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The Power of One-to-One Tutoring

This blog post provides a great summary of 'The Power of One-to-One Tutoring' chapter from our recently published book, Academic Success Formula: How Ordinary Students Get Extraordinary Results

At Tutor Doctor, we believe that every student is unique. Everyone learns differently, and the instructional approach needs to be altered for each individual student’s learning style. Some programs rely on specific educational requirements and traditional expectations, but we believe tutoring should be catered to a student’s own personal goals, needs, strengths, and challenges. On that note, we’d like to share some aspects that we believe make Tutor Doctor’s one-to-one approach truly “ahead of the curve”!

Mentoring is key. One of the most underrated facets of tutoring is the mentoring aspect. Students can largely benefit from having a positive role model to look up to, and when a student is motivated by their tutor, the learning process becomes even more fun and engaging. This sort of unique rapport is only possible with one-to-one methods.

Compensating for learning differences. As we mentioned before, tutors have the ability to adjust their instructional style to fit the individual student’s needs. Everyone’s brains are wired differently. Some students are visual learners and benefit most from visual aids. Some students are auditory learners and retain information best when they hear it explained to them. Other students are kinesthetic learners and may prefer a more active learning style with hands-on instructional materials. Being able to cater to each student’s learning style is a huge part of what makes one-to-one tutoring so effective!

Tutor matching. Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of one-to-one tutoring is the ability to choose a good match for their child. At Tutor Doctor, we try to match all our students with tutors that have similar interests, learning styles, and schedules as them. When a student feels they have more in common with their tutor, a natural connection is formed that makes communication much easier.

Efficiency. Tutoring allows us to focus specifically on challenge areas. Let’s say a student needs help reducing fractions. In a classroom setting, the teacher may have already moved past that point in the material – or is now introducing newer concepts. Even though the student really needed more practice in this area, these learning gaps too often get glossed over. With Tutor Doctor’s one-to-one tutoring process, we can zone-in on problem areas and greatly aid the student’s overall progress.

Targeted instruction. One-to-one tutoring allows students to be taught at their current level of proficiency. Just because a student is in 4th grade reading class, it doesn’t mean they are reading at a 4th grade level. In cases like this, students are often behind on important skills that were never fully understood when originally taught to them. Private tutoring, on the other hand, allows us to go back and address these learning gaps. If a student didn’t retain the bulk of 3rd grade vocabulary, they cannot be expected to understand 4th grade material. Education is always building on previous concepts!

Materials. In a one-to-one teaching situation, tutors have access to work with a multitude of materials that address the student’s needs. For instance, some students may learn better on a computer, as opposed to traditional pen-and-paper instruction. For these students, additional online curriculum may be a better method of practice than, say, physical flashcards. In addition, some students have trouble keeping their schedules (and backpacks) organized. We work with students to help them work on their agenda, plan out their assignments, and keep their materials organized through our X-Skills Program. Parents are often amazed by how neat folders and a clear agenda can make such a big difference in their student’s academic success!

Over the years, education has seen a trend towards individualization of instruction. At Tutor Doctor, we’re thrilled to see this change! We truly believe that everyone learns better when the instruction has been tailored to their individual needs. All students can learn – it’s up to us to figure out how they do it best!

Tutor Doctor Success Story: Autistic Genius

“As I watched my student receive his high school diploma, I felt like he was one of my own. Thanks to Tutor Doctor's unique home school approach, he overcame his learning disability and gained the confidence that comes with knowing he can take on any challenge. It was a moment I will never forget.” – Dr. David Wilson,Tutor, USA

I had plenty of tutoring experience, but had never worked with students with autism. So when I was asked to tutor an autistic high school senior in English and U.S. History, I hesitated – uncertain if I would be able to meet the family's expectations.

Unable to function in an over stimulating environment, the student dropped out of public school and his parents had enrolled him in an online high school. Their goal was clear: if the student could pass both classes with a D or better, he would be allowed to graduate with his high school class.

After meeting with the student and his family, I decided to accept the assignment.

