Everywhere, people are talking about how they can make educational setting better by utilizing technology and increasing chance for students to be involved in various community projects. These are much evidence that supports the idea that active, interactive, and challenging projects for the students enhance their knowledge and develop skills that students can utilize throughout their life. Does this mean that we should tear down classroom walls, throw away pencil and paper, and give all the students portable computing devices?
Well, for better or worse, the answer is resounding NO. In search of community involvement, technological devices, and enhanced interaction, people may be losing sight of two things everyone needs and what researchers still believes to be essential to learning; time for quiet reflection, and cross-examination by diverse means. Students still need an opportunity to scribble their ideas and equation without being confined by what a software can offer. They still need time to think through alone, recast the concepts within their head, and let their imagination work without having much of their attention distracted by random chit-chats or something on the screen. They still need to be challenged in ways that deeply probe their understanding, and practice using their knowledge enough times to no longer make silly mistakes. Like many things in life, it is never one or the other, it is everything possible in the appropriate amount.
There always is a danger that a student may develop faulty ideas due to the project having many aspects that student didn’t know about, and also have their understanding skewed heavily in certain field and become oblivious to much larger picture which can only be seen if you can look at it from a distance. Therefore, students should still read textbooks, solve quizzes, take difficult tests, engage in discussions with other students who have a very different experience and understanding, and practice verbally demonstrating their understanding of the subjects. We need to offer students opportunities and challenges that school and community projects may have a difficult time offering in amount and depth a student needs. This is why we want to tailor make the program to the students and gather students of similar needs to engage them in class activities and academic workouts that best utilize the strength of the students and the instructors.
1. The grade when a student decides his field of study
I have recommended 8th grade as the year a student should make a decisions about his future. Some may consider this as being too restrictive. While I agree that it is possible to postpone the decision about field of study or career choice of the student, it should be noted that longer a student waits, less an option he will have. Below are rough sketch of where the limits likely will be if the decision is made at that time.
9th grade : It may already have become too late to go on a path of sending in some key AP Exam scores to the college when the student reaches 12th grade. The student will need to either find a path to obtain college credits or try other tests that can substitute for those AP Exam scores in the college application, or plan to take the AP during 12th grade and receive excellent recommendations from the teacher in charge of the AP subject.
10th grade : It may be too late to find a path to take the key AP subjects before graduating from High School. Alternatives must be used. If the student wants to receive some college credits in key subjects before college application, the student may need to consider receiving supplementary instructions from private instructors in order to prepare himself for the college course works.
11th grade : The choice of majors the student can pursue starts to narrow by this point. Trying for some College credits may now be too hard. The best alternatives are SAT subject tests, and some AP courses in 12th grade that can be considered as foundation AP course for that Key AP subject(s) the student no longer can reach.
12th grade : The student may no longer have much of a choice for the major to pursue if he wants to go to decent college/university . Either the student can choose a major that can maximize his chance of being accepted at a college/university reachable with his grades and scores, or have to chart a path through community college or easily accepted colleges and hope to be able to transfer out of there to better universities in order to pursue the major of his/her dream.
7th grade or below : It simply is too soon. The student may be better served seeking job or volunteer experiences at this point.
2. How hard is it to meet the 9th grade objective of “at least one AP Exam, SAT subject test, or college course relevant to the primary major” ?
It isn’t too hard. Most 9th grade student will be taking at least one science course and one history class in school . If the student pick one of them as a special focus and devote a year in studying for SAT subject test, he/she can easily ace that subject test
3. Why Two objective at the 10th grade?
This is to let you have easier time when you become 11th grade. Finishing two objectives during 10th grade will broaden your possibilities. These objectives are easily met through some AP courses or SAT subject test preparations that will help lead into the KEY AP course you will take in 11th or 12th grade. Many 10th grade students will have classes in science, math, history, literature, and foreign language at this year. They all have their own SAT subject tests, so it is best to finish these SAT subject tests here.
