Transformational Tutoring

by Henry Fan


Tutoring and receiving tutoring has enabled me to be a much more well rounded student, but more importantly, a well rounded adult.

“Anyone who thinks they are too small to make a difference has never tried to fall asleep in a room with a mosquito” – Christine Todd Whitman

Tutors often think they are too small to make a difference, but I trust if tutors can be equipt with the authentic skills of collaboration (down below) they will begin to see just how much of a difference they can make… Natalia Menendez, my tutor training professor invited me to think about how to critically understand some of the fundamental differences between a collaborator and evaluator. Without understanding those differences it is really challenging to be an effective tutor, but perhaps more importantly an effective adult. During tutoring sessions there are the tangibles and intangibles.

The tangibles are: getting the thesis statement, getting to the answer, or solving the problem. The intangibles are: true clarity behind the thesis statement, the values behind the answer, or the mission in solving the problem. When I reflect and study the distinctions between collaborator and evaluator, I position students and myself, to achieve the tangibles as well as intangibles throughout our treasured time together on this planet.

Acts as an interested reader

This means as a tutor we show that we really want to know more about the topic they are covering, the prompt, the assignment, whatever question it is that your student is bringing to you.
Corrects Immediately

No discussion No context
No questioning
Ask for clarity

Ask meaningful questions when your student is struggling to explain their thought processes. Generally this means slowing down the process of conceptualization or internalization for your student by guiding and modeling for them what it means to slow down. Without lowing down your student may not have a chance to hear, catch, or correct their own mistakes in understanding.
Points out Errors / Diagnose Problems

this does not get the student to think for themselves which leads to them fixating on correcting the mistake instead of thinking through ideas. Mistakes will then be repeated because they will not understand why or the impact they have
Be curious and patient

It is going to be okay if you do not resolve what they want you to resolve
Get the answer

Bye Felicia, Bye
Help your student(s) reimagine themself(s)

Guide them to see themselves as a catalyst for change. Ideas such as clarification, revision, and re-doing are all seen as positive and should be rewarded as such. Use your words & emotions expresses to reward them

Proofreaders, editors, only ones with authority and ‘value’ in the dynamic
Effective Confrontation

Articulate your FBI: Feelings (F), Behaviors (B), and Impact (I) to your student. In no particular order.
short ex. When you are on your phone (B) that makes me feel sad (F) because that means I am not helping you learn what you need to learn, and I should quit my job (I) get specific and creative with your FBIs
Ineffective Confrontation

You’re Wrong, do this way, but actually I don’t care if you do it your way. I’m not going to teach you the right way to do it the first time, figure it out like I had to
Use Mirroring

Paraphrase to your student by reflecting back to them what you think they are saying.
Check and (curiously, authentically, genuinely) ask if that’s what they wanted to say.
short ex. This is a really strong argument because you cited clearly while introducing your citation and reflecting on it all within this paragraph
Does Not Empathetically Listen

Compliments paper with specific Evidence & ReasonsStatements judging Worth of tutees work
Uses I pronoun

Never uses, “you should _” instead use “I did _”.
For example “I see your clear summary here, but this sentence here seems to _” or “I was wondering what you meant my this, may you help me understand your thoughts?”

Do not say “I think you should do ___”
Uses You Pronoun

“you need to fix this error here”
Frequent use of a programmed answer and non-specific feedback (such as yes or no questions)


I find it increasingly important to be a collaborator as I work towards earning my undergraduate degree.

The results of a collaborative mindset leads to the student becoming more of an initiator. This means that the student is empowered to ask meaningful questions, willing to self-think (as opposed to think just because the tutor said so), search for evidence, write and develop sense of self as scholar who wants to communicate specifically and clearly. Students will seek to understand then to be understood. They will be willing to revise for clarity and accuracy.

Students in Evaluator paradigm becomes more of a respondent, who mainly agrees with instructors. This leads to passive and defensive learning which does not promote the idea of becoming self-directed learner. Students also then do not know how to necessarily understand what to revise, why to revise, or how to go about doing so independently.


I actively look for ways to strength my collaboration skills inside of school and arguably more importantly, outside of school. Communication might be one of the more nuanced activities we as humans engage in daily, so the sooner we can begin treating communication with more care and realizing just how powerful of a tool communication is, the sooner we can reap it’s benefits.


See if you can begin exercising these collaborator techniques in your daily communication. Pick 1, such as “asking for clarity” and try it today. Let me know your thoughts through your own wordpress post, a video, or a comment below!

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