The student and I began working together for one hour, three times a week. The online course syllabi for both classes was rigorous, and it soon became clear that three hours a week was not enough time for him to complete the required assignments. He was easily distracted when it came to learning new material, and focusing his attention on a subject for more than a few minutes was a constant challenge.

However, I discovered that the student had an encyclopedic memory for things he was passionate about. He was obsessed with James Bond movies and knew the smallest details about the directors, writers, actors, and storylines. He also had exceptional space relation recognition and could put together a complex jigsaw puzzle in a few hours.

I decided to harness his unique strengths to ignite his interest in literature and history. As long as he could relate a subject to a James Bond plot, the student could make a connection. For one essay he compared Beowulf to a Bond villain. To help him make sense of Macbeth, I found a connection with a female character that had manipulated Bond. As a reward for a good day's work, we finished the session by working together on one of his puzzles.

Soon we were meeting three hours a day, five days a week, and making tangible progress. It was time to tackle a second hurdle: the test clock.

The final exams were timed, and during practice tests the student became increasingly agitated by the clock ticking at the bottom of his computer screen. I contacted the school counselor, explained the student’s anxiety, and said I was certain he could be successful if he had more time to complete the tests. The school agreed to remove the clock.

After eight arduous months of tutoring, the student took his final exams. He didn't just pass – he earned an A in English and a B+ in U.S. History. It was a proud moment for the student and his family, and for me as well. Taking the student out of a chaotic environment and allowing him to be tutored one-on-one at home essentially eliminated his learning disability. Combined with my efforts to genuinely connect with the student and find creative ways to help him learn, it was a recipe for success.

The Long-Term Benefits of Summer School

“Summer days, driftin’ away….”

“Summer sun, something’s begun - but uh-oh those summer nights.”

Olivia Newton-John as Sandy, and John Travolta as Danny, in Grease, 1978

If your summer won’t be filled with the fun and frolic of mythical Rydell High School, should likely consider how you’ll best spend the upcoming months.

Three options may bubble up often, and can even be combined: working a job, and vacation/travel and gulp, summer school.

Working creates needed income and teaches responsibility. A good summer job can start a lifetime passion, help you master a life skill or spark an entrepreneurial dream.

A vacation or travel can create long-lasting family memories, involve philanthropy through a mission-style trip, or inspire a lifetime love of adventure. But because trips are not typically an all-summer experience, you’ll likely have other time to fill.

By making school a part of your summer, you can stay sharp, accelerate your educational progress and potentially save a lot of money. Once limited to mandatories like gym, drivers education or math, summer school has expanded by topic and venue to create excellent long-term opportunities per hour invested.

While many students dreamily envision a summer of taking it easy, chillin’ - or whatever you might call it - they’re also conditioned to a certain life pace and thirst for intellectual stimulation. Excessive idle time or putting learning on hold can be a one-way ticket to boredom. Instead, enrolling in summer-style classes can be refreshing and highly beneficial. Consider taking classes that may not have been offered earlier, or, whose commitment could be compromised by rigid sports or performance arts practice schedules.

Think of summer school as a down payment toward your larger goals. The compacted course content allows a subject to be satisfied in weeks, not months. By completing required classes or honors versions over the summer, you can knock out a few of the must-haves - and usually, the sooner the better.  A rule of thumb is to take 12-15 hours if you’re working part-time, and 3-6 hours if you’re working more of a full-time schedule.

Summer school may be a necessity. Perhaps you need to catch up or become more proficient in a certain subject. Or maybe the escalating cost of college and increased student financial responsibility - compared to prior generations - makes summer school attractive. Summer courses in baseline subjects can be accomplished at a 50% - 75% cost savings (think of it as a discount) and will likely transfer to a traditional four-year university. Completing summer coursework can not only save money now, but can also maximize your dollar or time investment  later. With published reports citing a $594 average cost per college credit hour, it pays to spend your time and money wisely. By graduating from college a semester early through advance coursework or high achievement, overall college savings can top $20,000.

