The Critically Important Difference between Tutoring and Academic Coaching

By: Jason Robinovitz | Last Updated: February 4, 2020

Academic coachingThe debate regarding tutoring vs academic coaching seems neverending. Surprisingly most people consider these to be one and the same. We concede that there can be some overlap between tutoring and academic coaching: Tutors focus on helping students with specific academic-related tasks – such as helping students learn how to solve quadratic equations – but, in doing so, the very best tutors sometimes use techniques that deal with learning skills; Academic coaches focus on helping students with more general, learning-related skills but might do so in the context of specific academic-related tasks – again, such as helping students learn how to solve quadratic equations.

And that’s where the similarities between tutoring and academic coaching end. Their purposes and processes are very different, and the learning-related tasks addressed by private academic coaches are as exceptionally broad as are the needs of the students who can benefit greatly from academic coaching. Here’s why that’s so:

Academic learning – in fact, doing well in most of life’s endeavors – requires the use of multiple cognitive tools that are often referred to as “executive function” skills. Specific skills that allow students to do well in middle and high school include:

  • Time Management – Allocating time for schoolwork, extracurricular activities, friends, family, part-time jobs, sports, and other commitments.
  • Prioritizing and Planning – Deciding the proper priorities for completing the multiple tasks at hand, then doing them in order, including sequencing activities so that the most time-critical assignments get done first and that multiple-component tasks are done in a logical order. 
  • Task Initiation – Overcoming procrastination in order to start a needed task
  • Properly Directing Attention, including Maintaining Focus – Particularly when tasks are lengthy and/or have multiple components
  • Organization – Keeping track of all needed materials at home and in school, managing digital data, and efficiently organizing ideas and information for essays, research papers and studying for tests
  • Metacognition – Literally “thinking about thinking,” reflecting on their own learning and having awareness of what drives their good and bad academic-related choices

paper on wallWhile private tutoring might “brush by” some of those skills while working with a student on a specific task, it’s the job of an academic success coach to discover which of those and other executive function skills need strengthening in order for the students to be better versions of themselves. Then, using multiple tools a private academic coach, coaches works with students to strengthen those skills.

The concepts of being centered on students' needs and working with students to strengthen executive function skills so they’ll be better versions of themselves are fundamental to academic coaching, and, because doing well in most of life’s endeavors requires the use of multiple executive function skills, the benefits are typically far broader than simply doing better in school. Academic coaching can also help students

  • Increase their confidence, feelings of empowerment, and effectiveness
  • Learn and use effective strategies for organization and time management
  • Reduce stress in areas of their lives that concern them
  • Learn and apply effective problem-solving skills

Students who can benefit greatly from academic coaching include those who

  • Procrastinate on beginning assignments
  • Are chronically late in turning in assigned work or don’t turn it in at all
  • Get easily distracted and have difficulty staying on task
  • Have disorganized study materials
  • Struggle in multiple classes as opposed to not doing well in a specific class
  • Are dealing with Attention Deficit Disorder or other learning-related differences
  • Appear to lack motivation

Tutoring Vs Academic Coaching: Understanding the Main Differences

Now that you know what a private academic coach does, let’s understand how coaching differs from tutoring. Private tutoring focuses on building concrete skills. Let’s understand the basics of tutoring vs academic coaching.

1. Basic Approach

Private tutoring focuses on developing concrete skills. It could be helping a student with a particular subject or a particular topic. It could be a question/problem in trigonometry or trigonometry in general. On the other hand, private coaching involves helping students develop strategies to succeed in learning and schoolwork. 

For example, let’s consider homework. A lot of students need help with it. Most tutors would help students finish it on time. But, coaches will help students set up a good study environment, spell out their homework plan, and develop an organized approach to schoolwork.

2. Who Benefits from What

Given how private tutoring works, it could be an excellent option for students struggling with their grades. Tutors can help students improve specific skills, improving their grades as a result. This means tutoring is an option if your child wants to develop or improve reading, writing, science, or math skills.

Students who lack motivation or organization skills will benefit from private coaching. Academic coaches can help them develop good study habits. This includes students with ADHD. Moreover, students preparing for SAT and ACT can also benefit from academic coaching. 

For example, a coach can help students break assignments into smaller, more manageable tasks. A private academic coach will also teach your child to understand the steps involved in preparation for a particular test and discover the time needed to finish a project before the deadline.

3. Who Coaches and Who Tutors

As intriguing as tutoring vs academic coaching sounds, there are no credentials to differentiate tutors from coaches. Although tutors are mostly retired school teachers, sometimes college students also work as tutors, independently or as part of a private tutoring program. You can also find certified tutors to help kids with medical conditions such as ADD, ADHD, or dyslexia.

A private academic coach can be a retired teacher or an individual with a background in education and/or psychology. Just like tutors, they also work independently or as a part of a commercial coaching service provider. Students with good grades can benefit from classroom-based or private coaching, depending on their functional needs.

In Conclusion

A thin line separates tutoring from academic coaching. To sum it up, private tutoring is all about developing specific skills such as reading or writing. Academic coaching focuses on developing students' organizational and functional learning skills. The bottom line is – your child will need a specific service depending on his or her academic needs.

If you have a student who fits any of the above criteria, contact us today to discuss how academic coaching can put that student on the road to success.

5 Minutes to Better Grades?

Topics: Test-Prep Tutoring

Recent Posts