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Tutoring vs. Student Mastery

4-Levels-of-Mastery-illusWe are often asked about the difference between tutoring and, what we have created and called “Student Mastery”.

Tutoring is much needed for many students. Tutoring helps students understand concepts.

Tutoring usually fails, however, in teaching students to become self-directed and skilled students.

For example, when students have a general tutor for their homework – which is what some of the larger tutoring organizations try to sell – then the student necessarily becomes dependent on the tutor. From a business perspective, the large organization delights in these long term relationships because it helps keep clients.

We have the opposite approach: we try to get rid of our clients as soon as possible by making them as self-directed and skilled as possible.

If we can shift their motivation and teach them best practices for students, then we give them long-lasting abilities that can make them successful in all their classes without our help.

Isn’t that the goal?

I recall an example that vividly illustrates this point.  “Charlie” was a student at Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. He was a top sailor which helped greatly with admissions but did not help him much with academics.  We were contacted by his mother in Florida and by a tutor that had worked with him at Sylvan Learning.  He was floundering during his Freshman year.  The tutor had been attempting to work with Charlie virtually and it wasn’t working out.
I was astonished, however, when both mom and tutor described how Charlie had been tutored and what they expected The Learning Consultants to do with Charlie.  Apparently, Charlie got through high school with 10-15 hours of tutoring per week.  Even if this was economically feasible for a parent to provide as it was in this case, I would never make such a recommendation.  It would create dependence and would not enable the student to become self-directed.
This was now Charlie’s reality.  He had not developed any work habits.  He simply worked with his tutor when he had homework.
Strangely, I had to battle the mom by telling her that we would not be providing tutoring at anywhere near that level with Charlie.  I explained that our Student Mastery methodology was the better way to help Charlie succeed academically.
We had to motivate Charlie to care about his own academic success.  We had to teach him study skills and work habits.  We had to develop his writing and reading skills. I explained to the mom that my goal was to make Charlie completely self-sufficient so that he would not need us after freshman year, except for occasional as needed help.
Charlie’s tutor back in Florida wasn’t too happy with us.  But, that’s ok.  We ended up helping Charlie become a solid student – on his own.