Tutoring is an age-old practice. The dictionary definition describes
a tutor as a person who gives additional, special, or basic
instruction. Other definitions state that a tutor is one who guards,
protects, watches over, or has the care of another person. It sounds
like a heavy responsibility. It is, and if done properly, it can be
one of the most generous and rewarding things two or more people can
do. Ross MacDonald, in his guidebook The Master Tutor, refers to
tutoring as “an act which facilitates or provides a structure for
The purpose of tutoring is to help students help themselves, or to
assist or guide them to the point at which they become an
independent learner, and thus no longer need a tutor. This might
sound as if a good tutor would be working him/herself right out of a
job. But not to worry – there’s no end to the number of people who
need and will benefit from the tutoring exchange.
Knowledge of the academic subject is an essential ingredient for a
tutor, however not the most important. Annette Gourgey of Upsala
College writes “the most profound education that students can
receive in tutoring is not about a specific subject but about
understanding how to learn, and about their personal role in that
To be truly effective, a tutor must combine content knowledge with
empathy, honesty and humor.
Empathy requires a tutor to "read" the emotional states,
attitudes and perceptions of their students. Empathy is the ability
to see others from their personal frame of reference, and to
communicate this understanding to the person involved. Sometimes
tutors are so comfortable with the subjects they tutor that they
forget what it’s like to be lost or confused. Certainly there’s some
subject that baffles you. Try to think of the frustration you feel
regarding a subject that’s difficult for you. In order for tutors to
establish a supportive relationship with their students, they must
be open and honest. Students are often reluctant to talk with a
stranger about their academic problems. If a tutor is perceived as
genuine and having a strong desire to listen, students will be more
willing to open up and discuss their problems.
Integrating Humor in the Tutoring Session helps relax the
learning environment. It can also be used to compliment, to guide or
to provide negative feedback in a positive manner.
As a tutor, you need to accept the responsibility for your
assignment. Tutees generally come to you with a certain amount of
respect for your role. It's important for a tutor to develop a
rapport with students who seek assistance. Become familiar with
Getting to Know the Student.
The tutoring environment must remain a place where students know
that they are safe to ask for and receive assistance. Information
exchanged must remain confidential, and respect for both the tutor
and tutee will be maintained. Tutors and tutees should behave
according to a
Code of Ethics that will help ensure a secure learning
A tutor is successful when a student no longer depends on tutorial
assistance to achieve the intended academic goal. Whether the
short-term goal is to pass a class or obtain a degree, the tutor is
ultimately successful when a student becomes independent, capable of
There are many benefits to working as a tutor:
Experiencing a new role in the learning process.
• Experiencing higher levels of thinking.
• Gaining a clearer understanding of the basic skills of a
• Increased motivation to learn through helping others.
• Increased ability to manage your own learning and study
• Increased subject -specific knowledge.
• Increased related, general knowledge.
• Improved listening and communication skills.
• Increased understanding of learning differences.
• Increased understanding of cultural differences.
• Improved organizational abilities.
There are also many benefits for the students who receive tutoring:
different perspective through individualized and small group
• A greater connection between teacher and learner through the
tutor’s role modeling.
• Improved academic performance and personal growth.
• Improved attitude toward subject area.
• Improved questioning and thinking strategies.
• Enhanced self-paced and self-directed learning.
• Opportunity for intensive practice.
• Improved self esteem.
• Improved study skills.
There are many benefits to the college:
Increased retention and persistence.
• Improved rate of completion and success.
• Development of learning communities.
• Measurable positive changes in attitude towards teaching/learning
for the participants.
• Improved educational climate.
• Improved ethnic and racial understanding and tolerance.
• Relatively low-cost instruction and learning.
Characteristics of Good Tutors
Intelligence alone does not indicate success as a tutor; but
what kind of person, what kind of student you are does. It takes a
certain kind of person to be a good tutor. Some of the
characteristics noticeable in good tutors are:
positive outlook: The belief that things can be changed through
• A desire to help others: The willingness to become involved
with people first
hand and in depth.
• Empathy: The ability to feel what another person is feeling.
• An even disposition: Patience, gentleness, understanding and
• An open mind: A willingness to accept other people and their
point of view.
• Initiative: The ability to recognize a problem and to do
something about it.
• Enthusiasm: A passion for your subject, and a wish to share it
• Reliability as a worker: Punctual, dependable, steady.
When considering whether or not to become a tutor, remember these
Tutoring is one of the most beneficial things you can do as a
LEARNER. It will teach you more about your subject and about
thinking than the typical classroom experience.
• It requires a certain humility to be a tutor. It’s not about
you – it’s about the tutee. The more you can focus on the other
person’s success, the better the tutor you will be.
• The best tutors do less talking than their tutees. This is a
manifestation of allowing the tutee to take charge of her/his
• Tutoring should not be done for financial reward. Most college
programs can’t afford to pay tutors what you’re worth. However,
the personal rewards are substantial.
• Tutoring will strengthen your social connection to the campus
community. Tutors are universally well respected and
appreciated. You will earn a more confident relationship with
faculty, staff, and students.
• Tutoring is a two-way learning experience. You will be
responsible to establish a friendly atmosphere that is based on
mutual respect .
• Prepare for the unknown. A tutor never really knows what kind
of questions, assignments, or experiences a tutee will bring to
the sessions. That’s why it’s imperative to remain relaxed and
• Even though you might be demanding on yourself as a student,
you will learn the power of patience. You’ll learn this special
quality through skilled questioning, listening, and waiting.
• Tutors are problem solvers. You get to figure out what
resources and techniques are needed to enable the tutee to
• Being a good tutor is an art that requires experience and
application of proven techniques. Mastering this art form will
improve the quality of your work and personal relationships for
the rest of your life.