How tutors prepare to help adult learners

This is post #2 in the series: Tutoring adult learners

How tutors prepare to help adult learners:

Getting to know the adult learner:  In order to plan well, to make the adult student comfortable in the tutoring situation, and to reach out to the adult student as adults learning together, the tutor will often spend some time getting to know the adult student.  The tutor will ask about the student’s current life (job, family, interests) and educational background.  If the student is currently in an educational program or course, the tutor will ask about how that is going.  The student should not feel obliged to answer questions that he is uncomfortable with, but at the same time, this kind of information can help the tutor narrow in on the student’s specific needs, and how the tutor can best help.

The tutor may also share some of his/her own relevant life and educational experiences, especially if both tutor and student have had common career experiences or perhaps have attended the same schools/colleges, taken the same courses, or know people in common. 

Find out about the course the learner is taking:  If the adult learner is currently taking a course of studies, is having difficulty, and is therefore seeking tutoring, the tutor will likely ask questions like why the student is taking the course, why they chose it instead of another course, what their goals are with the course itself and with the program in general, what it is about the course that is giving the student difficulty (for example, lack of background knowledge, lack of skills such as computer skills, difficulty with tests or writing term papers, lack of personal language skills in the language of the course presentation,  or even personality conflict with the professor, or inability to understand the teacher’s accent or the technical language they use).

Find out about the learner’s past learning experiences:  The tutor will try to find out about the student’s learning strengths and weaknesses, learning styles, and aspects of their life that affect their ability to learn.  They will ask about what learning activities and methods worked best for them in their past schooling, and what kind of problem-solving and decision-making methods they most often use on the job and in their other life activities.

Identify obstacles to learning development:  The tutor will also try to identify the obstacles to the student’s learning development in the area which the tutoring seeks to address.  The obstacles may be, for example, a lack of basic concepts or skills related to that particular subject.  But the obstacles may also be difficulties that are affecting all areas of the student’s learning, and even other areas of life.  The tutor will ask questions, review samples of the student’s school/college work (or examples from the job/career), and may even (with the adult student’s permission, of course) interview a professor, employer, family member or other adult who knows the student well. 

Recommend help from another professional:  The tutor will of course try to help the student fill in gaps in their past learning, or develop new learning styles and skills, but the tutor may also recommend that the student get help from another professional who can provide more help than the tutor can offer – perhaps an LD (learning disability) specialist, a psychologist or religious counselor, an ESL specialist, a subject area expert, a medical professional, or whatever the need might be.

Recommend help from a tutor who specializes in a particular area:  While children’s tutors can often be educational generalists (unless the young student has learning obstacles such as learning disabilities, or physical/ mental/ emotional health issues), at the adult level students often need to seek out tutors who have specialized knowledge, education, and experience in the particular subject area.  They should have training and experience in the subject area itself, as well as knowledge of learning processes (training as teacher/tutors, not just subject specialists), and of course knowledge of particular learning obstacles, if those are involved.   If the tutor feels he/she is not able to help the adult learner adequately, a referral to a specialist tutor may be made.

Series: We hope you will enjoy this series, “Tutoring adult learners.” Be sure to check out the rest of the series.

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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