The Key Characteristics of an Effective Home Tutor

The Key Characteristics of an Effective Home Tutor

Many researchers’ have proven that one-on-one tutoring promotes greater student learning and increases their motivation to learn compared to traditional, formal classroom settings. This is, perhaps, one of the reasons behind the steady upward growth trajectory in Singapore’s tuition sphere.

However, simply engaging a home tutor won’t guarantee a student’s success, and it’s for this very reason: It boils down to finding the right home tutor. After all, not all tutors teach the same – just like not all students learn the same. Parents and students aren’t just looking for the academically smartest (although that certainly plays a part). What’s more critical to a child’s success are the qualities that come along with that intellect. Even if the learning setting is perfect, a tutor may not necessarily be able to bring out the best in the students if he/she fails to connect with them.

Like in any profession, there are specific characteristics and behaviours that separate the good tutors from the rest. But what are they?

A 2002 study led by Lepper and Wolverton evaluated a group of experienced tutors in both primary and secondary school mathematics and found that the type of student learning that made the most impact utilised a strategic set of approaches. These cognitive and motivational characteristics for tutoring success were then outlined in a standard model called ‘INSPIRE’. Whether you are an existing or aspiring tutor, these are the attributes you should develop and build upon for success.


As you would expect, the baseline for a good tutor is one that has a strong command of the subject they’re teaching. Tutors need to be able to support their students with subject knowledge during the course of their studies. However, simply having great content knowledge isn’t enough on its own. Tutors also need to be able to problem-solve with their students and tailor their educational plans based on how their students learn. A robust pedagogical knowledge will always draw the difference between the average and the best tuition in Singapore.


One of the biggest benefits of one-to-one home tutoring is that it allows students and the tutors to form a strong rapport. Taking the time to empathise with your students by engaging them on a personal level, such as asking them questions about their struggles, motivations and frustrations, is proven to improve the tutor-student relationship. This sort of connection, along with projected confidence in the student’s ability to succeed, improves their studying abilities by increasing their trust in you to help them achieve their goals.


Sometimes the best way to teach is to give students a little push to work things out on their own. Rather than explaining everything in fine detail, students can benefit more from self-explanation. This means that as a home tutor, your job is to ask them leading questions instead of directing them. This approach stops students from mindlessly listening to explanations, encouraging them to actively participate in their learning and increasing their problem-solving skills at the same time. Listening to their thought process also provides valuable insight into their learning patterns and errors of thinking.


In many ways an extension of the above, the progressive approach to tutoring involve posing diagnostic-style questions to your students at the beginning of a lesson to gain a solid understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. With this knowledge, tutors can then systematically fix misconceptions while continuing to pose more difficult questions and problems that challenge students’ predictable study routines and force them to engage in what’s called ‘deliberate practice’. A repetition of the same type of problem-solving tactics throughout their tutoring session hones their skills and ensures they gain the correct understanding of the information.


While honesty is the best policy, an effective tutor never puts down his/her students nor express judgment. Tutors should create student-centred situations that encourage self-analysis. To keep things on track, draw attention to errors with prompting questions instead of criticising your students for doing something wrong. This approach creates an atmosphere that allows for constructive feedback.


Self-reflective practices are important for both home tutors and students. For home tutors, it’s essential to stay grounded. Each of us has our shortcomings, but the tutors that take the time to engage in self-evaluation tend to rise above the rest. In the case of students, it’s more about cementing knowledge and figuring out what’s best for them. Asking your students to articulate what they think and how they learn – for example how they solved a particular problem or how they likened a piece of study material to a real-world situation – strengthens their learning capabilities exponentially.


Encouragement is one of the most powerful tools in a tutor’s arsenal. Through a combination of indirect positive feedback, flexible learning practises and strong personal relationships, tutors can actively build up their students confidence. A student needs to be motivated to study, and encouragement and confidences can make all the difference.

Be On the Road to Success

If you’re looking to become the best tutor in Singapore, ChampionTutor can guide you through the series of stepping stones. Whether you’re planning to teach on a full-time or part-time basis, we provide you with the tools you need to empower your students. Find out more about what ChampionTutor can offer today.