Traditional Tutoring Doesn’t Work

Imagine being an 8th grade student, not only trekking through the rat-race of high school admissions, but failing in the subject that used to be your strength—Math. 

bay area math student

That was the story of one Aspire student in 2018-19, Eric Cortez. A Boy Scout who loves the outdoors and had once said Math was his greatest strength, Eric struggled to connect with the new concepts, as Math became more abstract and theoretical. Naturally, his family tried bringing in two different private tutors.

Of course, the common consensus is that traditional private tutoring improves both a child’s performance and grades at school. But neither one helped Eric much, and unfortunately that’s a common story. Several studies performed in the United States have concluded that traditional tutoring on average does not help students to an extent that we think. It does not result in significant growth or gains. In fact, sometimes it can be a risk of both time and money.

Bay Area math tutor Eliza

But tutoring can also be transformative. In fact, Eric ended up tutoring with Aspire’s Eliza Sherpa, and within two months, he was consistently getting A’s. So what creates that difference? What are the research-driven habits of effective tutors?


1. Effective Tutors Know How to Use Processing Time

To advance in any given subject, students need to establish a solid foundation first. Failing to do so can result in falling behind in the future.

In general large classroom setting, students have different learning styles and speeds. Therefore they do not process and assimilate information at the same rate. Some students will do so faster; others will not be able to fully do it by the time that the class move on to a new topic.

Studies show that allowing ample time to process and assimilate information yields more significant results, as well as increase intrinsic motivation. How long each student needs will vary. Therefore, for this to occur, it is important that the tutor gets to know their tutee and their individual learning style and needs.


2. Effective Tutors Are Emotionally Intelligent

Another important factor for private tutoring to be successful is a positive relationship between the tutor and student. This means that whether your child gets along with their tutor matters.

A study has shown that private tutoring can help students if the tutor understands the family situation and life circumstances of their students. Students have also shown to have improved results if they can relate to their teacher.

This also means that working the same tutor long-term is also beneficial for improved results. Keep in mind though that this only refers to tutors who help your child and whom your child has a good relationship with. Don’t hesitate to make a change if your child complains about the tutor or you do not see any improvement.


3. Effective Tutors Boost Students’ Self Confidence

Research shows that traditional tutoring can help students boost their self-confidence levels. While this may not help your child get better grades right away, it can be extremely beneficial long term.

A self-confident student is more likely to participate, answer questions, and less afraid of making mistakes. There are all essential not only for optimal learning but work environment in the future.


4. Effective Tutors Coordinate with School Curriculum

Studies have shown that tutors who coordinate private tutoring sessions with the curriculum taught at school help students more than teaching unrelated topics.

This doesn’t mean that tutors need to teach exactly what’s been taught at school. Instead, they can provide additional, hands-on practice that helps reinforce school material and make it more applicable and relatable.


5. Effective Tutors Learn Continuously

Students are not the only ones who should keep learning. Research proves that tutors who continuously learn and improve help students achieve better results.

This is important because education and the subjects taught are continuously evolving. Therefore, private tutors are more equipped to stay up-to-date with the most effective teaching methods as well as industry developments.

We get asked all the time about our results. How did Eliza empower Eric to reach consistent A’s? How did Swami empower Diya to increase her SAT score from an 820 to a 1320? How did mario empower Becky to increase her ACT score from a 30 to a nearly perfect 35? Through all of the above practices.

bay area math tutor Jen with student

So what does that mean for you as a parent?


1. Frequent Private Tutoring Sessions Result in Better Gains

A private tutor’s availability should be an important determining factor in whether you should select them. You may hire the best tutor in the world but if they are only available one every two weeks, results may suffer.

A study concluded that frequent traditional tutoring sessions, even if they are shorter, produce better results. In addition to that, the study evaluated tutoring sessions of different duration (from 10-60 minutes) and longer sessions did not necessarily yield more successful results. It was their frequency that mattered more.


2. Cheap Tutoring Alternatives Do Not Yield Effective Results

Nowadays, anything can be found on the Internet, including online traditional tutoring options from other corners of the globe. If you have considered those, you may want to drop your searches.

A study performed in the UK showed that distance tutoring with affordable instructors from India and Sri Lanka showed barely any improvement.


Traditional Tutoring Can Help Students, But…

While many parents automatically assume that traditional tutoring will help students, it is not always the case. It is important to carefully select a tutor, or you may end up wasting your time and money.

Make sure to choose a skilled and experienced professional who continuously improves themselves, gets along with your child, takes their individual needs into account, offers creative hands-on practice, and is available for frequent private tutoring sessions.

That is what Aspire is here for. Sign up for the kind of tutoring that truly works here.



san francisco tutoring director

Drew Sokol, Executive Director