4. Why back to only one objective at the 11th grade?
This is to leave room to make up for some objectives student missed from 9th or 10th grade, and also to let the student concentrate on the key AP course or preparation for that important college class. Much of the student attention will be taken up by the key AP courses. Doing one more test preparation or AP in addition to all this may be hard, but is worth pursuing. Therefore, I am suggesting was at least one Subject test, AP, or college course related to the tertiary objective in addition to any AP course works needed for the Primary major of choice, and hope the student can handle the load.
When to prepare for college application?
I have been in College preparation service for many years and I noticed that about the half of the students were already in or about to enter 11th grade when they first contacted my college prep workplace. Since about quarter of the students were in or about to enter 10th grade when they first contacted my workplace, there seems to be sort of exponential decrease associated with time of their contact and amount of time left for college preparation. Sadly, this means more than 75% of the students had contacted us a little too late to fully prepare for studying in the college. For reasons I will write below, the best time to start preparing for college is not 11th, not 10th, not even 9th, but 8th grade. If you are already 9th grade, you really need some help in order to catch up to your competitors.
While people talk a lot of college applications, the real focus should be college preparation, and this isn’t a mere lip-service to public education. All the data suggest that only about half the students are able to graduate from college within 4 years, and some are able to only because colleges aggressively intervened to boost freshman and sophomore’s academic competency. The main reason is that most 6th to 12th grade class can’t give students sufficient time for them to master many difficult concepts and questions you might run into, and many are amazed how difficult a problem can be even though you can solve it with knowledge you obtained before 9th grade. Many schools struggle to find the right balance between instilling creativity and ability to tackle very hard questions, and often what lose out is the opportunity to experience very tough questions that requires lengthy derivation and explanations. This is why many colleges wants to see SAT subject test scores and AP scores, hoping high scores in these standardized test means the student had adequate exposures to complicated time consuming questions in the subject.
Note that in the last paragraph, I wrote that colleges want to see the score. The college application deadline is at about half-way point for the senior years. You CANNOT send 12th grade AP scores to college for them to consider it, because you will have the AP Exam long after knowing which college accepted or rejected you. The students must seek to finish all the important AP by the end of 11th grade, or have something equivalent for it. Here another difficulty arises because most prestigious school’s STEM departments really loves students that received a “5” in AP Calculus BC . Science and Engineering majors would love it even more if the student received a “5” in AP Physics C . The trouble is, these are sort of “highest tier” AP, that is AP courses that builds up on another AP courses. The student must have a plan in place by the time they select their 10th grade classes in order to complete these AP courses by 11th grade, or if that isn’t possible, identify and pursue alternatives that will earn them recognition similar to receiving a “5” in these AP courses. The best alternative is taking Calculus or Physics classes in nearby universities and receiving an “A” in it. You run into interesting irony of partially attending a college in order to fully attend the college. Liberal Arts major also has AP classes that is of particular interest to them, and it will take very careful planning and some arm wrangling of school officials in order to finish it by 11th grade.
For many, it may be hard to do the AP classes or classes in college for various reasons. Then, the student must pursue as many SAT subject tests as possible, hoping to impress college admission officials with deluge of good test scores. The best time to start taking SAT subject tests is actually 9th grade, since there is good overlap of SAT subject test materials, and contents in classes students will take at 9th grade. It is impossible to take all the SAT subject tests, so the students have to have a plan by the time they enter 9th grade. This is why students need to start preparing from 8th grade. For 75% of the students I worked with, they have to overcome the fact that they are at least a year behind in college preparations compared to many other students interested in the same school they are.
Now, how about even earlier, like 7th grade? At this point, you have to wonder whether it may be too early. Young people needs to experience lots of things, and often don’t have enough knowledge to make good decision about themselves. Up to 7th grade, it is best to give the students as diverse an experience as possible, and make sure there isn’t any noticeable deficit in skill and knowledge in math, language, and science. When the student enters 8th grade, he will need to make a decision that will shape his future, and it is better he can do this after having as varied an experience as possible.
