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Tutoring with students in the center

In our three-part series on small group teaching, we discussed how to identify students who have fallen behind during distance learning due to COVID-19 and why school leaders play a vital role in helping shape small group teaching programs in their schools. The second article explored how to choose a tutor who best suits your students’ learning needs, the professional learning offered to tutors, and why a collaborative relationship between the class teacher and tutor is vital. In this final part we discuss what effective small group tutoring looks like in practice, the importance of building relationships with students, and why students need to be the focus of this work.

Schools are already actively engaged in a range of student improvement work, including small group tutoring, as they continue to adapt to the challenges of distance learning and flexible learning in 2020.

So what does effective tutoring in small groups look like in practice? And how do class teachers and tutors ensure that they meet the needs of all Students participate?

According to Dr. Julie Sonnemann from the Grattan Institute, tutoring in small groups is best when it is carried out intensively, regularly and by a qualified teacher.

“For example three or four times a week, maybe between 30 and 50 minutes and over a period of 10 to 20 weeks. Then it has the greatest impact, ”she says Teacher.

Another key factor in the success of any small group tutoring program is the relationship between the tutor teacher and the student.

“One of the main reasons why tutoring is successful is also the social relationship between the tutor and the student. If a student has difficulties in the classroom, it is important that they have someone they can trust who will answer their questions in an environment in which they may feel more comfortable than in a larger class, ”says Sonnemann.

“It can make a huge difference, and so the tutor really needs to make an effort to get to know the student, understand how the student is feeling, what they feel safe or not safe about, and also really build the student up to be motivated , to learn.’

Karen Money is the director of Melbourne Girls’ College, Victoria, and this year she was seconded to lead the Victorian Department of Education and Training’s tutor learning initiative. She agrees that building relationships with students is critical to the success of the program.

“When I speak to my students and say, ‘You did so well, what helped me?’ They say: “We loved our teacher and did not want to let him down”. You can’t overlook the importance of this relationship and relationship building to a young person who is going the extra mile and really changing what they want to do and deal with next. It’s so important, ”she says.

“In a small group this relationship becomes even more obvious and so it is really important that they are comfortable and confident that you don’t see a question as a question that lies below your answer to the answer a really safe space for them, to ask, stretch out and try everything. ‘

It is also very important that students focus on growth and not just on the level of performance, says Sonnemann.

“Obviously, it is very important that a tutor focus on getting students to really think about, set their own learning goals, understand where they stand and then how to move on to the next step. I think this involves a lot of metacognitive teaching strategies to build some of these skills in students so that they will have the confidence to know where they are going and why they are going there as they study. ‘

Student voice and agency

Empowering students to shape their own learning environment leads to more self-confidence, motivation and self-efficacy and strongly supports positive learning outcomes (Walker & Logan, 2008). For this reason, small-group learning programs should prioritize student voice and agency to identify and target each student’s unique learning needs.

Sonnemann says the evidence on student voice shows that it is critical that students have responsibility for their own learning. “It is really important for students to have responsibility for their learning and to have some understanding of what they are going to learn and why they are going to learn, and to feel that they are doing it.

“Of course this is something that will be really important at a time when students weren’t having much of an impact on their learning in lockdown. As with all, children have been thrown into this pandemic and there were many things that were out of their control and so it is important to rebuild some of these skills for children who have struggled.

Social and emotional learning

In the future, class teachers and tutors will have to work to support students with social and emotional learning by embedding it into the daily routine, adds Sonnemann.

“It’s just about the teacher being a regular role model of what it means to be a confident learner. This means laying the foundations of setting learning intentions, working steadily towards unpacking when you are not making progress and why, and redefining your learning intentions if necessary or expanding them over a longer period of time.

“So it’s really all that positive, metacognitive conversation that goes on in the classroom that is so important. I think that just has to be a priority for teachers over 2021. ‘


Walker, L. & Logan, A. (2008). Learner Engagement: an overview of learner participation initiatives in the UK education sectors. Future laboratory.

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