Virtual tutoring can be an intimidating task, especially for those just starting out. There are many barriers that exist besides the screen separating you from the student that you are connecting with. Despite this, being a tutor can be an immensely gratifying experience. Since the creation of RISE Philadelphia during the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteers have made a massive impact on students’ success by providing high quality and personalized tutoring. Our goal for student success has gone beyond academic performance; we aim to nurture a growth mindset and bolster students’ confidence and love for learning. Whether you are just getting started with RISE or a veteran tutor, here’s your guide for maximizing your virtual tutoring sessions:
1. Preparation is key!
Some may argue that the preparation leading up to a tutoring session is just as, if not more, important than the session itself. When first meeting with students, it is important to communicate clear goals and expectations. Some students may want to utilize tutoring sessions for homework help or studying for tests. A good way to engage this type of student is to coordinate your teaching with their classroom learning (1). By directly communicating with students or their parents/guardians, you can obtain classroom syllabi and have topics handy for your sessions. Other students may want to build foundational skills like reading fluency. For these students, online resources found here can be used to gauge their progress and cater to unique learning styles. In either case, don’t be afraid to experiment with different resources and have multiple activities planned based on students’ attention spans and individual needs!
2. Help students learn the “how” and “why” of problem solving.
Undoubtedly, a difficult part of teaching is practicing patience. Although it may be tempting to jump in and explain an answer when a student begins to feel uncertain, it is important to encourage persistence in problem solving. Instead of saying the answer outright, you can use scaffolding, which is a term for when a teacher breaks down difficult tasks and takes away support as the student masters a concept. After learning the student’s thought process, you can go through problems step-by-step, coming up with strategies to help them with future encounters with questions of the same type (1). Moreover, research has shown that students may learn best by teaching others, since this promotes cognitive engagement and persistence in quality learning (2). A great way to practice this is to have students explain a concept to you or to their parents to more clearly show gaps in their knowledge. Reflection and self-assessment can also drive better understanding of students’ thought processes (3). It is imperative to emphasize that beyond getting questions right, knowing the “how” and “why” is most beneficial for long-term academic success.
3. Consistency and a positive attitude go a long way!
As a tutor, it is your job to set the mood and foster an environment of enthusiasm and encouragement. This means celebrating milestones and providing positive reinforcement, whether in the form of verbal praise or a visual representation of the student’s success. Motivation has been shown to play a major role in boosting students’ confidence and willingness to work hard (1). As a tutor, you serve as a mentor, so take time to be personable and create meaningful bonds. You should convey to your students that you have the same goals as them for their success! Being consistent provides students with regularity that they may otherwise lack in their everyday lives.
In short, virtual tutoring can be a daunting yet immensely rewarding endeavor. Key tips for maximizing virtual tutoring sessions include thorough preparation by aligning goals with students' needs, fostering persistence in problem-solving, and maintaining consistency and a positive attitude to reinforce motivation and confidence.
Author: Zurwa Nishat
Medical Student, Rowan-Virtua SOM
Mozolic, J., & Shuster, J. (2016). Community Engagement in K-12 Tutoring Programs: A Research-Based Guide for Best Practices. Journal of Public Scholarship in Higher Education, Volume 6, 143–160. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1123811
Park, S., Kim, C. (2015). Boosting learning-by-teaching in virtual tutoring. Computers & Education, Volume 82, 129-140. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2014.11.006.
Osman, M.E. (2010). Virtual Tutoring: An Online Environment for Scaffolding Students’ Metacognitive Problem Solving Expertise. Journal of Turkish Science Education, Volume 7, No. 4. https://www.tused.org/index.php/tused/article/view/532