Much of what looks like teaching is not actual teaching. Just because a teacher is standing in front of a lecture hall “covering the material” is no guarantee that students are understanding it. Many people who completely understand subject matter on their own are not able to convey it in a way that students will understand.
Students, especially teenage students, hate to admit that they do not understand a concept. Nodding their heads and keeping their hands down when it’s time for questions, students will “participate” but not actually learn. They will tell teachers, parents and themselves that “everything is fine.” That is, until the test results come back showing that things are far from fine.
How do we overcome these obstacles?
1. We meet students where they are.
Whether it’s an individual tutoring session or a group class, we customize the instruction to ensure that students are neither bored nor overly stressed – we constantly adjust to find an ideal level of challenge for each student. Students make far more progress in far less time when the instruction matches their unique needs. We understand that while many students have the intellectual tools to understand the material, their negative emotions interfere with their comprehension. We meet students where they are both intellectually and emotionally to ensure that the highest quality learning can take place.
2. We relentlessly listen and adjust.
Our instructors do not lecture – they have a responsive dialogue with your student. Coverage of a concept could take 1 minute or 10 minutes, depending on a student’s initial proficiency. We get to know our students so we can use explanations and examples that relate to their everyday lives. Using the highest quality assessment and practice tools, we make sure that students demonstrate understanding before we move on. If a student does not understand something, we try different ways of explaining it until it resonates.
3. We model thought processes for students.
Since major standardized tests are based on critical thinking skills, we teach students how to improve their thinking by talking through the thought process, step-by-step. Students can break through barriers by having someone verbally model more constructive approaches for them.
4. We keep it simple without oversimplifying.
While covering endless amounts of material and providing extremely complex explanations may impress students, it rarely helps them perform well on major assessments. When students are overwhelmed by the complexity of what they are covering, they become intimidated and revert to bad habits. A good strategy is one that students can actually implement. By making our strategies and explanations as concise and elegant as possible, students can make maximum progress in the least amount of time.
5. We give students choices.
The strategic approach that works for one student might be completely different from what works for another student. A student who can read 500 words a minute will not need the same advice as a student who can read 100 words a minute. We give students the opportunity to choose what approaches to timing and problem solving work the best for them. We recognize that since the students are the ones actually taking the tests, they must have ownership of what they are doing.
6. We teach skills, not tricks.
The SAT, ACT and other major standardized tests are very, very well written. As much as it would be nice to have a few “tricks” students could use to maximize their scores, we have found that significant score improvements are most likely to occur when students improve skills in reading, writing and problem solving that will ultimately help them not only with the test, but in college and in the workforce. We genuinely believe that we are not just teaching to a test, but helping students build their critical thinking capabilities.
7. We recognize that we don’t know it all.
We have worked with enough students over the years to realize that we don’t have all the answers. If you or your student has a concern we cannot immediately address, we will either find out an answer for you, or tap into our professional networks to find someone who can point you in the right direction.
Please visit out Contact Us page to set up an appointment for individual tutoring or to find out more about our group classes.