Increasingly, summer school isn’t limited to the same-old classroom routine.  A “must-see” college or university may offer a summer pre-college program, allowing you to experience campus life, meet staff and other prospective students, or discover under-the-radar scholarships. You might even find yourself being recruited, and later, having summer school on your resume will speak highly of your initiative and discipline.

When considering how to spend your summer, give extra attention to the benefits of summer school.

When Should Your Student Start Preparing for the ACT, SAT, or PSAT?

A big part of test prep comes down to timing. Test dates for college admissions exams are set well in advance and should be the goal posts for planning an effective preparation strategy. That said, when should students officially start their test prep?

The truth is that there is that this multi-layered question has both a short answer and a long answer.

First, the long answer: it depends on the student, their needs, and their goals. Here are some common scenarios and some suggested plans for how and when to approach test prep efforts.

The college-bound high school freshman or sophomore

For students that enter high school looking to establish their college-bound track, test prep can (and should) start early.

The high school junior just starting to think about college

Starting test prep this late in the game makes things challenging. While it may not be a fool’s errand, the longer students wait to start their test prep, the more triage-focused it becomes. Instead of maximizing growth across all content areas and test sections, tutors are forced to target low-hanging fruit that is ripe for a quick-fix.

All that said, the short answer to the question of when students should start test prep is simple: now! The sooner students begin familiarizing themselves with the tests, making test registration decisions, and working towards improvement goals, the better!

Whose Expectations Matter Most?

This blog post provides a great summary of a chapter from our recently published book, Academic Success Formula: How Ordinary Students Get Extraordinary Results. The chapter was written by Chris Lien, a Tutor Doctor franchisee out of San Diego.

Motivation can be defined as “a force that compels a person to take action towards a desired purpose or goal.” Levels of motivation can be a huge factor in determining someone’s success. But what exactly is motivation, and where does it come from? Although we may be inclined to believe that talent, money, and other tangible factors are primarily responsible, research has shown that this isn’t necessarily the case. What often separates successful from unsuccessful people is rather an intangible element of personal motivation and self-confidence.

When we think of motivation, sports and athletes often come to mind. Coaches point to several key factors that combine to form motivational qualities in superior athletes, and students can benefit by applying these principles to other areas of their lives, including academically. Some of these motivational factors include:

These traits can’t be acquired simply by reading or learning about them, but rather require years of dedication and continuous maintenance. Famous inventor Thomas Edison is often referred to when discussing principles motivation, as he experienced many notable failures throughout his lifetime (including during the development of some of his most widely-used inventions). Edison was known to have had thousands of failed attempts when developing the light bulb – however, he was able to see these failures not at setbacks, but as steps of advancement towards his final goal. Many of the aforementioned traits – from perseverance to tireless work ethic – are reflected in this famous quote from Edison: “I didn't fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

Although there are many historical perspectives on motivation, an important modern concept, especially in the educational field, is self-efficacy – or, an individual’s confidence in his or her own ability to achieve something. Theories of self-efficacy are often paired with goal-setting theories, since people employ these motivational behaviors to reach their goals. Regardless of the perspective, it is without a doubt important to remember that self-confidence plays a large role in motivation – and ultimately, success. For example, if you find your student is struggling in math, they may not be motivated to study because they lack confidence in their own ability to solve problems correctly. In a way, it can be a vicious cycle. Positive reinforcement can be a great way to motivate!

Whether you call it determination, drive, or motivation, for today’s students to be successful, they must be actively moving toward a vision or goal they have personally set for themselves. Many students don’t have a goal yet. Parents, teachers, peers, and many others are excellent resources that can help a student define what they want – their own personal goal. In fact, studies show that people with the greatest degree of positive motivation are those who invite people into their lives that offer them praise and encouragement. As far as external factors are concerned, the people you surround yourself with are a huge determining factor in motivation (and ultimately, self-confidence).

Motivation can come in many forms – both internally and externally. Here are some great Tutor Doctor recommendations to help build a student’s motivation for learning!

