As a follow up to the previous article, “Six Things Students and Tutors Should Do BEFORE an Initial Tutoring Session”, we share some tips on how to make the first tutoring session as productive and successful as posssible as it’s happening.

As I mentioned before, the initial tutoring session is perhaps the most important tutoring session. Meeting a new tutor can be daunting; it is inevitable that you will wonder what the tutor will be like and how the tutoring session will go. Initial tutoring sessions typically follow a standard agenda wherein the tutor does a lot of work trying to diagnose your academic performance and determine your strengths and weaknesses, all while trying to establish personal rapport. Knowing what to expect in the initial tutoring session will make it less daunting, help you prepare, and will ensure that you get the most out of the initial tutoring session.

Establish a Personal Rapport

A successful tutoring situation is one wherein the tutor and the student have great rapport. Because a lot of tutoring relies on rapport, having a positive first impression is essential to creating a successful tutoring situation. During the first tutoring session, your tutor will probably spend about five to ten minutes just getting to know you. Your tutor will ask questions about your interests, what things motivate or excite you, life at school, TV shows or books that interest you, etc. Your tutor is doing this to get a sense of who you are, and to also make sure that you are comfortable talking with him/her. Feel free to share with your tutor things you like about school, what sports or instruments you play, etc.

Ask Questions

Your tutor will spend a lot of time diagnosing your strengths and weaknesses, as well as assessing your skills and understanding of the subject at hand. To help facilitate this assessment, your tutor will ask you a lot of questions about the subject you are struggling with. Some questions you should expect to be asked are:

What subject are you currently struggling with in school?
What do you like most about this subject?
What do you like least about this subject?
Where do you experience the most challenges in this course? Completing homework, studying for test/quizzes? Taking tests/quizzes?
What content are you currently reviewing in this course?
What do you find most challenging about the content/course?
How do you take notes for this course? How do you study for this course?

This may seem like a lot of questions, but don’t be put off by them. Your tutor needs to get a general view of you how you frame your strengths and weakness in the course you are struggling with in order to provide customized tutoring that addresses your needs, and that targets your weaknesses specifically. By getting to know you personally, and understanding your strengths and weaknesses, your tutor can assist you more effectively, and can create lesson plans that are highly structured and productive.

Check to Ensure Things are Going at the Right Speed

Expect your tutor to spend some time discussing how to effectively approach a question or assignment that you are struggling with. Your tutor will ask you questions about how you typically approach such questions or assignments, and will try to understand your thought process in order to determine where/what your weakness is. After getting a sense of your thought process, your tutor will probably spend some time reviewing tips and strategies to effectively understand and solve/complete a question or assignment. It may seem like your tutor is lecturing you, but in reality your tutor is reviewing methodology and processing strategies you can use to “unpack” a question or assignment. Remember, it is not your tutor’s job to solve all the questions and assignments with you. Your tutor is there to teach you underlying concepts on how to process and solve a question or assignment. The ultimate goal is to teach these strategies to help foster a sense of confidence and independence when it comes to solving questions and completing assignments.

Conduct ‘Mini Tests’ to Ensure Understanding

As I mentioned before, it isn’t your tutor’s goal to do your work for you. During the tutoring session, your tutor will review some tips and strategies about how to answer a question, or approach an assignment. To confirm that you are absorbing and understanding the strategies and tips, your tutor will probably give you “mini tests” wherein you demonstrate using some of the strategies and tips that you just reviewed. Though these “mini tests” might seem like a pain now, ultimately, they are beneficial in the long run as they provide a way for you to practice and become comfortable using new strategies. In fact, as MyGuru’s founder learned when taking the popular MOOC (massive open online course) Learning How to Learn, giving and getting “mini tests” is a great way to reinforce information in your brain to improve your memory and conceptual understanding.

There is a lot to accomplish in the initial tutoring session, and it may be a little slow going. But doing these four things during the initial tutoring session will be beneficial in the long run, as your tutor will have a good sense of who you are, what your struggles are, and how best to create customized lessons for you.