As a UCLA alumni with a B.A. in Social Sciences, I've spent much of the past several years working in education in West Africa through the US Peace Corps Association, where I taught several subjects at the university level including Business Marketing and English. I've had good fortune in my test-taking experience, with my worst standardized test score in the top 6% (GMAT) and a personal best of a perfect score (ASVAB). Realizing that the skill of test taking is its own kind of study, I'm happy to share my knowledge and experience for those hoping to knock their upcoming test out of the park.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of California-Los Angeles - Bachelors, Sociology
Soccer, sailing, running, photography, web development, international travel, international development
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
I'm a huge proponent of the Socratic method, examples, and open-ended dialogue. I believe success in learning the materials is found through a true understanding of the material, rather than memorizing data points.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
During a first session, it's great to develop an understanding of why they're seeking tutoring in the first place -- i.e. what subjects they're having trouble with and what specific questions they're stuck on. This helps to establish a reference point so that I can address their weak points without reiterating elements that they've already mastered.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
One huge advantage of the Socratic method of teaching is that it doesn't result in the tutor doing all the work for the student. Instead, it is simply a line of questioning that allows the student to arrive at solutions themselves. Reinforcing this line of questioning helps students develop the critical reasoning skills to troubleshoot tricky problems to arrive at the solutions independently.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Many of these problems can seem like tiresome busy work, or they can seem like fun puzzles to solve. Creating challenges, games, and friendly competitions can be really engaging when learning a new subject.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I ask questions to try to understand their view of the concept, which allows me to identify exactly where in the line of reasoning they're confused. Then, reinforcing this concept with alternative explanations, examples, and focused practice problems can be very helpful.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Within reading comprehension are several concepts that could be reinforced, such as vocabulary, critical reasoning, or interpreting an argument. Also, as is often the case in some standardized testing, the passages may be just long enough to where fatigue could be a factor. To improve reading comprehension, it's best to identify which of these issues is the biggest factor, then reinforce those particular skills independent of one another.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I think having the student explain concepts and provide examples to me is a very powerful learning tool. I always try to work up to the point where the student is at that level of comprehension, effectively making the student become the teacher!
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Relating subjects with real-world examples is a great tool in this scenario, especially with examples that relate to the student's other hobbies or interests outside of academia.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Asking students to explain the material to me is a very effective learning technique, since the student is required to explain the entire concept to someone else, making it very easy to identify any gaps in their comprehension of the subject. It forces them to reveal what aspects of the material they can't explain, because they don't understand it.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Repetitive testing of the same concept until the topic is second nature, and they can answer any variant of that topic with ease because they've seen so many other examples before.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
Diagnostic tests are useful for students new to tutoring, with occasional updates to ensure progress.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
The Socratic method is a good tool to identify how students approach different problems, and their thought process in solving them. Knowing this is helpful when tailoring examples or practice problems to reinforce those concepts.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I use a textbook, a pen, scratch paper, and, depending on the subject, a calculator, although I do reinforce solving problems without a calculator as much as is appropriate, as quick arithmetic skills are an asset.