Tutors should focus on critical thinking instead of preparing students for subject-related tests and exams. I know this statement will be met with a great deal of skepticism, and for good reason. The current structure of schooling promotes subject knowledge. Nonetheless, I will endeavor to explain my point of view.

In most schools today, there is an overwhelming emphasis on subject-related content. Students find their level of intelligence quantified by marks achieved on an assignment or test relating to a subject . Students who are able to memorise and recall information better than their peers generally score higher grades. This approach to instruction is what can best be described as the traditional model.

The traditional model has persevered the test of time. However, there are new approaches to teaching that challenge the traditional model. Inquiry-based learning and social constructivism are two such approaches to learning that provide a fresh new perspective. These new ideas are thought to be more efficient because they seek to involve the student more heavily in their learning. You can read more about this beyond the classroom critical thinking and take a look at a research paper on the subject.

The premise is, if you can increase student engagement and invest the student in their learning, the student will want to learn, and will do so with an increased level of zeal. Think about a hobby, for example. Most people have hobbies because on some level they find the hobby satisfying. Taking this concept forward, a model for teaching and learning that incorporates a student’s desires is far more likely to be effective.

The type of reasoning we provided above is classified as qualitative analysis. The logic seems sound, but as we know with fallacies, logic isn’t always so clear cut, or lack of a better word, logical. A better way to prove the above is to provide quantitative analysis.

In a research study I conducted in 2011, I took a sample size of 85 students and sought to quantify the effects of a new teaching and learning style. During the semester I did my best to incorporate inquiry-based learning, social constructivism and differentiated instruction. As a testing method, I asked students to reflect on the class and engage their critical thinking minds.

After collecting approximately 25 critical-reflective responses from all students, scoring them for their level of thinking and accuracy, I ran the numbers through a simple linear regression. I made the following observation:

R(squared) value equalled 0.711.

This means that 71.1% of the variability in the final course grade is associated with the final reflection grade. “WOW,” I thought. Is you are not following, let me explain differently. In the realm of statistics, 71.1% correlation is extremely favourable. At this percentage, it is hard to refute that one variable does not influence the other variable. In this case, students who were capable of engaging their critical thinking minds went on to achieve higher grades in the course.

Changing the way teachers interact in the classroom is not an easy task. Newly trained teachers are accepting these newer models in great frequency, but veteran teachers appear to resist change. If you are a student or parent considering tutoring, ask potential tutors if they are away of these new teaching and learning models.

Tutors who can help a student focus on critical thinking, in addition to homework support, will likely be far more effective than those who do not. Reflective thinking is one way to promote critical thinking. It is easy to do.

If you do not have a tutor, you can help your child with this by asking them to reflect on their homework. For example, did you notice any tricks or exceptions in your math work? What did it look like? Write the rule down to remind yourself next time. Why do you think the question was worded like that? These are a few questions to ask to get them thinking.

A good tutor will help with homework. A great tutor will help the student make connections with the work and their lives. An awesome tutor will inspire the students to learn, ask questions, and lead them to independence. Tutors who help develop a student’s critical thinking abilities will be more successful. The numbers support this statement.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Christopher Binns is the owner and operator of Certified Tutors of Canada and Tutor Direct. Both companies provide access to In-home tutors and online tutors to help students achieve their academic potentials. Christopher Binns is the creator of the OPIR Framework, a process where tutors implement multiple intelligence theory and learning strategies to create independently successful learners.

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