I an formally trained as a chemist (BS MIT, PhD NU), and operate a consultancy focused on technical market research for science-based businesses. I conducted or led industrial chemistry research for 22 years. I have a passion for science and STEM education, and am choosing to 'give back' by tutoring, with a focus on STEM topics.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Bachelors, Chemistry
Graduate Degree: Northwestern University - PHD, Chemistry
SAT Math: 790
Family, Chocolate, Chess, Fitness
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
Knowledge, and the ability to deliberately use that knowledge to control the world around us, is one of the key hallmarks of humanity. Teaching is the art of sharing knowledge. Students acquire knowledge best then they are _interested_ in it, and _comfortable_ with the process. So, a teacher's goal is not just to present the knowledge, but to show why it's useful (interesting) and ensure that the student is comfortable with the process--for instance, knowing it may take effort to learn, but that persistence will lead to success. And, while active learning (learning-by-doing, discovering for oneself) is powerful, it can be inefficient; you don't teach a student how to make fire by leaving them alone in the woods. A teacher should guide and encourage, so that a student really _learns_, but does so efficiently.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
The most important thing to do in a first session with a student is to establish a rapport. Ensure that the student is comfortable, and begin to learn about that student's needs. By action, by questions, and by body language, make it clear that you are there to _help_ the student.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
There are two principal things a tutor can do to help a student become an independent learner: (a) guide the student to needed insights, so that they understand that they can be successful, and start to _enjoy_ learning; (b) through examples and collaborative work, help the student master at least some basic learning strategies.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
People like to do things that are fun, and where they can succeed. So, it's important to make any topic personally relevant (interesting=more fun) and help them see that they can be successful at that topic.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
The first, and most important, thing to do when a student is struggling is to understand _why_ they are struggling. So, one needs to (a) become a detective (check for which topics are problems, what are the types of errors...) and (b) ensure that the student trusts you enough to really let you see where/how/why they are struggling. A good tutor is both detective and 'corner man'.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
For my own part, I do love reading and am willing to help if asked. As noted in my other answers, understanding the reason for the struggle, and working on topics for reading where there is interest, would be starting places.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Listen, Listen, Listen. Ears open, mouth shut.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
It seems trite and obvious to say it, but there needs to be an incentive or motivation; whether the subject can be tied to a student's interest, or the student can be persuaded that the effort will be rewarding, they need to WANT to learn a topic.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
There are, of course, lots of strategies for ensuring a student learns material. Usually, once the 'light bulb' goes on, it's obvious. One of my own favorite learning strategies is to draft my own set of 'test questions' that cover the material. When a student understands the material well enough to (a) identify the key concepts to test and (b) formulate problems testing those concepts, they will ace any subject exam.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
By fostering success, of course. Learn about the student to discover an area arguably similar to the subject matter where the student is successful (Need to memorize element names? Do you know the names of players on your favorite sports team?). Let the student realize that they have mastered parallel tasks, and then work with them to do the subject matter task successfully. Nothing beats positive feedback from succeeding.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
Listen, Listen, Listen. Also... review past test results; look at current homework and see where they have issues; simply ask the student; ask the student what do they wish their current teacher would do differently, or how they would teach the class if it was up to them; etc.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
The key thing is to listen to what the student says they need. That covers the explicit need. Then, be alert to the things that are shown by actions, or where they struggle, etc. Ask for examples of where they successfully mastered new things (dance, baseball, video games... ) and note how they succeeded there. Finally, use that knowledge... cast ideas in the mode that works for the student.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
The type of material to use depends heavily on the topic and the student's needs. Materials need to be adapted to that, so there's no 'pat' answer here.