Tutor vs academic coach: which does your child need?

If you want to help your child reach their academic potential you might be wondering which support is better for them: tutor vs academic coach?

Everyone knows what a private tutor is. And for many parents, a tutor is the go-to option when things aren't going as they should at school. But, is a tutor really the right option to help your child?

In this post, I'm going to lay out the differences between a private tutor and an academic coach to help you make the right choice for your child.

What's the difference between a tutor and an academic coach?

This is how I define what an academic coach does:

An academic coach helps students to develop to their full potential. They are responsible for preparing students for exam success by instructing them in study skills, developing a positive mindset, providing encouragement, unlocking their motivation, analyzing their performances in assignments, coursework, tests and exams and helping them to develop a deep understanding of how they learn best. An academic coach also supports a student with life challenges that affect their academic performance.

You can read more about what an academic coach is in my blog post on the topic.

Conversely, this is my definition of a private tutor:

A subject specialist who has teaching or tutoring qualifications and experience who supports your child 1:1 in developing the knowledge, understanding and skills to pass an exam in a specific academic subject.

Some tutors may provide assistance with things like revision planning, but the majority of their time, and expertise, will be focused on helping their tutee with their subject specialism.​​

Which does your child need: tutor or academic coach?

Why a private tutor could be right for your child

Are there one or two particular subjects that your child is struggling with, or perhaps just a topic area within a subject? If that’s the case and they’re fulfilling their potential in all other subjects, then a private tutor could be the right solution for you.

However, when students have a problem with one or two subjects I often find that it’s a mindset issue. Maybe they don’t like their teacher for that subject, or they’ve decided, for whatever reason, that they’re rubbish at it. What they really need is to understand that they just need to change their attitude and amazing things can happen. I have seen this happening with my clients:

  • One year 11 was failing geography at the end of year 10, but just decided to get his act together and came out with a grade 7
  • A year 10 student who struggled with maths. After working with her on her mindset she decided to switch her attitude, work seriously on her maths and suddenly she produced the ‘stand out paper’ in her post-Christmas exams. She was already working with a private tutor, but she saw the most dramatic improvement once she addressed her mindset and decided to put the independent work into the subject herself

So, the important question to ask is:

Is your child struggling in a specific subject because of real difficulty understanding that subject, or have they developed a mental block or bad attitude about the subject?

If subject matter is the problem, then a tutor is your answer. And, maybe if they have a mental block about a subject a few sessions with a tutor can get them over it. But, the most positive long-term change is going to come from working with an academic coach on their mindset.

Why an academic coach might be better than a tutor for your child

There are many reasons why an academic coach might be better for your child than a tutor. Here are some of them:

  • If your child is underachieving across the board and needs help with every subject an academic coach is a better choice for you. Your academic coach will be able to teach your child to study effectively, from working with them on their motivation and mindset, to how they manage their time and which revision techniques will work for them. This will help them with eversubject, and turn them into more confident and independent learners for the long-term.
  • If your child seems clueless about how to study or where to start to help themselves then an academic coach will teach them how to manage their time, choose which revision techniques to use, manage the overwhelm and become an independent and resourceful learner. This are personal skills that will serve them in the long-term, not just an expert propping them up to get them through the exam
  • If you think the problem is more to do with attitude and motivation or mental health than anything else – this is where academic coaching seriously differs from most people in the tutoring sector. Many students come to me in states of real anxiety and overwhelm feeling desperate and demoralised about the exams ahead. Simply by teaching them how to study and giving them strategies to cope with their fears, anxiety and stress, they become empowered and in control of their own learning.
  • If you’re struggling under the strain of supporting them through the exams. Some parents simply feel that the stress of supporting their child is too much along with all their other commitments and responsbilities. They also know that a neutral voice, and having someone in their child's corner, will be really helpful for the whole family in the months ahead.
  • You need an outside voice to help you with things like managing devices, how to study, how much to study etc, that comes from a place of logic, to which your child can respond, rather than the emotion often connected with this subject inside families.
  • You haven’t got the time to drive your child to tutoring sessionsacademic coaching with us all happens online, on the Zoom video conferencing platform, so can be done from anywhere with a video connection. No driving required!

Does my child need an academic coach and a tutor?​​

Many parents who work with me and my team feel that their child needs an academic coach as well as tutors for one or two problematic subjects.

This is what one parent said:

“We had an English tutor for my son last year, who raised him from 4/6 in mocks to 6/8 in the results. He’s always been good at English but hates it, especially the hoop-jumping required by the new curriculum. He refused to watch educational videos and was turned off by the revision guides. The detailed feedback on assignments tailored to his weaknesses was invaluable. I like academic coaching for the general approach and strategies for managing goals, revision and exams and see tutoring as supplementary for weak subjects.” 

A personal view

Having worked as both a geography tutor and an academic coach it is my personal view that academic coaching has a great deal more to offer, particularly over the long-term, than private tutoring.

I have seen my coaching clients really develop as human beings as they've learned strategies that have turned them into independent, resourceful and resilient learners and I know that this will serve them well beyond the world of education. At the end of the day, getting your head around the finer points of cell division is only ever going to be useful in your biology exam (unless, of course, you go on to be a biological scientist!). But, learning how to stop yourself from procrastinating, how your mind works and how to self-regulate are so much more valuable not only for every subject you're studying but for your whole life.

What have you decided?

Having read this article, have you made up your mind in the balance between tutor vs academic coach?

If you think an academic coach would suit their needs better, click here to explore the options of how my team and I can help.

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