Often, a tutor is employed as an emergency measure to assist with examination preparation, or when a pupil feels they are struggling or have become behind with lessons. By then it can often be too late. A key advantage of private tuition, and one that is often overlooked, is the way in which tutoring can promote independent learning and independence of thought. Indeed, this is what the best tutors seek to develop in their tutees. Developing the skills to think and learn independently is a key factor in gaining the elusive A* in all subjects, especially in English and English Literature. Furthermore, independent learners are less likely to find the transition to University overwhelming and are in turn more likely to successfully complete their degree course. Private tuition can be a significant factor in allowing a pupil to develop this crucial skill early on. Furthermore it can be spread more cost-effectively over the course of a term, a holiday period, or even several years, instead of a crash course of emergency examination preparation during two weeks of the holidays. How then, can private tuition promote independent thought and allow a pupil to take control of their own learning?
1. Assessment for learning.
Successful teachers will always incorporate peer marking as one way of allowing pupils to assess their own progress. This is vital if pupils are to become familiar with the assessment objectives and understand how they can improve. However, it is also important that pupils are critical of their own work, learning how to develop and edit their ideas. Not only is this a vital skill for the highest grades in public examinations, but it is a key life skill that needs to be learned and developed from an early age. One to one coaching in the process of editing and re-drafting one’s work pays immense dividends in learning how to meet the assessment objectives and clarify one’s argument. Tailored tuition allows pupils to identify personal areas of difficulty and put in place targets for improvement.
Furthermore, this process encourages pupils to approach their teachers with specific questions which will enable them to improve their essays, rather than: ‘please read this and tell me what grade it is and how I can improve it.’ This sort of question can be detrimental to a pupil’s progress for several reasons and a good teacher will discourage this type of question. For a start, examination boards restrict the amount of feedback a teacher is able to give on a coursework draft, meaning that only generic advice can be given to this type of question. Furthermore, teachers can only give feedback on one coursework draft as a whole, whereas they can answer as many specific questions about the text as they like. Even if feedback is being sought for a non-coursework essay, specific questions targeted at areas in which the pupil is struggling are far more helpful and effective than a generic ‘please read this.’
Consider the following question: ‘In this paragraph of the text, I am struggling to understand why war imagery is employed. Could we discuss this and how it might relate to my essay title?’ Clearly, this is going to allow a far more detailed discussion. Private tuition will develop a pupil’s ability to be more critical of their own work, understanding how they write and where the areas of weakness in their writing are likely to be. This will help them identify specific areas in which they need support. With all the goodwill in the world, teachers simply do not have the resource of time that they would like to spend with each individual and this is where private tuition can be invaluable. Interaction with their teacher is going to become far more valuable as a result, because pupils will be approaching them with specific queries and textual approaches, which is what is going to help them the most.
2. Developing confidence in ideas and opinions
In promoting independent learning, it is important that a pupil gains confidence in their own ideas and opinions.Examiners are looking for pupils who are able to put together a fluent and cogent argument, not simply regurgitate notes made in lessons, or write down everything they have ever learned about the text. Private tuition can provide pupils with a vital platform on which to refine their critical views without fear of what the ‘rest of the class might think.’ Pupils’ views and opinions can be challenged in a friendly and supportive manner, encouraging them to build confidence in their own ideas.
3. Being reflective
Independent learning is about being able to take a reflective approach to one’s work. Too often, pupils look at the grade on a piece of work and ignore the comments. However, an independent learner will not be knocked back by a less than satisfactory grade. They may initially be disappointed, but then they will move on and work out how to improve. This is where private tuition can be instrumental. A tutor can work with a pupil to reflect on their last piece of work and set focused targets for improvement. They can spend the time with the individual that the classroom teacher simply cannot afford. Equally, work done for the tutor is not subject to being fed into school data systems, which can give the pupil a great deal of confidence and allow them to reflect more effectively on their own work. Pupils can be nervous about undertaking tests and tasks which might contribute to report grades, class setting, or simply an indicator of where they are ‘placed’ in the class. Work done with or for a tutor is not subject to the same data analysis and therefore pupils can take greater ownership of their learning. In other words, getting something wrong becomes a positive step, because then they know what area needs work and it becomes a learning process, rather than purely results orientated.
4. Motivation and time management
Motivation and time management are important factors in being an independent learner. One to one tuition can be invaluable in assisting with both of these. Setting aside a regular slot to focus on a subject puts good study habits in place. Motivation is directly linked with enjoyment of a subject and success in that subject. A good tutor will have a passion for the subject and should be able to convey that enthusiasm to the pupil. This is the ‘X-Factor’ that you should be looking for in a good tutor. A tutor will also be able to set pupils clear goals and targets. These can be tailored to the individual and should be specific, achievable and manageable in the time frame. Pupils can then keep track of what has been achieved and they can clearly chart their progress in the subject.
5. Reading around the subject
Reading widely around the subject is key to achieving excellent examination results. The ability to draw on a wide range of references and set your argument against a background of critical thinking is integral to subjects such as English. However, pupils often struggle with this. ‘What should I read? How should I access it?’ Although reading lists and suggestions will often be provided by their teacher, it is up to the pupil to develop their own path and develop their own responses to critical opinion. A tutor can assist with key research skills such as how to access material, effective note-taking and summarising arguments being put forward in critical essays. The emphasis should be on providing a pupil with the skills to take charge of the research process themselves.
In sum, it all comes back to the old adage: ‘give a man a fish and it will feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and it will feed him for a lifetime.’ One important role of Tuition Singapore, therefore, is to put in place the skills of independent learning that will benefit the pupil for a lifetime, regardless of their chosen career path. However, it is important to remember that when employing a tutor it is vital that the pupil’s teacher is involved in the process. The tutor must be able to contact the teacher to discuss course requirements and the progress of the pupil. A collaborative process is imperative if the pupil is to achieve to their full potential and ensure success. This means that the Tuition Singapore can more effectively provide tailored support for the individual, which compliments the work being done in the classroom.