You can do a lot for your student just by offering them words of encouragement. Help your student to set goals and develop their own sense of personal motivation to maximize potential, as well as their enjoyment of life’s journey!

Learn more about our book ‘Academic Success Formula: How Ordinary Students Get Extraordinary Results’ HERE.

Why One-to-One Tutoring is More Beneficial than Group Test Prep Programs

Success on college admissions exams like the SAT and ACT requires preparation. Test-takers must be familiar both with content as well as with unique factors like timing, scoring, directions, and formats. To meet these rigorous demands, students often seek outside help.

Instead of choosing a canned test prep class filled with other students, opt for a personalized, one-on-one tutoring experience.

When weighing the choice, it’s hard to argue with the fact that an individualized tutor is the best option.

Individualized help outperforms one-size-fits-all programs

Every student is unique. Why, then, does it make sense to expect every student’s test prep needs are the same?

When tutors work one-on-one with students, every aspect of the learning process is a custom fit. Pacing, content, feedback, and practice are all uniquely matched to the student’s needs and readiness. Adjustments can be made in real-time based upon successes, struggles, and engagement levels. The result is a workflow optimized for growth.

By contrast, group tutoring divides an instructor’s attention by a factor of the number of students in the room. If the tutor teaches multiple courses, the available time to plan specifically for your child decreases even further.

Some group-based test prep operations seek to get around this concern by attempting to fit students into courses based upon common skill levels and needs. However, even the best diagnostic algorithm will produce classes where students wind up exposed to some degree of content they either don’t need or content they’re not prepared to engage with.

The available personalized attention is inevitably limited by the number of students vying for an instructor’s attention both during and between sessions.

In the end, students learn in these group courses, but they are only scratching the surface of what they could have learned had they been the only student in the room.

The flexible, cost effective choice

As with most important choices in life, a lot comes down to price. You might assume that hiring a tutor would cost more than enrolling in a group course at a retail tutoring center. After all, one-of-a-kind goods and services tend to come at an expense. A tailored suit costs more than one off the rack. A private jet ride is more expensive than flying coach.

Surprisingly, this is seldom the case. In most areas it is possible to find highly skilled tutors at rates that are either comparable or lower than what the local group tutoring options cost.

Furthermore, one-on-one tutoring arrangements provide the opportunity for additional flexibility when it comes to scheduling sessions. Sometimes life happens and a student misses a session. A group tutoring course happens whether all the students are present or not. Absent students miss out on the content and potentially still wind up paying for their empty seat.

One-on-one tutoring arrangements are typically more accommodating. With enough notice, a session can typically be rescheduled or cancelled so students don’t skip key content lessons or worse, have to miss content and still have to pay for it.

The right fit is also more convenient

Finding the tutor that is the right match for your child requires some due diligence, but it is well worth the effort. A good fit can lead to a collaborative learning partnership that could open up the possibility for academic support and/or enrichment in areas beyond just test prep.

Thankfully, Tutor Doctor helps make the process of finding the right tutor both convenient and reliable. Tutor Doctor works for you to help find a tutor that is a match in more areas than just content. This is a major advantage over group-based test prep experiences because, as educators know, there are other important facets like personality and instructional style that help foster successful educational experiences.

Convenience is another key benefit of one-on-one test prep and tutoring over its group-based alternatives. Arranging for tutors to either come to your home (with another adult present) or another familiar meeting place increases student comfort. Furthermore, removing the race to make it to the test center in time for class can just make life a lot easier (and, frankly, less stressful) for everyone involved.

Even if you are in a locale where in-person tutors are hard to come by or if your family is on the road often, it is possible to find excellent tutors who can help online. Tutor Doctor applies the same strict, evaluative criteria when vetting their online tutors as those that teach in person. This means sessions with top-notch tutors can happen literally anywhere with a reliable internet connection.

Depending upon where you live, there are likely a lot of test prep and tutoring options for parents and students to consider. One consideration should be a no-brainer: a one-on-one learning experience should always trump a pre-packaged group test prep program.

