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Goal Setting Strategies for Tutors

The first session with your student is different in structure than subsequent sessions.  You will have the first session to get to know your student, to do some informal assessment of his or her skills, and to set goals for your time together.


Helping students to articulate their learning goals can be challenging. Often students expect their teachers to just "know" what it is they need to learn. However, there are ways to assess students’ skills and to help them determine what their learning priorities are (understanding what they need to use English, Math, Science, etc.)

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Who is Your Student

The better you know your student, the more effective you will be in planning lessons.  This is why you are encouraged to spend your first session getting to know one another and establishing a good rapport. 

This information will help you to identify specific skills your student still needs to develop.

Role Mapping

To learn more about your student, try mapping or charting your student’s daily activities to see where their skills are already sufficient and where they need more work.  Model the activity by drawing your house or apartment on a sheet of paper, then drawing all the places you go to in a typical day.  Discuss what you do at those places.  You then ask your student to do the same.  Discuss the chart with your student and talk about the ways your student uses reading, writing, math or science (or whatever the topic is you’re tutoring) in each of those situations.  Role mapping can give you a window into your student’s life. Once you understand your student better, you can plan lessons based on these topics (i.e. going to the doctor, riding the bus, etc.). This will help you to limit the content and focus your lessons, ensuring they are relevant to the student's daily life.

Narrowing the Focus: Strategies for Setting Goals with Beginning-level Students

Students with low level skills may be less capable of explaining what they need to learn.  In these situations you’ll be able to rely on the student’s assessment results and interview to develop appropriate lessons.  One strategy for involving your student in setting goals is to have him or her select topics to focus on.  You can use a picture dictionary to identify topics you’re your student, having him or her put sticky notes on those pages that are most important to him/her.  Higher level students can generate a list of topics and then prioritize them. It can sometimes be more effective to "force" students to make a choice between a list of goals (either that they generated or that you suggested) as a way to determine what their priorities are. 

Goal Setting Strategies for Tutors

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