Basic Tutoring Techniques

This guide is written to broadly address some skills that will assist any tutor involved in the Scripps Tutoring Program. Some of the skills, styles, or suggestions may not apply to the discipline that you are tutoring, but the other information should be very helpful as you tutor this semester.

Good teachers often vary in style. Some rely heavily on board use, others paint verbal illustrations for the mind’s eye. Often the method of presentation will depend on the subject being covered.

Despite individual variation, there are two things all good teachers have in common: 1) the ability to communicate, and 2) the ability to make abstract ideas concrete.

Communication Skills

  • Know student names.
  • Make eye contact and use other forms of appropriate body language (such as nodding your head to show the student that you understanding them).
  • Vary your speech rate, volume, and tone.
  • Don’t be afraid of silence. Avoid nervously filling the silence.
  • Be creative, more than one approach may be necessary.
  • Stay with a student until s/he experiences success.
  • Each topic covered should be introduced, discussed, and then summarized.
  • Be enthusiastic.
  • Turn questions back to the group.

Making Abstract Material Concrete

  • Ask yourself “Why?” when preparing for the session and try to explain it to yourself as clearly as possible.
  • Use relevant analogies when possible.
  • Use everyday examples of the material in application.
  • Relate new material to more familiar concepts.
  • Get the students to verbalize the material whenever possible.
  • Develop mnemonics to assist initial learning.
  • Group relevant material together.
  • Have students write possible exam questions or discuss which topics will be covered on the exam. Use these examples for discussion.

Find a Mentor!

Teaching is a vocation much as carpentry is. Master craftsmen recognized long ago that the best way to develop skill is through an apprenticeship. Consider all of your professors as mentors. Try to determine the characteristics that make them successful and adapt these for your personal use. Also pick out the mistakes they may have made and think about how you can avoid those situations with your students. Modify your behavior to best suit you and your students’ learning style.

Discussion Leading Skills

  • Understand the concepts behind the material.
  • Draw attention to the big picture.
  • Give an informal quiz to test the students’ understanding of the concepts.
  • Probe for deeper understanding.
  • Divide the group into pairs or small groups for problem solving or debating an issue.
  • Practice answering sample exam questions.