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July 5, 2022

How Online Tutors Can Help Students Build Confidence

Some learners are born with natural self-confidence, and other students have to build confidence throughout their lives. Those struggling with their academic work often have an uphill battle when it comes to developing confidence.

Not only do they struggle to grasp the concepts that their peers are understanding, but they also have to fight against their own doubts about their ability to learn. It's common to see struggling students beat themselves up for not being able to do their homework.

Some of them may come from homes where they don't get the moral support they need to keep trying. Some of them may be in large classrooms where the teacher is too overworked to have time to give students the special attention they need.

Online tutors can fill this vacuum by boosting students' confidence and helping them reach their full academic potential. This is a big responsibility, but it's also a huge privilege to help individuals who need one-on-one attention to forge a healthy sense of self-worth and confidence in their academic abilities.

Acknowledge accomplishments with specific praise

Your feedback motivates your students. Effective feedback is supportive, timely, and specific.

When your student accomplishes something—even if it's as simple as completing one math problem—you should acknowledge that achievement. This is a great way to foster your student's self-esteem and keeps them motivated to keep learning.

Here are examples of specific phrases you can use during your tutoring sessions. You should, obviously, tailor them to your own unique lessons:

  • That's a great idea! Let's try it.
  • Good job! Can you tell me how you came to that answer?
  • That was a tricky problem, and you got the right answer!
  • What you said about nouns and verbs is exactly right.
  • I liked how you really thought about that problem.
  • The best sentence of your paper is . . . because . . .
  • Impressive! Keep going!

The more specifics you can add to your positive feedback, the better. It really lets your students know what they are learning and how well they are doing.

Help students create a plan to achieve their goals

Self-motivated students may already have specific goals in mind when they enter tutoring sessions, but you'll likely encounter some students with vague goals or none at all.

They might say they want to get better grades in school or they decided to get tutoring support because their parents are making them do it.

Creating a concrete plan to achieve specific goals is a great way to motivate your students and build their confidence. When they can see themselves moving forward, reaching goals, and staying on the right track, they can feel better about themselves.

How to create a plan

Ask your student questions about what they want to accomplish, and try to get them to be as specific as possible.

Ask them what they want to be better at in one month, one semester, or one year. What are some areas of improvement they want to focus on?

Consider short term goals, such as being able to analyze a certain Shakespeare play, and long term goals, such as going to college. Write down specific goals, so your student can see them.

Phrase each goal in a positive way. For example, say, "Improve my research paper about musical instruments during the Middle Ages" instead of "Stop writing incomplete sentences."

To turn the goal into a realistic plan, you can break it up into smaller steps that can be easily accomplished during one tutoring session. Check off each step as the student completes it.

If some of the steps are accomplished outside of your session, remember to check in with your student the next time you meet and find out what has been completed. Don't forget the positive feedback!

Get your students to adopt a growth mindset

Students who lack confidence tend to focus too much on their shortcomings or failures. They have a blind eye toward the positive things that they accomplish. As your student's tutor, you can help change this mindset by concentrating on growth rather than failure.

Spend some time studying the concept of growth mindset. In a nutshell, it's a way of thinking that believes in your own ability to grow, learn, and be smarter. If you believe you can be a better mathematician, then you're more motivated to work at your math concepts, which results in growth.

The opposite of a growth mindset is a fixed mindset. Students with a fixed mindset say they can't do this, they're not ready to learn that, and they won't be able to get better at it. Because they're convinced of their own inability to learn, they have a much harder time rising above their own expectations.

You can help turn a fixed mindset into a growth mindset by reminding them they can do it and they're capable of learning it. Change their negative statements into positives by saying, "You haven't done it. Yet. But I know you can work hard and make it happen!"

Let your students be themselves

Letting your student act naturally and spontaneously is a great way to make online learning more enjoyable and rewarding. People tend to be more confident when they're allowed to be themselves. Encourage your students to express themselves freely. If they like to shout out their answers, then let them shout! If they enjoy making little doodles on the whiteboard next to their figures, then let them doodle. When students feel like they're being seen and heard, they're more likely to learn with confidence.

Above all, make sure your student feels comfortable enough to ask you questions. Some children feel like asking a question shows how dumb they are. You want to make sure they understand that you like questions. Questions are part of how we all learn and grow.

Improving student self-esteem takes time

It's not always easy to see the progress of a slow-and-steady learner, but over time the student does demonstrate growth.

In the same way, you might not be able to see improvement in your student's self-esteem right away. In fact, your work at building self-confidence may not even have an effect until long after your student is finished with the tutoring sessions.

Online tutors can have a positive impact on a student. Don't lose faith in your own teaching abilities!

Keep giving positive feedback, making achievable plans for your students, and helping your students grow in a welcoming online environment. These are all great ways to build confidence in students in a healthy, natural way.

Do you have a gift for building students' confidence? Apply now to join our network of outstanding online tutors and help students reach their full potential!


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Jimmy Brown

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