How to Set Goals With Your Student Tutor

By Danni White on May 30, 2017

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When we set goals for our education, we are defining where we want to go, how we want to get there, and what we wish to achieve by a certain time. When we know this information, we are better able to understand what focus of study takes priority and needs the most of our concentration in order to improve. Goal setting is consistent motivation for long-term gains.

You’ve probably heard of the acronym SMART which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. You may have even used it before. But I’d like to say that along with attaching your goals to this SMART plan, make sure each point is supported by a plan of action. It is easy to list out the goals you want to achieve but much more difficult to actually achieve them.

When it comes to working with a tutor, it is important for you to first know where you want to go and what you want to achieve. Relate that to the tutor and he or she can then help you get to where you want to go. Like every other position in life, there are good tutors and not so good tutors. Make sure you know which one you’re getting before jumping in full sail.

Setting goals with a tutor does several things for you. First, it helps to improve your academic performance. As a student tutor myself, I love it when students give feedback saying ‘you really helped me improve this paper’ or ‘these comments are so useful to me on all my future papers.’ Second, reaching your goals with a tutor should improve your overall self-confidence and self-efficacy. Knowing someone has your back can be half the battle.

Now, here are some tips to help you set goals for ultimate achievement with your tutor.

Communicate boldly and respectfully

State clearly and emphatically what you want to work on and make sure the tutor knows your current level of understanding. Rehearing what you already know can be frustrating and a waste of time.

For example, if you need help with trigonometry but not calculus, make sure that is clear. If you are sure you understand the first five chapters of the trigonometry textbook but not the remaining 25, have your tutor begin with chapter six, not chapter one.

This will help both you and your tutor feel as though you are making progress.

Give each goal a priority 

If you have several goals you want to achieve over several months or over a semester, give each goal a priority. For example, let’s say you have five difficult concepts in upper-level biology that you need to master in order to pass the MCAT; order those concepts from the greatest to least and set a time to each one (one week, two weeks, etc.) so you are sure to focus on one thing at a time.

Doing this will help you and your tutor avoid frustration and feeling overwhelmed. Set up a calendar and assign dates and times and your goals will become easier to manage as you move to achieve them.

Be positive

Express your goals with a positive, can-do attitude. This type of attitude can impress your tutor in a good way and can possibly affect the way he or she helps you. Instead of saying, “I’m just horrible at writing,” say, “What can I do to improve my writing?”

The ultimate goal of tutoring is for you to overcome academic challenges and become independent in your learning. If you don’t get the opportunity to ask all the questions you have in class simply because there are too many students, time with your tutor is when you can ask all the questions you like and receive one-on-one attention and individualized explanation.

Regularly assess progress 

Ultimately, you are the best judge of your own progress. Internally, we know whether we are inching toward our goals in a realistic timeframe or failing. With that in mind, assess your progress throughout your tutoring experience. Then bring your assessment to your tutor and see if they agree or disagree. We all have blind spots and may miss something that we’ve actually learned.

You can make assessments by journaling, or create a chart to visually show your progress. You can simply mark up your textbook or talk it out to your tutor. For example, “I want to learn the functions of the radian, inverse trig functions, vectors, and the law of Sines and Cosines within two weeks.”

At the end of two weeks, access whether you have learned these concepts and how far: beginner, intermediate, or advanced.

Identify any obstacles to reaching your goals

Creating a list of goals to reach is key but identifying what stands in your way to achieving success is equally as important. Make a determination about what exactly is keeping you back from doing well. Be honest and dig as deep as you can. Let your tutor help you do this as well.

For example, are there dysfunctional family issues that make it difficult for you to study at home? Do you have a learning disability where you need extra help to ensure comprehension and good grades? Is there a boyfriend or girlfriend who is distracting you? Do you have added responsibilities at your young age such as taking care of siblings or work?

Identifying obstacles can be one of the first steps to removing roadblocks and making sure you and your tutor meet on time.

In order for your tutoring session to be effective, it is important that you share your goals, be an open and respectful communicator, and develop a good relationship so that you not only get help studying or making a good grade, you ultimately get to your academic destination.

Danni White is a developmental psychology graduate student at Liberty University. She works in the digital publishing, media, and technology industries. After this degree, she will go on to work on a PhD in social psychology in which she hopes to do research on perception and social cognition’s impact on human behavior. She hopes to apply this research in corporate HR departments and community-based organizations. In her otherwise limited spare time, she blogs, writes and reads. She loves coffee, sports, music, cooking, meeting new people, and binge watching Netflix.

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