What should the student do at 8th grade? There is one thing that is of most importance at this time: Deciding what the student will major in. Some might wonder about students wanting to change their majors after entering college. What student should do is have a primary plan and a backup plan in case he wants to change his major. If a student wants to be a medical doctor, but is also interested in history, he should consider becoming a pre-med student as a history major. Being a math major at the beginning can be a great choice because it isn’t too hard to switch from being a math major to an engineering major. Some switches are harder, like switching from English literature major to Physics major, so it might be better for students to aim for being physics major and get as much English Literature in as time allow in case switch is desired. It is possible for a student to come up with a plan for his study in college that has flexibility built into it, but this is possible only if the students comes up with the plan soon enough. Once we know what student will study in college, everything else falls in place. The major of his choice will drive what AP courses and SAT subject tests the student will pursue, and where to turn to if taking those AP courses by 11th grade is not feasible.
I strongly advise NOT think about which college to apply to before the end of 11th grade. If the student accumulated high AP scores and SAT subject test scores in the subjects relevant to the major the student wishes to pursue by the end of 11th grade, his chance of being accepted into prestigious institutes will be very good. If his scores are below what is desirable, the student still can embark on a path where he will enter colleges or universities of lesser renown, then use good grades, good GRE scores, and multiple achievements in order to enter very prestigious graduate schools or earn a chance to work under some famous professors. If he diligently pursue the study in desired field, sooner or later, he can enter institutions of high acclaim. It is where the student is at the age of 25 that is more important than what school he enters in at age of 18.
Therefore I advise the students to widen experience when they are young, and start college preparation early. Below is a simplified timeline that I recommend.
Birth to 4th grade : Concentrate on Academic fundamentals and depth. Must establish very good understanding of Math, Writing, Reading, Science, and Logic.
5th to 7th grade : Experience as many different things as possible. Try to work at a work place that allows youth employment. Volunteer for different causes. Do things the student never did before. Go visit new places. Meet and talk with different people. The student will need to understand diverse challenges associated with different career path.
8th grade : Decide on what the student will major in college. Choose about three majors and decide which one is the primary goal, which one is the secondary, and which one is the fall back plan in case the first two don’t work out. Decide what AP subjects, SAT subjects, college courses, and special experiences that will be most relevant to the three majors of the choice, and make a plan to pack in as many of them as possible during 9th to 11th grade. Be wary of the priority in the choice of major so that more than half of the subjects and courses are relevant to the primary major, and at least a quarter of them are relevant to the secondary choice. One or two subjects or courses should be relevant to the third choice as well.
9th grade : Try to have at least one AP Exam, SAT subject test, or college course relevant to the primary major be done this year.
10th grade : Try to have at least one AP Exam, SAT subject test, or college course relevant to the primary major and also another one relevant to the secondary major be completed within this year
11th grade : Try to have at least one AP Exam, SAT subject test, or college course relevant to the third choice be completed here. If possible, select one that is relevant to not just the third choice of the major, but also the primary or secondary choice of the major as well.
12th grade : Plan on taking all ACT AND SAT test(except for one) between start of 12th grade to the college application deadline. Try to take at least one SAT subject test relevant to the primary choice of the major. Start forming a path for graduate school or professional school if needed.
Manager of CLA
5-2. Internet/media classrooms
This may be the ultimate in having as many students as possible for a single instructor. The session can vary from recorded lectures to live chatroom sessions where students will submit their questions publicly and the instructor will publicly answer them as they come. The main benefit is that this removes restrictions in time and space for everyone, including the students. They can seek out more convenient time and place for study, a benefit which cannot be ignored. The student can also look at questions, comments, and answers from a large number of people, and he may find some that are very useful. A good on-line instructor can guide students in a carefully paced path of discovery that can greatly enhance understanding of everyone viewing the process.
The drawbacks are pretty obvious as well. There are many limitations to student and instructor interaction, and the time-delay may confuse people in certain situations. The instructor has very little control over what the student is doing, and there is great potential for students to cheat on their attendance, homework, or exams in these setting. Some of the very fine details related to the subject content may be impossible to convey over the internet/media as well; thus many people will leave these classes with incomplete knowledge.
Still, for students who are just getting started, or need only a few tips, this can be a great venue. These classes are great for getting one’s feet wet with the subject matter, often are free or very cheap, and offer immense flexibility to a student’s schedule. It also lets people separated by great distance interact with each other. As long as what the student needs isn’t intense exploration into minute details concerning the subject, which requires close proximity of the instructor or some one-to-one attention, there are many ways these setups can be used productively.