Why You Shouldn’t Give Your Math Skills a Break

In many high schools around the world, students have their courses split into semesters. While it might be easier to manage projects and exams with fewer subjects at a time, not all courses are the same. When students find themselves studying North American History in one grade and World Wars the following year, the months that fell in between don’t necessarily matter as much as they tend to with other subjects. For example, what you learn about electricity in this year’s science class may have no direct relation to the optics concepts you learned the year before. But math? That’s a different story!

Math curriculum is made to be built on similarly related concepts, growing in complexity as the student gets older. Starting from elementary years, what a student learns in math in one grade needs to be recalled in the next level. In this sense, math is much more like English than science – it is not necessarily about just knowing facts, but also requires continuously re-using them as a tools. Your skills in English help you to write increasingly better in all areas of academics, from essays in social studies to lab reports in science. Your skills in math will help you manipulate formulas in physics, chemistry, and solve problems whenever there are numbers involved. The difference is, you never stop practicing your English, even when you are not in an English class. You use it in your daily life, and in all your other subjects. But if you take a six-month break in math, you risk spending the first several weeks of the new grade struggling to recover concepts that you had already learned.

For some students, this may not be a big deal. For many others, it becomes a struggle as the years go by and they are expected to quickly remember past concepts while simultaneously being introduced to newer, more complex topics. Science and math teachers at senior grades have a lot to cover, and often times students that are having difficulty recalling prior concepts at this point end up lost in the new concepts as well.

That’s where we come in! A math tutor can help a student year-round. During a semester in which math is currently a subject in school, the focus of private tutoring can be to reinforce the concepts, complete homework, and prepare for tests as they happen in class. This will all lead to a better understanding of the material and increased performance on exams.

But the best tutoring has to offer sometimes happens after the course is finished! Tutors can go at a pace catered to the individual student, either by working ahead on the next grade or re-working specific topics, and thus keep the math skills going until the following year. Being able to mix concepts (as opposed to only working on one chapter at a time) is particularly useful.

For example, it is relatively easy to learn to add two fractions when all a student focuses on is addition of fractions. After working with enough problems, students often end up memorizing the procedure. The big leap happens when the student can now naturally add fractions when newer fraction-based concepts are introduced (like probabilities). This will occur over time as the student matures and the topics keep coming back, but the road can be much smoother with the help of a tutor to make sure nothing gets rusty or forgotten! Not to mention the huge boost of self-confidence that happens when the student starts a new grade and already knows how to do it!

Tips and Resources to Help You Successfully Transition to Homeschooling

You’re not alone if transitioning your children to homeschooling is on your mind.

According to 2016 United States Department of Education data, the homeschooling population for ages 5 - 17 had swelled to 1.7 million students. And as a percentage, homeschoolers doubled from 1.7% to 3.4% from 1999 to 2012.

Homeschooling has gained in popularity for three main reasons:

Not limited to rural families and households, homeschooling advocates and practitioners include 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow; NFL Hall of Famer and ABC Good Morning America co-host Michael Strahan; and Jessica Mendoza, ESPN baseball analyst. They cite family influences and an educational system that accommodates the travel demands of their professions as reasons homeschooling has worked for them as students and parents.

The following considerations can help families successfully make this important change:

Know your local rules and regulations

Though legal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, homeschool education requirements can be as different as the states themselves. Variables include the number of required homeschool days, support options, curriculum, the educator’s qualifications and record keeping. Your state’s Department of Education website is the best initial source for this information.

Understand the college or university perspective

College requirements can differ by school or state, whether public or private. Accordingly, you’ll want to research whether homeschoolers are held to different admission standards than traditionally educated students. Expect that your student will be required to take an ACT or SAT-style standardized test. Something you can control is how you document the homeschool experience, test results or other thresholds. Know before you start or decide to homeschool how colleges and universities evaluate homeschoolers. This can help balance a short-term decision with long-term effects.

