Tag: tempus tutors

Tutor Talk: Metacognition for Remote Learning

Metacognition is a key area of focus for Tempus Tutors in 2021, and one that I am keen to discuss with my own clients and with parents who are battling home learning during COVID. Given the current situation, it is more important than ever that students of all ages are developing skills needed to work independently; education psychologists regard metacognition as a key part of this cycle of self-regulated learning.

What is metacognition?
Metacognition is “the ability to think about and manage one’s own thinking” (Branigan & Donaldson, 2020). In a nutshell, this means the ability to step back from a task, order our thoughts and figure out a strategy to complete that task on our own. This might sound wishy-washy or even obvious: isn’t this ju

st what we do naturally? In short, not necessarily – we know that pupils vary widely in their ability to think objectively about what they are doing. Consider this example:

Two students are set the same remote learning task: write a short story about a boy called Tim who has a pet rock. Both have written many short stories in school – this is a task the teacher therefore considers that each can accomplish. Now consider these two streams of thought:

Child 1: I don’t know what a boy called Tim would do with his rock! I have no ideas. I can’t think of a storyline at all. How can I write a story?

Child 2: I don’t have any ideas yet. Making a story plan has helped me in the past. I’ll plan a beginning, a main event in the middle and then an ending. I can check the stories I have written in the past, or some books, to get ideas about how to start.

These differences are clearly extreme. They may also seem oversimplified, but these two patterns are far more common than you might think. As tutors working with individual children, we see this difference over and over again. Unsurprisingly, Child 1 is the more likely to feel daunted by the task, because they are unable (yet) to make a plan that will break the task down. They are likely to procrastinate and feel overwhelmed by the blank page. Predictably, they are unlikely to enjoy English lessons – a cycle that is likely to continue until they are actually taught how to organise their thinking. No amount of SPaG drills will help this child be better able to write a story about Tim and his rock.

How to develop metacognition
There is a quick way to help Child 1. This is called scaffolding – the fancy educational term for providing a structure in which to work. If a teacher provides a planning template to prompt children to think about characters, setting and structure, this is scaffolding. Scaffolding looks different in every subject.

Scaffolding can definitely help Child 1 over the finish line, as most of the planning stage is managed for them. However, there will come a point when the teacher will take this scaffolding away and expect children to do this planning on their own. The nurture / nature debate is rife at this stage – some children will certainly seem to have learned by osmosis. Like Child 2, they will probably replicate the scaffolding techniques that have been modelled for them. Others, like Child 1, will struggle to make this step. This, finally, is where metacognition is really important. If a child has been encouraged to think about their own thinking, they are more likely to be able to plan and strategize effectively. If, each time they completed a story plan, they were prompted not only to complete the task, but to discuss and recognise the importance of what they were doing, they would stand a better chance of replicating this on their own in future, and be more able to complete tasks independently as a result. Scaffolding alone does not teach metacognition. Using scaffolding and drawing students’ attention to how the scaffolding is helping them will teach metacognition.

Metacognition is often taught badly. Tasks that require children to “set targets” or “discuss what they did well and badly” are increasingly used by teachers to try and encourage metacognition. These are often despised by students, and with good reason: they seem pointless. These tasks only add value when students are actually taught about metacognition, its value, and that they should replicate these steps independently. This is where private tutors have a distinct advantage: not only can we address the needs of each child individually as to the extent of scaffolding and metacognitive teaching required, but we also have the capacity to discuss these strategies with each student and actually make sure they are gaining value from them (as opposed to just filling out a self-reflection form with no benefit).

Taught properly, in consistent chunks, metacognitive ability allows students to break down tasks into accomplishable steps even when the teacher, or their tutor, is not there to help them. This is the kind of lifelong skill and perspective that we value so highly at Tempus.

Finally, if you are looking for high-quality tuition from a qualified Oxford graduate in 2021, or know of someone who is, contact me today. I can offer subject-specific help, generalist tuition, Oxbridge preparation, interview practice and more. You can also forward this article to anyone who is in the process of finding a reputable tutor.



Tutor Talk: How to spot conscientious tutors.

Not all tutors are created equal.

It is well documented that private tuition is on the rise. The Guardian and Telegraph are among those reporting an increase in tutor requests, fuelled most recently by concerns over quality and continuity of learning during lockdown. While the tutoring sector was flourishing well before Covid-19, the emergence of so-called “Zutors” highlights how more families than ever are taking action to ensure their children don’t get left behind.

Inevitably, this has resulted in many new tutors jumping on the bandwagon. Tutoring can be especially enticing to those who want to make some quick money on the side: turn up online with an (e)-textbook, spend and hour talking through exam problems and voila, a side-hustle is born. I wish there were an easy way to prevent such slapdash practices. However, tutoring is an unregulated industry: consumers need to be informed and ensure they spend their time and money wisely on a tutor who will actually bring a benefit to their family.

If your tutor gives you an hour of their time and then clocks off, that is not good enough. Click To Tweet

Ask your tutor what support they will be providing alongside the tuition time itself. Experienced and high-quality tutors will be clear and upfront about this, because they understand the value of time, as well as the holistic nature of work required to make progress. To get good results, tuition needs to be carefully planned, so that you are actually paying for: preparation time (creating resources and tailored lessons for your child), the lesson itself, and any agreed follow-up activities (marking homework). Good tutors can assess what your child needs, realistically tell you how much time they will be able to invest in their tuition, produce what is needed to help them, communicate this plan clearly, and provide regular progress updates.

This personalised, dedicated time given to your child is exactly what gives private tutoring the potential to work wonders for esteem, confidence and attainment. When tutoring fails to be personalised and bespoke, you’re just paying for another hour of generic teaching, laden with the same compromises seen in whole-class tuition.

This is the first in a series of posts about finding the right tutor(s) for you and your family. These tips will be a useful checklist for you, regardless of whether or not you chose my own company (Tempus Tutors) for tuition. Make sure you see future posts by connecting with me on LinkedIn. Alternatively, subscribe to receive news updates from Tempus Tutors.

Your tutor needs to go the extra mile for you and your family, informed by good practice. The same principle applies whether your child is 8 or 18. Above is an example of best practice: at Tempus, A-Level students are invited and encouraged to complete additional essay plans outside of lesson time, which they are motivated to complete by our inspiring tutors. Unlike school teachers who have umpteen essays to process and mark at any one time, tutors at Tempus have the capacity to provide individualised feedback, linked to the specification, with personalised advice for further learning. It may look simple, but such high-quality feedback can take up to an hour to create, per pupil.

At Tempus, I (and the handful of carefully selected tutors I work alongside and manage) go the extra mile to create a bespoke tuition plan for each child. If you are looking for high-quality tuition from a qualified Oxford graduate in 2021, or know of someone who is, contact me today. I can offer subject-specific help, generalist tuition, Oxbridge preparation, interview practice and more. You can also forward this article to anyone who is in the process of finding a reputable tutor.


Chloe Bradshaw BA Hons (Oxon) MA