Planning an individualized tutoring program

This is part 2 of the five-part series: How tutors plan individualized programs for their students.


Part 2:  Planning the individualized program


To provide an individualized program, tutors use various methods of pre-assessment.  They will ask questions of the student, parent, and possibly the school teacher or other relevant professionals.  They will examine report cards, including both grades and comments.  They will ask to see examples of the student’s school work

Tutors may also use some basic assessment tools such as a Learning Style Inventory, a Study Skills Inventory, and other tools to help the tutor determine the best learning approaches for a particular student based on their learning styles, personality, ability to work on their own, their present knowledge base, and so on. 

Note that unless the tutor is also a certified special needs professional, diagnosis of learning disabilities should take place by experts.  However, tutors often have experience and a fair amount of training related to special needs students, and may well recognize a situation where parents are advised to seek professional diagnosis.  If the student has already been diagnosed, the tutor may ask the parents and/or teacher or counselor to share enough of the results to help the tutor create the best individualized plan.

Purpose of tutoring:

The tutor will seek to determine the purpose of the tutoring, such as providing supplementary instruction to a gifted student, remediation (such as re-teaching basic concepts which have not been learned well in the past), teaching a new skill or hobby the student is personally interested in, and whether the student seeks to excel in a subject or simply to pass.

If a tutor feels that the needs of a student are beyond the tutor’s personal training, experience, or ability, the tutor will inform the student (parents/teacher) that a different tutor would be advisable, or that professional diagnosis may be needed before tutoring can be successful.


The tutor will work with the student, parents, and often the classroom teacher and other professionals in the student’s learning team to set goals.  Those goals will be based on the curriculum requirements of any classes the student may be taking.  But they will also take into account the needs and abilities of the individual student, as we have already discussed.  The tutor will seek to help create goals that are reasonable and achieveable.  As time goes by, the difficulty of the goals can be increased, but should always be achieveable by the individual student.  The tutor, working one-on-one with the student, can often find unique ways for that particular child (or adult!) to reach their learning goals.

If the tutor feels the student has been presented with unreasonable expectations by parents or teachers, the tutor will help the student and those others to break down the goals into achieveable steps.  The tutor will help them understand that the individual student needs to be encouraged, and that the goals needs to be seen by the student as possible to achieve, and need to be accepted by the student as his or her own goals.  If a parent or teacher seems to be laying their own dreams on the student, the tutor will try to help them see that, and to understand the individuality of the child.

Development of individualized programs:

Tutors develop individualized programs, tailored to the needs of the individual student. This is one of the real advantages of tutoring over classroom learning situations.  While some students thrive in the classroom, others get lost.  Some students simply learn better in a quiet, one-on-one or small group situation.  Others have particular learning styles that are less frequently available in the classroom situation.  Some have medical or emotional issues, or are facing situations in their lives that make focusing in the classroom situation difficult.  In a tutoring situation, the tutor can easily ensure that mastery occurs at each step of learning a subject, but in a busy classroom with many students, a teacher may not realize that a particular student has missed an important basic concept along the way.
A tutor prepares a general overview plan, based on the goals expressed by the students, parents, and teacher, and by the assessment done at the beginning of the tutoring.  The tutor also refers to the learning outcomes in the educational system the child is enrolled in.  And the tutor can take into account, and carefully include, all the special needs and situations of the individual student. 

As the tutor is not under pressure to pull a large group of students through a particular list of learning outcomes in a limited number of class sessions, the tutor can take the time to fine-tune the goals, and to adjust the lesson plans as the exact needs of the individual student become apparent.  Thus, several sessions can be taken to focus on, and achieve mastery of, a particular concept that is difficult for the student; and yet another concept that is well understood can be very quickly reviewed and the student can move on instead of having to wait for the rest of the class to “get it.”  The tutor can take the time to insert lessons on necessary study skills and techniques exactly when they are needed by the student, and in conjunction with the topic at hand.

(Some tutors, or tutoring services, tend to follow a particular “system,” usually from a commercial and/or government designed  curriculum, and the individualization emphasis is more in terms of the student’s pace through the program, than in designing highly individualized lessons.  This works well for some students; others have needs that really do require a highly individualized approach).

Strong tutor-student relationships:

Tutors seek to develop a strong interpersonal relationship between themselves and their students – and other important persons involved in the student’s learning such as parents, teachers, and other professionals.  Not only does such a relationship support the desired learning goals; it also builds trust between the tutor and student, and it helps the tutor to understand the student’s hopes and fears, level of self-esteem, anxiety issues, and self-motivation.  The student and parents also become comfortable with asking questions of the tutor, and with discussing the student’s needs and progress honestly and openly.
Be sure to read the other posts in this series: How tutors plan individualized programs for their students

Penticton tutor: If you live in the Penticton area, and are looking for a tutor, be sure to check out my Penticton tutor information page!

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