• 21 July 2018
5 Ways to Help a Struggling Student

5 Ways to Help a Struggling Student

Apr 19, 2018

Identifying the issue and setting the right course of action (with some trial and error) can assist tutors navigate issues when dealing with struggling students.

While many students might present a straightforward strategy for tutors, part of the job of being an educator is knowing how to meet individual student’s needs.

Not every student is made the same. Some might require additional support in the form of a different approach or reframing the lesson. For others, immediate issues, like when a lesson just isn’t sinking in, could point to broader concerns.

Above all, a tutor needs to know how to listen and observe. Here are 5 tips for tutors to put those necessary skills to good use in coming to the aid of a struggling student:

1. It’s me, not you.

Tutors also need to be self-aware. When a student struggles with the material, investigate where the problem arises. The roadblock might be as simple as a concept that makes sense to you, but flies over your student’s head. That’s not their fault: learning takes different forms and approaches, and a good educator knows how – and when – to adapt a lesson to accommodate their student’s needs.

Rephrase concepts that might make sense to you, but could be too sophisticated for your student.

And don’t forget to remind your student that it’s OK to struggle. Struggling with new material, even failure, can lead to constructive learning through challenging us to think beyond our previous knowledge.

2. Changing tactics

Sometimes what’s needed is a fresh perspective. That might come in the form of a different learning technique: for instance, is your student a visual or auditory learner? The solution could be as easy as incorporating more engaging material, like using drawings or computer games to illustrate math equations.

That fresh perspective could be a physical need, too, in crafting an effective learning environment. Perhaps solutions lie in changing up where your lessons take place, or the time of day lessons occur, or how you conduct lessons. Involve the student in exploring their potential needs, and definitely include their parents and teachers, if possible.

3. Explore the whole issue

Students, particularly younger ones, may struggle with expressing what exactly is going wrong. The school environment can be tough for many budding learners, and many students find it difficult to cope with academic and social pressures.

All students can benefit from a deeper engagement with their social and emotional needs. Tutors aren’t therapists, but as a trusted adult figure, tutors are in a prime place to nurture students’ social and emotional learning outside of the classroom.

Studies have shown that social skills go a long way. The more students can process their difficulties and talk them through with tutors, the better they’ll function back in the school environment and beyond.

4. It never hurts to include teachers (and parents)

Including your student’s teachers is a great addition to understanding more about your student’s learning strengths and difficulties. Does your student experience the same issues in the classroom? Do others as well?

And not to forget, the parent–tutor relationship is an important bond and plays a crucial role in students’ long-term success.

5. Build stress-busting techniques

You can help your student deal effectively with stress. (That includes healthy habits like diet and exercise, too.)

Building techniques like meditation and self-reflection into your lessons is easy, and the benefits go well beyond the short-term academic gains.


No one approach or lesson plan is going to fit every student. It’s a matter of homing in on what each individual student needs, and a bit of trial and error.