Benefits of Small Group InstructionsApr 10, 2021
One of the questions I am asked most frequently is if I offer one on one tutoring. My answer is always the same. In the vast majority of cases, I do not offer one on one tutoring because I do not think it is as effective as small group instruction. We are conditioned to think that being the only person or having someone’s total attention is better when in fact, in most circumstances, the opposite is true.
Advantages of Small Group Tutoring
The purpose of tutoring is to offer support to students that are finding one or more of their classes to be challenging. They take these classes in a group setting. The teacher has a set curriculum she must cover and she can only spend a certain amount of time on each topic. In a one on one tutoring situation, the student is in the driver’s seat and the amount of time spent on any given topic can stretch indefinitely. Now initially this may sound like a good thing. If a student is having trouble with a particular topic you want them to work on it until they master it. However, when students are in an individual lesson they often become dependent on the instructor and spend more time focusing on why they don’t understand the topic rather than working on the topic itself. Being in a small group provides comfort and camaraderie. Students realize they aren’t the only ones who find the subject challenging and their confidence improves when they are able to help others or work through problems with others. Students also have time to think about and practice a concept while the instructor is working with someone else. Working independently in an environment where support is readily available helps students master the concepts and develop strategies and techniques they can use in the classroom and during independent learning.
Cases for Individual Tutoring
Now I am not saying ALL individual tutoring is bad. There are times it is definitely called for. If a student is very far below grade level or has a lot of gaps in their base
knowledge some individual tutoring may be necessary to get them back on track. Also, if a student has attention issues or anxiety, individual tutoring may be needed to help them develop strategies and techniques to apply during group learning. But in the vast majority of cases, individual tutoring should be used for a short period of time and only on specific concepts or tasks.
Purpose and Parameters for Tutoring
Remember tutoring is supposed to support the student in the classroom. This can best be achieved by helping students with methods similar to those they will encounter in the school setting. As a tutor, I hate to hear a student come in and say, “My teacher taught this today but I knew I was coming here so I didn’t really listen.” In those cases, I realize I have become a crutch rather than a support and I am enabling rather than empowering my students. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, I have to pull back a bit and make sure that student is striving but not struggling.
One of the most valuable qualities in life is the ability to work well with others. Small group instruction gives the support and attention a student needs while encouraging them to be part of a group that is working toward a common goal.
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