By Drew Sarmiere - November 20, 2019
How To Identify a Qualified Tutor
Many students need and benefit from additional academic support outside of school for a variety of reasons: learning differences such as ADHD and dyslexia (two of the most common learning differences experienced by students); lack of prerequisite knowledge coming into a course, a poor relationship with the teacher, ineffective study skills, motivational issues, etc. Because of this, tutoring is a common tool used by students and parents to help students improve their academic success in school. Fortunately, there are numerous tutoring options out there of which students and parents can take advantage. Unfortunately, the level of quality and professionalism families might encounter can vary drastically. So, how do you determine if you are putting your trust in a tutor that will meet your child’s needs? Here are some tips.
1 - Make sure your tutor has significant classroom and/or private tutoring experience. Ask tutors if they have a teaching license (ideally) or can provide compelling evidence that they have significant tutoring experience that has led to results for their students. Ask for references and/or for a copy of a teaching license.
2 - For safety’s sake, ensure your tutor has undergone a thorough background check. If the tutor has a current teaching license, he/she has undergone a background check and passed. Otherwise, if working with a company, ask the tutoring company if it performs background checks on its tutors. If working with a private tutor, ask him/her or her if he/she is willing to undergo a background check. You should never pair your child with a tutor that has not had a thorough background check.
3 - If working with a tutoring company, ask if they require their teachers to take any assessments in order to qualify as a tutor. Importantly, as about the rigor of the assessments. Some companies assess their teacher’s knowledge in name only, with tests that a novice could easily pass. Other organizations have in-depth, challenging assessments to check for content knowledge. If working with a private tutor, there is little you can do but look into his/her references. Note - do not assume that a degree in a given area means a tutor has significant content knowledge in that area.
4 - Make sure that the tutor will be able to develop a good rapport with your child. Without a good rapport, learning will be stymied. You will likely know best what traits your child will relate to, but openness, kindness, caring, patience, and a bit of humor go a long way to setting your child at ease.
5 - Ask about communication. How will the tutor communicate progress with you? What role will your concerns and input have in your child’s tutoring? Will the tutor communicate with your child’s teachers/school?
6 - Beware of tutors that list a cornucopia of subjects they are qualified to tutor. Few people are highly qualified to teach more than one or two subject areas. While it might be common for a tutor to be qualified to tutor multiple levels of maths in addition to a few different science subjects (since those two subject areas are closely linked), it would be very unlikely that that same tutor is also an expert in the humanities or other subjects as well. Furthermore, beware of companies that “qualify” tutors to work with students in a wide variety of subject areas; the criteria needed to qualify are almost certainly minimal.
7 - If your child has learning differences, ask what type of training/experience the tutor has in working with those types of learning differences. While it’s not necessary to hire a learning specialist, it is important that you work with a tutor that has some experience and training in working with students with learning differences.
8 - Availability - be sure the tutor will be able to meet your child’s needs. This is particularly a problem with private tutors. Many private tutors are just tutoring “on the side,” which can sometimes lead to a lack of reliability on their part. Private tutors often do not feel obligated to organize their schedules around their tutoring, which can leave students and parents in a lurch should the student need more tutoring or should the tutor be unavailable without notice. Make sure your tutor is committed for the semester, better yet the school year, and will be able to devote the time and energy needed to meet your child’s needs.
9 - The adage “you get what you pay for” rings true in most cases and tutoring is no different. Yes, there can be some inexpensive diamonds in the rough, and just because a tutor or tutoring company costs a lot does not guarantee high quality, but, in the end, if you try to spend as little as possible the quality of support your child receives will likely suffer. Qualified tutors with a good reputation for results are typically aware that their services are valuable and charge accordingly. The same is true for tutoring companies.
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