It seems that professional tutoring services are all over the place, whether it be T.V. commercials or on the Internet. Even though these services were probably started with good intentions, make no mistake, these services are run as businesses; and businesses have challenges. They have overhead such as: rent, advertising and employees. Professional tutoring services need customers which they must acquire customers and retain. In addition, they want their customers to use their service repeatedly.
In this article we will take a look at a common sense view on how professional tutoring services operate to see if they are right for your tutoring needs. First, let’s take a look at marketing strategies and their role in professional tutoring services.
The Role of Marketing Strategies
So how do professional tutoring services get customers? They employ professional marketers and/or professional marketing techniques to attract customers. It is not the marketer’s job to ensure that the quality of the service provided is set to any standard. Good marketers do their job well. They entice and manipulate potential customers to obligate themselves to the tutoring service. They do not have your best interest in mind; that is not their job. Their job is to get people in the door. That is just the way businesses operate.
When competitors employ these same techniques, they take market share away from other tutoring services. This causes the business owner to employ the same techniques or go out of business. After all they have a business with expenses that need to be met. The business owner has no choice but to employ the same technique of doing whatever it takes to get the new customers.
Typical business Model
Typically professional services employ a business model of 3 students to 1 tutor, which they attempt to sell as a feature. They say this works well because after a tutor explains concept(s) to a student, the student has time to apply the concept on their own until the tutor comes back to see how they are doing. This is a recipe for failure. The tutor needs to watch the student apply the concept(s) to problems. Students’ typically have difficulty understanding how to apply concepts and the tutor needs to guide the student through a few problems. The student will have plenty of time to try and apply the concept(s) on their own when the tutoring session is over and they are at home.
The tutor should dedicate the time in making sure the student understands the concept(s) and how to apply them. However, professional tutoring services cannot afford to provide this level of service. They have expenses and therefore need to have multiple paying customers for each tutor they have on the clock. This is not the best way to help a student with math. Ideally is to have a tutor sit with the student and watch the student attempt to apply the concept(s). This way the tutor can better understand where the student is having difficulties in understanding mathematical concepts. The tutor can teach to the student instead of simply explaining concept(s) the way the tutor understands them. Obviously, tutoring is an art.
Relationship Between Tutor and Student
Professional tutoring services cannot afford to have exceptional tutors on staff. They would have to pay them too much. Probably most tutoring services do have “some” good tutors working on staff. These tutors probably do not want to run a business and would rather rely on the tutoring service to find students. They could certainly make a better hourly wage if they found their own students. Also, the business model of 3 students to each tutor prohibits quality tutoring you would expect. Most competent tutors will tell say it takes insight to determine where the students’ understanding is breaking down. This way, the tutor can cater their explanations to the students’ level of understanding. As a result, what you get from professional tutoring services is less than ideal. Add to this the fact that sometimes employees don’t show up for work. Do you think tutoring services will turn away students when the tutor to student ratio is less than 1:3? Obviously not they need to maintain the 3:1 ratio, so the student winds up with another tutor to maintain that ratio with another tutor.
Students are not guaranteed to get the same tutor each time they go to the tutoring service for tutoring. This is a negative because the tutor and the student develop a rapport over time. This rapport is very important to the students’ understanding of the subject matter they are studying. This rapport allows for the tutor to know how verbose they need to be when making their presentation. In addition, this allows the tutor to know where they need to slow down and where they can speed up. It also allows the student to have confidence in the tutor. The student becomes aware that the tutor is an expert in the subject matter and is willing to listen when the tutor wants them to think about something in a different way or wants to guide them in a specific direction.
Tutoring services are experts in charging fees, some of which are unnecessary. They charge registration fees and want students to take costly assessment tests. Registration fees can cause the customer to feel locked in to a tutoring service. After all it will cost time and money to switch from one tutoring service to another. Tutoring services cite that assessment tests will pinpoint where and what a student does not understand.
Students typically want help with their homework. They are already taking a class. The school they attend has already assessed the student and has put them in a class that is appropriate. Most likely, the tutor never makes any use of the assessment test. The tutor simply knows how to do the work and shows the student how they would do the problem. This is less than ideal and the assessment test is a waste of customer money.
Another thing tutoring services do is charge more for tutoring in subjects that are considered more difficult like Calculus. Does this make sense? Typically, High School teachers want to teach Calculus. This is because when you teach Calculus, the students are more experienced in math. In a Calculus class most students do not have difficulties with concepts like “order of operations” or fractions, etc. The students have a sophisticated understanding of computational techniques. Students who understand computation are always much easier to teach than students who do not understand how to apply factoring, distribution, common denominators and a myriad of items that are taught at the lower levels of math. Students at this higher-level can do the computation and understand the theory; they are ready to expand their understanding. This type of student makes it all the easier to tutor. Probably most tutors would charge more for Pre-Algebra, Algebra I and Algebra II. Unfortunately they can’t; the typical customer probably would not understand such cost differences.
Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus and Calculus subjects are all much more enjoyable and probably easier to teach than lower levels of math. That is probably why most High School teachers would rather teach Calculus than Algebra I. Obviously, there are exceptions to this such as Statistics. Statistics is a subject that is inherently difficult to teach. The concepts are involved and it takes a lot of focused effort to explain. The types of problems encountered in a Statistics class are usually word problems where you need to be especially focused and detailed when reading the problems. To a lesser extent, probably Geometry is another such subject. Geometry is usually a student’s first real encounter with applying concepts and their first exposure doing proofs. This can be difficult for some students who do not possess strong computational skills and/or good study habits.
We hope you found this article helpful in understanding how professional tutoring services may fit in to your pursuit of education. Probably, the only real benefit to professional tutoring services is that they are easy to find. Good luck.
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