Group Teaching and One-to-one Lessons in The TEFL Teacher’s Practice
There is a vast array of differences between teaching one-to-one and teaching a group. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Roshini R. D.
Pros of private lessons for a student
One of the biggest reasons for a student to want to have one-to-one instruction and tutoring would be the freedom of space in which to ask questions and have answers supplied, that dig deeper into a student's understanding of the English language. While this is very possible in a group setting, there is the limitation based on the variety of language levels of students in the group and the time it takes to have each one's questions answered, while keeping the actual classroom lesson within the set time frame. This is made abundantly easier in a one to one teaching session because one student one teacher is a fantastic ratio to sustain. It's very dynamic and has a lot of room for debate and creativity, for gauging a student's ability and understanding.
A group session has a finite amount of time available to each student for definitive explanations and discussions with the teacher.
Cons for you as a teacher
This freedom has its advantages and it's drawbacks to both forms of teaching. As a one to one teacher, you have less support and materials available at your disposal than a group setting teacher would have. From lesson plans to games to resources. A one to one teacher has to build his/her own resource bank. Some of the material available (ELT for example) can be structured to work for a one to one class. This does give one to one teacher a lot more flexibility and ease of preparation. There are fewer negative possibilities to prepare for in a one to one session than in a group session.
I have always found that a student who comes in for a one to one session, is on average more motivated and eager to learn that students who are part of a group. This makes teaching a much more engaging activity and makes learning more eased. The lack of peer pressure or fear of failing in front of peers is removed in a one to one setting and this greatly increases the student's ability to make and learn from mistakes. A large part of the onus to feed the energy into the lesson is on the teacher in a one to one session. This can be tiring but it also leaves room for the teacher and the student to partner up on what needs to be taught and which approach works best.
The pressure that comes from both teacher and the student is always alert and the need to achieve clearly quantifiable results is great for a teacher in a one to one setting. Whereas since the student is the only one, this could ease the pressure off the student to a level that can be detrimental to his active learning, since there is no other student to compare his class work or his results to.
Rapport in individual lessons
The rapport you as a teacher build with your student in a one to one setting is absolutely vital. You do not have the luxury of calling on another student if one student is not in a good space with you or is having a bad day. Your rapport makes a world of difference when it is just one student. How you motivate said student and ease them on with humor and encouragement when the student may not want to participate is absolutely vital. As a teacher in a one to one setting, you are three roles wrapped up into one – Teacher, friend, and psychologist. How you flow through these roles keeping in mind the boundaries of each and work them with respect for the benefit of the student and your teaching, is a well-balanced dance.
Keeping your teaching sessions interesting and fun is harder in a one to one setting. In a group session, there are games and singalongs and debates that can keep the students engrossed and on their toes. These changes form in a one to one session. You the teacher are the other student now and you might have to bring double the zeal to the activities in order to keep the interest and excitement of the learning alive and working.
Also Read: 6 Steps to Becoming a TEFL Trainer
Limited choice of speaking activities
There are times in a one to one teaching scenario when your student needs to interact with others in order to move his learning forward. One can design projects that use what has been taught in the lesson, but in an outside the one to one box scenario. For example, I have a student who has been learning descriptive or creative writing with me. We made a project where he goes out into town with an English speaking friend. My student will be blindfolded and walked through an area of town. His job is to listen. His friend's job is to record their walk on video with a cellphone. Once they have walked for 5 minutes, he is to sit down and write everything he heard, as descriptively and clearly as he can recall, making judgments as to what he heard could have been and so forth.He and his friend then exchange the cellphone for the writing and the check not just how the other has fared in observation but also the indifference of understanding of their environment and expression of the same.
Such ideas allow your lone rider student to go out and practice the skills you work on together and come back to the next session with more ideas and more to express and renewed excitement.
I do not believe that anything grows to the best of its capabilities in isolation. There is a need to go out, experiment with learning, deduct from the experiment and come back to the classroom lab and share those findings and inspire to learn more. Be it in a group or individually, learning and teaching are what you make of it and while they both demand time, energy and creativity, the demand it in different proportions at different times based of which teaching scenario you choose to be effective in.
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