How to Manage Tutoring Expectations

With the exam preparation period in full swing at the moment, it can be an extra busy time for tutors. It’s not uncommon for both student and parent expectations to be higher than usual as the exam dates get closer, so how should tutors manage these tutoring expectations? What if your student isn’t putting in enough effort or the expectations are simply unrealistic? I found the answers to these questions when I joined the team from The Tutors’ Association on one of their fantastic monthly webinars. Read on to discover lots of actionable advice about how to manage tutoring expectations:


How do I deal with unrealistic expectations from my student’s parent?
Unrealistic tutoring expectations

It’s 4 weeks before little Johnny’s English exam and his parents come to you for some tutoring sessions. They believe their son is good enough for the top local school, but they’ve left it too late before his exam to start having tutoring sessions with you. What should you say? A good initial response could be: 

“There are no guarantees, but I want to meet Johnny’s needs”.

Ideally, you want to avoid a long discussion with the parent in front of the child, instead calling the parent after the session to discuss any concerns that you or they might have. It’s important to talk with the students and parents separately in this situation. 

As tutors, it’s our role to make the goal realistic for our students. If it’s clear that a child isn’t going to get the grades to enter the desired school, move the goalposts; aim high, but identify several 2nd and 3rd choice schools as a backup. Identify their current level at the beginning of your first session and aim to make significant improvement within the next 5 sessions. Then review their progress and identify where they are now and where they can progress to next.


What can I do if my student isn’t putting the effort in?

Get them to love learning again by identifying their learning style. This is a top priority if you want to provide maximum help with their learning. If they love watching YouTube, use YouTube videos for homework. If they need motivating, show them one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s motivational videos:

We’re motivators as well as tutors and we need to emphasise to our students that if they want to succeed, they have to work hard.

Study skills idea

Students often don’t have the study skills they need to become a better student, so we need to give them these skills. For example, one offline way to help students continue learning after an online lesson is to encourage them to use sticky notes to revise new content. Get them to stick these flashcard style Post-its around the house and replace them with new ones once they’ve learnt what’s written on them.

Should I offer support to parents for timetabling their child’s study plan?

Yes, but get the child to plan their own schedule. This is preferable to having the parent telling the child what to do and when. It’s good to spend some time on this because creating organisational structures, and learning to stick to them, are among the key soft skills that can progress students from C and B grades to A grades.

Should I offer crash course learning?

If you decide to offer this type of learning, make it clear with a verbal agreement that you will only do so if they agree to work on a medium-term goal after any short-term cramming. 5 hours of tutoring is not enough to do anything significantly educational so try to encourage a more appropriate learning schedule for the future.

How do I communicate progress at the end of the lesson?
Review student progress

To avoid overrunning, leave time before the end of the lesson to discuss progress. Tell the student or student’s parent what they’ve done, what they need to do to consolidate and what you’re going to do with them next time. This only needs to be a couple of minutes but is invaluable. As tutors, we need to plan the lesson, provide homework if needed, and measure progress. Letting students or parents know there is a plan, and how it’s progressing, is reassuring and lets them know they are working with a professional.

​​​​Another option is to make it clear that you have to leave or finish the call immediately when the session finishes but agree that you will update them later at a specific time via an email or call. This could be after the 3rd, 4th or 5th tutorial. Whichever way you choose, it’s important to set this expectation from day one so that the student or parent knows what to expect in terms of what you will and won’t do. 

How can I attend The Tutors’ Association webinars?

I’m a member of The Tutors' Association so I get access to these monthly webinars for free (plus a ton of other great benefits). For more info on upcoming webinars from the team at The Tutors’ Association, head over to their events page or click here to join.

Matt Thompson

Matt is an online English tutor and founder of Smart Online Tutoring. He's a big fan of technology and when he's not teaching or helping others with their online tutoring businesses, you'll find him on the badminton court.

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