After being a tutor at Allegheny College for the past two years, I've noticed and experienced a lot in terms of a student's ability to learn. As most people say, "Everyone is different", and I find this to be extremely true. As challenging as it might be to help cater to every student's learning style, I find that I enjoy rising up to the challenge and helping them overcome anything they might have difficulty with. A famous physicist once said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough", and this quote resonates with me through my tutoring with students. We may not all be Albert Einstein (where the quote came from), but we can all learn a lot with the help of a good teacher/tutor.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Allegheny College - Bachelors, Physics
I have a strong passion for running and being outdoors. At Allegheny College, I was a member of their Men's Cross-Country and Track & Field teams, as well as the Allegheny Outing Club. I earned the title "All-American" in my senior cross-country season where I finished 32nd at the NCAA Men's Cross-Country National Championship meet. As for my Outing Club experiences, I have gone camping, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, and pretty much anything else you can do outside. As for other interests, I do hold a passion for video games, but I tend to only resort to this hobby when the weather outside prevents me from running or wanting to be outside.
What is your teaching philosophy?
I believe the teacher plays a huge role in a student's ability not only to learn, but to want to learn. A teacher should not only be able to help a student learn new material, but also motivate them to want to do so. Intrinsic motivation can be a teacher's best friend, but the teacher has to first plant that seed in their students.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
For a typical first session with a student, I will ask general questions to see what the student already knows. It's important for me to see what the student's strengths and weaknesses are so that we can focus on doing more work on their weaknesses to help them out. Depending on what class the student is working on, I will typically have a textbook filled with that corresponding material. I will go through the table of contents with the student at a comfortable speed and ask them to be honest with the material they know, or don't know. If they seem to have scattered knowledge of material in a textbook, then we'll go over the whole textbook regardless of their previously learned content. After checking to see where the student is in regards to known material, we will begin the process of learning new material (this depends on the length of the first session).
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
As teachers, we can provide students the utilities needed to do problems by themselves. This can be as simple as giving a student knowledge on how to solve a problem, then asking them to do a similar problem by themselves. Providing students with divergent questions is also a very good way to test a student's individuality. There may not be a correct solution at all, but trying with their own ideas is what makes each student unique. Finally, allowing a student the ability to be creative when approaching solutions to problems can also foster independence. There can sometimes be multiple ways to reach a solution, so it's important to allow a student to find the path they like the most.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
I would find what interests a student, then find ways to relate their interests to the material being taught. For example, if I'm teaching velocity in physics, it's easy to relate that material to cars, sports, or anything that may involve something moving. If frustration arises from lack of interest, then encouraging the student to continue for extrinsic motivation (such as good grades) can be another solution. Mostly, it's important to try to make the material seem fun or interesting in the first place.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I would try to come at the concept in a different direction. Sometimes thinking about the material in a different way can help a student learn it more effectively. I would also try to encourage the student to not give up on learning the material. A little positive reinforcement can go a long way.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
In my case, being a physics tutor, I would first allow the student more time to read the material. If the extra time still doesn't help the student understand, then I would move onto teaching through demonstration or drawing pictures. Physics is an awesome subject for students who have difficulties reading because you don't necessarily have to read to understand the concepts as they happen in real life. Being able to see concepts in laboratory exercises, demonstrations, or simple drawings can help a student learn just as much as reading a textbook.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I find the most beneficial strategy of mine is to be less like a typical teacher, and more like a helpful friend. Creating a comfortable environment for the student to work in is critical for their education. If the student is afraid to ask questions based on their thoughts of the teacher (you/me), then they have the potential to fall behind. As for learning strategies when teaching new students, I find that asking a student where their strengths and weaknesses are is very helpful. This is helpful because you can work more on their weaknesses, and less on their strengths (mind you, we're not ignoring their strengths, just not giving them as much attention as their weaknesses). Finally, allowing a student to share their interests has been very successful for me in teaching because you can open up the opportunity for a student to be intrinsically motivated to learn the course material.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
I would try to relate the subject they are struggling in to their interests as best as possible. By doing this, I can possibly increase the intrinsic motivation in the student and cause them to be curious about the material. Being gentle and understanding while teaching can also help encourage a student to push through any struggles they might have.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I would use written tests, demonstrations with explanations (lab exercises), little "warm-up" and conclusion quizzes to measure a student's understanding of the material. Tests wouldn't be exceptionally long, but would cover a thorough portion of the material covered. Tests could contain a few multiple choice problems, short "plug-and-chug" problems, and more in-depth problems that may require multiple steps.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
In physics, a great way to build a student's confidence is through helping them start a problem, but allowing them to finish it by themselves. When a student finishes a problem and gets the correct answer on their own, they feel so accomplished. Although, the problem with this is if the student cannot finish the problem on their own, they may lose confidence in themselves. If this is the case, walking through a few problems with the student step-by-step, then allowing the student to go by themselves, may prove more helpful. Showing a student that they can do problems and understand course material on their own is the greatest way to build a student's confidence.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
If a student has a learning disability or requires some form of special education, I would hope that the parents notify me of this first. If not, I would assess the student in various different parts of their life such as their strengths, interests, abilities, psychological, social and emotional development. All of these would be assessed over time, not solely on the first session. If there seem to be areas where the student needs help, then I will try to provide such with the help of their parents/legal guardian.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
Based on the specific need, I am very open to changing my teaching methods. A discussion with the parents and the student will occur first to make sure it is okay to alter my original teaching methods. Then we will work together to decide on a new curriculum and/or method of teaching. These changes can be anything from an increase in the time spent on material or more visuals while learning new material, to taking breaks and using outside resources to help a student.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
Personally, I use my laptop and the internet to find pre-made questions, a physics textbook, paper (plain white printer paper and notebook paper), a dry-erase wipe board with markers, and PowerPoint presentations. For laboratory exercises, I generally would need items found in a physics classroom, but I can also use household items to demonstrate concepts instead. From my experience as a college tutor, we mostly just do problems on the chalkboard.