What Makes A Tutor Successful?


Several things become apparent after tutoring for 20 years.  For one, the number of students working with tutors continues to grow. Two, working 1-1 with students is immensely gratifying, both for the tutor and tutee. And three, a few specific yet generalized characteristics become crystalized about all successful tutors. 

At our annual event Education By Design this past February benefiting The Thick Envelope Foundation, SFUSD teacher Sekani Moyenda could not have said it better:

“When you have a tutor who can sit with your students 1-1 for a significant period of time, you get insight into what is really going on.”

Cases in point: Ashanti got better at focusing and getting her work done.  Mariah raised her scores 33% on reading tests.  Bianca is now going to college.  And on and on…  

During his featured #EdByDesign talk, Brian Greenberg (CEO of Silicon Schools Fund), who advocates for de-risking innovation referred to a study done by Benjamin-Bloom that found the average student tutored one-to-one using. Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Beyond12 CEO Alex Bernadotte both agreed, saying we need more private partners to help increase the 8% of the graduation rate of low-income, first-generation students from the college.  

Personalized tutoring fills a niche that can’t be filled in today’s schools alone. Tutoring is becoming more common with blended learning more prevalent in local schools like Summit Prep in Redwood City and San Jose. The Gates Foundation is also getting involved in giving grants to innovative online tutoring companies like Tutor.com and Khan Academy.  More and more parents and educators are realizing that tutoring gets to the heart of learning, personalizing the meaning and instruction of the subject at hand. 

For us at The Thick Envelope, it’s all about in-person, 1-1 tutoring. With all the distraction in today’s hyper-technological world, some face-to-face interaction through mentoring, tutoring and coaching are exactly what students need most.

So what makes a successful tutor? 

After running The Thick Envelope, a hybrid tutoring company providing 1-1 academic support for the last 8 years, I have found several consistent factors that continuously make for successful tutors, who routinely improve student academic performance and increase students’ self-efficacy. We hire our tutors after carefully vetting them to align their qualifications, characteristics, reference checks and education philosophy with our vision and values. 

1) Successful tutors build strong, personal relationships with their students. 

Tutors fill a different role than teachers and parents and that puts them in a unique position to support students.  Personal relationships are foundational to student success – the more connected a student feels to his or her tutor, the more trust and respect is created, which are essential ingredients for students to learn well.  When a tutor listens and spends time building a relationship with his or her student, the tutor can truly personalize the learning, incorporate connections to the student’s interests, teach to the student’s strengths, and minimize the student’s weaknesses.  We’ve found that 95% of our students were more likely to increase their homework completion and accuracy with a tutor who builds a strong, personal relationship with them.  Also, our students were 86% more likely to set goals, use their weekly agenda, and improve their general study skills and organizational strategies. 

2) Successful tutors listen and communicate early and often with parents and teachers. 

Communication and collaboration with all student stakeholders are key factors for student success.  When tutors focus on goal setting, creating benchmarks, and planning backward, this sets students up for academic progress.  Academic tutors at The Thick Envelope, co-create Individualized Learning Plans with their students, in collaboration with parents and teachers, to leverage insight from key adults in students’ lives to map a better plan for success and accountability.  When tutors communicated with teachers, we found that students were 83% more likely to participate in class, and 72% more likely to engage with school.  Again, Ms. Moyenda from SFUSD agrees: “When Sarah (Ashanti’s tutor) asks me, ‘Is there anything specific you need me to know?’  That’s all I need a tutor to ask me… As Sarah gets to know Ashanti better, I get to know Ashanti better.”


3) Successful tutors have specific content expertise and can make learning real, relevant, and rigorous.

Successful tutors are experts in their academic content – they know the subject’s concepts, ideas, and problems inside and out.  Even though most tutors may never get to facilitate a custom project-based learning session, they can discuss and introduce the rigor of real-life applications. Tutors who can turn school assignments into project-based activities and provide opportunities for real, hands-on work instead of abstract assignments or rote worksheets, engage students more. Tutors who can make learning relevant to students’ interests create more students who actually care about what they are learning.

And finally, tutors who make learning appropriately rigorous, who make learning challenging enough, but not too tough where students get frustrated and stop trying, the more growth we see in student progress. We found 90% of our students improved their academic achievement as measured by grade improvement, and 71% improved their standardized test scores, with our tutors who were content experts. 

Article source - https://www.edutopia.org/blog/what-makes-a-successful-tutor-seth-linden

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