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TutorTIPs: Basic Tutoring Guidelines

Tutor Training Intensive Programs

Tutor Tips

TutorLingo Video Training

A toolbox for the novice tutor


  • What are the four distinct parts of a tutoring session?
  • What should you do to prepare before a tutoring session?
  • How do you effectively begin/end a session?
  • What are some things you can do to assess the tutee’s understanding during a session?
  • What are some questions you can ask at the end of a session to assess the effectiveness of the session overall?
  • What personal traits do a great tutor and a great teacher share?
  • What academic/professional traits do great tutors have?
  • What is the difference between listening and hearing?
  • What are some active listening strategies you can use during a tutoring session?
  • What are some strategies you can use to get back on track if you find yourself not listening actively? 

Welcome to the Dos and Don'ts of Tutoring.

The purpose of this segment of the workshop is to guide tutors in what should and shouldn't be done in a tutoring session

Discuss video topics:

  • Do not give false praise
  • Right is Right/Push for Precision
  • Find Learning Opportunities
  • Set Consistent Rules
  • Dealing with Sticky Situations
  • Re-engaging student
The Dos and Don’ts of Tutoring



  • Do be on time, especially if one-on-one sessions have been set. If the lab allows walk-ins, tutors should be in place and ready to help.
  • Don't do the students’ assignments. Tutors should only help students generate their own ideas and help with the structuring of their papers.
  • Do greet the student with a smile! Spend a few moments helping the student feel welcome and comfortable.
  • Don't treat the student as an intrusion.
  • Once the student is seated, sit beside the student and not across from him/her.
  • Do not assume the role of the instructor; your role is to assist the instructor, not replace him/her.
  • Do be professional.
  • By no means should a tutor criticize the instructor.
  • Do spend more time listening than talking. By listening, the tutor will better understand the students' misconceptions and errors. 
  • Don't let one student monopolize all of your time, especially if you are in a drop in session. Remember that you are trying to enable the student to become an independent thinker. This can't be done if a student uses you as a crutch the entire time.
  • Do work with the concepts given in training sessions.
  • Don't allow the student to scrape by; challenge him/her to reach higher.
  • Do exhibit patience. This is probably one of the most important characteristics of a tutor. Never act annoyed. Even if a student asks the most basic question, always demonstrate patience.
  • Do not review a paper a student is to turn in for a grade and tell him/her if it looks right or not. The student must see the instructor for confirmation on whether an assignment is being done correctly.
  • Do encourage active participation. The student should not rely on the tutor at all times. Let the student know that he/she must put forth an effort to benefit from the tutoring session.
  • Do not just sit in the chair staring out the window or off into space when there are students in the lab. This lack of enthusiasm discourages students from asking you for help.
  • Do ask for explanations to help students develop critical thinking.
  • Do not introduce fancy ways you learned in your upper level classes to help the students solve their problems. It is always safer to advise the student on how the instructor does it.
  • Do lead the student to discover answers rather than giving answers too quickly.


  • Never lose focus!
  • Do feel free to ask professors for help when you need it.
  • Do be sensitive to the existence of emotional or psychological problems of students.
  • Do end your session on a positive note!



Creating a Metaphor for Tutoring

Think back on some of your tutoring experiences, and come up with a metaphor that aptly describes tutoring for you or one that characterizes writing and the roles that tutors and writers play in the process. In a paragraph or two, extend that metaphor. Begin by stating that “tutoring is [like] X” and then explain how or why the two are similar. Share and discuss your metaphors with other tutors, and consider ways in which each might be extended even more.

This exercise is also an interesting one to do as a visual representation using an image or creating a collage of pictures to depict your statement “Tutoring is like…”

The ultimate goals 
of tutoring are to:
  • help students understand their course content
  • help students improve their reading and writing skills
  • help students become self-sufficient
  • help students identify their strengths and weaknesses

As a tutor, you have joined an active, engaged group of professionals. We hope this segment has been a help to you, but more than anything we hope that you have fun, learn much, and enjoy being part of the tutoring community.