Tutoring Students

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Yakima, Feb 16, 2015.

  1. Yakima

    Thread Starter Member

    Jan 23, 2012
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    I used to be a tutor back in the 1980s at the local college. I mainly tutored math and chemistry. Math up through calculus, chemistry except organic. Chemistry involved many concepts, but math was math no matter how complicated it got.

    I got so I could see the difference between someone with a real mental deficiency and someone with an attitude problem. Most of my students fell into the latter category. I used to tell them that their grade was proportional to time spent studying, and then those with a really bad attitude would become hostile to that notion, and me. And when I told them math was fun, they'd go ballistic sometimes.

    Be all that as it may be, I developed a philosophy -- or, should I call it a realization -- that my job was not to teach people how to think; but, rather, how to solve problems. Our ability to think has been given by God. I can't make them any better at it, really. But I've had teachers that thought otherwise. These believed they were actually teaching their students how to think by a method of giving them, what they thought was sufficient information to solve a problem, but not a demonstration of how to solve that problem.

    I disagree with this type of teacher. God gave us the ability to think, not the teacher. And so, rather than teasing my students into finding the solution, I just showed them the solution. And, I suppose they were like me: In seeing the solution step by step, they developed the ability to comprehend mathematics. My job as a tutor, then, was to walk them through the solution so they understood it. My job was not teaching them to think. There is a big difference.

    I brought this up here in the forum in the hope of dissuading those "tutors" who think they are helping the student by teasing him. I have seen all too much teasing like this in here and sometimes I wonder if the teaser actually knows how to solve the problem. I hope to encourage those who do know how to solve the problems to show their students step by step so that he or she can actually learn something. I have sometimes thought that a "tutor" actually does know how to solve the problem, but is reluctant to do so outright due to a mistaken notion he is teaching the student how to "think." This is nonsense.

    For those of you "tutors" who actually understand what they are talking about, show the solution and explain it. You can't do any better than that. For those "tutors" who don't really understand, please refrain from posting at all.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2015
  2. jamesd168

    New Member

    Nov 8, 2014
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    I have been a student and teacher myself, I tell you that teaching is hard!

    one will find that teaching smart kids is easy, this is because they know how to think and are efficient at solving problems, they just need a little guidance to point them in the right direction.

    on the other hand, teaching the less gifted students is hard, because you run into issue with attitude/motivation, methodology, and raw processing power. none of them are easy to change. It takes a lot patience, trust and encouragement, as well as good technique to do a good job.
     
  3. MrChips

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    Oct 2, 2009
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    Yakima, you are entitled to your opinion and your style of teaching. However I would disagree with you.
    My job is to motivate students to think for themselves. I will steer students to discover solutions on their own.
    I will avoid giving students the solution. I provide the data and steps so that students may discover the solution by themselves.
    When they encounter that "ahah!" moment I know I have done my job.
     
  4. jpanhalt

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    Jan 18, 2008
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    Is this really homework or off-topic?

    John
     
  5. t_n_k

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    Mar 6, 2009
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    I see the problem with Yakima's approach as the difference between rote learning and true understanding.
    Similarly, as a "teacher" or "tutor" one could give many example solutions and the student is stilled stumped by a problem that differs from those previously encountered.
    There's also a big difference between analysis & synthesis. We presumably want students to reach a point where they can not only solve problems of increasing complexity but also synthesize new approaches to difficult real world (rather than abstract) problems.
    If students have unresolved attitude problems that's to their own detriment and they risk being left behind in the quest for lifeling "success". It's not God's or the teacher's fault if they don't fully exercise whatever mental capacity they are gifted with.
    There is also the risk that the teacher who responds to the student's request to "just give us the answer" will become lazy or disengaged. And such an approach will potentially fail to challenge the brighter students to reach their full potential.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2015
  6. WBahn

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    Mar 31, 2012
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    Different people learn differently -- that's an underlying fact that overshadows any discussion of this. Some students learn just fine by seeing an example worked out for them. But those students are generally NOT the students that come to a forum like this looking for help. The majority -- perhaps even overwhelming majority -- of students that come here have see examples worked out step by step in class and seen examples worked out step by step in their text. Yet they haven't learned how to work the problem, especially when they insist that they don't even know how to start, and there is no reason to believe that seeing yet one more problem worked out step by step is going to remedy that -- all it will do is let them turn in a solution to a problem that someone else solved for them and perhaps leave them believing that they have learned how to work it when, in all likelihood, they haven't and when they see a nearly identical problem on the exam they will be just as lost as to how to start as they were before. Worse, it lets them progress through the program without learning the skills they need to deal with later material, which means they are just digging themselves a deeper and deeper hole.

    That is why the preferred method of rendering assistance is to require that the student present their best attempt at solving their own homework and then we try to identify where they are going astray. We might then ask a leading question to focus their attention on the problem area or we might just outright point out their mistake and explain why it is a mistake and how to avoid it or deal with it correctly. The intent is to help the student get the fine print details down so that they end up with the tools and skills they need to tackle general problems.
     
