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TutorTIPs: Coping With Difficult Situations

Tutor Training Intensive Programs

Tutor Tips

Tutoring Reluctant Writers

While we may hope that every tutoring session is smooth sailing, tutors often find themselves dealing with difficult scenarios. Every student is different, and we must be prepared to work with all types of students. The presentation below serves as an overview for coping with difficult students. Follow along to learn some new strategies for when you are prompted with a similar situation.

Issue Strategies

“I don’t understand”

“I don’t know what my professor wants”

“I’m not sure what the assignment is about”

Determine what the student does/doesn’t know

Start with what he/she knows and build upon it.

Offer support

Try a variety of approaches (examples, diagrams, readings, etc.)

Reinforce Success

Miracle Seeking
Issue Strategies

High level of expectation (often unrealistic)

Enthusiasm in meeting with a tutor, but passive during the session

“Everything needs to be perfect”

“I better get an A on this”

Set realistic session goals

Focus on the specific task on hand

Keep the student actively involved during the session

Help student set goals for future assignments

Issue Strategies



Not active during the session

Wants the tutor to control the pen/pencil on assignment

Attempt to build a relationship with the student

Use open ended questions to facilitate the session

Set up mini-tasks for the student to complete along the way.

Reinforce success
Issue Strategies

Inability to focus on task/session

Closed off body language

“That’s not going to work.”

“This isn’t helping me.” Allow the student a little time to vent frustration

Be pragmatic, but understanding

Use past example of success in similar situations

Ask questions to find manageable issues to set as session goals


Coping with Difficult Situations


After reviewing the Prezi and the chart above, complete the following activity:

Read each tutor session starter. Decide, using the information from the training, how you would best respond to the student:

  1.  “My assignment is due tomorrow. Will you help me do these problems?”



  1. “I've already done my homework. I just need you to check it for me.”



  1. “My professor told me I have to come in order to hand my paper in. Can you just sign (or stamp) it so I can go? I don’t have time to be here.”



  1. “Come on. Help me out here. I need you. I can't come during your scheduled times. Can't you make an exception for me?”



  1. “This instructor is really crazy. She won't even listen to reason. I think she's out to get me.”



  1. “Nothing works. I just can't get it. I study all the time. I don't know what to do.”



After watching each video, answer the following quesitons:

  1. What type of student is the tutor dealing with?
  2. How did the tutor handle the situation?
  3. What strategies would you use to work with a similar student?