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Tutoring Vs. Teaching: What’s the Difference?

It’s easy to think of tutoring and teaching as interchangeable terms.  Both professions lean on the same strengths for success: an expansive knowledge base, a passion for education, and strong communication skills.  But this is where the similarities stop.

A tutor is a resource.

Teaching is a primary way to introduce information to a student.  A teacher or professor has the responsibility of curating a curriculum and determining the most impactful way to share new facts.  A tutor is an additional resource for the student.  But unlike the teacher, the tutor can gain an understanding about what the student already knows and focus on the areas that need the most urgent attention.

Tutoring is individualized.

Teachers often disseminate lessons to classrooms of roughly 30 students.  Professors sometimes lecture to hundreds.  In these instances, it’s impossible to tailor the teaching style to each individual student.  Thus, some students retain the information well while others struggle.  A tutor takes the time to identify the student’s preferred learning method.  Then, he or she adapts that method to the subject matter. Ultimately, a tutor ensures that a student’s learning style is not a roadblock to comprehension.  Tutoring is less about what a student learns and more focused on how a student learns.

Tutors define success differently.

Teachers determine a student’s success through performance on homework assignments, tests, and quizzes.  A tutor does not assign grades and he or she must define success through more abstract terms (i.e. how quickly students connect the dots or how accurately they recall facts).  A tutor’s success measures are less rigid than that of a teacher’s, which can help the student learn in a pressure-free environment.

Tutoring and teaching are both important in helping students reach their academic potential.  But they are not one in the same—they complement each other and work together to produce great results.

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