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How Does Teaching Change When Teaching One-to-One or to a Group?

How Does Teaching Change When Teaching One-to-One or to a Group? | ITTT | TEFL Blog

When teaching, regardless of the chosen method, the first aspect to consider is how to find a way to connect with the students, because a good relationship with the learners is the foundation on which everything else rests on.

I consider this statement true when thinking about both groups of students and one-to-one teaching, because I believe that subject knowledge is not the only important element of teacher practice, particularly when teaching a subject that it is not mandatory, as an EFL lesson.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Laura R. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.


In some respect, teaching one-to-one is easier, because the teacher can meet the student's needs in very specific ways and tailor the lesson on the individual. This means the teacher can focus on the weaknesses of the student and address misconceptions while playing on strengths.

The tricky part is balancing the different roles the teacher will play in the course of the lesson: being the only counterpart, you need to be mindful about being the teacher but also a partner in their learning and participate with the student in the activities.

During one-to-one lessons, it is common to have a less formal relationship because – being just one-to-one – there are moments in which the teacher needs to act as the student’s peer, so it could easily happen that a closer relationship is developed between the student and the teacher. Another factor to consider is boredom. The lesson may become tiring if the teacher is not well prepared, and – while some activities can be adapted for two – some others are difficult to do without a group.

teacher and student

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Teaching a group of students can be more challenging for several reasons.

In the first place, if teaching a mixed abilities group, it is essential to find a balance and make sure the high achievers do not get bored with activities too easy for them, and the low ability students do not become frustrated with exercises too difficult for them. On the other hand, it is necessary to keep the students’ attention with engaging activities, to reduce distractions and low-level disruption, especially if teaching children.

Essential factors to consider are the students’ age, motivation, commitment, but also the encouragement from the teachers and the challenges they create to push the learners.

I believe a teacher should not make the mistakes of having favorite students or neglecting the high achievers in favor of the low ability ones, and vice versa.

It is also fundamental to create a safe learning environment, where students feel comfortable to make mistakes and ask for support while maintaining discipline because a badly behaved classroom is not a good place to teach (or learn).

A teacher working in a class environment can use a variety of activities that would not be possible to apply in a one-to-one situation. Group and pair work allows learners to practice the language without feeling pressured – as could happen when the speaking partner is also the teacher - and there is virtually no limit to what you can do, from role-play to surveys to games and so on.

Also Read: 5 Great Places to Teach English Abroad Without a Degree | ITTT | TEFL Blog

So, when should the style of teaching change?

I believe teaching styles change to suit different situations and a teacher should be able to do so since situations tend to vary; that is why a teacher should be a good judge of character to understand the learners' needs, when to encourage them and when not to push them. Being versatile means the teacher can play different roles in the classroom, depending on the situation and the activity. This ability to determine the correct approach during the course of a lesson can make a difference in the results the teacher wants for the students to achieve. In conclusion, being versatile is a quality that every teacher should master as they will find themselves in classes with different backgrounds, levels, nationalities, motivations, and all these things are to be considered when approaching a new teaching experience, even teaching one-to-one.

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