Great variety exists in student-to-instructor ratios in a class, and they all have their uses, advantages, and disadvantages. Even within a single subject course, people may encounter different classroom setups that will have different student-to-instructor ratios. Instead of proclaiming one student-to- instructor ratio as ideal, it is much better to study its strengths and weaknesses, find ways to reduce its weaknesses and enhance its strengths, then properly formulate a ratio according to the needs of the students and restrictions imposed by the situations. As technology advances, there will be more ways to work and study in these setups, cover up some of their weaknesses, and bring about new methods. It is important to flexibly adapt these classroom setups to best accommodate the needs of the students and the society in which they live, remembering that all the setups can be made to be useful and productive.
5-1. Large Classroom of Ten or more students to one instructor: Sad Reality or Factory?
In most school classrooms around the world, any time in history, this is the typical setup. This setup is often born out of scarcity in various resources; thus people don’t have any choice to be in a different setup when it comes to student-instructor ratio. Still, this setup actually does have some unique advantages that make it useful in certain cases.
The most obvious disadvantage of this setup is that the instruction can’t be individualized. It is hard to elicit active participation from the students, and such a session has the chance of diverging into unrelated topics or dwelling upon unimportant materials. Students can easily lose interest and forget any information from class instructions. Homework and tests become the primary tool to facilitate students actively learning or practicing the contents; thus it is possible to overburden students. If the instructor misjudges the general state of understanding or makes mistakes in planning the lesson, this can lead to large number of people wasting the whole classroom period, as it is harder to adjust with so many people present. For these reasons and other potential problems, it is understandable that most educational institutes publicly say they don’t like this setup, even though most of the larger institutes conduct the majority of the classes with this student-to-teacher ratio.
For the educational institute, this setup is the very profitable. With this student-to-teacher ratio, it can reduce the instructor’s pay, costs associated with maintaining the classroom, and other expenses and overheads per each student. Since the profit margin becomes larger as the number of students per instructor grows, there is strong financial motivation for the institutes to create these settings. One extreme example would be a core subject class in a large public university, where as many as 2000 students may be listening to one professor’s lecture (note: in these setups, the true ratio isn’t 2000 to one, as there are sub-professors and teaching assistants present for many “smaller” group activities, making the ratio more like 2000 students to 50 instructors, which would make the ratio closer to 40 to one).
Despite these problems, there are cases where it may be in student’s best interest to take classes with such a ratio. The most obvious case would be when the student already knows most of the material and just needs a little refresher and introduction to the newest developments in the subject. All he really needs is to see someone work through the whole material once, and he can have that for a price much cheaper than tutoring or in smaller class setups. He also is free to concentrate on the material he needs or wants, and ignore other things he already knows. This is why these setups can remind people of large academic conference where learned scholars showcase the latest discoveries. Another situation is when the student only needs to do some practice with some homework and practice tests. The instructor will begin the class by giving students a very brief lecture, followed by some problems on which to work. Students will do the problems, and then the instructor can explain why certain answers are right or wrong, occasionally answering questions. Since the student already is capable of answering the majority of questions correctly, he is free to divert some of his time into thinking more about problems on which he really needs to work, and be able to request help with certain specific problems. Another case where this setting can be useful is when the instructor needs to give a general overview of the whole subject to people who understand very little of it. Since people don’t know enough to even ask questions, it sometimes is better to give them the whole thing before breaking it down to smaller chunks to investigate in detail. In these general introductory settings, most of the class would benefit from simply listening and watching the whole subject matter be unfolded by a good instructor. After they receive their exposure, they can now be separated into smaller classes to gain deeper understanding of the fine details. In situations when much time and resources may be wasted by trying active/collaborative learning techniques, it is more productive to go through one of these large-class passive learning phases to prepare the students for more active/collaborative sessions. These larger classrooms also offers students more chance to meet different people and encounter different ideas and perspectives. Therefore, it is better to properly utilize these large classrooms, instead of trying to eliminate them completely.
