Private Classes in EFL Teaching
There are many ways to teach students English or any other language. You can learn in an immersive environment, a formal classroom setting, or even try to learn from watching and listening to media. One common format is one to one teaching. This means there are one student and one teacher working on the curriculum together. This can be in person or on the internet, which is becoming increasingly more common. As with all things in life, there are both good and bad aspects resulting from this teaching format. Individual attention has benefits and drawbacks, as does the lack of peers.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Naomi P. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Advantages of One-to-one Teaching
There are many benefits to teaching one to one. The most obvious is the complete attention of the teacher on the student. There are no other students who need to share the teacher's time or focus. Students are also effective in a private setting. This means they are free from the fear of embarrassing themselves in front of their peers and perhaps coworkers. It is okay to ask a ‘silly’ question of the teacher, but some fear to be laughed at by a peer if they broach the same topic. The next major benefit is the immediate feedback that results from only having one student’s work to correct. There is drastically less waiting for a grade and stressing out over your potential score.
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The atmosphere of the class can be very different in a one on one setting as well. A significant portion of one on one teaching is over the internet, which is a different topic, but the fact that there are only 2 people present can make the class a great deal less formal and stressful. This can be both good at bad as I have had students relax because of it to the point where they were less shy about speaking, but I have also had people treat it so casually that they were eating dinner through class, or drawing or playing through the class. It doesn’t help that I was more remote because I was just a picture on the screen and they were able to ignore the class entirely if they wished. When it is not abused, the opportunity to make the class more relaxed and informal can help a learner feel more comfortable, especially a younger learner. Finally, The biggest benefit to one to one teaching is the fact that you can always match the lesson to the learner. You don’t need to meet the level of most of the students while the people who are ahead and behind get frustrated. There is only one student, so the course will slow down or speed up at the student's needs.
Despite all of the positive aspects of one to one teaching, there are significant drawbacks as well. The main challenge is that you can’t do any student cooperative work because there are no other students. Similarly, any study or activation phase work cannot involve another student’s experiences. There no other students to spark ideas in the activate phase. One of the main benefits of pair and group work is that other students can be less threatening or scary than the teacher when it comes to asking questions. They are making the same mistakes that you (the student) are and having some of the same troubles you are. You can work together to come up with the best explanations that work for your point of view. Without any other students, you can’t have that.
Also, without other students, you lack the subtle competition with someone else at or near your level that can inspire (or intimidate) you to keep learning. In a one to one class setting, you don’t have that. You can’t commiserate over the difficulties in the material with the teacher the way you can with a peer. Often, in a good classroom, there is a group effort to understand the material. The students can often come up with slightly different wording of a definition or concept that another student will understand. Students often become your unofficial allies in the teaching process, your subtle assistants. Without other students, this can’t happen.
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As long as you balance the positive and negative aspects to make an effective class, one to one teaching can be a very rewarding experience. The trick is to find ways to counter the negatives and accentuate the positives. If you keep in mind all of the many concepts and structures that make for good teaching, you can succeed in this format that is gaining popularity, especially in online settings.
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