This is a question a lot of people will ask themselves when they consider getting a tutor. Often people who are considering getting a tutor for the first time can feel overwhelmed. When it gets right down to it, this can be a difficult question to answer for a variety of reasons, namely, the academic and comfort levels of the student, the qualifications of the tutor and budget.
Figuring out your academic level, or that of your child, can be a difficult task. Often, both students and parents are not able to accurately gauge the level, which can be a key factor in selecting a peer or professional tutor. For students who have many gaps in their academic knowledge, a professional tutor can be the best choice. Professional tutors can see what the student doesn’t know and help them with that so that they can catch up with what they are currently studying. A simplified example is of a student who cannot divide functions. A peer tutor might not be able to figure out that the student isn’t familiar with long division, while to professional tutors, this could be clear from the beginning and they can start teaching the student what they do not understand right away. However, if, a student only has minor academic gaps, such as they missed a couple of classes, then a peer tutor might be the best solution. For students who have larger gaps in their knowledge or are struggling more, a professional tutor would be the better option.
A student’s comfort level is also a large factor. Often, students who are not comfortable with a subject feel they will be teased if they show how much they do not understand. So, for students who are slightly embarrassed (and there is nothing to be embarrassed about, everyone struggles at some point in their life) a peer tutor might not be a good fit. Some student would not be open with the tutor (especially if the tutor goes to their school, which is the most common occurrence) and will not be relaxed enough to ask the necessary questions. A professional tutor is not the student’s peer and doesn’t go to the student’s school, so this potential problem is avoided.
This next point is quite closely related to the other ones, but it merits a mention. A tutor’s qualifications are an important aspect in selecting a professional or peer tutor. A peer tutor is likely the same age, or about there, as the student. Therefore, peer tutors might not be able to explain the concept well enough, since they are likely just learning it, or have learned it recently. A professional tutor, on the other hand, is more experienced and has spent more time with the subject matter, so they have a better grasp on it. So, they can explain it to varying degrees and in various ways, depending on what the student needs. Now, the reason we mentioned that this point is closely linked to the others is because if a student has large gaps in their knowledge, a peer tutor might not have the necessary qualifications to explain the concepts as clearly than someone who is more experienced in that topic.
DID YOU KNOW?
Our tutors are at least in their last years of a post-secondary degree. Their qualifications range from post-secondary degree in progress to completed PhD.
Now, the deciding factor most often comes down to budget. Peer tutoring is often free and can be available through the student’s school, while professional tutoring comes with a price tag (depending on a few aspects, some of which we’ve covered here). Again, this will depend on the level of the student. If the student and their family feel that the gaps in knowledge are minor, a peer tutor can be a great help, but if the student’s gaps are more substantial, a peer tutor might not be up to the task, and a professional tutor is needed.
Ultimately, the difficult decision lies with the student and the student’s family. It will be up to them to decide which of the two aspects we’ve covered is the right one for them. Another possibility to consider is that students can try both options and see which one works more for them, or which one works better for which subject. Keeping in mind the student’s academic and comfort level, the tutor’s qualifications and budget are important starting points. Often there are more parts that need to be considered before making a final decision. Whichever option is selected, the most important thing to be mindful of is that the student is getting the help they need.