Ensuring that teaching is individualised to the student has been an important component of education for quite some time, with a consensus among educators that people all learn in different ways at different paces and as such, have different learning needs. When looking for educational support outside of the classroom, having a tailored approach is important, so the student is able to work specifically on the areas in which they need a bit of extra clarity. What does an ‘individualised’ approach entail? With more and more tutoring services to choose from, how can you ensure the tutor you have selected is actually implementing a tailored approach?
The best starting point for individualised learning is having detailed, relevant information on the student. The tuition centre should have a system in place to enable parents to provide up-to-date feedback on how their child has been progressing, what areas have been identified as needing support, and their learning style.
When a student begins tutoring, an assessment is often a useful starting point. However, the academic component is only one element of effectively assessing needs. Being able to speak with the parent and student before the sessions start is just as valuable – a timed assessment is not always an accurate reflection of the student’s capabilities. They may struggle with test nerves and time management or have specific learning needs which mean they take a bit longer to process information while actually having a strong knowledge of the content. Assessments are also not able to exhaustively cover every single topic relevant to the child’s school year – to do so would take a long time and keeping assessments short helps students to engage more effectively with the service (an hour-long stressful test is not the ideal way to enthuse a student about educational support!).
Having a face-to-face (or at least virtual) discussion with both parent and student is vital. More and more tuition centres now opt for online written assessment options, which while convenient, do not provide the nuanced information that typifies an actual conversation about the student. In fact, online forms and tests usually only aim to stream students into a particular level in a pre-set programme, which likely means the content of the sessions will not be differentiated to that child’s individual needs.
“…Online forms and tests usually only aim to stream students into a particular level in a pre-set programme, which likely means the content of the sessions will not be differentiated to that child’s individual needs.”
For learning to be tailored to the student, it must be grounded in the curriculum that student is studying. Tuition services which have set programmes and run across multiple states or countries are not likely to have that strong understanding of the local curriculum requirements, to help ensure your child is focusing on the areas that they are being assessed on at school. Knowledge of your curriculum requirements is important to implementing a successful individualised learning program – yet not all tuition providers have this knowledge!
Students of any age learn best when they are actively engaged and enthusiastic about the learning process. Keeping sessions hands-on, fun and adaptable are proven to improve progress, but a key starting point to this is having the student lead their own educational journey. Having the student identify their goals keeps them invested and ensures they feel recognised and valued by their teacher. The goals are more likely to be achievable and the student will be more willing to participate in the tasks needed to get them where they want to go.
It wouldn’t be individualised if the learning wasn’t delivered at the pace of the learner! People all learn at different rates, and rather than trying to rush through a concept so the child can move onto the next step, an individualised approach takes the time to give the student an in-depth understanding, moving onto the next learning area when the teacher is satisfied that they are ready.
In a tutoring context, this means there should not be a rigid pre-set plan for the term – instead the tutor’s programme should be flexible and adaptable, with the tutor having an idea of what they want to cover over the next two or three sessions, while reflecting on progress and updating their lesson plans accordingly.
Ensuring continuous communication and feedback between teacher and student is the best way to determine how they are progressing and if the sessions are covering topics at the right pace and in a way that makes sense to the student. Having conversations each session allows the student to provide their own comments and reflections on how they are going, what they are finding challenging and want to work on further, as well as what they feel they are strong in. The tutor can use these timely discussions to inform their lesson plans moving forward and rework any elements of the lessons that don’t seem to be working well for this particular individual.
Consider the above important elements of individualised tuition to formulate questions when deciding on your next provider of 1-to-1 tuition. For small-group programmes, there may be less individualisation (which is why they are offered at a lower price point); however some evidence of catering to individual needs should still be present in small group teaching.