Simply Contemplate: The Art of Tutoring

posted in: pedagogical | 4

wordy wednesday

One common advantage schools often claim to have over homeschooling is their efficiency. One teacher teaching 20 kids is better than one teaching 3 or 5, right? Especially when that one teaching 3 or 5 is hardly really teaching like the other, but more throwing books at the kids, right?

Gilbert Highet in The Art of Teaching never says anything about homeschooling, but he does comment on the different modes of teaching. And we have the opportunity as homeschooling families, to take advantage of the best model, which classrooms never can achieve.

Tutoring provides a better education.

It is far easier to give two one hour lectures to classes of fifty or sixty than to tutor one or two pupils for two hours, questioning, objecting, remembering, following up, arguing, defending yourself, and counter attacking and always moving toward a definite end which must not be hurried or overemphasized. And after giving two such tutorials, you are exhausted.

A tutoring model of educating, Highet develops, leads the student individually through three phases: first, create something (read, think, write, do the math, etc.); second, the tutor critiques it and goes over it with the student; third, the student revises his work based on the feedback and the tutor commends his progress. Wash, rinse, repeat, at least weekly.

But for the pupils, tutoring on this system is far the best kind of education.

We can know our students and guide them on their own path instead of simply shepherding a crowd toward a general direction. But it is a lot of work. He validates our end-of-the-day (or middle-of-the-day) experience when he admits: “And after giving two such tutorials, you are exhausted.”

But it is a good work. Let us persevere.

4 Responses

  1. Amber
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    This is very encouraging, thanks. And it is nice to have the validation about how tiring it is too… although I find teaching in front of a class at my church’s religious education program quite fatiguing as well. But that’s more because when I teach in front of the class it is part performance, part crowd control. I’ve become pretty unhappy about teaching in the typical classroom model though, and I’ve let my growing family be an excuse not to do it anymore. The more I learn and think about how people learn, the less I like the standard classroom experience. I’m thankful I’ve found an alternative to it for the kids’ religious ed program this year.

  2. Amber
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    Oh, and I meant to add that I really like your blog refresh – the new colors look great! I usually read via a RSS reader (but am trying to make a point to visit and comment more often!) so I hadn’t noticed until now.

  3. Cindy
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    I am enjoying reliving the Highet book and it is true that because of the nature of tutoring homeschooling is exhausting sometimes. It is good to remember that there is a reason we are fatigued.

  4. Sarah
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    Okay, I think I need to read this book…