Should I Even Get A Tutor?
by Solomon Berman
If you are reading this blog entry, chances are high that you are thinking about getting a tutor.
Perhaps for yourself.
Or maybe for your child.
And, if I were a betting man, I would venture further to say that you are looking around, searching the web, exploring, learning, asking your friends or colleagues at work and school, and trying to get a feel for what is out there for tutoring.
And, yes, if you are like me, you do not want just any tutoring, but quality tutoring, the best that you can find.
Thus, we do our due diligence. (Something I will be expatiating further on in a near future blog posting)
I am a deliberate consumer; it doesn’t matter what it is I am purchasing. I ask for opinion, search the Internet, grill the sales clerk, look over my finances, and then repeat the process again. With a tangible product, it is a little easier for me, as I can “kick” the proverbial “tires.” However, with a service, like a doctor, attorney, accountant, or automotive technician, there is a leap of faith that I have to take. I cannot hold a service in my hand, and there is no true guarantee at the end of the day what I will receive. So, I work through the process even more slowly and deliberately, and, eventually, one question always arises:
Do I really need to purchase this?
When I reach out to a prospective student, I write in my initial letter that, “Investing in an education is a very personal decision, and I want to be sure that we meet your needs and expectations, and that you are comfortable with your selection. Our services are very comprehensive, and I invite you to visit our website, www.quantumprep.net, to learn more, read our blog at blog.quantumprep.net, or e-mail me directly with questions.” I mean what I say. Retaining a tutor costs money, and not an insignificant amount, and I would not want anyone retaining me or another teacher in our group if it was not justified. You need to feel that you do need to spend the money.
And, thus, allow me to present to you an argument in support of tutoring, and why every person should consider, and start the process of, finding a great teacher for you.
- Effective Teaching Environment. In 1984, Benjamin Bloom, a professor from the University of Chicago, published a seminal paper (Educational Researcher, Vol. 13, No. 6, pp. 4 – 16, Link to the Bloom Paper) in which he argues that students who received one-on-one tutoring instruction often outperformed students who received conventional instruction. On a top level, it makes sense, since the entire lesson is focused around a single student and that student’s needs, learning objectives, and style. Which leads to the next point:
- It is just for you. The teacher is there for you, and if done well, the instructional methods are tailored just for you, so that you are learning both efficiently and to the maximal level that you can. In a larger setting, a teacher has to consider all of the students’ needs, focus on delivering the lesson, and meeting many external requirements that the school, or government, set, and cannot simply focus on any one student beyond a moment.
- The teacher helps you for the entire time. How many times have you sat in a class, and waited for a lesson to continue as another student has their question answered? I am not condoning the practice; as a classroom teacher, we need to help all students, but from a student’s perspective, it is lost instructional time unless you benefit from the question. Given another situation, I have checked out of a lesson because I lacked a certain skill or background knowledge, and simply resigned myself to wait until I got home, taught myself what I needed to know, and then came back to the lesson later. With a tutor, s/he can stop and make sure you have the skills you need to access the lesson; in a classroom, such stoppage is a luxury, as there is a lesson to get through. It’s actually sound pedagogy, as the stoppage gives you the opportunity to also ask questions about what has been discussed without disrupting the rhythm of the lesson your tutor is providing.
- Performance matters. In as much as it pains educators to make the admission, test scores and grades do matter in our meritocracy. It is up to each student to perform as best as they can. Working with a good tutor does lead to students perform better in the classroom on assessments, for reasons including the ones I have written about. If this were not the case, why would anyone retain a tutor? Bottom line is that, in many cases, it is the performance that matters, and we need to do what is necessary (and ethical!) to succeed – a tutor can give that needed edge!
So, before we brush off a good tutor as a luxury, and answer, “No” to the question, “Do I really need to purchase this,” consider the expense of a tutor as an important investment for one’s education. Having the right tutor by a student’s side can be the difference between average learning, and exceptional learning!
Solomon Berman is the Founder and Lead Teacher of Quantum Prep LLC. He actively teaches chemistry, physics, and mathematics at the high school, college, and post baccalaureate levels, having taught both in public education and at a top tier university. His focus lies in developing the most innovative and effective catalogue of pedagogical techniques for STEM disciplines, and helping students become powerful STEM learners in their classes, competitive in assessments, and successful with projects. He has studied at Bates College, Harvard University, Boston College, and Boston University, and is a native of Boston, Massachusetts.