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  7. Yakima

    Thread Starter Member

    Jan 23, 2012
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    Well, your response shows me I have breached a very sensitive and pertinent subject. Hello, James! I can tell you of an experience in my life that made me opinionated on this subject. I took a course in calculus when I was in college and I was about to fail the first quarter. I quit before my grade was recorded and took it again the next quarter. But I also approached my calculus teacher in order to obtain the student study guide. The guide was composed of two books -- paperbacks -- that demonstrated how to solve the problems in the text. From these I had specific how to examples and was thus able to solve the problems. And by solving the problems with explanations for the reasoning behind the solutions I was able to make sense out of it all and I got a grade A for the course next time around.
     
  8. WBahn

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    Not surprising. But don't make the mistake of assuming that what worked for YOU is what works for EVERYONE.

    Look at the initiative you put forth to utilize that study guide resource. There are LOTS of similar resources out there ranging from Schaum's outlines to online study guides. Students that are willing to walk through worked out problems with the intent of learning from the solution how and why that approach works are doing it right and will learn the material just fine. Students that paste their problem on an online forum and want it worked for them and refuse to make any attempt on their own are a different category of student entirely.
     
  9. Yakima

    Thread Starter Member

    Jan 23, 2012
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    No way are you teaching people how to think. God did that. If you have steered a student to the solution by way of teasing him, so be it, but you would have done better to have shown him the solution right off. I'm pretty sure I'm right on this. My personal experience has taught me that one is more quickly educated by demonstration than by teasing the correct answer out of him after numerous failures. In fact, with experience, I am 62 years old, I am sure this is true. Teasing is teasing and education is education. There is a big difference.
     
  10. WBahn

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    Mar 31, 2012
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    You are entitled to your opinions and beliefs and are certainly entitled to proclaim that your view is the only true and acceptable view.

    Just as we are entitled to believe you are wrong.

    But consider that your beliefs are based solely on your personal experience. Hardly a reasonable basis upon which to form conclusions that you appear to claim have universal applicability.
     
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  11. Yakima

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    Jan 23, 2012
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    No, it's not rote learning versus genuine understanding. And I can see from your response that you are of the mentality, WBahn, that I am at issue with. You seem to have this idea that if you show me how to solve a problem I cannot after that solve another problem using what I learned from you. This is not true. As I pointed out above, I was in process of failing my first calculus course. Then I got the Student Study Guide. One of my calculus teachers was opposed to this, the other relented, thank God. It was from my perusal of that guide that I realized how, not only to do the problems, but to how to perceive the problems. It was the difference between failure and getting an A for the course.
     
  12. Yakima

    Thread Starter Member

    Jan 23, 2012
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    I'm not even sure how you guys get around in this mode. Without threaded mode, I can't even tell who is talking to who. Whoever took away that mode was not very considerate. But I'll say this about this thread: I cannot follow an argument without threaded mode and so I must stop here. But I must ask before I go: Is this smart? Why can't we talk to one another? This forced non-threaded mode is self defeating, is it not? How in the world can we even have a discussion about the issues? I hope I'm wrong, but how in the world can I talk to anyone in this mode?
     
  13. WBahn

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    No, I do not have that idea. In fact if you will take the time to read what I wrote, you will see that I specifically allowed for and acknowledged that YOU are able to learn from seeing examples worked just fine.

    And, as I pointed, you want to generalize and conclude that EVERYONE learns the exact same way that you do. That is a false conclusion.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2015
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  14. WBahn

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    It's not always easy -- and having a threaded mode can cause confusion, too. Proper use of quotes goes a long way toward keeping things straight. For instance, in Post #11 you quote t_n_k but then are clearly responding to me. That confusion is due to YOU, not to the presence or lack of a threaded mode.
     
  15. Yakima

    Thread Starter Member

    Jan 23, 2012
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    But of course everyone learns as I learn. I am a human being.
     
  16. MikeML

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    Oct 2, 2009
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    Yakima, I am naturally suspicious of your motives. Why is it necessary to use the word God every post you make (except the last)?
     
  17. WBahn

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    That's actually rather narcissistic. It also contradicts what you started out your first post with. You asserted that people that struggled with this stuff either have a mental deficiency or they have a bad attitude. You also asserted that they can either think or they can't. But now you are trying to maintain that everyone learns the same way you do based solely on the fact that you (and presumably they) are human. By that reasoning, everyone has the same degree of mental deficiency that you do and everyone has the same attitude that you do. Does everyone have the same tastes in food that you do? Does everyone have the same musical ability that you do? Does everyone have the same athletic ability that you do? If not, then what on earth could possibly lead you to believe that everyone can be so different from you in so many ways but yet everyone must learn the same way that you learn?
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2015
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  18. MrChips

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    Thread moved from Homework Help to Off Topic.
     
  19. t_n_k

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    For me, the classic example of rote learning is the "I must remember all the formulae to pass" mentality or "this is what I was taught in 1960" concept. There are probably several others.
    With respect to the latter, I was informed some time ago that that all RF antennas are designed to match the 300 ohm impedance of free space. So a 300 ohm folded dipole was the best antenna. When I challenged the statement, I was told that they (the person) were taught this truth way back when they were a student and that was a sufficient argument to justify their claim.
     
  20. Brownout

    Well-Known Member

    Jan 10, 2012
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    Personally, I don't take the hard line as many here do when helping. I don't think of my role as a motivator or enforcer. If I have an idea of how to solve a problem, I just state it.
     
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