Our recent blogs about online tutoring have focused on the student learning experience, but I would like to flip the focus and take an inside look at the power of online tutoring to build an educator’s pedagogical skills. Many educators who read this blog study teaching and learning, so I invite you to step back and reflect on your own teaching or the teachers you manage. How could tutoring in an online environment enhance pedagogical prowess?
Online tutoring from a tutor’s perspective seems very similar to teaching in a brick and mortar classroom – quick pace, randomness of students’ questions, the variety of prior knowledge of each student’s question, and each student’s need for individualized coaching and confidence building. A tutor may start with one approach, recognize the student isn’t quite grasping it, make a quick pivot, and transition to another approach. The ultimate challenge is engaging the student and ensuring s/he is doing the learning, and not being lead through steps to an answer. Like brick and mortar teaching, online tutoring is about ensuring learning by using pedagogical prowess that meets a student’s needs.
So what does this pedagogical prowess entail? Successful online tutoring requires strong content knowledge, a little something called pedagogical content knowledge, and a growth mindset. This is a tall order, but essential to address the needs of so many students. The content knowledge and growth mindset are obvious to their significance to tutoring, but pedagogical content knowledge is that secret ingredient that makes some tutors great. The split second decisions, concept break down, misconception detection, approach shifts, representation selection, questioning tactics can all be attributed to pedagogical content knowledge.
How does a tutor gain such prowess? To some there is a simple answer – experience, feedback, and reflection – that when dissected is not simple at all. Pedagogical content knowledge is primarily present in more experienced educators. Experience presents a multitude of learning situations that an educator must react to and learn from, hence the power of reflective practice. Building expertise also takes a community, so effective, action-oriented feedback from a mentor feeds the reflective practice and expedites the tutor’s journey to prowess. An online tutor’s accumulation of pedagogical content knowledge is likely to be expedited with the quick accrual of experiences in online sessions and the support of a mentoring team.
Tutor.com is unique in that it supports growth of its tutors through a quality control process that uses effective, actionable feedback to further develop each tutor’s knowledge and expertise to handle the variety of learning experiences tutors encounter. The quality control process has established principles of learning that govern the instructional moment for each student, and the mentoring system ensures the tutors have the pedagogical prowess to deliver the type of instruction that builds students’ independence and confidence in their learning.
Beyond the students, who benefits from online tutoring? Any educator interested in building their pedagogical prowess. The tutors at Tutor.com constantly say they become better tutors and teachers through their online tutoring experience. So I would encourage all professors, graduate students, teachers in training, or experienced teachers to try online tutoring to build your instructional mastery. Become a better educator under the guidance of mentors who will provide the necessary effective feedback to safely build pedagogical prowess.