What is the Role of the Tutor?

The purpose of a tutor is to encourage the student in his/her own mastery of the subject so that the student feels competent in his/her understanding of the material.

Four elements that comprise a successful tutor:

  • The tutor must be competent in the subject material.
  • The tutor must address and be sensitive to the needs and attitudes of the students.
  • The tutor needs to listen to the student. From listening, the tutor must determine what the student thinks he/she knows and what he/she thinks the problems and solutions are. The tutor should ask questions and guide the student’s learning. The tutor must show the student ways to discover answers to their own questions.
  • The tutor needs to help make students accept responsibility for their own learning.

Tutoring is not teaching. It is a method for assisting the student in reaching his/her educational goals.

Tutoring is not counseling. If a student begins discussing personal problems as opposed to working on academics, it is not the responsibility of the tutor to refocus the student.


Tips for Tutors

  • Use simple language
  • Paraphrase what the student says
  • Provide information that the student needs
  • Avoid asking "yes" or "no" questions
  • Check to see that you have been understood (have the student show you he/she understands)
  • Do not be condescending
  • Do not comment on how easy a problem/concept is to understand (not true for everyone)
  • Provide realistic feedback about learning and expectations
  • Keep a positive attitude about the student you are tutoring
  • Be conscious of your body language
  • Show enthusiasm for learning
  • Do be encouraging but do not give false hope about a particular grade a student might receive
  • Look for opportunities to encourage and affirm the student’s work
  • Teach study skills as appropriate
  • Remain neutral if the student expresses frustration toward a particular instructor

Sources:  Learning Strategies Center, Cornell University; Creighton EDGE, Creighton University 

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