+Lesson 1: What is a Tutor?

A tutor is a person who instructs students and/or small groups in learning a specific subject. The tutor’s purpose is to help students to help themselves, that is, to assist and guide them so that they can become independent learners who no longer need tutorial assistance.  

Although knowledge of the subject is essential, the effective tutor combines content knowledge with empathy, honesty, and humor.  

•  Empathy is the ability to identify with the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of another person. A good tutor will be able to understand the frustrations the student is encountering and be able to communicate this understanding to the student.  

•  Honesty is truthfulness, sincerity, and frankness. In order to develop a supportive relationship with the tutee, a good tutor must be open and honest, and above all, listen to the student’s frustrations, questions, and concerns.  

•  Humor can play an important role in a tutoring session by reducing tension and thus, increasing rapport. Humor can be used to compliment, to guide or to give negative feedback in a positive way.  

The effective tutor demonstrates a caring attitude. A caring attitude is demonstrated by:  

•  Being organized and prepared for the tutoring session  

•  Being on time for the tutoring session  

•  Establishing a learning relationship with the student  

•  Developing teaching strategies  

•  Becoming familiar with how individuals learn  


Benefits to the Tutor   Benefits to the Tutee  

-Heightens sense of competency  

-Encourages higher levels of thinking  

-Increases subject specific knowledge  

-Increases understanding of subject area  

-Offers a more individualized learning experience  

-Improves academic performance  

-Motivates self-paced and self-directed learning  


Characteristics of a Good Tutor

Although intelligence is essential, it is not always a predictor of a good tutor.  The kind of person you are and what kind of student you are do predict how successful a tutor you will be.  

Good tutors 

  • have a positive outlook.  
  • have a strong desire to help others.  
  • demonstrate empathy with others  
  • display patience, understanding, and fairness when working with others.  
  • have an open mind  
  • are self-starters  
  • are self-motivated  
  • are enthusiast about their subject and love sharing their knowledge with others.  
  • are reliable workers (always punctual and dependable).  
  • are proficient in their discipline  

What Students Who Request Tutoring Need from a Tutor

  • respect  
  • flexibility  
  • humor  
  • enthusiasm  
  • good communication skills  
  • organization  
  • the skills needed to succeed in the discipline
    1. the vocabulary/language of the discipline  
    2. time management  
    3. test taking  
    4. note taking  
    5. organizing material  
    6. memory techniques  
    7. reading texts  
    8. tips on writing for the discipline--You may want to refer students to the  Writing Center for help with writing papers in any discipline.  Online help is available. 

Complete Assignment One 

+ Lesson 2: Four Steps to Becoming an Effective Tutor

STEP ONE: Be prepared for your tutoring session.

STEP TWO: Know your client's academic needs and concerns.
STEP THREE:Employ the following features of a good tutoring session:

  • Give your client your undivided attention.
  • Be empathetic with your client's problems.
  • Be honest with your client.
  • Set the agenda for the session.
  • Have a sense of humor.
  • Interact with your client; don't forget to listen!
  • Learn your client's strengths and weaknesses so you can improve on his/her weaknesses by using his/her strengths.
  • Use positive reinforcement; compliment your client when he/she performs well.
  • Know when it is time to end the session.
  • Always try to end the session on a positive note and schedule the next session if necessary.
  • Fill out your paperwork to get paid!

Complete Assignment Two

+ Lesson 3: How to Learn what your Client Needs

First, when you make an appointment with clients, ask them to bring the course syllabus, text, class notes, and any quizzes or tests they have taken with them to the session. Always take the first few minutes of your initial meeting to establish rapport with your client if you do not know each other. Make this first experience a positive one for clients. They (and you) will form an impression within the first few minutes. You want this to be a positive impression. Some hints for making a favorable first impression: 

  • Use direct eye contact  
  • Smile  
  • Listen and acknowledge the client's response to your questions by nodding your head or saying, "I see," "I understand." or "Could you tell me more about that."  
  • Be aware of your body language (and your client's)  

, find out why your client has requested a tutor. Simply ask them what they need help with, and then listen to the responses. Some know exactly what they want you to help them with; many others will have difficulty identifying their problems with the course to you. Most will say something like "I just don't get it," "It's just so hard," or "It's so boring." They may have "math (substitute your discipline's title) phobia." They may not have any interest in the course because it is a general education requirement that they "have to take." They may express a loss of confidence in their ability or a sense of panic at the amount of work required. Listen carefully to what the student tells you so you can pick up on how to help them. DON'T tell them how easy the discipline is because they wouldn't be asking for your help if it were easy for them. Understanding their feelings and concerns about the course will help you plan for your future tutoring sessions. 

, if you still do not know what the client needs help with, review the syllabus, the text, or assignment(s) with the student. Find out what they do understand by asking questions. Many students who request a tutor have no idea why they are not doing well. This is your opportunity to discuss what is required for studying your discipline. Offer suggestions on how to read a history (substitute your discipline) text. Be honest and tell them how much time they have to spend to succeed in the course. Offer suggestions for organizing notes, memorizing facts, learning concepts. Point out that they have to make a time commitment to master the course and that you cannot do this for them.    

Asking the Right Questions

Being able to ask good questions is critical to becoming a good tutor. Learning good questioning techniques requires practice, but you can learn this skill like you have learned many others. Below are some suggestions for asking questions: 

  • Use the right words
    • Ask  "What do you understand" rather than "What don't you understand?"  Often students are clueless about what they do not understand.  
  • Wait for the answer, and listen to the response. Don't be quick to give the answer to your questions. Give the client time to think and respond (count to thirty) before giving them the answer.  Clients pick up very quickly that you will answer the question if they don't respond immediately. This may be painful for you and the client at first. Try asking them to reread a passage that contains the answer and then respond if they cannot come up with the answer. This is where a tutor's patience comes in!  
  • Ask leading questions, not questions that can be answered with "yes" or "no." Leading questions ask the student to demonstrate his/her understanding. Using techniques like "What if......" questions and using analogies that compare the concept to something more familiar are good teaching methods.  

