning style, set of learning challenges, and internal motivations which a good tutor can find and bring to the forefront. As pointed out by Edutopia, “95 percent of our students were more likely to increase their homework completion and accuracy with a tutor who builds a strong, personal relationship with them.”
6. Tutors help students instead of blaming them
As mentioned above, there are many valid reasons why students don’t do well in some classes. Unfortunately, the school system itself tends to avoid accepting any blame. Instead, as argued in Why Do Students Fail? – Faculty’s Perspective, almost every problem is essentially the student’s fault, despite the school’s best efforts. According to the article, students fail due to a “lack of motivation and perseverance, the absence of preparation and effort, poor time management and a lot of other external factors.” There is little mention of the root causes, though; it’s simply a case of passing the buck and putting all the burden on the learners versus the system designed to teach them.
Such myopic attitudes as those expressed in the article help us understand why students often ultimately turn to tutors outside the system to improve their learning. Tutors generally work independently or for private companies. Either way, their employment is not tied to some state-funded school that has endless bureaucratic processes it must adhere to.
If a student has fallen behind or needs an academic boost, tutors have no reason to get defensive, point fingers, or play the “blame game” with parents. There is no system to “protect,” so instead, they can just accept the student as they are, without judgment. From that starting point, both tutor and student are better able to work together as a team to establish and achieve the student’s specific goals.
7. Tutors can change your whole life
Some students think of tutors as existing only to help them with a particular subject, such as Math, Science, or English. However, many people hire test prep tutors to get ready for upcoming tough exams. A few of the common exams that people seek out tutors for include the ACT, SAT, GED, MCAT, GRE, and LSAT.
These critical tests can often “make or break” a student’s ability to get into a higher education program they want. This, in turn, can potentially impact their entire careers. In other words, it is not an exaggeration to say that the results of one test can literally alter the trajectory of a person’s whole life, including their income earning potential. Meanwhile, those same students often grow up to raise families, and their children’s lives will also be influenced by the socio-economic factors that impact their parents.
In the article Tutoring: A time-tested solution to an unprecedented pandemic, Brookings offers evidence that tutoring works, stating: “tutoring is remarkably effective at helping students learn, with over 80% of [recent] studies reporting statistically significant effects.”
Whether a tutor is used for a specific subject or exam prep, their contributions to a student’s learning can be immeasurable. Indeed, as part of the tutoring process, many tutors often pass on vital study skills which can be applied to a wide range of endeavors beyond the scope of the tutoring sessions. Such intangible benefits are impossible to put a price tag on. Indeed, they are truly invaluable.