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When Should You Consider One-On-One Education?

Authored By: 
Maren Holmen, Director of The Tutoring School

The concept of personalized learning is a major movement in education right now—largely discussing treating students as individual learners, not as one big herd to move along the same path at the same rate at the same time.  This idea is not new, but with the aid of new technology, it is becoming much easier to enact on a large scale.

With this movement comes a new wave of schools and learning centers that focus on one-on-one education.  This is the ultimate in personalized education—right?  Sometimes, but not always.  When are one-to-one classes the right option for your student?

  • When it’s difficult to follow a regular schedule.  There are students who are pre-professional artists or athletes, or who regularly travel with their parents on extended trips.  For these students, the flexibility of scheduling a one-to-one class means that they can make continued forward progress with their education.
  • When a student is coming back after a long leave of absence.  For students who are sidelined by a long bout of mononucleosis or a serious accident, the only options used to be to work with a tutor at home for the remainder of the year or wait and repeat the interrupted school year.  One-to-one education can pick up that interrupted math or science class where the student left off and complete the course work before the start of the next school year, hopefully getting rid of the need to repeat the year.
  • When the pace of a standard classroom is consistently too slow or too fast.  Students whose grades in a particular course are dramatically lower than their peers often fall into two categories: those who need additional time to process new information and those who are bored because they already understand the material.  When the pace of the class means that your child is not succeeding, it’s time to explore a course where the pace fits that of your child.

There are situations, however, where people think that one-on-one classes are the only solution and a student would actually benefit far more from peer interactions in a group setting.  When should you try to stay in a classroom?

  • When the topics in subsequent units of a course aren’t dependent on previous material.  It’s difficult to know how to factor a polynomial if you haven’t yet learned what a polynomial is, but a student can read “To Kill a Mockingbird” without having read “Inherit the Wind.”  The variety of views in a classroom discussion of history and works of literature provide a facet of education that is very difficult to replicate in a private class setting.
  • When a student can only come for part of a day.  In many schools, classes follow a regular schedule so that students who can only attend for part of a day could take advantage of group classes that are scheduled in those periods.  Speak with the schools in your area to see what you can work out with them.

The real takeaway here is to not assume (even if you’ve been told by one school or one education professional) that either option is the only solution for your particular situation.  Speak with a variety of education professionals (teachers, administrators, and educational consultants) before settling on a program of study to figure out how you can best meet the needs of your child.