The Critically Important Difference between Tutoring and Academic Coaching

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

Academic coachingWe 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 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 a tutor 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, coaches work 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

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.

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