I love helping others understand something new. With over 800 hours experience in teaching and a research background in test design and organizational psychology, I know that students don't all learn the same way. It's my goal to work together with my clients to solve problems, using the method that best fits them.
I began tutoring as a college student at DePaul University. During the summer and winter holidays I would tutor neighborhood kids who struggled with reading, and I quickly came to enjoy it. There's something awesome about seeing a young face change expressions from confusion to comprehension. I knew I loved helping people get to that point, so when I started grad school at Rice University, I also began working for a top education group. Over two years I became the in-house expert on test prep, including the group's summer boot camp courses. After I left grad school, I taught English to high school students in a public school in central China, while also creating material for a college-focused education group, based in Shanghai.
I've learned to use a lot of the research I've seen in grad school, particularly research about learning, retention, and test strategy. In psychology, we know that people learn in different ways. Pairing up a student of a particular learning style with an instructor that thinks in the opposite style can be disastrous for the student's development. Because of this, I strive to find the student's individual style, and use my experience and research-based knowledge to develop a teaching style that fits each individual student I work with. After several years in education, I still love to see a student's face change from confusion to comprehension, I've just become a lot more efficient in reaching that point!
DePaul University - Bachelors, Organizational Psychology
Rice University - PhD, Organizational Psychology
ACT Composite: 31
ACT English: 34
ACT Math: 31
ACT Reading: 31
ACT Science: 29
GRE Quantitative: 161
GRE Verbal: 161
Mandarin Chinese 1
Study Skills and Organization
What is your teaching philosophy?
My teaching philosophy is that the student is the center, not the subject and certainly not the teacher. In order to best teach students, we must understand how an individual student learns and work with them accordingly.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
In a first session, there's three things I like to do: 1) I develop a connection with the student. Maybe we have some common interests, or maybe they can tell me a story about themselves. It's important for students to feel connected to their teacher. 2) I find the student's understanding as it currently stands. Whatever their understanding of the subject, that's our Base Camp. From there, we can identify strengths and weaknesses. 3) I work with the client to establish a plan for the next several weeks, including what weakness we'll address and how, what methods we're going to use, and how much we expect to improve in that time. That way, everybody is on the same page, everybody can be comfortable knowing where we are and where we're going, and we have a definitive mark to aim for, so we know if we're on track or not.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Students are motivated by a lot of different things. Research has proven that intrinsic motivation (from within) is drastically more powerful than external motivation (from without). Because of this, I try to find something the student is already motivated in, and help them understand that whatever they're working on can bring them closer to that goal.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Students learn in a variety of ways: some like lectures, some like visual depictions, and some like stories. It is my constant goal to teach students in the way they learn best. If a student has difficulty learning something, and my usual methods aren't working, I'll ask them to explain something to me. I'll choose a topic somewhat similar to the task at hand, and have them explain it to me like I'm 5. Then, I'll use what they just told me and restructure it to fit the difficult concept. Often, a student can better understand something by teaching it to someone else. If we can draw associations to a familiar concept, the difficult concept becomes more accessible.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
In my experience, reading comprehension struggles are best solved with a two-part strategy: finding lots of material that is interesting for the student, and increasing the difficulty at a slow pace. Students may feel inferior to their peers whom read quickly in class. They become frustrated when they feel they are lagging behind. By allowing them to practice slowly, in a safe, low stress environment, students can comfortably catch up. By finding lots of books in the student's own interests, we can keep the progress entertaining as well!
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
People naturally like learning. However, typical school methods can stifle the enjoyment from learning. This is why many young students find school boring. Fortunately, everyone has their own unique learning style. I like to help students find that style and nurture it, so their learning can grow beyond the classroom, truly becoming an independent learner.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
In the beginning of a tutoring relationship, I've found that it's best not to rush things. While the tutor may be excited about a subject, the student might be apprehensive. This is particularly true for young students, and those who've never worked with a tutor before. Because of this, the best strategy I've found is to keep the pace comfortable for the student. If they can slowly achieve small victories in their work, they will become more confident and open up on their own.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
All students have their own unique method of comprehension. In Psychology, we know there are different learning styles, such as visual, "learn-by-doing," audiophile, and so on. I learned early on to find a student's preferred method and to teach accordingly. Most students have two or three methods that work equally well for them, so I've developed a lot of material based around the various learning styles. I cater them to each student I work with to be sure they understand the material.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
If a student has low confidence in a subject, it often means they have been unable to follow the logic presented by the teacher. When I see a student shying away from a problem, or guessing, I'll break it down into smaller problems, which are easier to solve. I'll break down the problem or even go back to review the previous material so the student sees the step-by-step logic. As they comprehend the small steps, their confidence grows, and they eventually come to see the problem as a whole.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
I use two methods of evaluating needs: personal feedback and hard numbers. Hard numbers can be grades, test scores, and similar exact markers of success. I'll also evaluate needs based on the student's own impression of their work, as well as their parents (where available). I've learned to use pointed questions about why the student feels they are lacking in certain areas. I use this feedback, as well as their previous scores to see what we need to work on, and then build a plan for success.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
Students all learn in different ways, depending on their past experiences and how they think about the world around them. Unfortunately, many teachers are only able to teach in their own thinking style. When I tutor, I step back from my own thought patterns and shape the lesson around the student's thought pattern. This is the best way to adapt to the needs of a student.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
The three most common learning styles are visual learning, "learn by doing", and learning through step-by-step logic. To fit these three learning styles into my lessons, I'll use a whiteboard (to draw for the visual learning), a big book of practice problems (for those who like to learn by doing), and for the logical thinkers, I'll bring a brain full of literature stories, research, and real-life examples, to talk the student through the logic of a problem, step-by-step.