Small Group Tutoring or Private One-to-One, Which is Right for You?

Empty Lecture HallIf you are considering tutoring, or thinking about tutoring as an option for you or your child, this question is one of the most common.

The most institutionalized and common answer is that you should get a personal one-to-one tutor if you can afford it, but the answer may be more challenging when it comes down to the actual application, quality and diversity of content.

Of course, the traditional education system teaches us in group settings. Throw 30 students and a teacher in the classroom, and you have the most economically scalable and effective way to meet educational needs. But, then, why do so many students fall through the cracks of the system? Why do we have an average of 7,000 dropout high school students a day? Many argue it’s because we teach “to the test,”or that there’s an intersectional bias between race, class, and the level of education you are eligible to receive.

Some would say that, sadly, the results are diminishing: the need for tutors is rising, the racial disparity spanning over an ever increasing educational gap is getting harder and harder to breach, and the system is failing those whom it was meant to benefit most. For this reason, the argument goes, establishing a backup system that picks up the slack for the system itself is the cornerstone to a well-educated society, and making an A on that next math test. But how do you know if group tutoring is the right option for you, and how do you know if individual tutoring is worth the extra money? The answer is in the “Why?”.

If applicable, WHY is the traditional classroom setting not working for you?  If you’re looking for a tutor to help you with something you are not taking a class in, this question may not apply to you. (For instance: if you are a middle aged individual looking for guitar lessons, or you need training on how to file your taxes.) However, if you are a student in search of a tutor for a class you are currently enrolled in (or will be enrolled in), it’s a good idea to figure out why your particular classroom setting is not working.

If it’s because there are too many students and you can’t get your questions answered or your instructor is too overwhelmed to offer individual attention, group lessons might give you the opportunity to learn the material and ask the questions you need without an exorbitant price tag. In that situation, perhaps personal instruction is overkill.

On the other hand, if you are falling significantly behind in course material,  have a learning style that is not common, have physical or mental considerations that affect your learning, need to learn hands-on subjects, or are searching for a tutor for a specific skill that you have absolutely no base knowledge of, individual tutoring may be more appropriate, and may even be required.

Have you tried either option before? Do you have any recommendations? If you have tried either option before and know that said option works for you, stick with it. As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If you know anyone who has gotten a tutor in the subject area you are searching for, ask them for their preference. Word of mouth can be the most reliable tool, especially if that person can recommend a tutor in your needed niche or if they have a similar learning style. Because of the professional as well as the human side of one-to-one learning, finding an individual mentor or tutor who is the right fit is a numbers game, so internet marketplaces (like LRNGO and others) can improve your chances.

I can’t stress this enough, consider how you learn. I know I’ve already mentioned this twice, but figuring out how you learn and what is and isn’t working is the key. Make sure you communicate your style of learning to your tutor so he/she can tailor their lessons and teaching style. In addition, if there’s a textbook or a curriculum on the subject that fits your goals, outlining these pages and adding online quizzes to test your knowledge and development at certain stages can also be helpful.

Ultimately, deciding if a tutor or a small group class is right for you can be a difficult decision. The traditional education model does not always work for everyone, and having a tutor is in no way a sign of weakness, but instead can be the quickest way to build confidence. The next step is deciding if group tutoring or one to one mentorship is necessary. Ask around, think about what’s working for you and what isn’t, and decide which method will better pander to your way of learning.

At the end of the day, learning how you learn best is often the key to making that A.



Emma Wu is an undergraduate student at Bryn Mawr College pursuing her side passion of oppression theory and educational reformation. She worked as a volunteer art teacher for two years at an underprivileged elementary school in Philadelphia, and serves as a co-teacher for Advancement of Mexican Americans programs across the city of Houston. 

Is Knowledge All Powerful?

knowledge is power

It has often been said that knowledge is power, and for good reason.

Knowledge can enable us to improve, protect, help, or hurt, and which of these we choose can decide the meaning in our lives.

The question is, though, is knowing actionable or is it just the first step to more knowing, and do those steps lead to effective results? In short, is there a disconnect between learning and doing?

I’ll give you a real life example. One of my very good friends with a Ph.D. and two Masters degrees decided he wanted to learn to code at the same time as my co-founder a year and a half ago. This is a brilliant guy. He came in to my office with a whole stack of books explaining how it works, and today, he knows all about it. He has a very good understanding and he can answer questions for you.

However, he hasn’t built anything. He’s tried and it hasn’t gone so well. He “knows” all about it, he’s studied it, but he can’t “do” it. (My theory is the fact that he was taught “not to get the answer wrong” is the impediment.) Meanwhile, my co-founder screws up stuff left and right then fixes it and makes it work, and I’ll be damned if she isn’t starting to get good at this. Do you see my point?

Our learning structures weren’t traditionally built to learn from getting the answer wrong, but instead to get the answer right at any cost. (More on this from Sir Ken Robinson.) Unfortunately, the accelerated environment that we now find ourselves in doesn’t lend itself well to the fear of wrong answers.

As those in the world of startup ventures know, you have to gravitate toward trying stuff out and failing, and then learn quickly in order to iterate. Being scared to get the answer wrong adds too much time to this equation. I’ve struggled with this issue myself, but even Steve Jobs, as picky as he was about getting every product right, stressed not being afraid to ship and take risks or make mistakes, because that’s the only way you really learn.  Much like natural selection, in order to evolve, ideas need to become mistakes just like animals need to die.

The point is that going forward, there may need to be more emphasis on getting people to learn coping and adapting skills to help close the knowing/doing gap.

My conclusion? Perhaps the real answer is this:

All knowledge is potentially all powerful, but it depends on what you do with it.

Go forth learners, and don’t be afraid to change the world.


See Me Speak - SXSWi

LRNGO Launched on 11/11/12

Hi everyone, as most of you know, we dropped everything recently to start this company and implement an idea that we thought might change the world.  The idea is to create a free website that is the first social marketplace of learning – a place where everyone can find each other locally or globally to connect, teach and learn.  As of 3PM today on 11/11 2012, we are now live here at  It is brand spanking new, so there is no one on it yet, but it is free to use and list.  If enough people use it the first year, we will keep it going.

Use this website how you wish.  If you want to advertise your hourly services to make money teaching what you know, you’re free to do so.  If you want to search for someone near you (or online) to teach you something of interest and contact them, go ahead–there are no restrictions.  If you want to match up and find someone to teach you in return for learning something from you, you can start a conversation.  Check back often as we will be adding a lot of new features.

I believe in the importance of group learning and schools, but true change in education will never come just from within the walls of the classroom. It’s going to come from us – all of us. There’s something we can all learn from each other, and throughout our lives we are all both students and teachers.  Please take a look and spread the word.  Love to all of you.

All the best,
David Brake