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"Give a student a tutor and his homework is done for a day. Coach students to manage their work and themselves, and they will be effective for a lifetime."
- Beyond BookSmart proverb
Academic Coaching vs. Tutoring
While academic coaching includes elements of traditional tutoring, the goals and process of academic coaching reach further and deeper to teach students to become more effective learners, not simply to survive the crisis of the day. Using current school challenges as a springboard, we teach students the Executive Function skills and help them develop the habits that allow them to succeed in the particular subjects where they are experiencing difficulty and beyond, across all subjects, throughout their academic career, in the workplace and their lives. The examples below give an idea of the types of emphasis and some of the key differences between academic coaching and tutoring.
While most tutors can help students complete their homework on time, Executive Function coaches also teach students to prioritize their homework based on due dates and the relative importance of each assignment. Academic coaches help their students set up proper study environments and establish routines to develop Executive Function skills such as focus and initiative, and, over time, learn how to manage their homework independently.
Tutors will help students prepare for specific tests and exams, usually based on their expertise in the subject matter. Academic coaches teach students to become better self-advocates and to know how to study for any test or exam. Students learn how to ask the right questions, to know what they don’t know, and to find and use the resources that will allow them to do their very best. The goal of academic coaching is to prepare students for higher levels of education and for the real world where they will often need a high level of initiative and follow-through to succeed when they are faced with challenges. Taking the future into consideration is one key difference between academic coaching and tutoring.
Developing Executive Function Skills for Project Management
Some tutors don’t teach the self-management skills required for success on long-term projects. Academic coaches have a strong understanding of how integral Executive Function skills are to completing long-term projects successfully. They employ foundational tools that tutors and teachers may take for granted and not teach in school. Executive Function coaches teach students how to see the many steps needed, how to sequence those steps, and how to map out the time needed to complete projects well and on time. Executive Function coaches demonstrate how to break down big projects into their component parts and how to build in steps for quality control. Unlike most tutors, academic coaches with a strong background in Executive Function skills know how to build in the supports needed to develop the student’s ownership of the project so that even the most daunting projects have a process that makes them manageable. If your child is struggling with project management, it's pretty clear that academic coaching vs. tutoring is the smart choice.
Developing Writing Skills for Essay Tests and Research Papers
Regarding the much-maligned but absolutely critical skill of writing, Executive Function coaches go far beyond the basics of helping students push through the misery of particular essays and exams. Instead, the focus is on teaching students how to plan out what is undoubtedly a very challenging task for them, teaching them the back and forth nature of finding information, organizing that information into coherent ideas, winnowing the ideas down into their most meaningful nuggets, and then researching to find additional information to bolster their argument. All of this work takes place in the context of competing demands from other classes - or even the same class - which then demands that students employ project management and prioritizing skills as well. Finally, our academic coaches teach students how to prepare effectively for essay exams. For these, in addition to the above skills (writing and time management), students must also be taught how to anticipate what the teacher is thinking, how to pick up on cues in class and in homework assignments, and then to manage their emotions during the test. Academic coaches have tools to help teach this skill of developing the ability to see the perspectives of others and, thus, to predict what the teacher is likely to ask.
To sum up, tutoring is about helping a student understand a subject so that he or she can do well in that particular class. Academic coaching is about teaching a student skills and strategies and providing support and encouragement to the student as they begin to develop new study habits through repetition of process so that he or she can do well in all classes and become confident and independent leaders of the future.