4. Four to nine students to one instructor, small group class
This is a common situation encountered in most small educational institutes or in advanced course classrooms. While small group classes often look like typical lecture-intensive classes of old, it can be the best setup to use active/collaborative learning methods.
At this size, it is still possible to give students some individualized attention. Also, since there are enough students, instructors can actually have easier time forging ahead in class content in order to keep up the pace needed to prepare for the upcoming tests. When there are three or fewer students in the class, it may actually be harder to ignore every little problem or setback a student may have. The greatest advantage of a class of this size is that it is much easier for instructors to make the students take turns in exploring and explaining the concepts at hand. Since there are enough people, chances are good that one of the other students will point out different angles to the topic at hand or ask a question on something related to the topic that other students didn’t pay sufficient attention to.
While the thought of plowing ahead even with some students not fully comprehending may sound like bad practice, in many situation, this may be needed in order to illustrate the big overall picture of the whole subject. It may be necessary to first show that Concept C came from Concept A, and Concept B, the one with which some students are having problems, is what connects A and C. Often, when the student finally sees the whole picture, he can understand the small bits and pieces much better. This is easier to do when, for any part of the subject, there always is a student or two who understands that particular part. No student may understand everything from the first run-through, but if there always is someone to fill in what another has missed, it becomes much easier and productive to engage students in active learning or collaborative learning sessions focused on the whole broad picture instead of minute details of the topic. When you have three or less students, there will be many cases where the class will encounter certain parts of the subject that everyone in the class will have trouble understanding, thus requiring instructors to try out various passive learning techniques to make enough of the class to understand it good enough to proceed to the next part. Despite larger class size, this setup may allow the whole class to cover more materials in less time compared to smaller classes.
While the diversity and number of students provide this setting with many benefits, the same diversity and number can work against this setup. It now becomes possible for a student or two to merely tag along, not participating in the class in meaningful ways. They may even try to hide from the instructor and sleep through the class. In this setup, while it is possible to make ALL students understand MOST of the material, and MOST of the students understand ALL the materials, it may be impossible to make ALL the students understand ALL the materials taught in the class. Despite the danger of possibly leaving a student or two behind, this student-teacher ratio often allows the greatest number of students to learn the greatest amount of material in the most efficient manner.
3-2. Two or three students to one instructor, time-sharing setting
This setting is found mostly in the tutoring/education service centers. Often you will see a “T,” ”+,” or “U” shape desk in rooms where this time-sharing sessions is being held. The sessions might even be advertised as an individualized tutoring session. If it were advertised as such, the student’s family needs to realize that it might be paying for one hour of private tutoring service when the student is only receiving twenty minutes of individualized attention. Usually though, the rates for these setting are cheaper than one-on-one private tutoring, and this setup can be the right setup for certain students in certain situations.
The typical time-sharing session may go like this: first, a student (let’s call him Student A) arrives and the tutor discusses with the student what he will study and what the student will need to do for the session; subsequently, he will receive a short lecture. About five minutes after Student A’s arrival, Student B will arrive. The tutor, seeing Student B, will tell Student A what he needs to do for the next ten minutes, and then attend to Student B, going over what he needs to study and giving short lectures. Five minutes after Student B’s arrival, Student C will arrive. The tutor will again give Student B what he needs to do for next fifteen minutes, and then attend to Student C. After Student C receives attention for five minutes, the tutor will now come back to Student A, going over what Student A has done for the ten minutes, and then giving necessary instructions for about ten minutes. Then the tutor will give Student A something to do for the next twenty minutes, then will go to Student B to check on his work and teach him anything needed. Student B will receive about ten minutes of attention then set to work on assigned problems for the next twenty minutes. By this time, Student C will have finished the twenty- minute assignment he received at the beginning, and the tutor will spend ten minutes with him on things needed. This ten-minute attention, twenty-minute self-study cycle goes on until the student’s hour is up. Before departing, the student will receive about 5 minutes of checking with the tutor, and may receive some homework. When a student departs, his spot will likely be filled by another student, unless it is near the end of the day for the tutor.
