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Written by Tom Scharenborg, B.S.
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Tutoring with students one-on-one is very rewarding. Teachers are tasked with the challenge of reaching students as a group, which presents a wide-range of issues, to make concise points in the science classroom or lab. I recall working with a student to help prepare for an upcoming quiz in chemistry. During the session, we were working with unit conversions, and I quickly realized the student wasn’t aware of the specific differences and similarities between milliliters, milligrams, and cubic centimeters. I knew this would be a critical moment in our session. This topic is critical in the science lab at all levels of learning and research. Additionally, it is regularly presented on ACT college admission tests.
Flashing back in my mind to previous experiences in the classroom as a teacher, as-well-as a student, I knew this session might go very good—or not— depending on how I presented this concept. The psychology of learning new material is not the same for every person; re-learning can be a tough road as well. Mostly I decided to go through previous homework questions, from the beginning, until I could make a “mistake” in my work on the dry-erase board intentionally. By waiting longer than usual, explaining to the student I was not sure about the work on the board, they recognized that I had made a mistake with one of the units on the cancellation bracket.
I knew from experience that this realization would help the student make a point to focus more carefully on the units associated with numbers. My student began to express feelings of confidence! Furthermore, they realized they had made this same “mistake” on many of their homework assignments previously turned in. Additionally, there was a policy with this student’s teacher, such that if students realized their mistakes on homework, they were given the opportunity to correct them on a separate sheet of paper and re-submit them for half-credit given back towards the final grade. Now I could see the feelings of confidence turn to excitement and motivation. My student realized they could increase their grade substantially by correcting nine previously turned in homework assignments.
My student found the joy of learning. I am always having fun when I work with students. To help a student learn to have fun with learning is beyond value.