Combine structure with flexibility

Schedules and discipline deserve added emphasis when schooling occurs outside traditional classrooms. Many homeschoolers still need a proper routine and dedicated space to achieve in this learning style. This applies to wake-up time, meals, active learning, breaks and even exercise and activities. If possible, a dedicated space in the home will help promote discipline and assert your expectations for academic achievement and study time.

Think integration, not isolation

The growing numbers of homeschoolers likely means that many homeschool households are already in your community, adapting the same as you. While learning will largely occur family by family, local resources can often provide the equivalent of gym class, field trips and similar events that bring homeschoolers together. Try searching Google, Facebook or a local parenting blog to find locales that connect students and parents for everyone’s benefit.

If you’re only in the consideration phase for a homeschool transition, these resources can help make your next step an informed step:

Local Family Enrollments (March-2018)

School / Student grade / Tutoring Program Focus

Riverdale ES, 2, Math & Writing Enrichment
Riverdale ES, pre-k, Reading
The Int’l School, 4, Chinese, English
Clackamas HS, 9, Writing, Reading
Jesuit HS, 11, Physics, Adv. Alg. II
Franklin HS, 12, Pre-calculus
Wilson HS, 11, Biology, Algebra II
Wilson HS, 9, Academic Coaching, Study Skill Dev’t
Beaumont MS, 6, Core-content, Academic Coaching
Franklin HS, 9, X-Skills, Academic Coaching
Creative Science, 3, Core-content
DaVinci Arts MS, 6,Core-content/work quality/writing
Lincoln HS, 10, Geometry, Test-Taking Skills
Portland Adventist Academy, 9, ESL, Study Skills
PSU, Sophomore, Math 252 (calculus II)
Reed College, Freshman, Chemistry
Central Catholic HS, 11, Algebra II

Tutor Doctor’s Top Tips For Writing a Great Essay

Writing an essay can definitely be a challenging task, and many people have trouble figuring out where to start – commonly referred to as “writer’s block.” Being able to effectively compose a written response to a topic is a vital skill you will use throughout your educational journey, and many students will find themselves submitting heavily-weighted essays with their college applications. Here are some quick and easy tips to help write a great essay!

  1. Always make an outline first. Students often skip this step, especially if the required essay response is timed (like a prompt on an in-class exam). Although it may seem difficult to justify spending the first 10-15 minutes creating a detailed outline, the results will pay off later. Having an outline prepared helps to avoid getting stuck in the middle of your response, and also provides a definite “game plan” for your essay.

  2. Start with a standard five-paragraph essay. The standard essay format should consist of at least five parts – an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. You can always go back and add more supporting arguments or additional paragraphs later, but it’s important to get the “meat and potatoes” of your essay done first. It also helps to arrange your outline into five parts, making this step even easier!

  3. Make sure you have a thesis statement and topic sentences. It’s important to remember what you are specifically addressing in your essay. Regardless of the essay type (persuasive, descriptive, personal anecdote, etc.), you should have a thesis statement at the end of your introduction that states the main theme of your essay. This same thesis statement should be reiterated in your conclusion. Also, make sure to double check that each paragraph has a clearly stated topic sentence and appropriate transitional words or phrases.

  4. Revise, revise, and revise again! This is probably the most important step to writing a great essay. You should always expect to write at least a couple drafts before editing your final product. If you’ve been focusing on a certain paragraph for a while, it can really help to take a step back and read your essay in its entirety. In the case that you are writing a timed-response essay, a draft may not be possible. However, we still recommend devoting at least 10-15 minutes (at the end of the exam) to revise your essay before submitting it.

  5. Add the final touches and polish your work. Although perhaps not as time-consuming as the writing process itself, it is still important to make sure your essay is formatted properly. Make sure you have an appropriate title and any information that is requested by your teacher. Many high school and college students will be expected to compose an essay in a professional format, such as MLA or APA. These styles have specific requirements, ranging from page numbers to citation formats. The last thing you want is to lose points for a formatting issue, so make sure your essay adheres to the required guidelines!

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