The most obvious benefit of this system is that three students can share the payment of a tutor’s service; thus rates will typically be lower compared to one-on-one private tutoring. Students likely won’t be able to hinder the progress of other students, and they can all be working on different subjects. They also receive much practice reading relevant content and doing related problems; thus these sessions can help build up the student’s study skills and confidence. It is also possible for the instructors to make use of the all the students to conduct mini-group sessions when the opportunity arises; thus they can flexibly use active/collaborative learning methods from time to time.
From the educational center’s view point, this can mean hiring fewer tutors to handle students and subjects. The center can also save space and time as different students and subject courses can be taught in the same place by the same tutor. Since the students are receiving some individualized attention, the center can advertise this as if it is a private tutoring service, and charge fees higher than typical mini-group classes.
The disadvantage of this system is due primarily to the time-sharing arrangement. The student may be paying more hours than he is actually using. There is a chance that the instructor may not have given the right amount of self-study work; thus the student might be idle for couple of minutes, or be stuck and not make progress while he waits for instructor to come back to him. One of the students might be very disruptive and thus be a nuisance to the other students. The tutor will have to juggle three topics at once; thus he will become fatigued fast. Certain topics will require lengthy explanation; thus the student might be forced to collect pieces from different lecture sessions. Since there isn’t much of a chance for interactions among the students, all the potential problems in one-on-one tutoring format will slowly arise. The students and tutors are being confined to small windows of space and time; thus there is a psychological toll as well. Finally, the tutor will end up giving some students more time compared to others due to the difference in topics they are covering. It is the writer’s opinion that this setup is best used when limits in resources force various students to be in same room at once. Despite all its disadvantages, this format allows highest amount of independent work on the part of the students; thus it is a very good way to help students develop good study habits. It can also be a cheaper way to receive help with homework or specific test preparation service compared to one-on-one tutoring.
3-1. Two or three students to one instructor, a mini-group setting
This is a situation that can be commonly found in graduate school lectures, low demand subjects, or in small educational institutes. Normally you will have two or three students paying attention to the instructor helping them with a subject of interest. Since there is small number of students, the instructor can enter into one-on-one situations with a student easily, when needed. The student will have a peer or two who can better understand his troubles or point out something of which he needs to know more. The presence of a peer will allow the use of many of active learning or collaborative learning methods. Since the number of students is small, it is easy for the instructor to customize the lectures and sessions to the needs of the students. Done right, this setting can offer you most of the benefits of one-on-one tutoring and allow you to do many other activities not possible in one-on-one tutoring situations. Under the right guidance from the instructor it is possible that students can take turns embellishing the class contents with their own unique experiences and perspectives.
No classroom situation is without its own unique set of potential problems, however. When you have only two or three students, it is easy for them to become too competitive with each other. If one student is too far ahead of others, it can discourage other students. A student having severe difficulty with the subject can easily drag down the whole class. In a class where both students are of similar level, they might be too similar to each other, making it hard to find or introduce a different angle to a problem. To derive the most benefit from this setting, the students must be similar enough in a way, but different enough to ensure diversity, as diversity is essential to many active/collaborative learning processes. If the match, and also differences, between the students are detrimental, it will take great effort from the instructor to make the mini-group study sessions be as productive as they can be, and sometimes, it may be necessary to conduct time-sharing groups instead. The writer will discuss the time-sharing group in the next section.
Another danger in a mini-group setting is the lack of students. If one student misses a session, the whole situation becomes one-on-one tutoring, which may halt on-going active/collaborative learning project. While the instructor and the student can find ways to capitalize on these situations, if this happens multiple times at random intervals, the disruptions to the class’s flow will waste time and resources of everyone involved. Even if no one misses any sessions, other problems of regarding the private tutoring format may arise in this setting as well, though the severity and frequency will be much less.
Most homes are not equipped with a room that can handle the mini-group and the instructor. Since there will be much conversations between students and the instructor, having the class at a coffee shop or in a library may not be feasible. It is better to set aside a dedicated classroom for these mini-groups. For many educational institutes, these mini-group offer financial and logistical challenges, as they will need to provide large number of instructors and classrooms. It is the writer’s opinion that the mini-group setting is best for small educational institutes, graduate schools, and specialized courses that need to delve into finer details compared to typical academic classes.