The three most important services you can provide your client are:

  1. Providing instruction (present the information briefly)  
  2. Requiring a response from the client (having the client respond and talk about the material)  
  3. Giving constructive feedback (telling the client when the answer is correct or incorrect and explaining why)  

Complete Assignment Three 

+ Lesson 4: The Importance of Listening

"The reason why we have two ears and only one mouth is that we may listen more and talk less."

Zeno of Citium

If you took note of how much time you spent listening in a 24-hour period, you would probably discover that as much as 50 percent of your waking hours are spent in listening. If you calculated the time you spend listening in class, that number might be almost 100 percent. You will help your client immensely if you teach and reinforce the importance of listening--and how to listen effectively in class lectures.

Listening requires hearing with a purpose. A good tutor will teach clients that good listening is built on three basic skills:

  • Your attitude--a positive attitude leads to open-mindedness. 
    • Don't make assumptions about the lecture ("This lecture will be boring, exciting, funny, worthless...."). 
    • Don't assume that statements with which you disagree are automatically wrong. 
    • When you disagree with the lecturer, don't let your negative reaction interfere with recording the speaker's key points.
  • Your attention level--focus your attention on the lecture and tune out distractions (coughing, the dumpster being emptied, the lawnmower outside, etc.) so the lecture enters your short-term memory where it will be quickly processed into ideas. If you don't process them immediately, they are gone forever. Listening attentively will ensure that the ideas are processed.
  • Your ability to adjust--professors' organization of lectures varies; some are very organized, and it is easy to take notes. Others have a more rambling technique that may be difficult to follow. If you are thoroughly lost and confused by the lecture, raise your hand and ask for clarification.

Adapted from Walter Park's How to Study in College, Fifth Ed.

Also read and share this listening skills web site with your students:

As a tutor, you must also be a good listener. Don't do all the talking. This defeats the purpose of tutoring, which should be based on discussion, not lecture. Discussion encourages your client to become an active learner, a participant in the process of learning, not just an empty vessel to be filled by you. So listen actively to your tutee, and you and your client will have a much more satisfying session. Share with your clients a simple mnemonic device on learning how to  Listen.

Complete Assignment Four

+ Lesson 5: The Importance of Study Skills

You are a successful student more than likely because you have good study skills. Because the vast majority of your clients do not have good study skills, they are asking for tutorial help in your discipline. Therefore, part of your job is to teach the study skills needed for success in your discipline. This requires that you assess their needs in this area. For example, a student who is always late for your tutoring session probably needs to learn some time management skills. Ask students to bring their class notes so you can see if they might benefit from some note taking tips. Reviewing their tests with them can help you see if they need some instruction on test taking skills.   

Students usually request tutorial assistance because they have poor grades, which may be a direct result of their poor study habits. You are a resource for these students. They are much more likely to come to you for help than to me in the Academic Support Center. You will provide a valuable service to these students by giving them direction and encouragement in developing good study skills. 

The Web is full of great sites for study skills. Look for sites for your discipline. Below are some web resources that you can use in helping students with study skills in your discipline: 

Study Skills Websites

Go to the Academic Support Center Tutorial Services Website and review the available resources. You may want to refer your clients to this site.  

Complete Assignment Five

+ Lesson 6: The Importance of Learning Styles

It is important to understand that every person has a unique learning style (the way they best process information). Individuals prefer different styles of learning, learn at different rates, and use different learning styles. Your learning style may differ from your client's preferred learning style. Therefore, knowledge of learning styles is important for anyone who teaches or tutors others. One's learning style does not reflect his/her level of achievement or academic ability. One style is not necessarily better than another. 

Researchers have identified at least 21 elements of learning style and have found that most people respond strongly to between six and fourteen elements. However, it is the perceptual elements, auditory, visual, tactual, and kinesthetic, that are most important to identify, for they identify the learner's preferred learning modality. You might recognize your own preference in the following descriptions. 

Auditory Strength

  • prefer verbal instructions  
  • learn best by listening  
  • enjoy dialogues, discussions, and plays  
  • often remember names but forget faces  
  • like to find solutions by talking them out  
  • easily distracted by noise  
  • need quiet place to work  

Visual Strength

  • prefer demonstrations  
  • learn best through descriptions  
  • like to use lists to keep themselves organized  
  • often recognize words by sight  
  • often remember faces but forget names  
  • have well developed imaginations  
  • easily distracted by movement or action in the room  
  • tend to be unaware of noise  

Tactual Strength

  • often do best when they take notes either during lecture or when reading new or challenging material  
  • often like to draw or doodle to remember  
  • do well with hands-on such as projects, demonstrations, or labs  

Kinesthetic Strength

  • often do best when involved or active  
  • have high energy levels  
  • think and learn best while moving  
  • often don't get much from lectures  
  • have difficulty concentrating when asked to sit and read  
  • prefer to do rather than watch or listen  

Becoming familiar with learning style theory will help you be able to recognize your client's style and make helpful suggestions on how they can use their strengths to help them study more effectively.  Your client's preferences may be very different from yours, so it is important to recognize that study habits that work for you may not work for your client because it does not fit his/her unique learning style. 

    Complete Assignment Six