Finding and Hiring a Tutor—Interviewing for Value

Private tutoring is an expensive proposition for families. It’s important to select an individual who really brings value to the students. Their experience is fully dependent upon the person hired.

There is plenty of general advice about tutoring on the web. Sooner or later though, there is an interview and a decision to hire a particular person must be made. It’s important to have some ideas of value in tutoring before the selection process.

The points below can provide specific background to improve the chances of hiring an effective tutor.

1. Value Tutoring–Example.

A young woman was doing poorly in an introductory Physics course. She was clearly bright and motivated. She was having difficulty applying the mathematical equations of motion the travel path of a thrown baseball. It was clear, after a short discussion, that she had really understood the use of the mathematical equations, usually the most difficult step.

However, the young woman did not have a clear picture in her mind of a thrown ball traveling through the air. She had not used her own experience to understand the physical situation.Without this information, she could not use the mathematics properly. The instruction emphasized making diagrams of the physical situation to gain this understanding.Once made, it seemed simple and she was able to solve these problems quite readily.After a few sessions, the young woman was on her own doing well. Further, the technique of making the effort to understand the physical situation can be generalized to other subjects

2. Value Goals.

Consider these two objectives in view of the tutor’s approach to teaching.

(i) The goal of one-on-one teaching is to identify the obstacles and provide the tools to allow the student to work at his full potential independently as efficiently as possible.

(ii) Tutoring should be viewed by the student, parent and tutor as a focused short term activity.

3. Skill Levels.

Individuals have different skills. Here is one way to classify them by value.

(i) Minimum Requirements

Objective credentials in the field (formal education, test scores, training for special learning situations, experience

(ii) Value Requirements

Demonstrated perceptive abilities to precisely identify the obstacles to learning. The real value is to diagnose the problem.

The ability to teach specific methods to overcome these obstacles

(iii) High Value Requirements

The problem solving techniques are presented so that the student can gain confidence and expand their use to other subjects

4. Interview by listening for the tutors attitude.

During the interview with the prospective tutor, first confirm that the objective credentials are present. Then look for value:

Does the individual’s instruction method lead to the value goals listed above?

How has the tutor demonstrated the ability to diagnose obstacles?

It is more effective to listen to their conversation to find out if these types of value activities emerge in their own words. An effective way is to just to listen to the way they discuss their work. However, if these questions are asked directly, there will always be a positive answer.

5. Check the references against the high skills criteria.

References are only provided if they are generally positive.

Look beyond the overall results. Specifically ask about the references about the experience with the tutor in diagnosing specific issues. Ask about the length of the teaching and how the stopping point was determined.


In summary, tutoring selection decisions are often made quickly and without a criteria for evaluation of the tutor. Then the instruction activity begins, expenses mount, and performance is what it is. However, with just a little more attention at the beginning, the chances of have a good tutoring experience can be increased.


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