Over the years here at Signet, we have gotten pretty good at identifying great tutors.
Our team has developed a multi-stage application and interview process, enhanced by thorough internally-developed metrics, to evaluate the 10+ dimensions that we have found common to incredible educators. Once we hire a new tutor, they are continuously evaluated and coached so they can improve their craft.
Below, I’ve distilled some of our findings about how to a tutor in order to help you find and vet your own tutor. These are the top five questions to ask when evaluating candidates:
1. Tell me about yourself.
Though not technically phrased as a question, this request will help you to get to know your potential tutor personally. Do you like the person? Do you share any common interests with him or her? Is he or she interesting or inspiring to you? Success in tutoring is largely based on cultivating a great rapport and relationship, and the first step to that is feeling good about the person who will be helping you succeed.
2. What makes you a good tutor?
You want to hear this tutor’s capacity to reflect on his or her instruction. A tutor who demonstrates a nuanced ability to reflect (e.g., “my ability to tune in to precisely to what a student needs, whether it’s hands-on guidance or the room to grapple with a concept…”) will be better at reflecting on and responding to academic challenges in the moment. Glib or general answers like “I know the material really well,” or “I have tutored a lot of different types of students” do not give you much information at all. We never hire tutors based on mere academic achievement or number of students they’ve tutoring in the past. Instead, we look for detailed explanations of their successes.
3. What kind of academic experience do you have?
Someone who breezed through all their classes may not always be the best fit for a struggling student. A tutor who has an academic experience that resonates with yours or your student’s could be a good fit. Probe them about their tutoring experience—have they taught the same subject before? To similar students? How many? Experience can be a big plus, because the more varied situations a tutor has dealt with, the more tools they’ll have in their toolbox.
4. How will you plan for my/my student’s tutoring?
You want to make sure that this tutor is thinking on more than just a session-by-session level. Even if you’re hiring a tutor to help out with homework, he or she should still approach tutoring in a systematic way. Someone who just shows up and responds to questions as they come will not be as helpful as someone who is keen on developing a program to maximize his or her efforts and really help the student flourish.
5. Can you provide references for two people that you’ve worked with like me?
Call these references and ask them similar questions. If the tutor doesn’t want to give out references, ask why. One of the benefits of working with tutoring company is that their hiring team does the vetting for you. At Signet, we get in touch with at least three people the tutor applicant has worked with in an educational setting before they are even invited to interview.
Another benefit of working with a tutoring company is access to a supportive administrative staff that can assist you in not only answering all of the above questions for you or your student, but also keeping the conversation open to ensure the relationship stays positive.
While none of these questions alone is enough to evaluate a tutor, when taken together, they will help you make the right decision.