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
- 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)
Second, 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.
Third, 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:
- Providing instruction (present the information briefly)
- Requiring a response from the client (having the client respond and talk about the material)
- Giving constructive feedback (telling the client when the answer is correct or incorrect and explaining why)
Complete Assignment Three