Top 10 Mistakes People Make When Choosing a Tutor and How To Avoid Them
Choosing a tutor for your child can be a difficult process, but it need not be if you understand a few things about the tutoring industry.
The Australian tutoring Industry is unregulated meaning that anyone can present as a tutor. This is quite a problem, especially given the current climate which has seen an explosion in the number of tutors, especially online.
Many people see tutoring as an easy way to make some extra money, especially if it can be done from home. Of course, some of these tutors are excellent, whilst others will not be so good. So how do you separate the good from the not-so-good?
- Choosing based on price alone.
There is always a reason why a tutor’s price is set at a certain rate. If it is on the low-price end, it might be because the tutor is inexperienced or unqualified. They might have very little infrastructure or support behind them, making for a poor-quality tutoring session.
Paying a very high rate also doesn’t necessarily mean a superior service. A tutor may feel that they should be paid a high rate based on their qualifications. But if this is not backed up by experience within the Australian education system and knowledge of the Australian Curriculum, then you might be wasting your money.
The best tutors are those with both experience in tutoring or teaching and with a great knowledge of The Australian Curriculum.
- Discounting online tutoring as an option.
When tutors use the right online tutoring delivery method (not Zoom!), then sessions can be highly productive. The most important thing to be considered is the relationship between the tutor and the student. An excellent rapport can be developed online, just as easily as face-to-face. This also means that the online tutoring platform must have both video and voice communication.
In addition, an online tutoring platform should be equipped with a range of inbuilt features, allowing for a seamless and highly productive lesson.
- Not checking a tutor’s credentials when hiring privately.
It is compulsory in Australia that all tutors possess a Working With Children Check or Blue Card.
If your tutor presents you with an actual card, it should have both their photo and an id number. If a tutor just provides you with an id number, this must be checked on your state’s database. Companies should be doing this before employing tutors and this is a mandatory step conducted by The Tutoring Company.
If you are hiring privately, it might be a bit more difficult to check and you, therefore, run the risk of placing a tutor without the right credentials in your home, working with your children.
In addition, referees and qualifications should also be checked and the tutor should be interviewed thoroughly to determine their suitability.
Lastly, there is no formal qualification for tutors in Australia. Any company that tells you they have “certified” or “qualified” tutors are simply referring to the fact that the tutor has completed that company’s onboarding process.
- Choosing a tutor unfamiliar with The Australian Curriculum
As children progress through the year levels, their skills build on those taught the year before. When tutoring, it is important that a tutor understands the curriculum on either side of the student’s current year level so that they are not tutored beyond the year level expectations and that they can be “backtracked” in the learning and retaught earlier skills.
Also, the curriculum can differ significantly between counties and a tutor may not have learned the skills necessary for The Australian Curriculum.
All Australian states are bound by law to follow the same Australian Curriculum guidelines.
- Choosing a tutor without a Primary Years education background for students in the primary years.
Developing both literacy and numeracy skills in the primary years is a complex process. Only a tutor with a background in primary years education understands how these skills develop and in what sequence. Just because someone is good at Math or English doesn’t mean that they are suitable tutors for primary years students, especially if these students are struggling at school.
- Not understanding the platform used for online tutoring.
Most tutors and many tutoring companies use zoom as their method for delivering online sessions. The main for this is that most tutors and companies did not have an online tutoring platform before Covid and had to quickly find an online solution that they could transfer their students to. This was Zoom. The other appealing factor about zoom is that it has a free version, and this is the version used by most tutors. Being free also means that it has limited functionality, and this impacts the quality of the tutoring session.
Alternative online tutoring platforms, vary in their functionality and parents should understand what the platform is and how it works, so they can compare platforms and services more accurately when making a decision.
The Tutoring Company was using a specialized education platform for years before COVID and therefore had no scrambling, or any issues when COVID suddenly shut down tutoring centres and home-based learning and we simply transferred students into their own private classroom. In fact, we make each classroom specifically for each student, allowing us to customise the classroom where necessary. The online classroom is a complete system where the student can see their tutor and they work on any type of document or website etc. Literally, everything is done through one login.
We believe we provide a far superior service, and the many positive reviews support this.
- Choosing a group lesson rather than one-on-one private tutoring.
Within a group lesson, the students are generally guided through a set curriculum. For some children, this is the ideal tutoring environment, but for others, especially those who are struggling to keep up at school, this can be ineffective. The students have a lesser opportunity to ask questions, may feel less confident to ask questions, and do not get the required personalised assistance they need. The experience is simply a repeat of a school-based lesson but with fewer students.
Many students crave an opportunity to ask questions specifically. The only real way this can happen is with one-on-one tutoring, either face-to-face or online. It is also the only way for specific individualised instruction to be delivered.
- Booking too many lessons.
If tutoring sessions are of high quality, and if they are one-on-one, then one hour per week should be enough for most students. The session is very focused, and parents can be quite surprised by what can be achieved with a great tutor one hour per week!
More lessons per week won’t result in better or faster results, especially if the tutoring consists primarily of repetitive, worksheet type of work.
- Choosing a pre-set curriculum rather than opting for needs-based tutoring.
This is like the issues with group tutoring as opposed to one-on-one.
It is the school’s responsibility to deliver the curriculum and a tutor’s responsibility to provide the support required to allow the student to confidently understand the curriculum and complete school-based tasks.
A set curriculum means that the student has no impact on what is to be covered in a tutoring session as it has already been pre-determined by the set curriculum, just as it is at school. This, therefore, means that the student might not get an opportunity to address the particular aspects of the curriculum they are struggling with.
Children who are struggling at school do not just need a repeat of the classroom lesson but need an opportunity to express their thoughts and ideas and talk to their tutor as much as possible. This allows the tutor to understand how a student thinks about what they are doing and why and therefore enables them to correct any misunderstandings in the students' conceptual or procedural knowledge.
In addition, some curriculum delivery methods mean that the tutor is only supervising, rather than actually tutoring. A tutor delivering a pre-set curriculum should have the same credentials as a one-on-one tutor and have the same understanding of The Australian Curriculum.
Therefore, many children will benefit more from "needs-based" tutoring instead.
- Insisting on a Trial Lesson or Free Assessment
These sound like a good idea in theory, but how much benefit is there really?
A trial lesson provides a very limited time for a student and tutor to get to each other. Just because a relationship got off to a slow start doesn’t mean that ultimately that tutor isn’t the ideal tutor for that student. Look at giving it about 4 lessons before deciding the tutor’s suitability.
Also, make sure that the company has alternatives for you to easily move to if it really isn’t working.
Free assessments are only grade-based assessments used to determine a starting point, or where a student should be placed in a pre-set curriculum. This sounds good, but in reality, it doesn’t provide any information about why a child is performing at a certain standard or struggling with their schoolwork.
A tutor who really knows what they are doing will gradually determine the underlying reasons, by careful interactions with the student. This will take a bit more time but is vastly more valuable.