At some point in our medical career, many of us are afforded the opportunity to teach and tutor other students.
But what can you do to make yourself a more effective tutor? The following list provides tips to fellow tutors to best help their students achieve success.
One of the keys to being a great tutor is having the ability to help a student break through a concept they struggled to understand. However, this is often easier said than done; you may work through a concept with one student and help them master it, but using the same method with a second student may prove inefficient. Therefore, as a tutor, you must develop multiple different strategies for teaching so that if a student cannot understand a concept using one method, you can try something else. For example, some students will learn very effectively by working through practice questions together. Other students, however, may get flustered doing this or not have a strong enough base to apply material to questions. These students may benefit from having a tutor write or draw out concepts on a screen or work through powerpoint slides. Other students may learn best by teaching back material to the tutor. Whatever the case, to be an effective tutor, you must be a flexible teacher.
Learn to read your students.
Another tip for being an effective tutor is to make sure that your students understand. I often ask “Does that make sense?” or “How do you feel about that material now?” Some students will confidently proclaim yes, but others may say they understand without really meaning it because they feel bad or do not want to disappoint the tutor. As a tutor, it is your job to evaluate how well your students really do understand and make sure they are following the session effectively. In cases where I am unsure, I ask the student to summarize or teach back some of the material. If a student does not understand, it is important to work through the concept again, trying a different method of teaching.
Be a good mentor.
As a tutor, it is important to effectively teach material. But a truly great tutor will not JUST teach material. They will check in on their students mental and emotional well-being, offer career advice when appropriate, and help their students to not only achieve academic success, but live happy and fulfilling lives while doing so. Of course, it is not your job as a tutor to be a psychiatrist, life coach, or mental health counselor for your students. But there are still a number of ways you can support your students mental and emotional health. For example, ask students, “How are you sleeping,” and “what do you do for fun?” You may be surprised at the answers you receive, such as “well, I’m studying so much that I only sleep about 3 hours a night,” or “I don’t have time to do anything but eat, sleep, and study.” I always encourage students to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night, try to exercise a few hours a week, and to do at least one fun thing each week. Many students think that more work simply means more success, but the reality is that effective work equals more success. If a student is extremely anxious, overly stressed, and falling asleep every five minutes, they are not studying effectively and may become burned out. As a tutor, you can pick up on this and suggest changes that may help your students live happier and more successful lives.
In summary, as a tutor it is important to be a good teacher and develop many different strategies for teaching in an effort to help your students best learn material. However, it is also important to ensure that your students understand the material when you have sessions together and also are studying effectively on their own. Lastly, remember that a good tutor is also a good mentor. Check in on your students and help them to live happier and more fulfilling lives even through the stress of medical school.