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The Different Challenges Between Teaching One-to-One Versus Teaching a Group

The Different Challenges Between Teaching One-to-One Versus Teaching a Group | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Teaching in the field of ESL learning is a task that has plenty of challenges that can arise in the classroom. Whether students are young learners or adults, learning English as a second language requires a lot of time and dedication in and outside of the classroom. Teachers must put a lot of patience, care, and effort into their lessons for the sake of their students’ success. They can find themselves teaching various types of classroom environments such as class sizes that are big or small, online or in-person, or multilingual or monolingual environments. These can affect the way a teacher chooses to run their class lessons. One of the biggest influences on a teacher’s methods is the number of students in their class. Teaching one individual student is vastly different from teaching a large group, and both need to be approached in different ways. The different challenges between teaching a one-to-one class versus teaching a group of students include the pressures on the students, the methods of teaching, and the level of personalization of the lesson.

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

Differences between individual teaching and group teaching

One key difference between teaching one student versus a large group is the types of pressure that the students will face. When in a group environment students can feel a sense of camaraderie; they can feel one among their peers working together to learn English. However, they can also feel peer pressure. They will desire to succeed in front of their classmates and may be embarrassed to make mistakes in front of the whole class. When in the ‘activate’ phase of a lesson, students may shy away when doing activities such as group surveys and role-play activities if they do not feel confident. Contrarily, teaching a one-to-one class does not face the challenges of peer pressure that a group class does. Students in this environment face the obstacle of getting the teacher’s full attention. The student cannot hide behind other students and are forced to interact with the teacher. While there is no competition for attention from the teacher, the teacher must build a rapport with the individual student, as they will develop a very direct relationship in their classroom. Both types of ESL classrooms and the unique pressures they contain must be considered to determine which environment is best for the given student.

Another difference between teaching one student versus a whole group is the methods used by the teacher when teaching the lesson. Typically teachers will use the ESA, or the ‘Engage, Study, Activate,’ method in the ESL classroom. This can still be applied to both the one-to-one and group class environments; however, the games and practices used in each stage must be changed depending on the situation. In a one-to-one class, it is impractical for the ‘Activate’ stage to include group surveys or class debates. Those are much more appropriate for a large group of students to provide an opportunity for the students to get to know each other. It is more reasonable to include role-play practice, small discussions, or produced materials for individual student lessons.

Also Read: Can I learn a foreign language while teaching English abroad?

Lack of interactions

Considering there is much less student-to-student interaction, it becomes especially important to include plenty of authentic materials and reading that gives the student a chance to practice understanding the language in the application. The ‘Engage’ phase can also see differences between the two types of classes. Larger classes can include engaging games including memory games, partner information sharing games, or word-linking games that require the students to work together. In one-to-one classes, however, it is a much less effective environment for such games as the teacher is the only partner the student has. Teachers must be considerate when planning their lessons and be careful not to include a game or activity that is impractical for the size of their class.

esl class

Also Read: Are there any age limits for TEFL teaching?

The level of personalization

The third challenge that can vary between larger sized classes and individual student classes is the level of personalization of the class. Creating a lesson with topics and activities that cater to the likes and interests of the students is key to motivating them to participate in the class. In classes with a large group of students, it can be difficult to create a lesson that engages every student. Especially if the class is multicultural with people from various backgrounds. For example: creating a lesson based around social media and smartphones might be relatable and exciting for students from first-world cultures but irrelevant to those from a third-world culture. It is, therefore, important for teachers with a large group to balance their lessons to all students involved. However, for teachers teaching one individual student, it is much easier to learn about their interests and engage them in a very personal and unique lesson created just for them. It is also easier for the teacher to monitor the student’s weaknesses and strengths and guide them at a personalized pace while teaching large groups to require a generalized pace that works with the majority of the class. Both environments require different techniques in the personalization of their classroom to the students.

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While teaching English as a second language, teachers can find themselves teaching various kinds of classrooms: students of all ages and experiences, classes of various sizes, and students of different cultures. These varying factors all have a great impact on the techniques used by the teacher, but whether a classroom has a large group of students or one individual student can change the whole atmosphere of the lesson. There are different pressures that the student will face, different classroom methods used by the teacher, and different levels of personalization used in-class lessons. Teachers must be ready to take on both of these different class environments and the different challenges that arise with them. They must carefully consider these factors to ensure the efficiency of their class, and to ensure their students’ successful journey in learning English as their second language.

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