Academic Tutoring and Organizational Coaching: Skills for the Classroom and Beyond

Academic support at Open Door Education generally falls into two categories: organizational coaching and subject-specific tutoring.  Let’s take a look at both of these while also discussing major areas of overlap between them.


What is Organizational Coaching?

Students of all ages may seek organizational coaching.  Often these are individuals trying to figure out what it means to be an effective student in middle school or high school.  This entails learning:

• How to prioritize assignments

• How much time should be dedicated to each assignment

• How to write effectively

• How best to prepare for tests

Tutoring can help with each of these objectives, as the student works not only to improve grades but also to learn critical study habits.

The Game Plan

Organizational coaching sessions begin with the tutor and student discussing the assignments for each class and putting together a weekly calendar.  Discussing goals is a critical part of this process. To make sure these goals are clear and reachable, tutors use the SMART framework, ensuring that the goals are

• Specific,

• Measurable,

• Achievable,

• Relevant, and

• Time bound.

During the first few meetings, the tutor drives the process of structuring weekly calendars and setting goals, modeling how to determine which assignments to do first, when to start studying for an upcoming test or the timing for creating a first and then final draft of the paper.  Gradually, the student takes a more active role as they become more comfortable prioritizing assignments and also determining what would be most helpful to work on with the tutor during that session. As sessions shift from proactive guidance to reactive support, students gain the agency that allows them to become more effective students.

Once a game-plan has been established at the start of a session, the tutor and student work will work together on a multitude of tasks, including preparing for tests, writing papers or working on current assignments.  Often there will not just be one class that is the focus of the meeting, but rather the tutor and student will work on several. For example, the student may work with the tutor to lay the groundwork for preparing to write a paper or study for an exam with a plan for the student to complete these tasks at home. This approach is a great way for the student to learn best practices (a tutor will make recommendations for what to study, or help a student create an outline for an essay) while also setting a foundation and gaining good habits for independent work at home.

Organizational coaching sessions end with a summation of the plan for the week that was developed during the first few minutes. That way, the student leaves the session with a clear idea of how to manage their school workload and allocate their time over the next few days.


What is Subject-Specific Tutoring?

Subject-specific tutoring is tailored to help with a specific academic course.  The goals of academic tutoring are to help students:

• Sharpen general skills in the class

• Improve grades

• Develop study habits that they can employ when working on their own

Ultimately, subject-specific tutoring is designed to help students find the right balance between improving grades and building foundational study skills.


The Game Plan

Subject-specific tutoring sessions will look very different depending on whether or not the student has an exam coming up in the next couple of days.  Sessions that don’t preceded a test serve to build foundational skills in the subject matter. Often these sessions take a similar shape; they are both backward and forward looking.  Tutors will ask students what concepts from the past few classes have been confusing, and review them to ensure mastery. Generally students jot down notes to review later, since simply knowing how to deal with a type of problem in session doesn’t ensure that the approach will be remembered several days later.  

From there, a session will often move on to looking at the student’s homework.  But a quality academic tutoring session will avoid turning into a situation where the homework is covered question by questions – as the tutor’s goal in these sessions is to build a student’s autonomy rather than risk becoming a crutch.  So instead of doing each problem on the assignment, the tutor will pull out a few specific examples from different categories of questions and then craft analogous problems or supplement with questions from online worksheets. The student can then finish the assignment at home and see if they can employ the approaches practiced during the session on their own.   

If time permits, tutors will often anticipate upcoming topics and provide brief lessons that prepare students for the next unit.  Many students find it advantageous to be introduced to the material before seeing it in class. Creating this foundational comprehension helps students develop a more sophisticated understanding of the topic when it is first presented in the classroom.  

When there is an upcoming test, most of the time in session will be spent preparing for it.  Tutors will work with students to complete any review sheets and questions from the homework, getting a sense of any challenging areas.  Creating similar problems from these areas for students to work through helps determine whether the student feels comfortable with the approach or needs more review.  More difficult variations of a given concept are given to students who show a good grasp of the key concepts, as this will help students anticipate challenge problems that teachers usually include on a test.


Want to learn more?

If you think your student could benefit from either organizational coaching or subject specific academic tutoring, please reach out to Open Door Education to learn more about our services.