Jul 19, 2017
Five important questions to answer before implementing a learning plan for your students.
There are lots of things to consider when creating a learning plan for your students. Most importantly, you’ll want to ensure that the curriculum you choose is relevant and meets your student’s academic goals. What is the best way to go about this? Whether you’re creating your own or utilizing an established curriculum that’s already been tested and proven, you’ll want to make sure you plan this thoughtfully and thoroughly in order to ensure your engagement will be successful. Here are five questions for tutors to ask themselves when building the perfect plan:
Likely the most important characteristic of an effective curriculum is that it meets the needs of the student. Before setting any learning plans, sit down with the student (and, if necessary, their parents) to better understand what they are trying to achieve through working with you. Define a mission, assess the student’s strengths and weaknesses, and create a plan for your engagement that includes multiple goals at set intervals along the way. Deploying a curriculum without proper assessment is an easy way to miss your targets and have your clients feel that your sessions weren’t effective. Making sure you’re aligned with the goals of your student will guarantee that they can see a clear path to the desired outcome and will be satisfied that you provided a valuable service.
Regardless of how effective your chosen curriculum looks on paper, it won’t be successful if it’s not personalized to both your student’s learning style and your teaching style. Any curriculum you decide upon should align with both of these in order to achieve your goals. Before you engage with a student, take time to assess which of the three primary learning style categories, auditory, visual, or tactile, your student falls under. Educationplanner.org has a quick, 20-question assessment you can administer to get a good idea of this. If you’re not entirely clear on where your own teaching style lands, check out this informative article from Concordia University for an overview. Once you have a good idea of these, you’ll want to make sure that your curriculum is conducive to both.
When planning your curriculum, manageability is key. Even if a lesson schedule looks simple to you, it will be irrelevant if your student has multiple extracurricular activities each day and 10 vacations planned over the course of your engagement. Before you decide on the overall program plan, talk to your student or their parents about scheduling and workload expectations to ensure that your curriculum is realistic. You’ll want to take into account the length of time you set to achieve goals, assigned work between sessions, and even transportation. Also, don’t forget that your student isn’t the only one who needs a curriculum to be manageable — it’s important that it’s doable for you as well.
If the material doesn’t get your student excited, it will be more difficult for you achieve your goals. Interested students are more eager to learn, so ensuring your curriculum is thought-provoking and engaging is key. To keep interest levels high, try incorporating creative activities into your program. For example, if your curriculum is math-focused, try a baking project to incorporate measurement. Or, if you and your student are working on Spanish, spend a session or two watching and analyzing a foreign Spanish film. You should also include interactive exercises and try switching up the structure of sessions once in awhile to keep sessions flavorful. If every single session revolves around strictly solving math problems or solely going through SAT practice problems, it will get tedious quickly for both you and your student. Not only will your student benefit from a shakeup in session structure, but you will find it to be a more enjoyable experience.
Once you have an idea of what your answers are to the above, then you can decide whether you should create your own or procure a pre-existing curriculum. Here are the pros and cons for each.
Creating your own curriculum
Pros: Creating your own original curriculum means having the flexibility to tailor it to your goals and more freedom to implement changes to the program as your sessions evolve.
Cons: There is a significant time commitment up front when creating the program and any original program has, of course, not yet been tested and proven successful with other students.
Cost: Although you’ll save on paying for the curriculum itself, costs are still present and should be evaluated. These costs will depend on the subject and the goals of your engagement with the student. For example, if you’re working with a student on standardized testing, assess the costs of any practice tests and books.
Purchasing a pre-existing curriculum
Pros: If you’re thinking about buying a pre-existing curriculum, you can cut down on a great deal of planning time up-front and, when purchasing through a reputable supplier, you can be fairly confident that the material will be dependable.
Cons: These programs do require a higher up-front budget and, since the program has likely been created with dependencies, there won’t be as much room for flexibility in material. Because it’s already created for you, these curricula will also save you a lot of time in the long run.
Cost: If you decide to use a pre-existing curriculum, costs can vary greatly depending on multiple factors, such as program substance and required hard materials. You’ll want to make sure you plan for these expenses ahead of time and put money aside in advance.
Free pre-existing curriculum
Pros: Free pre-existing curricula are also an option. These programs are certainly financially advantageous as they won’t eat into your budget. They will also help you cut down on the time required up front to create and prepare the curriculum.
Cons: On the other hand, free curricula are often not as robust or, in some cases, as reputable as the paid programs. If you decide to go with a free program, it’s essential to do your research and ensure the one you choose is from a reputable source.
Resources for purchasing a pre-existing curriculum
If you decide on a pre-existing program, make sure you do your research on the subject matter and layout. Check out this list of free programs available to tutors. Alternatively, you can choose to pay for your program. Some great resources for pre-existing curricula include teacherspayteachers.org, minds-in-bloom.com, and shopsunnydays.com, among others.
The way in which you plan and create your curriculum can determine whether your tutoring business will be successful. It’s imperative to assess goals and take into account the needs of both you and your student before deciding on a learning plan. With careful consideration and thoughtful planning, you can ensure a tutoring relationship will remain on the right track throughout your engagement.
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