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One-to-one teaching is a teaching session between a teacher and learner. 

One-off one-to-one sessions are more difficult as you may only see that student once for a specific issue or support. Rapid assessment of students’ needs and how you can help is therefore essential. If similar issues are presenting themselves time and time again, it would be worth contacting the course tutor or programme leader to identify where group sessions on a particular topic may be necessary.  

There are many possible purposes of a one-to-one teaching session:  

  • to revisit a difficult concept (reinforcement). 
  • to teach a concept missed in class, I.e. if the student was absent. 
  • to teach a concept specific to that student, i.e. a skill needed for a specific project or piece of work. 
  • to guide the student with a specific piece of assessed work e.g. an essay, dissertation or thesis. 
  • to provide a tailored session for a student with learning difficulties or specific support needs. 
  • to provide more generalised support and guidance e.g. as part of an academic tutorial. 
  • to provide pastoral support e.g. as part of a tutorial (NB this may need to be referred to other appropriate individuals such as college). 

It’s essential that the purpose of any session is clear, explicit and agreed between the member of teaching staff and the student. Ideally, the session pace should be set by the student rather than the tutor. 

Best Practice Tips

  • Agree a clear date, time, length and location for the appointment. The location could be a private room, office or classroom space or a public space, depending on the nature of the one-to-one meeting and the student’s preference. Consider whether a ‘virtual’ meeting e.g. using Skype, is appropriate. 
  • Put the student at ease. Remember students may be struggling with their studies or at the opposite end of the scale may be extremely excited about the session (opportunity to learn something new or discuss something that interests them). 
  • Ask students what they are hoping to achieve in the session and be clear about what help you can and can’t offer. Listen careful and offer alternative solutions to problems where possible. Try to develop learning ‘through talk’ rather than ‘from talk’. Ideally, the student should be speaking more than the teacher. 
  • Work through the material (if teaching a concept) methodically, ensuring that the student has time to ask questions and clarifying points. Ask questions or provide exercises to ensure that student understands the concepts and perhaps practice material to take away. 
  • Tailor materials and examples to something within the student’s understanding or interest, sometimes generic or real-world examples are better than subject specific ones if a student is having difficulty understanding the concepts. 
  • Ensure the learner receives feedback, especially if exercises are set during the session, or are brought from previous sessions that the learner has completed between sessions. 
  • Remember to allow thinking time. 
  • If time is short, ensure the student is able to take away information and clear instructions on the next steps (ask them what their next steps are). Make a further appointment if necessary, for follow up. 

Further Reading

British Council: Teaching one to one.

Grasha, Anthony F. (2002), ‘The Dynamics of One-on-One Teaching’, College Teaching, 4: 139-146.