What Is the difference between an Academic Coach and a Tutor?


Parents may ask, does my student need an ‘Academic Coach’ or do they need a tutor?”  This is an important question as parents decide what is the best first step.  

What is a tutor?

Generally, a tutor provides subject specific information, helping a student understand a specific subject.  Perhaps the student is having difficulty understanding the material due to the size of their current class, the way their teacher is explaining the concept or perhaps have pre-requisite gaps.  

What is an Academic Coach?

An Academic Coach is charged with equipping their student with habits and skills the student needs to become successful on their own.  If we use sports as a parallel, a soccer coach instructs players in practice to prepare them for the game.  The players participate in drills, the coach provides feedback, helping the player become aware of what he/she is doing well and where they need to change their performance or approach.  The coach is responsible for helping students play the game more successfully and hopefully, win.  

Transferring the concept to academics, an Academic Coach should do the equivalent, training the student by preparing him/her with a set of habits and skills that enable them  to be academically successful.   What does academic success look like?  That differs for each student, some want all A’s, some want to turn in their homework on time, others want their parents to leave them alone and still others want to learn material faster.  It is the coach’s job to help the student clarify their goals and equip them to get there.  

Improving Executive Functioning via The Effective Students Method™

When coaching a student to develop Executive Functions, Effective Students believe it’s important to equip students with a process they can master and ultimately use in our absence. The end goal is for students to become aware of their own gaps, self advocate and then direct their own learning.  Students are often given strategies but do not have enough practice and training with any given one to determine whether it’s helpful or not. 

According to Malcom Gladwell, it takes 3,000 repetitions to build a habit and 10,000 repetitions to build skills.  A habit is what we can do without thinking, a skill is what we can do under pressure.  Anytime we learn something new, at first it’s difficult or uncomfortable.  Pick up a new hobby recently? 

An Academic Coach comes alongside a student and does it ‘with’ but not ‘for’.  That includes binder organization, forecasting, developing study actions and practicing them.  While it’s tempting to do it ‘for’ the student for the sake of efficiency, doing so robs the student of a learning opportunity.  

In the end, some students need a tutor in order to master specific content. If they’ve had good academic coaching, they should know how to use their tutor more efficiently, by preparing a specific list of questions, prior to the session.  

Give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.  

© 2023 Effective Students by W3 Connections Inc.