Becoming a tutor is a rewarding experience with excellent career opportunities. However, it can often be difficult to excel at tutoring on a personal level. Have you ever felt like your particular teaching techniques failed to benefit a student? Perhaps you have many different clients that you tutor, all of which have their unique learning styles.
If you want to become a better tutor, the best thing you can do is learn how to adapt to your students’ learning styles. You might be surprised by how easy it is to adjust to new learning styles! In this guide, we’ll help you develop new techniques to improve your overall teaching style through adaptation.
How to Adapt Your Teaching Style to Become a Better Tutor
VARK refers to Visual, Aural, Read and Write, and Kinesthetic. VARK can use these concepts to describe the different learning styles of students. Initially developed in 1992, this method of understanding learning styles through senses has been quite beneficial to tutors and educators around the world.
To put it simply, different learners have different preferences for learning that make understanding new concepts more accessible. Keep in mind that these preferences usually overlap, and few students have one single learning style.
- Visual – Visual learners prefer to use graphic imagery to organize new information, like images and colours. Students who are visual learners tend to enjoy the arts.
- Aural – Aural learners absorb information much easier when it is communicated to them via speech or audio. Auditory learners tend to enjoy music and related arts.
- Read and Write – Read-and-write learners organize information and understand new concepts more quickly if they can read and write them. The read-and-write style of teaching is the most common. Such learners tend to enjoy text-based homework and testing. They also tend to enjoy writing essays.
- Kinesthetic – Kinesthetic learners are the most common type of learner out there. Such learners absorb new information and learn new things by equating them to real-world applications. Videos, shared experiences and relational examples can be very beneficial to kinesthetic learners.
You can help your student (and you) understand their unique learning style by having them take the free VARK questionnaire.
Implementing VARK into your teaching style is a lot easier than it might seem. After you have determined the VARK learning style of your student, consider a few different ways to adapt to their learning style.
For visual learners: We recommend using graphical representations of subject concepts, such as graphs and images, to help teach students new things. Using just any visual prompt won’t do. The imagery used must have meaning to it. Some materials that can help include slideshows, graphs, symbols, and videos.
For aural learners: It might seem like lectures or verbal lessons are the best tools for auditory learners. While this can help, it would be best to put a lot of thought into your tutoring “script.” Keep things short and sweet, with easy-to-grasp messaging. The goal is to help such learners apply meaning to particular words.
The intention is key here. Don’t just give your read-and-write learner a textbook and call it a day for read-and-write learners. Such learners will be much more successful at memorizing new information if given materials that are pretty interesting. Unfortunately, such learners may not necessarily find calculus or geology incredibly stimulating. Please focus on the written materials you’re providing and ensure that they capture attention and keep it. Implement several different materials rather than a specific textbook.
For kinesthetic learners: Despite how it may seem, kinesthetic learners can thrive from writing their notes. The key here is to implement diagrams and other elements to their note-taking regimen. To engage such learners, use lots of colours, variation, and imagery when helping them take notes. If real-world examples engage kinesthetic learners, they will absorb knowledge easier. When implementing a lesson, look at how you can relate the concepts you teach back to real-world examples.
Keep a Broad Arsenal of Materials
No matter your student’s learning style, it might take a while to find the right tools and materials that resonate with them. For example: Let’s say your student took the VARK questionnaire and was found to be a visual learner. You decide to implement mind maps and other graphical charts to help them learn. However, your student is still struggling. You then decide to try implementing flashcards with images instead. Your student immediately picks them up and begins absorbing new concepts with much more ease than before!
We recommend keeping the following materials and tools on hand while you are trying to figure out a new student’s learning style:
- Mindmaps and flow charts.
- Highlighters and other colour-coding materials for notes.
- Art supplies for drawing.
- Checklists for each lesson.
- Slideshows, tables, and other visual digital media.
- A chalkboard or whiteboard.
- Videos and images related to the subject matter.
- Oral summaries of the lesson.
- A recording device that the student can use to record the lecture.
- An audio calculator.
- Textured paper.
- Different props for role-playing or dramatization of concepts.
For very young students, try implementing learning toys that are designed for their age.
This preparation may seem like a lot. However, it’ll feel great when you implement a new material, and your student immediately gravitates towards it. It’s all about providing options to try that could significantly benefit your student and nurture their learning ability.
Adopt a Multisensory, “Freedom-Focused” Approach
No matter your student’s learning style, they tend to learn best when they have the freedom to move and work at their own pace. They also tend to learn with much more ease if they are physical, multisensory activities to experiment with. These activities might seem only ideal for very young children– but this approach can benefit students of all ages. By providing engagement opportunities at a high level, you can help your students focus and pay attention to the tasks you are working on. This approach can also help students focus when there are distractions. Try to plan activities that suit your student based on their VARK questionnaire results and give them the freedom to try new things. Taking this approach won’t just benefit your student.
Becoming a better tutor comes down to adjusting and improving your teaching style for each student.
Adapting to learning styles will also benefit you as a tutor for the rest of your career. Any tutor knows that success doesn’t just come from rehashing concepts in a particular field of study. Any professor could do that. Success comes from adapting to a student’s needs and helping them become better students in the long term by offering them the proper study tools.
How was our guide to becoming a better tutor by adapting to different learning styles? Tell us your tutor adaptation success story in the comments below!