2. One-on-one tutoring
A one -student to one-instructor setting is something commonly found in private tutoring or when a professor is advising a graduate student. Since the particular need of the student is constantly being attended to, many mistakenly believe that this is the ideal setting for learning. It is true that this is the best way to address a student who is stuck on certain detail of a problem, or someone whose pace of learning is significantly different from an average student. Even in a large class, a one-on-one situation can briefly arise when the teacher is answering a question from a student in fine details. Many students or parents desire private tutoring when the student is unable to make meaningful progress on a homework problem or needs help understanding certain parts of the subject of interest. Most of education service businesses in the USA focus on supplying individual tutors to satisfy this demand. In effect, what these service providers are doing is being a matchmaker between their customers and their pool of instructors. While they do some quality controls, after making the matches, they become simple bill-collectors, as most of the work is done by the instructors with whom they have a contract. Usually, these businesses make use of customer’s homes as the place of instruction, which helps them avoid having classrooms and a library for needed books.
While these private tutoring sessions are likely to give an immediate boost to the student’s academic performance, there are some long-term disadvantages. The biggest problem is that the instructor and the student have to get along very well. Compared to any other situation, this case is the one where the type of relationship between the tutor and the student will exert the greatest amount of influence. If the two don’t get along well, the student will merely be wasting money and time. The problem is made more complex by the tutor and the student becoming too friendly with each other, leading them to a great waste of time as their attention waver from studying to making funny comments about something trivial. Even if the student and the tutor don’t become too chummy, they will eventually learn about each other too well. Instead of paying the needed due diligence to the content they are studying, they might oversimplify or skip too many things, thinking they understand them well enough. When the student tries to explain something to demonstrate his understanding, he might be taking too many short cuts and using too much jargon because both the tutor and the student are familiar with the subject and each other, thus hiding some major deficiency in their understanding.
It should also be noted that in a one-on-one situation, there is tendency for the focus to become too narrow. This can lead to the tutors not paying needed attention to parts of a subject in which the student isn’t interested. They may also develop routines and habits which might hinder generalization of knowledge and skills. If a student becomes too attached to a tutor, he may have trouble with a different tutor or other format for learning. Some research has shown that teenagers learn better in the presence of supportive peers with whom he can trade questions and comments. This lack of a peer’s input is a serious disadvantage of private tutoring situations, and you can’t use most of active learning or collaborative learning methods various researchers have found to be very effective. Finally, the potential consequence of a tutor abusing the relationship cannot be overlooked, which means guardians of the students will need to be vigilant about the tutors all the time. Private tutoring can be a powerful tool to enhance student learning. People need to remember that as with anything powerful, it should always be used very carefully. It is the writer’s opinion that private tutoring is best used for a student with very individualized needs when positive results are needed quickly.
When people talk about the education system, they often mention teacher-student ratio in the classroom as if it is a big source of the problem. They always push for a low student-high teacher situation, as if this is a panacea. The reality is much more complicated, as different student-teacher ratios will arise depending on the situation, since they all actually have their own advantages, uses, and disadvantages.
1. Two or more instructors to a student, pampering or inquisition?
This special situation happens more often than people realize when a student requires special attention. The benefit is that different instructors can perceive different needs of the student and thus offer a change that other instructors may not yet have considered. Often, there is an order of seniority among the instructors so that any conflict between instructors is swiftly resolved. The junior instructor may also be undergoing training from a senior instructor, and there is a good chance that the overall level of instruction will improve as time passes. While this special attention might appear as pampering a student, it can quickly degenerate into a sort of inquisition when the student or the junior instructor faces question from everyone else in the class. It is worth noting that this situation is similar to what some might face at a job interview or thesis dissertation. While having many instructors can improve the chance that a student can learn the topic at hand, it should be noted that at least half the instructors will not be teaching in any time. Most education system can’t afford to “waste” valuable time, money, and resources to provide multiple instructors to a student for a class. There also is danger of the student feeling overwhelmed or intimidated by the presence of many “superiors.” It is the writer’s opinion that this situation is reserved for students with very special needs or with plenty of money to burn.