While conducting research for Stanford University, psychology professor Mark Lepper and certified paediatrician Maria Woolverton interviewed tutors who teaches primary level Science and secondary level Physics to find out what common qualities do successful tutors actually share. In the midst of collecting data for the research, they realised that a list of seven crucial traits are embodied by tutors who are successful in their career, which resulted in the development of the INSPIRE model. These common qualities found in the INSPIRE model are as follows:
All the tutors who are highly sought after possess an in depth understanding of the subject, which for the purpose of the article, is Physics. Their knowledge enables them come up with different approaches to solving questions in a simple yet effective way. Being very familiar with the Physics subject also enables them to acutely decipher issues and doubts that students may have but find it hard to express themselves. As such, they can tweak their teaching based on the individual student’s demands easily.
The most capable Physics tutors are also able to relate well to their students and vice versa. They know when is the appropriate time to impart their teachings to students in class and when to give them some breathing space and downtime by providing breaks and some rapport building activities that may or may not be related to the subject itself. These tutors are also sensitive to their students’ daily conflicts, either in the form of heavy workload or inability to handle tough questions. They then immediately do their best to accommodate or provide a leaning shoulder for their students whenever necessary.
Excellent Physics tutors do not blatantly spoon-feed students with the answers, but guide and provide clues in a systematic way that still allows the student to get to the answer eventually but with some effort required of the student. It may require more time and effort on the tutor’s part but the tutor knows that the student will benefit the most in the long run.
Some of the best Physics tutors can accurately evaluate the student’s level of competency in the subject just by looking through their previous school practices. That will allow them to formulate a proper lesson plan right from the start with the appropriate difficulty level and slowly ramp up the difficulty of both the content and practice assignments in a progressive fashion. They get students to conduct what is known as “drilling” or “repetition”, in a bid to familiarise students with some of the more commonly seen question styles or problem solving methodologies.
Popular tutors are almost never seen to scold or condemn students openly for their mistakes but they patiently direct their students to the Physics mistakes through open-ended questioning and inference. This will allow students to not feel inferior or offended but are instead driven to reassess their workings and how to correct them eventually. This in turn provide students with the ability to identify and correct their mistakes on their own for their school work and Physics exams.
Good Physics tutors frequently get students to verbally explain what they understand of the question and how they derive the workings or answers to the problem. This is especially useful when a similar question has been worked on together with the student and it will determine how well the students are able to replicate the steps to solve the problem.
Last but not least, successful Physics tutors will provide encouragement and positive affirmations in every lesson to spur students on and grow their interest in the subject. Students are also humans at the end of the day, therefore words of encouragement do go a long way to inspire students regardless of their current capability.