Five Tutor Tips for Learner Rapport

The Department for Education’s (DfE) recent independent Ofsted reviews on tutoring in schools are positive. Tutoring offers pupils the individual attention they may not receive in a classroom. For disadvantaged students, this attention can significantly impact their academic progress. Evidence shows that tuition can boost progress by three to five months.

The success of tutoring lies in the commitment, skills, and dedication of tutors. Each learner arrives at tutoring sessions with varying levels of prior knowledge. It’s the tutor’s responsibility to assess what the learner already knows and what areas they need to develop. Educators understand that every learner comes with a unique set of experiences, skills, and challenges. The goal is to bridge the gap between learners’ current academic standing and where they need to be. 

Tutoring isn’t just about imparting knowledge; it’s also about creating a nurturing environment where learning thrives. Establishing a strong rapport with learners is paramount to their success.

Building a strong rapport with learners is essential for every educator to deliver effective learning. Whether you’re tutoring as part of the NTP programme, as an Alternative Provision (AP) tutor, or Supplementary Provision Educator, here are five tips to build up a rapport with your learners. 

Trust, Respect, and Empathy

Some pupils will resent tutoring or feel embarrassed that they need additional support. It’s crucial to acknowledge that many learners seek tutoring due to challenges faced in the traditional classroom setting. Learners may feel that they are coming to a tutor because of their failure.

Two of the biggest factors in establishing rapport with a learner are respect and trust. To establish rapport with your learners, you must have an open dialogue with them. This means active listening and responding thoughtfully.

School is difficult,  especially for students who have special educational needs (SEN). Education can be stressful for all learners. For neurodiverse learners, it’s fraught with extra challenges – academic, social, physical, and mental.

A learner who doesn’t do their homework or fails to concentrate isn’t necessarily being resistant or difficult. Keep in mind all the other factors that may be going on. Experienced tutors offer support and show understanding. Being approachable and empathetic can help them feel supported.

Show an Interest

Take the time to understand your learners’ interests, strengths, and areas for improvement. Ask about their goals and aspirations, and tailor your teaching to align with their ambitions. You might be tutoring a learner who has little or no support at home. 

With one-to-one tutoring, you need to build a good relationship and be able to relate to them socially, as you spend a lot of time together. You need to be prepared for small talk. This could include asking them how their day is going or if they had a good weekend. By understanding their hobbies and interests, you have a good segue into the tutoring sessions.  You can apply their interests to the learning process with real-life situations that translate the learning content to the topics the learner is interested in. Tutoring is about studying on top of full-time education and the responsibility of the educator is to motivate the pupil to learn. 

Create a Safe Learning Space with Open Communication

Encourage questions and curiosity. Make it clear that mistakes are part of the learning process, and there’s no judgement in your tutoring sessions. A safe space encourages open communication and risk-taking in learning.

Clear communication and feedback help prevent misunderstandings, while regular check-ins allow for adjustments in teaching approaches based on learner comfort and needs.

Patience and Flexibility

Tutoring sessions can be challenging, and learners may struggle despite their best efforts. Patience and encouragement are crucial.  While grades and goals are important, they should not be at the cost of the learner’s emotional wellbeing. 

Every learner is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Adapt your teaching style to meet the needs of the learner. Patience and persistence are key to finding the right approach. Many educators adopt a coaching style. 

Tutors should experiment with methods that align with the individual needs of the learner. This is easier in a one-to-one setting. If progress is limited, you can adjust your style. As you understand more about your learner, you can anticipate problems in their existing knowledge and address them.

Positive Reinforcement

Recognise and celebrate achievements, no matter how small. Acknowledge and reward learners for their progress, boosting confidence and motivation. Positive reinforcement techniques, when done well and with the right balance, can be transformational for pupil behaviours and outcomes

This can also increase attendance, which is a fundamental factor in determining its success. If a learner attends at least 85% of their tuition sessions, based on our statistics, the evidence suggests much better outcomes.

By implementing these tips, educators can create a nurturing environment that enhances learning and builds rapport with their learners. A tutor’s influence reaches beyond academics; it can shape a learner’s confidence and attitude towards education. 

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