Teaching One-to-One vs. Teaching in Class
The bulk part of the teacher’s work is to adjust the learning material to the needs, goals, and interests of students. Even though some groups’ needs may coincide with each other, the group’s dynamic is something truly individual in manner. The same goes for one to one students. From this perspective, it becomes evident that the difference between teaching one to one and groups has many layers to it. The number and nature of activities the teacher prepares for the class is different; so is the style of communication.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Polina K. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Choice of activities
The first thing that needs to be mentioned is that the majority of activities, especially for the Activate stage, are designed specifically for groups of students. These are surveys and mill-drills, materials production, role-plays, and debates, which require at least a small group of students to carry out. Of course, it is possible to customize some of these activities for the individual learners, but the variety and fun drop significantly. For example, mill-drills and surveys fall impossible to accomplish. Debates lack manysidedness as only two people contribute to each side’s arguments.
Student’s Personal Needs
On the other hand, one to one lessons keep the focus on the needs of a single student and stimulate their productivity via a personalized selection of topics and activities. Even the choice of the course textbook depends on the preferences of an individual student. Regarding Activate exercises, individual students enjoy story building and role-play quite a lot, especially when the teacher assumes the role of a partner and lets the mistakes be for the sake of fluency. They also willingly exchange jokes and discuss some fascinating cases from work/school. Such relaxed moments usually drop out during group lessons due to the strict pressure of time.
At this point, it is of importance to mention the functions of the teacher in the classroom. During the Activate stage, the teacher should take upon themselves the roles of an organizer and manager, a prompter, and a facilitator. It will let the students discover the language more independently and allow for the free flow of their thoughts. However, one to one teaching requires the teacher to be an immediate participant all the time, which entails thorough monitoring and tutoring functions. While the approach is undeniably more personalized in the second case, individual students tend to consult with the teacher on every matter, even if it is not related to the task at hand directly. In other words, one to one teaching ensures more detailed guidance but less independence.
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Next, the difference manifests in the speed of material coverage. Specifically, the productivity of one to one lessons is usually higher than that of a group. Individual learners tend to cover material in class faster and finish more activities than groups of learners. It is connected to a smaller number of participants, distractions, shorter instruction, organization, and feedback time. Consequently, the teacher should prepare more material for one to one lessons than for the group.
Finally, the style of communication depends on the number of students in the class. However important it is to establish rapport within first lessons, the teacher should not compromise discipline in the process. It is always easier to gradually reduce the level of formality than set it anew. With individual students, however, communication develops in a friendlier manner because, as has been mentioned above, the teacher assumes the role of a partner during activities. With individual students, the teacher’s authority can rest aside without the risk of disrupting discipline.
In light of the mentioned above, one to one and group teaching differ significantly almost in each aspect. The choice of material, the manner of its delivery, and its amount are the most apparent manifestations of the dissemblance. Next comes the difference in speed and productivity.
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Finally, one can spot the discrepancy in the organization and management of the lessons and the style of communication. Importantly, it does not imply that one format is more efficient than other as both have their benefits and shortcomings.
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