Private Lessons or Group Learning: How to Choose?

 In Aspire Math Academy
Fall 2019 Registration Opens on July 15, 2019.

When enrolling their child in tutoring, one of the most difficult dilemmas a parent can face is whether to opt for group learning or individual lessons (or both). Apart from cost and convenience, each learning environment has its own distinct advantages, and it may seem daunting to try and predict which setting would be most effective for a prospective student. Ultimately, there is no perfect way to learn; every student has their own unique personality and pedagogical needs, and this guide can help indecisive parents weigh the benefits of each tutoring style. 

Individual Learning 

In private lessons, teachers can pinpoint a student’s specific problem areas and work on them directly without any interruptions. While teachers and tutors will devote some class time in group lessons to working with students individually, a private lesson will ensure that young learners enjoy the undivided attention of a tutor for the entire session. For this reason, it’s much more difficult to become distracted in an individual setting, as both teacher and student can take full advantage of the quiet learning space that is dedicated to them alone.  

One-on-one tutoring also has the added benefit of allowing teachers to track the progress and learning needs of a student with optimal accuracy. From week to week, tutors can precisely tailor lessons to a student’s problem areas, their school’s unique curriculum, or look ahead to future challenges (or  a combination of all three). In this setting, tutors can also pick up on a students’ bad habits that might otherwise have remained unnoticed—such as posture, finger counting, or nail biting—and find ways to correct any hindrances to their learning without fear of embarrassing them in front of other students. Even when it comes to breaks and games, the tutor can customize activities to the student’s needs—this way, there’s no risk of disappointment by playing a math game that a student doesn’t like! 

Finally, for students that are introverted or lack self-assurance in their academic skills, private lessons can build or restore a newfound sense of confidence in students as they strengthen their abilities and watch themselves steadily master concepts that once seemed unattainable. As anyone who has ever been a student knows, nothing feels more empowering and satisfying than when a concept is finally explained to you in a way that “clicks” with your own unique learning style—and with numerous approaches and strategies at their disposal, one-on-one tutors excel at finding and teaching the missing links that are often a source of discouragement. Whereas group lessons may initially be intimidating for some young learners, private lessons foster a focused and judgement-free space which both improves a student’s cognitive skills and instills in them the confidence to excel in their studies both at home and in the classroom. 

Group Learning 

Although group lessons may not always offer the same level of focus and dedication that characterizes a private lesson, working alongside a group of peers offers many other benefits that can complement a student’s academic skills. Particularly for students who thrive in social environments, group learning can offer a huge boost to a student’s self-esteem. When students realize they struggle with math or other subjects, it’s common for them to feel overwhelmed, stressed or even ashamed of having to seek extra help with their studies. But once they join a diverse group of students all working towards improving their academic skills, students often feel much less individual pressure to succeed and can focus on difficult concepts without fear of ostracization. 

In such an environment, young learners may also work collaboratively; for example, an older student might be eager to volunteer their own strategies to help a younger student stuck on a math problem, and certain concepts from a fourth grade student’s homework might be a perfect review opportunity for a fellow fifth grade student. Ultimately, group learning helps normalize the experience of seeking extra help in a tough subject and gives students a newfound sense of confidence to learn and excel on their own terms.  

Another benefit to group learning is the relaxed, social atmosphere they provide—as well as the opportunity to meet and engage with other peers. Not only can students tackle tough equations together on the board or review concepts for an upcoming quiz, but students can also play educational games together to help refine and strengthen academic skills within a fun and colourful setting. Aside from their numerous intellectual benefits, board games and card games are effective at transforming seemingly daunting concepts into fun group activities—many of which build mental math skills without students even realizing it! In addition, games are effective at supplementing a student’s academic learning by allowing them to master valuable social skills such as communication, cooperation, friendly competition, and self-expression. Once again, group learning can help demystify and deformalize the learning process, enabling students to collaborate with their peers on subjects they may never have realized could be fun. 

Finally, group learning can help students build a community around their extracurricular studies. Not unlike a club or a sports team, young learners enrolled in tutoring can build camaraderie and friendships that they can build upon each week. For students with learning disabilities or chronic illnesses, such lessons can additionally help these learners achieve a sense of inclusion that may have previously been inaccessible to them. Whether its a short-term study buddy or a lifelong friend, group tutoring forges new connections between students and fosters a sense of belonging and fulfilment which persists beyond the classroom. 

This article was written by one of Aspire learning Academy’s very own instructor, Daniel Marcotte.

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