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5 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Private Science Tutor

19/02/2024 / Science Tuition

There is a vast array of good reasons for parents and guardians to choose to hire a private science tutor. Science tutors can help fill in knowledge gaps for students who are good to go with some of the expected material but need further emphasis in other areas.

They’re also great for students who need a different approach than the one taken in the classroom. Students who are struggling academically or with self-assurance in their own abilities can benefit from the good feelings and achievement boost provided by tutoring. And students who are sailing far ahead of the crowd might love having a tutor to push them even further and prevent the subject of science from feeling stale and too easy.

However, once parents have decided to hire a private science tutor, there’s another essential step – ensuring that you’ve found the right science tutor to help your child achieve their very best. Just as in any other profession, not all science tutors have the same skills, experience or approach to their work.

So how do you know you’re hiring the right private science tutor for you? Ultimately, this answer is different for everyone, but we’ve come up with five questions to help you narrow down your search and identify a tutor who will provide the best possible value for the time your child invests in tutoring.

1. Are you a qualified teacher?

This question is first on our list for a good reason. In our opinion, it’s absolutely essential for a private science tutor to be a qualified teacher.

Two main factors play into this question’s importance, although there are others to consider as well. Firstly, there’s just the fact that knowing a subject doesn’t make someone good at teaching a subject. Actually, someone who has a PhD in the sciences and no teaching qualification might be less able to tutor science because they can’t translate what they know into child-appropriate language or frame it in a way that a child would understand.

Secondly, even someone who has a natural talent as a teacher won’t know the pedagogical techniques and principles that one learns as a teacher. They might be able to explain one concept in isolation, but not to plan a coherent programme of study that’s designed to work toward specific educational goals. They might teach the material only at the base level of memorisation, not understanding how Bloom’s Taxonomy sets out the different levels of skills on which teaching can focus. And they almost certainly won’t know how to teach in a way that supports special educational needs and disabilities.

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2. For how long have you taught the UK science curriculum?

Both parts of this question are important. It’s key that your private science tutor both knows the UK science curriculum and has experience teaching it.

Let’s break this down. Knowing the science curriculum is essential because without that knowledge a tutor is flying blind. A curriculum states not only what children should know but when they should know it. A private science tutor who doesn’t know the relevant curriculum for their student is at serious risk of teaching irrelevant information or material that’s either too complex or too simple for their year group.

On a larger scale, the curriculum should also create a picture of how knowledge is expected to develop through the years. In other words, knowing the curriculum allows a science tutor to look backwards and forwards in learning. That means that they can identify material from previous years that a child is missing – and they can plan ahead and prepare a child for what will be expected of them in upcoming years.

Why is it important, then, to have experience with teaching the curriculum, when the curriculum alone tells you so much?

It’s because teachers who have taught material over the years come to know where students commonly get confused and what approaches help to explain concepts best. Teachers often develop certain phrasings, metaphors or even jokes that they’ve found work well with students. But all these tricks take time to develop. There’s a reason why teaching is one of the few professions in which a professional in their second or third year is still considered very new.

3. Which exam boards and examinations are you familiar with?

Of course, this question isn’t relevant for all children. But for students who are anticipating their GCSEs, A levels or even the 11+ exam, this question is important. Some exam boards take quite different approaches and organise their examinations differently. That’s especially true at A level.

The bottom line is that the ideal private science tutor for a student with an exam in their near future is likely one who has experience preparing children for that particular exam – and, if relevant, that exam board. That way, they can save time because they won’t have to repeatedly look up the details for the exam a child is taking.

All this being said, the answer to this question isn’t as crucial as the answers to the first two. You could meet a private science tutor who seems to fit all of your child’s needs perfectly, but they aren’t completely familiar with the exam board used for your child’s upcoming GCSEs. However, it might not matter if you trust your tutor to obtain all the correct information for your child’s exam.

4. How would you personalise your tutoring approach to meet my child’s needs?

One of the major benefits private tuition brings is the personalisation of the tutoring approach to each child’s needs, preferences and even personality.

In fact, many children come to tutoring because the cookie-cutter teaching approach isn’t working for them. Perhaps they need a slower or faster pace than they’re seeing in the classroom – or even a slower pace on some topics and a faster pace on others. Or maybe they really need visual supports like diagrams. Children may even thrive on a question-and-answer format that isn’t possible in a classroom of twenty or thirty students.

Whatever a child’s needs are, the ideal private science tutor will shape their tuition to suit those needs. Tutoring without this personalised aspect isn’t really tutoring at all – it’s more like classroom teaching to a class of just one child.

But tutoring that is deeply individualised to the child has an immense power to make a difference. It starts with personalising a tutoring plan to meet each child’s learning goals, as well as their learning style, personality, and special educational needs if any are present. Then the tutoring should be continually adjusted based on what has been successful for a particular student.

5. What do you think are the most important traits for a science tutor?

This last question is a more subtle one.

It’s difficult to assess someone’s personality or tutoring approach when you’re just meeting them briefly. It’s entirely possible for a private science tutor to be awkward with parents and guardians but great when working with children.

That’s why this question serves as a good way to get to know your private science tutor and their values. Parents may not always value the same traits in a tutor, so there aren’t any particular right answers. But if your child is extremely anxious about science, perhaps a tutor who says it’s important for tutors to build a bond of trust with their students is the one for you. On the other hand, if your child is very reluctant to take part in tutoring, perhaps you want a tutor who says that making learning fun is essential.

Of course, there are some less good or even wrong answers, too. A tutor who says they prioritise billing on time might not have that much passion for their work. Yet even seemingly banal answers can be meaningful. Less-exciting details about tutoring, like communication with guardians, also have an important part to play in ensuring that the tutoring achieves as much as possible.

Succeeding in science with Principal Tutors

Seeking out private science tutoring can be a fantastic move to help children – as long as the private science tutor you choose is really well suited to help your child achieve the best they possibly can.

What’s even better is that when you hire your science tutor through Principal Tutors, you don’t have to worry about several points on this list. All of our science tutors are qualified teachers with experience with the UK curriculum – so you can scratch question 1 and 2 from this list right away.

Moreover, you also don’t need to worry so much about the question on individualisation. As a company, we understand how important individualised tutoring is. We pride ourselves on our tutor-student matching process, which is designed to provide just the right tutor to suit a particular student.

How might our tutors personalise their tutoring to match your child’s needs and personality? We’ll be happy to chat with you about what tutoring could do for your child. Just calls us on 0800 772 0974 of get in touch through our online form – our experts are ready to answer your questions.


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